Adding Modality to Ontic Structuralism: An Exploration and Critique

Ontic Structural Realism (OSR) gives ontic priority to structures over objects. In its perhaps most extreme form (captured, admittedly, by a slogan) it states that “all that there is, is structure” (da Costa and French 2003, 189). If this is true, if there is nothing but structure(s) in the world, the very idea of contrasting structure to nonstructure loses any force it might have. Actually, if the slogan is right, the very idea of characterising what there is as structure—as opposed to anything else—becomes incoherent. Traditionally, characterising something as a structure has made full sense —and has served excellent scientific and philosophical purposes—precisely because structure was understood as an entity with slots, which could be occupied by objects and whose individuation-conditions involved objects only qua slot-fillers. If objects altogether go, whatever remains can be called ‘structure’ only if we take ‘structure’ to be a term of art. Well, Ontic Structuralists are happy to ‘mimic’ talk of non-structure, or objects in particular, but they hasten to add that this mimicking does not imply any serious metaphysical commitment to them. Here are a couple of characteristic passages.
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