A Return to the Analogy of Being

Recently, I’ve championed the doctrine that fundamentally different sorts of things exist in fundamentally different ways.1 On this view, what it is for an entity to be can differ across ontological categories.2 Although historically this doctrine was very popular, and several important challenges to this doctrine have been dealt with, I suspect that contemporary metaphysicians will continue to treat this view with suspicion until it is made clearer when one is warranted in positing different modes of existence.3 I address this concern here. The question of when to posit ways of being is closely related to a more general question: when should one think that some philosophically interesting expression is analogous? Accordingly, my strategy here is as follows. First, I briefly explain my interpretation of ontological pluralism, the doctrine that there are ways of being.4 Second, I introduce the notion of an analogous term, and show how, on most ways of implementing ontological pluralism, “existence” is analogous. Third, I discuss two sufficient conditions for when one is warranted in claiming that a philosophically interesting term is analogous. Fourth, I present a series of ontological schemes, each of which satisfies at least one of the sufficient conditions. The upshot is this: if you are attracted to one of these ontologies, you have reason to believe in ways of being. The careful reader will have noted the apparent modesty of my conclusion. Unfortunately, I do not believe that one could ever be rationally required to believe in ways of being. Still, in general a metaphysic is a live option to the extent that it is shown to be rationally permissible to believe. Since the apparent consensus among contemporary analytic metaphysicians is that believing that things can exist in different ways is silly or confused, establishing the rational permissibility of belief in ways of being is a non-trivial task. Let us begin.
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DOI 10.2307/41057499
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Joshua Spencer (2012). Ways of Being. Philosophy Compass 7 (12):910-918.
Ben Caplan (2011). Ontological Superpluralism. Philosophical Perspectives 25 (1):79-114.

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