We are very grateful to our critics for their kind words and thoughtful engagementwith The Reference Book (hereafter TRB), and also to the editors of Mind & Language for the opportunity to respond. We’ll start our reply by sketching the book’s positive thesis about specific noun phrases and names. In §2 we’ll relate the traditional semantic category we call ‘reference’ to semantic taxonomies given in terms of mechanisms of denotation. In §3, we’ll turn to acquaintance constraints on reference and singular (...) thought. And in §4, we’ll briefly address McGilvray’s and Devitt’s general doubts about the project of truth-conditional semantics to which our book contributes. (shrink)
Much of experimental philosophy consists of surveying 'folk' intuitions about philosophically relevant issues. Are the results of these surveys evidence that the relevant folk intuitions cannot be predicted from the ‘armchair’? We found that a solid majority of philosophers could predict even results claimed to be 'surprising'. But, we argue, this does not mean that such experiments have no role at all in philosophy.
This book critically examines some widespread views about the semantic phenomenon of reference and the cognitive phenomenon of singular thought. It begins with a defense of the view that neither is tied to a special relation of causal or epistemic acquaintance. It then challenges the alleged semantic rift between definite and indefinite descriptions on the one hand, and names and demonstratives on the other—a division that has been motivated in part by appeals to considerations of acquaintance. Drawing on recent work (...) in semantics, the book explores a more unified account of all four types of expression, according to which none of them paradigmatically fits the profile of a referential term. On the proposed framework, all four involve existential quantification but admit of uses that exhibit many of the traits associated with reference—a phenomenon that is due to the presence of what we call a ‘singular restriction’ on the existentially quantified domain. The book concludes by drawing out some implications of the proposed semantic picture for the traditional categories of reference and singular thought. (shrink)
In an earlier paper in these pages (2008), we explored the puzzling link between dispositions and conditionals. First, we rehearsed the standard counterexamples to the simple conditional analysis and the refined conditional analysis defended by David Lewis. Second, we attacked a tempting response to these counterexamples: what we called the ‘getting specific strategy’. Third, we presented a series of structural considerations that pose problems for many attempts to understand the link between dispositions and conditionals. Finally, we developed our own account (...) of this link, which avoids all of the standard counterexamples and comports with the relevant structural considerations. In this paper, we reply to some objections. (shrink)
Suppose dispositions bear a distinctive connection to counterfactual facts, perhaps one that could be enshrined in a variation on the well-worn schema ?Necessarily, x is disposed to ? in ? iff x would ? in ??. Could we exploit this connection to provide an account of what it is to be a disposition? This paper is about four views of dispositionality that attempt to do so.
Metaphysics asks questions about existence: for example, do numbers really exist? Metametaphysics asksquestions about metaphysics: for example, do its questions have determinate answers? If so, are these answers deep and important, or are they merely a matter of how we use words? What is the proper methodology for their resolution? These questions have received a heightened degree of attention lately with new varieties of ontological deflationism and pluralism challenging the kind of realism that has become orthodoxy in contemporary analytic metaphysics. (...) This volume concerns the status and ambitions of metaphysics as a discipline. It brings together many of the central figures in the debate with their most recent work on the semantics, epistemology, and methodology of metaphysics. (shrink)
Metaphysics is concerned with the foundations of reality. It asks questions about the nature of the world, such as: Aside from concrete objects, are there also abstract objects like numbers and properties? Does every event have a cause? What is the nature of possibility and necessity? When do several things make up a single bigger thing? Do the past and future exist? And so on. -/- Metametaphysics is concerned with the foundations of metaphysics. It asks: Do the questions of metaphysics (...) really have answers? If so, are these answers substantive or just a matter of how we use words? And what is the best procedure for arriving at them—common sense and conceptual analysis? Or assessing competing hypotheses with quasi-scientific criteria? -/- This volume gathers together sixteen new essays that are concerned with the semantics, epistemology, and methodology of metaphysics. My aim is to introduce these essays within a more general (and mildly opinionated) survey of contemporary challenges to metaphysics . (shrink)
It is common for contemporary metaphysical realists to adopt Quine's criterion of ontological commitment while at the same time repudiating his ontological pragmatism. 2 Drawing heavily from the work of others—especially Joseph Melia and Stephen Yablo—I will argue that the resulting approach to meta-ontology is unstable. In particular, if we are metaphysical realists, we need not accept ontological commitment to whatever is quantified over by our best first-order theories.
Analyses of dispositional ascriptions in terms of conditional statements famously confront the problems of finks and masks. We argue that conditional analyses of dispositions, even those tailored to avoid.nks and masks, face five further problems. These are the problems of: (i) Achilles' heels, (ii) accidental closeness, (iii) comparatives, (iv) explaining context sensitivity, and (v) absent stimulus conditions. We conclude by offering a proposal that avoids all seven of these problems. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this?
Previous theories of the relationship between dispositions and conditionals are unable to account for the fact that dispositions come in degrees. We propose a fix for this problem that has the added benefit of avoiding the classic problems of finks and masks.
In Mumford’s Dispositions, the reader will find an extended treatment of the recent debate about dispositions from Ryle and Geach to the present. Along the way, Mumford presents his own views on several key points, though we found the book much more thorough in its assessment of opposing views than in the development of a positive account. As we’ll try to make clear, some of the ideas endorsed in Dispositions are certainly worth pursuing; others are not. Following Mackie, Shoemaker, and (...) others,1 Mumford stresses that it’s one thing to distinguish between dispositional and categorical ascriptions and quite another to draw an ontological line between dispositional and categorical properties. The book itself can be divided roughly into those chapters that deal with the relationship between dispositional ascriptions and corresponding conditionals (like ‘is fragile’ and ‘would break if struck’); and those chapters that deal with the relationship between dispositions and their categorical bases (like fragility and having internal structure XYZ). We shall examine each cluster of issues in turn. (shrink)
There are two major theories of properties that employ resemblance classes to avoid commitment to universals.1 Object-resemblance nominalism ~ORN! faces the notorious companionship and imperfect community difficulties, though some costly remedies have been proposed. Trope-resemblance nominalism ~TRN!, in contrast, is commonly supposed to avoid these difficulties altogether. My contention is that both versions of resemblance nominalism are subject to companionship and imperfect community difficulties. If I am right, ~1! trope theory loses one of its primary selling points, and ~2! resemblance (...) nominalists of either type must appeal to the troublesome remedies that I discuss below. (shrink)