Review of "Willard van Orman Quine"

William J. Rapaport

Department of Computer Science and Engineering,
Department of Philosophy,
and Center for Cognitive Sc ience
State University of New York at Buffalo,
Buffalo, NY 14260-2000

Suppose you wanted to find some information on the Web about a philosopher. You might begin by trying to find his or her homepage, if it exists (by the way, this can be done most efficiently using "Ahoy! The Homepage Finder"). Failing that, you might try using a search engine, say, "Yahoo! - Arts:Humanities:Philosophy:Philosophers" For Willard van Orman Quine, neither of these options yields much useful information. Alternatively, you might use many search engines to find as many pages as you can that discuss Quine, and then save links to them. (One way to do this easily is via the "go2net MetaCrawler"; a search on the phrase "Willard van Orman Quine" yielded many sites, including the one under review.)

This is apparently the idea behind "Willard van Orman Quine", set up by his son, Douglas Boynton Quine. What he seems to have done is to search the Web for any and all pages that discuss Quine and put them on his Quine homepage along with other material that a Quine afficianado might find interesting, including some items that only he would have access to.

On this page, you will find a brief biography; a bibliography; some articles from the Beacon Hill Paper; and, most importantly, numerous links, including: a genealogy, information about the 1996 Kyoto Prize that Quine was awarded, pages by others (including some professional philosophers) about Quine, on-line book reviews of works by Quine, information about Quine's honorary degrees, "popular references to Quine", the definition of "quine" from The New Hacker's Dictionary, etc. Some of this is quite well organized; others are a hodge-podge of links apparently gleaned from search engines.

The material is of uneven quality, as is much on the Web, but Quine's son has tried for completeness. Not many of the contents of this page are directly philosophical; but that is relatively unimportant, since many of the links are philosophical (although you'd have to read many of them to figure out which they are). One item I would have liked to have seen is an "intellectual genealogy", i.e., a list of Quine's students, grandstudents, etc. (and maybe even a list of his teachers, grandteachers, etc.). Some of the links no longer work, and other items that currently have no links could have had them (e.g., George Johnson's New York Times op-ed piece, "O.J. Meets Willard Quine"). But this is par for the course on the dynamically changing World Wide Web. Quine's son makes an explicit appeal for updated information, and you can subscribe to a service that will notify you of any updates.

Nonetheless, Douglas B. Quine has set up the most useful site for material on Willard van Orman Quine; this is definitely the place to start for on-line information on this important philosopher.

Copyright © 1997 by William J. Rapaport (