But Quines claim is that it will always be possible to adjust the translations of these other locutions in such a way as to preserve any of the alternative translations of gavagai [WO 51-4, 71-2].
(This example is probably misleading in one respect, in that it suggests a much narrower range of variation among acceptable translations than Quine actually seems elsewhere to advocate; but even this degree of variation is sufficiently problematic to raise the issues I want to consider here.)Quines argument for this conclusion concerning radical translation is complicated, obscure in important respects, and raises a number of difficult interpretive issues.
At the same time, however, there has been no very widespread agreement on where and how the arguments go wrong.
My view is that they are best viewed as reductions to absurdity of their premises and of one underlying premise in particular.
Restated so as to bring out the key point a bit more clearly, that thesis says that no appeal to purely behavioral evidence, no appeal to how the native words are actually used in concrete situations, suffices to determine a unique translation of the native language, so that widely differing translations are, on this basis, equally acceptable.
This initial result, though no doubt a bit surprising, is hardly startling in itself.
But then, Quine claims, just as in the original case, there is simply no fact of the matter as to which of the alternatives captures what we really mean when we say there is a rabbit; and just as in the original case, the alleged indeterminacy extends as well to the correlative state of mind.
It is this result which I regard as an unintended reductio ad absurdum of the premises which lead to it.
As Quine himself says in another place, Caesar designates Caesar and rabbit denotes rabbits, whatever they are . An immediate corollary of metaphysical realism as thus understood is what Putnam calls a radically non-epistemic view of truth: whether what we say or believe is true depends entirely on whether the content of our statements or beliefs agrees or corresponds with the way the world really is and not at all on what evidence we happen to have.
Of course, we may hope that our evidence leads us to an accurate view of the world and may, perhaps, even have good reasons for thinking that it does.