Only a Logician?

In response to:

The Importance of Quine from the January 12, 1967 issue

To the Editors:

Anthony Quinton’s review of two logical works of Professor W.V. Quine [NYR, Jan. 12] is interesting, competent, broad. It is, however, misleading in two respects: in its estimate of Quine’s reputation and in its comparison of Quine with Thomas Hobbes. Quinton calls him “probably the contemporary American philosopher most admired in the profession.” Change “philosopher” to “logician” and the statement holds. But Quine’s interests are not comprehensive enough for the first estimate. Others (like Brand Blanshard, Paul Weiss, Charles Hartshorne, Richard McKeon, and Ernest Nagel—to mention only a few) have a scope which Quine lacks. A similar difficulty besets the comparison with Hobbes. “Both,” says Quinton, “are logician-philosophers with a special respect for mathematics and physics and with powerful idiosyncratic prose styles.” True. But Hobbes is also much more than this. Ethicist, psychologist, theological critic, author of one of the great systems in political theory, his mind is bold and far ranging. It is just this synoptic character of the great classical philosopher which Quine, and all who belong to his narrow school, profoundly lack.

Albert William Levi

Washington University

St. Louis, Missouri