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Summary Metaphysical questions often seem intractable, so it is unsurprising that there is no consensus about the best way to engage in metaphysical inquiry. What is the role of conceptual analysis? To what degree are the answers independent from ordinary intuitions-- or are we only engaged in codifying such intuitions? Are there quasi-scientific criteria of theory choice to which we can appeal as providing reason to hold one view over another (such as simplicity, elegance, and explanatory unification)? Methodological questions like these are covered in this category.
Key works Carnap 1950 Quine 1948
Introductions Thomasson 2012
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  1. George Allan (2005). Comments on Ferré's “The Practicality of Metaphysics”. Review of Metaphysics 58 (3):529 - 532.
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  2. Frederick Anderson (1938). Metaphysics as a Science. Journal of Philosophy 35 (3):57-66.
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  3. Leo Apostel (1963). Can Metaphysics Be a Science? Philosophica 1.
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  4. Karen Bennett (forthcoming). There is No Special Problem with Metaphysics. Philosophical Studies:1-17.
    I argue for the claim in the title. Along the way, I also address an independently interesting question: what is metaphysics, anyway? I think that the typical characterizations of metaphysics are inadequate, that a better one is available, and that the better one helps explain why metaphysics is no more problematic than the rest of philosophy.
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  5. Jiri Benovsky (2013). From Experience to Metaphysics: On Experience‐Based Intuitions and Their Role in Metaphysics. Noûs 49 (3).
    Metaphysical theories are often counter-intuitive. But they also often are strongly supported and motivated by intuitions. One way or another, the link between intuitions and metaphysics is a strong and important one, and there is hardly any metaphysical discussion where intuitions do not play a crucial role. In this article, I will be interested in a particular kind of such intuitions, namely those that come, at least partly, from experience. There seems to be a route from experience to metaphysics, and (...)
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  6. Francesco Berto (2013). Coincident Entities and Question-Begging Predicates: An Issue in Meta-Ontology. Metaphysica 14 (1):1-15.
    Meta-ontology (in van Inwagen's sense) concerns the methodology of ontology, and a controversial meta-ontological issue is to what extent ontology can rely on linguistic analysis while establishing the furniture of the world. This paper discusses an argument advanced by some ontologists (I call them unifiers) against supporters of or coincident entities (I call them multipliers) and its meta-ontological import. Multipliers resort to Leibniz's Law to establish that spatiotemporally coincident entities a and b are distinct, by pointing at a predicate F (...)
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  7. James Blachowicz (2010). The Incompletability of Metaphysics. Idealistic Studies 40 (3):257-273.
    If a metaphysics identifies transcendental principles with formal principles, the inevitable result will be a reductionist collapse, that is, a theory of the nature of reality that will exclude as inessential significant differences among existing things. To avoid this result, we must take some such material differences as transcendental in nature. This produces a metaphysics in which the concept of ontological emergence is central—a metaphysics that will depend essentially on the material content of the natural sciences. While both Aristotle and (...)
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  8. Francesco F. Calemi (forthcoming). Linceo e la presbiopia ontologica. Considerazioni sul nominalismo di Achille Varzi. Isonomía. Revista de Teoría y Filosofía Del Derecho.
    According to Varzi's nominalism properties are typical examples of ontological hallucinations. In this brief paper I'll focus on an interesting argument that Varzi puts forward against the Realists’ tenet according to which predicates have properties as ontological correlates. I’ll argue that even if Varzi's argument is not convincing, the metalinguistic nominalism he espouses has sufficient resources to meet the realists' challenge concerning the phenomenon of predication. Furthermore, I'll make some methodological remarks about the relationship holding between the «dot quote» analysis (...)
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  9. Massimiliano Carrara & Giorgio Lando (forthcoming). Composition, Indiscernibility, Coreferentiality. Erkenntnis:1-24.
    According to strong composition as identity , the logical principles of one–one and plural identity can and should be extended to the relation between a whole and its parts. Otherwise, composition would not be legitimately regarded as an identity relation. In particular, several defenders of strong CAI have attempted to extend Leibniz’s Law to composition. However, much less attention has been paid to another, not less important feature of standard identity: a standard identity statement is true iff its terms are (...)
