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Quine's Ontological Relativity argues for Antirealism in roughly the following way:

1. There is no correct way to translate any word from any language to any language.
(indeterminacy of translation)
2. If 1 is true, there is no unambiguous and exact reference for any word in any language
(inscrutability of reference)
3. If 2 is true, Our claims only make sense in a theory of other interconnected claims (statements
only make sense from within theories that make them meaningful)
4. 1 is true. Therefore, it is meaningless to talk as if there is a "matter of fact" independent of our
5. if a statement is not meaningful then it cannot establish the truth relation with the world
6. Therefore, like meanings, truth relations do not have to do anything with facts, only with our
7. Therefore coherence theory of truth is true and truth as correspondence to facts fails.
8. Therefore antirealism is true and realism is false.
I will focus on 1, because I think lemma 1 is doing most the work here. Quine attacks a very basic case
where translation seems most possible as when we want to translate "gavagai" in native language to
English "rabbit" by pointing to a rabbit. Quine says it is impossible to attempt a correct translation by
fixing the meaning via rabbit. There is no sense in which rabbit can become "rabbit" and make
translation correct because we cannot possibly guarantee that the speakers mean the same thing.
"Gavagai" can equally be translated to any of the following: "rabbit", "rabbit ears", "rabbit beef as food"
or any other rabbit stage. A field linguist, Quine adds, may just take Rabbit and Gavagai ambiguously
and build up his notion to clarify his translation but in doing so she is already assuming a rule about
what the translation means, a rule that she imposes herself to facilitate the translation, or in other
words to make it meaningful. This objection then just proves Quine's ultimate point further that we
need theories to make sense of ambiguities. In the Gavagai example, Quine argues that no translation is
refutable, that we cannot fix the translation. In another example about translation of a Japanese idiom
to English, he argues not only that more than one translation is possible but also that each is equally
good, one is more efficient, and another captures more of the metaphorical feeling of the original
language. Each translation fits its own context equally well for a conversation, but still the names in the
idiom face the same indeterminacy problem as the Gavagai example. So theirs is no correct way to
translate any word from one language to another. Quine goes on to show that this problem is pervasive.
If we agree with him, we will notice that there is no correct translation from any language to any other,
and not even within the same language.
Quine concludes that once we take the problem of indeterminacy of translation far enough, we see that
there is no matter of fact not only between languages but also within one's own language and the
world. So it seems we cannot meaningfully talk about anything, but obviously we do understand each
other. To save himself from this "quandary", Quine offers a positive account. He asks us not to attempt
to jump outside of the rules and regulations that our language provides. Within this "network" our
statements will make sense without the need for references existing. Talk of reference will only make
sense within an already existing "coordinate system" of rules. But there's the obvious problem of regress
because someone can justifiably ask what makes the word "rabbit" about rabbit in a "coordinate
system". Quine thinks this question is absurd in that it is like expecting someone to define an absolute
position without using a reference point. The regress that asks for a new coordinate system is

unproblematic in the same sense that a regress of a belief about a belief is unproblematic. In language
we just end the regress for practical purposes out of convenience for communication. The problem now
seems to be that we cannot talk about what a theory is independent of our practices. But Quine does
not think that is problematic, because like the relational theory of space and velocity, which also by the
way matches our best sciences, we can just think of a theory not as reducible to another one but merely
as how it is interpreted.
There are two problems with this view. First, can there be truths about the world if there are no theories
around? It seems like if truth is mind-dependent in this way, then in a possible world without any
theories there would be truths. Take a world just like ours and take all the sentient beings out. It seems
like it is meaningless to talk of things that are true in that world. This objection however begs the
question. It assumes the existence of external world. For Quine, within a theory, it is perfectly sensible
to talk about a world without sentient beings. To ask of truth to hold in a world without sentient beings
is to ask for a speaker to hold truth in a world without sentient beings. Obviously that's contradictory. At
best, what the objector is really worried here is perhaps that this view entails that there is no external
world. However, it is important therefore to notice that Quine's antirealism does not deny that there is
an external world. It merely denies that there is a meaningful correspondence relation with it that could
entail truth.
An extension of this problem is that the view makes it look like we make truth as we are completing our
theories about the world. This will leave us empty-handed to respond to those whose theories about the
world will include ignorance or worse suppression of other theories.

Theorist1 holds T1 which consists of some descriptions plus Q (which is Quine's ontological
conclusion that our theory is as good as any other)
Theorist2 holds T2 which consists of some other descriptions plus T1 is wrong plus Q

It looks like theorist1 cannot disagree with T2. That is not necessarily problematic because to theorist1
"T1 is wrong" is meaningless. If the description "T1 is wrong" is very controversial, one can at least
appeal to theorist2's Q and say something like: "look man, you can hold that I am wrong for you. But you
can't hold that I am wrong for me." So theorist2 can't meaningfully hold that "T1 is wrong" with a
theory-independent qualifier and hold Q at the same time. Now what if there is a Theorist3 whose
theory consists of T2 minus Q. Theorist3 can now insist that her theory is true, but now Theorist1 can
also reject theorist3 by claiming that her view is not coherent.
This objection is perhaps a weaker version of the choice-theory objection to coherence theory of truth.
This objection is roughly that on coherence view we lose the ground to judge other theories on their
own grounds. We are stuck believing that two theories are equally right since conversation is equally
coherence within each. Notice that whatever supposedly meta-theoretical standards of comparison we
assume between the two theories could itself be assumed as a third theory that is only as true as the
previous two and as such is in no privileged position. I think Quine has a hint of an answer to this
Quine's mentions at the final paragraphs of the paper that evaluation of a theory is possible so long as
that theory is subordinate of another theory which contains that theory and the one it is being
compared to. It looks like Quine is cautiously implying that only a superordinate theory can have the
logical privileged access. So perhaps on behalf of Quine we can say there's a super superordinate which

is the theory of everything either at the end of time, or logically in a possible world. In that limited sense
we can judge theories that are part of that theory of everything. The problem now is that an objector
can just highlight that we are not sure if our theories are going to be part of that theory of everything.
We were once sure that the sun orbited around the earth, now however we are pretty sure that earth's
orbit around the sun will be part of that theory of everything. But how are sure about other more
controversial facts? The problem now, it seems, is that the theory of everything is too vague to act as a
standard of judgment between two theories, and so maybe our original problem does go away so easily.