Much Ado about 'Something': Critical Notice of Chalmers, Manley, Wasserman, Metametaphysics [Book Review]

Analysis 71 (1):172-188 (2011)
Abstract
Every paper in this collection is worth reading, for one reason or another. Still, due to certain problematic metametaphysical presuppositions most of these discussions miss the deeper mark, on the pessimist as well as the optimist side. My reasons for thinking this come from considering how best to answer three metametaphysical questions. First, why be pessimistic about metaphysics – why be Carnapian in a post-positivist age? There is, I’ll suggest, a post-positivist strategy for reviving Carnapian pessimism, but it is almost entirely neglected here; and the motivations that pessimists offer instead are not compelling. Second, why think that the best way to approach metametaphysical questions is by attention to features of language, and in particular to quantifier semantics, in ordinary or ontological language(s)? Here again we are offered little motivation for this sup- position, which, notwithstanding its acceptance by nearly all contributors, faces clear difficulties. Third, granting that quantification is somehow bound up with first-order questions about what exists, what is the nature of this connection, and what are the associated implications for metametaphysics? Here I find the accounts of the connection on offer implausible, especially as compared to an alternative that makes better sense of metaphysical practice and disagreement. The moral following consideration of these questions is that real progress in metametaphysics is likely to occur less by attention to semantic issues pertaining to representation, translation and quantification and more to non-semantic issues pertaining to epistemology and metaphysical determinacy.
Keywords metametaphysics  Carnap  quantification  ontology
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