Police help sound bite victim
Ron McClamrock and Brian Leiter link to a page at the University of Wellington that offers several answers to the question What is Philosophy? Both approvingly quote this answer:
I see philosophy not as groundwork for science, but as continuous with science. I see philosophy and science as in the same boat - a boat which we can rebuild only at sea while staying afloat in it. There is no external vantage point, no first philosophy. All scientific findings, all scientific conjectures that are at present plausible, are therefore in my view as welcome for use in philosophy as elsewhere. (W.V.O. Quine)
I agree with the sentiment here. However, the context seems wrong. Quine is stating something he believes about philosophy, that it is in some sense continuous with science. This does not tell us what philosophy is, because for Quine all enquiry is continuous with science.
More on point: Quine wrote that philosophy "is one of any number of blanket terms used by deans and librarians in their necessary task of grouping myriad topics and problems of science and scholarship under a manageable number of headings."* He offers this in response to questions about the relation between his work and other things that are done in philosophy departments, like ethics. His answer is that there does not need to be any connection, because there is no core concept of philosophy that includes both kinds of activity.
As such, it is at best misleading to give the first short quotation from Quine as a substantive answer to the question What is Philosophy? He thought there was no such answer. There are things that are called 'philosophy', but (he would say) there is no unified body of enquiry under that label.
* Bontempo and Odell, The Owl of Minerva: Philosophers on Philosophy. Mc-Graw Hill, 1975. page 228.
Sat 23 Feb 2008 02:45 PM