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  10. D. Chalmers, D. Manley & R. Wasserman (eds.) (2009). Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press.
  11. Nino Cocchiarella (2010). Review of Uwe Meixner, Modelling Metaphysics: The Metaphysics of a Model. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2010 (5).
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  12. Daniel Cohnitz & Barry Smith (2003). Assessing Ontologies: The Question of Human Origins and Its Ethical Significance. In E. Runggaldier & C. Kanzian (eds.), Persons: An Interdisciplinary Approach. Öbv&Hpt
    In their paper “Sixteen Days” Barry Smith and Berit Brogaard try to answer the question: when does a human being begin to exist? In this paper we will address some methodological issues connected with this exercise in ontology. We shall begin by sketching the argument of “Sixteen Days”. We shall then attempt to characterize what is special about the ontological realism of “Sixteen Days” as contrasted to the linguistic constructivism which represents the more dominant current in contemporary analytic philosophy. This (...)
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  13. Max Colodro (ed.) (2013). Ontologia de la ausencia. La metáfora en el horizonte de la desconstruccion. Editorial Cuarto Propio.
    Metaphor as a central key to understand The metaphisic into The order of language. Deconstruction is a very important process and instrument to iluminate de position of writing for discloseing a New concept of reality.
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  14. Phil Corkum (2014). Review of Daniel D. Novotný and Lukáš Novák (Eds.), Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives in Metaphysics. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 201408:1.
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  15. Sam Cowling (forthcoming). Advice for Eleatics. In Chris Daly (ed.), Palgrave Handbook of Philosophical Methods.
    Eleaticism ties ontology to causality by denying the impossibility of causally inert entities. This paper examines some challenges regarding the proper formulation and general plausibility of Eleaticism. After suggesting how Eleatics ought to respond to these challenges, I consider the prospects for extending Eleaticism from ontology to ideology by requiring all primitive ideology to be causal in nature. Surprisingly enough, the resulting view delivers an eternalist and possibilist metaphysical picture in the neighborhood of Lewisian modal realism.
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  16. Sam Cowling (2013). Ideological Parsimony. Synthese 190 (17):3889-3908.
    The theoretical virtue of parsimony values the minimizing of theoretical commitments, but theoretical commitments come in two kinds: ontological and ideological. While the ontological commitments of a theory are the entities it posits, a theory’s ideological commitments are the primitive concepts it employs. Here, I show how we can extend the distinction between quantitative and qualitative parsimony, commonly drawn regarding ontological commitments, to the domain of ideological commitments. I then argue that qualitative ideological parsimony is a theoretical virtue. My defense (...)
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  17. Chris Daly & David Liggins, Hirsch's Charity Argument Against Revisionary Ontology.
    Eli Hirsch argues that metaphysical debates about material composition are merely verbal and the ontologists who take part in them are talking past each other. According to Hirsch, 'there is no uniquely best ontological language with which to describe the world', a doctrine he calls 'quantifier variance'. Hirsch argues that if we combine quantifier variance with an appeal to interpretative charity, we reach the conclusion that contemporary debates about composition are merely verbal. Much contemporary metaontological discussion has concerned Hirsch’s doctrine (...)
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  18. Chris Daly & David Liggins (2014). In Defence of Existence Questions. Monist 97 (7):460–478.
    Do numbers exist? Do properties? Do possible worlds? Do fictional characters? Many metaphysicians spend time and effort trying to answer these and other questions about the existence of various entities. These inquiries have recently encountered opposition: a group of philosophers, drawing inspiration from Aristotle, have argued that many or all of the existence questions debated by metaphysicians can be answered trivially, and so are not worth debating. Our task is to defend existence questions from the neo-Aristotelians' attacks.
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  19. Chris Daly & David Liggins (2013). Animalism and Deferentialism. Dialectica 67 (4):605-609.
