Philosophy Lexicon of Arguments

Gavagai: fantasy word from a thought experiment of W.V.O. Quine. An expression (or fragment) of a completely foreign language is not unambiguously translatable into a known language, because it is not determined, whereupon the expression of the foreign language relates. Even pointing to an object does not create unambiguity. E.g. only a part or a property of the object can be referred to. See also translation, indeterminacy, translation manual, analytical hypothesis, uncertainty, reference, meaning.
Author Item Excerpt Meta data
Quine, Willard Van Orman
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Gavagai I 59ff
Gavagai: the totality of the sentences can be permuted so that verbal behavior remains, but correlation disappears - translation manuals can be internally consistent and mutually incompatible.
I stimulus 67: Gavagai: stimulus, not rabbits - (> forgery) - review by society.
IV 425
GavagaiVs description myth.
V 119
Reference/Gavagai/Quine: problem: we do not know whether the child who agrees to "red" also referred to red - Red: can be general term for set of red surfaces - or general term for any visible color spot - but not for parts of color spots - this does not allow abstraction - no problem: to realize that the reference is made to the mere presence of red - different translation manuals lead to different translations.
VI 73
Gavagai/Quine: the translation vagueness in particular should not be shown with that, because the translation with "Look, a rabbit" is well secured - what it was about was that the reference is not determined by the translation. - Because "Gavagai" is a whole sentence, there was no compensation possibility - Reference/explanation: reference is explained by quote eradication "rabbit" refers to rabbit.
XII 18
Gavagai/Quine: must neglect differences such as "There is a rabbit" and "Look, a rabbit" - no single term can be attributed, but only an entire sentence in which "rabbit" appears - do not assume objectification - even if the presence of rabbits is an expression condition, they might still be temporal stages or rabbit parts - not sufficient: to ask whether "an X is present" - solution: "the same x" - expression conditions not sufficient to know whether the stranger refers to an object - Solution: A-u-B at least acknowledgment for whole sentences.
XII 47
Gavagai/Quine: Problem: a whole rabbit is given iff a non-severed part or a temporal stage is given.
XII 48
Gavagai/color/color word/generic term/mass term/Quine: the big difference between "Rabbit" and "Sepia" is that "Sepia" is a mass term like "water" - "Rabbit" on the other hand, is a term of crushed reference. Therefore it cannot be dominated without individuation principle. One must know where one rabbit ends and another one begins - that does not work by pointing (ostension) - where does a Gavagai end and where does another one begin? - inextricably - ((s) Because Gavagai is not a mass term, that is important.) - Important argument: if you take the part of the universe, which consists of rabbits, it is identical to the part, which consists of un-severed rabbit parts and with the one that consists of temporal stages of rabbits - only difference: how to split it - ostension cannot teach that - pointing to a whole is always also pointing to its parts and vice versa.
XII 50
Translation Manual: no solution: Problem: stage/part/rabbit: perhaps we always ask in a foreign language "Do they belong together?" instead of "Is it the same?" without knowing it.
XII 51
Gavagai/Quine: behaviorist criterion: a stable, relatively homogeneous object against a background will probably be denoted by a relatively short term - but merely imposed on the foreign language - (yet reasonable hypothesis).
XII 52
Gavagai/native tongue/part/whole/time stage/Quine: within our own language, we can distinguish between whole rabbits, rabbit parts and rabbit stages, because the apparatus of individuation (plural, pronoun, identity, quantification, etc.) is determined - when translating from another language, this itself is subject to indeterminacy.
XII 53ff
Gavagai/Japanese/classifier/Quine: 1) numeral "5" 2) animal classifier 3) "Ox" - Explanation A: declined numeral of the genus "animal" (ox: individuative term, here for all cattle) - B: 3rd word here mass term "lifestock" (e.g. here only cattle) - Japanese: in both cases "five cattle" - German: both equally good translations - both fit into language behavior - reference (extension): different.

W.V.O. Quine
Wort und Gegenstand Stuttgart 1980

W.V.O. Quine
Theorien und Dinge Frankfurt 1985

W.V.O. Quine
Grundzüge der Logik Frankfurt 1978

W.V.O. Quine
Mengenlehre und ihre Logik Wiesbaden 1967

W.V.O. Quine
Die Wurzeln der Referenz Frankfurt 1989

W.V.O. Quine
Unterwegs zur Wahrheit Paderborn 1995

W.V.O. Quine
From a logical point of view Cambridge, Mass. 1953

W.V.O. Quine
Bezeichnung und Referenz
Zur Philosophie der idealen Sprache, J. Sinnreich (Hg), München 1982

W.V.O. Quine
Philosophie der Logik Bamberg 2005

W.V.O. Quine
Ontologische Relativität Frankfurt 2003

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Ed. Martin Schulz, access date 2017-03-27