This is one of the great books of 20th-century philosophy, with page after page of brilliant arguments. Although Quine had an understated wit and a gracefully economic style, this is not an easy book. I would not tackle it without some training in philosophy, logic, or linguistics. Particularly useful would be some understanding of logical positivism, which Quine is reacting against. The book's motivating question is how a word (or words) can refer to an object or be used to pick out an object. This might seem to be a narrow topic, but it leads Quine to discuss a large number of epistemological, logical, and metaphysical issues. Quine's conclusions in these areas were so novel and profound that decades later philosophers are still digesting them. Was Quine right about everything? Surely not, but like all great philosophers, he made us look at the old issues in new ways and made us aware of problems which we hadn't known had existed. For this we can be profoundly grateful. Willard Van Ormen Quine died 25 December 2000.
In this incomparable and engaging book Quine takes up many of the questions he raised in "Two Dogmas of Empiricism" and in his other early papers. In Word and Object, he levels an attack against the traditional notion of meaning that is accepted by so many, because it is understood by so few. Though the position defended here is alomost completely wrong, it is wrong for interesting reasons and, along with Quine's other works, establishes a position regarding matters semantic that, from his ultra-empiricist positivist perspective is nearly inevitable. If you don't find his position at least a little compelling, then your heart is made of stone.