    Animalism is the theory that we are animals: in other words, that each of us is numerically identical to an animal. An alternative theory maintains that we are not animals but that each of us is constituted by an animal. Call this alternative theory neo-Lockean constitutionalism or Lockeanism for short. Stephan Blatti (2012) offers to advance the debate between animalism and Lockeanism by providing a new argument for animalism. In this note, we present our own objection to Blatti's argument, and (...)
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  20. Chris Daly & David Liggins (2011). Deferentialism. Philosophical Studies 156 (3):321-337.
    There is a recent and growing trend in philosophy that involves deferring to the claims of certain disciplines outside of philosophy, such as mathematics, the natural sciences, and linguistics. According to this trend— deferentialism , as we will call it—certain disciplines outside of philosophy make claims that have a decisive bearing on philosophical disputes, where those claims are more epistemically justified than any philosophical considerations just because those claims are made by those disciplines. Deferentialists believe that certain longstanding philosophical problems (...)
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  21. Ron C. de Weijze, Processing Criticism And Spontaneity.
    If Social Constructionism does not prefer monistic Postmodernism over dualistic Modernism, it should include, next to living expressions and spontaneous gestures, criticism into its process model, occurring as independent confirmation and implying coordinated reflection between the knowing organism and its sensed environment.
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  22. Louis deRosset (forthcoming). Analyticity and Ontology. Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.
    /Analyticity theorists/, as I will call them, endorse the /doctrine of analyticity in ontology/: if some truth P analytically entails the existence of certain things, then a theory that contains P but does not claim that those things exist is no more ontologically parsimonious than a theory that also claims that they exist. Suppose, for instance, that the existence of a table in a certain location is analytically entailed by the existence and features of certain particles in that location. The (...)
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  23. Janice Dowell, J. L. (2008). Serious Metaphysics and the Vindication of Reductions. Philosophical Studies 139 (1):91 - 110.
    What would be sufficient to show of some apparently higher-level property that it is ‘nothing over and above’ some complex configuration of more basic properties? This paper defends a new method for justifying reductions by demonstrating its comparative advantages over two methods recently defended in the literature. Unlike its rivals, what I’ll call “the semantic method” makes a reduction’s truth epistemically transparent without relying on conceptual analyses.
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  24. J. L. Dowell, Janice & Sean Foran (2007). Methodology for Metametaphysics. Philosophical Topics 35 (1/2):19-41.
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  25. Heather Dyke & James Maclaurin (2013). What Shall We Do with Analytic Metaphysics? A Response to McLeod and Parsons. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (1):179 - 182.
    (2013). What Shall We Do with Analytic Metaphysics? A Response to McLeod and Parsons. Australasian Journal of Philosophy: Vol. 91, No. 1, pp. 179-182. doi: 10.1080/00048402.2012.762029.
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  26. Peter Eastman, The Perpetual Emptiness of Academic Philosophy.
    Abstract: Philosophy appears unwilling, or unable, to apprehend and elucidate the human metaphysical condition, especially in its primordial aspect as the human metaphysical predicament. This predicament is our ontological dissatisfaction, and ontological lack of knowledge as to how we might set about resolving our primordial predicament. Philosophy prefers to lose itself in secondary considerations and has nothing to say on the subject. This is partly due to the demands of metaphysical exploration, and partly due to philosophical ineptitude and self-mystification. Academic (...)
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  27. Terence Rajivan Edward (2014). Deferentialism and the Territory of Philosophy. Ethos: Journal of the Society for Psychological Anthropology 7 (1):56-62.
    David Liggins and Chris Daly have argued against a recent trend in which some philosophical debate or other is said to be settled by claims from a discipline other than philosophy, because claims from that discipline entail a position on the debate and any claims from that discipline have greater authority than any philosophical claims when the aim is to extend our knowledge. They label this trend deferentialism. This paper presents a dilemma for their argument.
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  28. Matti Eklund (2009). On Some Recent Criticisms of the 'Linguistic' Approach to Ontology. Dialectica 63 (3):313-323.
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  29. Matti Eklund (2008). Book Review. Metaphysics and the Representational Fallacy. Heather Dyke. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
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  30. Michael Esfeld (2007). Metaphysics of Science Between Metaphysics and Science. Grazer Philosophische Studien 74 (1):199-213.
