Ontological Minimalism

American Philosophical Quarterly 38 (4):319 - 331 (2001)
Abstract
A minimalist or “pleonastic” ontology is supposed to provide a “cheap ontology” of languagecreated entities to serve as relatively innocuous referents for singular terms for such entities as properties, propositions, events, meanings, and fictional characters. This paper investigates the very idea of ontological minimalism, its source, and its potential applications. Certain puzzles and paradoxes arise in the idea of ontological minimalism; the article argues that these result from the fact that minimal entities divide into three different cases with importantly different ontological and epistemological implications. These different analyses show that general claims of minimalism provide no guarantee that the relevant entities are merely linguistic creations that can be accepted without ontological qualms. Nonetheless, minimalism has some important applications, e.g. relative minimalism can aid in determining the relative parsimony of different theories and thereby help demonstrate why certain forms of eliminativism regarding “ordinary objects”, fictional characters, etc. are misguided.
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Peter Hanks (2009). Recent Work on Propositions. Philosophy Compass 4 (3):469-486.
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