Conceptual realism versus Quine on classes and higher-order logic

Synthese 90 (3):379 - 436 (1992)
Abstract
The problematic features of Quine's set theories NF and ML are a result of his replacing the higher-order predicate logic of type theory by a first-order logic of membership, and can be resolved by returning to a second-order logic of predication with nominalized predicates as abstract singular terms. We adopt a modified Fregean position called conceptual realism in which the concepts (unsaturated cognitive structures) that predicates stand for are distinguished from the extensions (or intensions) that their nominalizations denote as singular terms. We argue against Quine's view that predicate quantifiers can be given a referential interpretation only if the entities predicates stand for on such an interpretation are the same as the classes (assuming extensionality) that nominalized predicates denote as singular terms. Quine's alternative of giving predicate quantifiers only a substitutional interpretation is compared with a constructive version of conceptual realism, which with a logic of nominalized predicates is compared with Quine's description of conceptualism as a ramified theory of classes. We argue against Quine's implicit assumption that conceptualism cannot account for impredicative concept-formation and compare holistic conceptual realism with Quine's class Platonism.
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