    The paper argues that metaphysics depends upon science when it comes to claims about the constitution of the real world. That thesis is illustrated by considering the examples of global supervenience, the tenseless vs. the tensed theory of time and existence, events vs. substances, and relations vs. intrinsic properties. An argument is sketched out for a metaphysics of a four-dimensional block universe whose content are events and their sequences, events consisting in physical properties instantiated at space-time points, these properties being (...)
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  31. Michael Esfeld, The Rehabilitation of a Metaphysics of Nature.
    The paper first sketches out a reply to the underdetermination challenge and the incommensurability challenge that rebuts the sceptical conclusions of these challenges and that is sufficient to lay the ground for the project of a metaphysics of nature. That metaphysics is as hypothetical as are our scientific theories. The paper then explains how can one can argue for certain views in the metaphysics of nature based on our current fundamental physical theories, namely a tenseless theory of time and existence (...)
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  32. Michael Esfeld (2006). The Impact of Science on Metaphysics and its Limits. Abstracta 2 (2):86-101.
    The paper argues for three theses: (1) Metaphysics depends on science as a source of knowledge. Our current scientific theories commit us to certain metaphysical claims. (2) As far as science is concerned, it is sufficient to spell these claims out in such a way that they amount to a parsimonious ontology. That ontology, however, creates a gap between our experience and the scientific view of the world. (3) In order to avoid that gap and to achieve a complete and (...)
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  33. Sean Foran (2007). Methodology for Metametaphysics. Philosophical Topics 35 (1/2):19-41.
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  34. María G. Navarro (2014). Fotografía de un método. Revista Cronopio 51 (12 june).
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  35. Peter Godfrey-Smith (2012). Metaphysics and the Philosophical Imagination. Philosophical Studies 160 (1):97-113.
    Methods and goals in philosophy are discussed by first describing an ideal, and then looking at how the ideal might be approached. David Lewis’s work in metaphysics is critically examined and compared to analogous work by Mackie and Carnap. Some large-scale philosophical systematic work, especially in metaphysics, is best treated as model-building, in a sense of that term that draws on the philosophy of science. Models are constructed in a way that involves deliberate simplification, or other imaginative modification of reality, (...)
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  36. Peter Godfrey-Smith (2006). Theories and Models in Metaphysics. The Harvard Review of Philosophy 14 (1):4-19.
    Metaphysics is once again a thriving subdiscipline within philosophy, despite a long tradition of challenges to the very viability of the metaphysical enterprise. The criticisms have not so much been satisfactorily answered, as shouldered aside by the vigorous development of the field. Some focused meta-theoretic discussion has recently arisen within mainstream metaphysics.1 The present paper is written more from an outsider's vantage point. I attempt to give a new meta-theory for some parts of metaphysics. The central claim is that much (...)
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  37. Dale Gottlieb (1976). A Method for Ontology, with Applications to Numbers and Events. Journal of Philosophy 73 (18):637-651.
  38. Dirk Greimann (2000). No Entity Without Identity. Grazer Philosophische Studien 60:13-29.
    Quine has persuasively shown that the empiricist "dogma of reductionism", which is the belief that each meaningfiil statement of science can be reduced to statements about immediate sense experience, must be abandoned. However, Quine's methodology of ontology seems to incorporate an analogous physicalistic dogma according to which the identity conditions of each scientifically respectable sort of abstract objects can be reduced to the identity conditions of physical objects. This paper aims to show that the latter dogma must be abandoned, too. (...)
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  39. Susan Haack (1979). Descriptive and Revisionary Metaphysics. Philosophical Studies 35 (4):361 - 371.
  40. Nat Hansen (2014). Contemporary Ordinary Language Philosophy. Philosophy Compass 9 (8):556-569.
    There is a widespread assumption that ordinary language philosophy was killed off sometime in the 1960s or 70s by a combination of Gricean pragmatics and the rapid development of systematic semantic theory. Contrary to that widespread assumption, however, contemporary versions of ordinary language philosophy are alive and flourishing but going by various aliases – in particular (some versions of) ‘contextualism’ and (some versions of) ‘experimental philosophy’. And a growing group of contemporary philosophers are explicitly embracing the title as well as (...)
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  41. Kevin J. Harrelson (2012). Idealistic Ontological Arguments in Royce, Collingwood, and Others. Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 48 (4):411-435.
    This essay examines how, in the early twentieth century, ontological arguments were employed in the defense of metaphysical idealism. The idealists of the period tended to grant that ontological arguments defy our usual expectations in logic, and so they were less concerned with the formal properties of Anselmian arguments. They insisted, however, that ontological arguments are indispensable, and they argued that we can trust argumentation as such only if we presume that there is a valid ontological argument. In the first (...)
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  42. Errol E. Harris (1967). Method and Explanation in Metaphysics. Proceedings of the American Catholic Philosophical Association 41:124-133.
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  43. Matthew Haug (2014). Must Naturalism Lead to a Deflationary Meta-Ontology? Metaphysica 15 (2):347-367.
    Huw Price has argued that naturalistic philosophy inevitably leads to a deflationary approach to ontological questions. In this paper, I rebut these arguments. A more substantive, less language-focused approach to metaphysics remains open to naturalists. However, rebutting one of Price’s main arguments requires rejecting Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment. So, even though Price’s argument is unsound, it reveals that naturalists cannot rest content with broadly Quinean, “mainstream metaphysics,” which, I suggest, naturalists also have independent reasons to reject.
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  44. Matthew C. Haug (ed.) (2013). Philosophical Methodology: The Armchair or the Laboratory? Routledge.
    What methodology should philosophers follow? Should they rely on methods that can be conducted from the armchair? Or should they leave the armchair and turn to the methods of the natural sciences, such as experiments in the laboratory? Or is this opposition itself a false one? Arguments about philosophical methodology are raging in the wake of a number of often conflicting currents, such as the growth of experimental philosophy, the resurgence of interest in metaphysical questions, and the use of formal (...)
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  45. Katherine Hawley (2010). Critical Notice of Every Thing Must Go. Metascience 19 (2):174-179.
    This is a critical notice of Ladyman and Ross et al's Every Thing Must Go. I argue that they mischaracterise much of so-called 'analytic metaphysics', and that they could have usefully drawn upon the resources of current metaphysics in order to articulate their own views more clearly. The piece appears in a symposium which also includes contributions by Kyle Stanford and Paul Humphreys, with responses from Ladyman and Ross.
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  46. Katherine Hawley (2006). Science as a Guide to Metaphysics? Synthese 149 (3):451 - 470.
    Analytic metaphysics is in resurgence; there is renewed and vigorous interest in topics such as time, causation, persistence, parthood and possible worlds. We who share this interest often pay lip-service to the idea that metaphysics should be informed by modern science; some take this duty very seriously.2 But there is also a widespread suspicion that science cannot really contribute to metaphysics, and that scientific findings grossly underdetermine metaphysical claims. For some, this prompts the thought ‘so much the worse for metaphysics’; (...)
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  47. Katherine Hawley (1999). Review of The Possibility of Metaphysics. [REVIEW] British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 50 (3):478-482.
    A review of The Possibility of Metaphysics: substance, identity and time, by E.J. Lowe.
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  48. R. J. Henle (1951). Method in Metaphysics. Milwaukee, Marquette University Press.
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  49. Christopher Hitchcock (2012). Events and Times: A Case Study in Means-Ends Metaphysics. Philosophical Studies 160 (1):79-96.
    There is a tradition, tracing back to Kant, of recasting metaphysical questions as questions about the utility of a conceptual scheme, linguistic framework, or methodological rule for achieving some particular end. Following in this tradition, I propose a ‘means-ends metaphysics’, in which one rigorously demonstrates the suitability of some conceptual framework for achieving a specified goal. I illustrate this approach using a debate about the nature of events. Specifically, the question is whether the time at which an event occurs is (...)
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  50. Shadworth H. Hodgson (1884). The Metaphysical Method in Philosophy. Mind 9 (33):48-72.
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