In contemporary debates about ontology, one prominent skeptical view emphasizes the existence of different possible languages for doing ontology. Eli Hirsch, in recent years the most prominent proponent of a view like this, has defended the claim that “many familiar questions about the ontology of physical objects are merely verbal. Nothing is substantively at stake in these questions beyond the correct use of language” and the claim that “quantifier expressions can have different meaning in different languages”.1 Ted Sider, while critical (...) of the type of view Hirsch defends, has in many places prominently singled it out for critical discussion. In his (2001), he associates with Carnap the view that “different frameworks employ different semantic rules for the quantifiers”, and says that a theorist in Carnap’s tradition would say that the stuff-ontologist and the thing-ontologist have different “frameworks” and that “[W]ithin these frameworks there are answers to what there is, but any question about which framework is the right framework is metaphysical in the pejorative sense of being a pseudo-question”.2 In his (forthcoming), Sider discusses at length the view that disputants in ontological disputes use the same sentences with different meaning and hence in fact each speak the truth, and what he describes as the attendant view that “there are multiple candidate meanings for the quantifiers”.3 In his (2005), Cian Dorr critically discusses “the idea that there are many different possible languages which differ systematically in the truth-values they assign to general ontological claims”.4.. (shrink)
In this paper, I will discuss, and to some extent criticize, Hilary Putnam’s views on ontology, recently summarized and defended in his Ethics without Ontology (2004). I will start out with a critical discussion of Putnam’s thesis of conceptual relativity. Then I will turn to what is the main issue in the book: the criticism of the focus on ontological matters in philosophical discussions of mathematics and ethics.
In my ‘Deep Inconsistency’ (2002a) (henceforth DI), I criticized Graham Priest’s dialetheism by unfavorably comparing it to my preferred view on the liar paradox, a view I will here call the meaning–inconsistency view. Perhaps the main claim in Jc Beall and Priest’s reply (henceforth B&P)1 is that I am guilty of an ignoratio: in DI, I argue that Priest (1987) fails to establish the analyticity of certain principles, but, B&P say, Priest (1987) isn’t concerned to argue for the analyticity (...) of these principles. Among other criticisms B&P level against DI can be mentioned especially the following: (i) Since I do not in fact defend a particular theory of truth I am ‘out of the game’, not really participating in the debate which others participate in; (ii) I lack—for principled reasons—an account of in virtue of what principles are meaning–constitutive. Here is what I will do in this reply. First I will briefly rehearse the main elements of both my own view and the criticisms of dialetheism raised in DI. Then I will respond to the charges listed from B&P. Lastly I will make some remarks on the strengthened liar. (shrink)
I elaborate and defend the inconsistency view on vagueness I have earlier argued for in my (2002) and (forthcoming). In rough outline, the view is that the sorites paradox arises because tolerance principles, despite their inconsistency, are meaning-constitutive for vague expressions. Toward the end of the paper I discuss other inconsistency views on vagueness that have been proposed, and compare them to the view I favor.
There is a vexed question in the literature on Marx of whether Marx was somehow anti-morality or if on the contrary he was instead defending a particular, perhaps rather radical, conception of morality. This question will be my starting point. But I will have nothing to contribute to the scholarly question of what Marx’s view was. Rather my aim will be this. Whatever in the end is the correct interpretation of Marx, it is undeniable that there are passages in Marx (...) which if taken literally and straightforwardly give voice to an anti-morality stance. One reason not to read these passages straightforwardly is that it is unclear what it even can mean to be anti-morality, as opposed to merely being against one or other popular conception of morality. I will however see what sense can be made out of anti-moralism; and a positive suggestion will be presented. (My claim will however not be that what I suggest is what Marx had in mind.) The discussion of Marx and anti-moralism will serve as a springboard for bringing up certain other issues. I will discuss thick concepts, and how to resolve a particular problem concerning how best to understand the nature of thick concepts. Generally. I will discuss the semantics of moral terms. I will also present a new type of moral antirealism. (shrink)
My theme here will be vagueness. But first recall Quine’s arguments for the indeterminacy of translation and the inscrutability of reference. (I will presume these arguments to be familiar.) If Quine is right, then there are radically different acceptable assignments of semantic values to the expressions of any language: different assignments of semantic values that for all that is determined by whatever it is that determines semantic value are all acceptable, and all equally good. Quine even argued that the indeterminacy (...) is so radical that some sentences are true under some acceptable assignments but false under others.1 Still, Quine does not allow intermediate truth-values or truthvalue gaps. (As I will put it, avoiding the disjunctive formulation: does not allow that there are sentences which are neuter.) Quine holds on to classical logic and bivalence and requires each acceptable assignment to be classical and bivalent.2.. (shrink)
The topic of this paper is whether there is metaphysical vagueness. It is shown that it is important to distinguish between the general phenomenon of indeterminacy and the more narrow phenomenon of vagueness (the phenomenon that paradigmatically rears its head in sorites reasoning). Relatedly, it is important to distinguish between metaphysical indeterminacy and metaphysical vagueness. One can wish to allow metaphysical indeterminacy but rule out metaphysical vagueness. As is discussed in the paper, central argument against metaphysical vagueness, like those of (...) Gareth Evans and Mark Sainsbury, would if successful rule out metaphysical indeterminacy. One way to argue specifically against the possibility of metaphysical vagueness might be thought to be to argue for a specific theory of the nature of vagueness according to which vagueness is a semantic phenomenon. But it is shown that there are complications also pertaining to arguments with that structure. Toward the end of the paper, I discuss Trenton Merricks’ well-known argument against a semantic view on vagueness and for a metaphysical view. (shrink)
This article is in three parts. The first discusses trends in philosophy. The second defends reliance on intuitions in philosophy from some doubts that have recently been raised. The third discusses Philip Kitcher's contention that contemporary analytic philosophy does not have its priorities straight. While the three parts are independent, there is a common theme. Each part defends what is regarded as orthodoxy from attacks. Of course there are other reasonable challenges to philosophical methodology. The article's aim is just to (...) respond to some charges that have been made. (shrink)
Many theorists hold that there is, among value concepts, a fundamental distinction between thin ones and thick ones. Among thin ones are concepts like good and right. Among concepts that have been regarded as thick are discretion, caution, enterprise, industry, assiduity, frugality, economy, good sense, prudence, discernment, treachery, promise, brutality, courage, coward, lie, gratitude, lewd, perverted, rude, glorious, graceful, exploited, and, of course, many others. Roughly speaking, thick concepts are value concepts with significant descriptive content. I will discuss a number (...) of problems having to do with how best to understand the notion of a thick concept. Thick concepts have been widely discussed in the .. (shrink)
I think it often happens, for various reasons, that philosophers defend radical views which, first, are too radical to be plausible, and second, are such that a less radical and more plausible view would satisfy the underlying motivations. Here is a historical example. The logical positivists famously sought to eliminate traditional metaphysics by arguing that the statements metaphysicians make are meaningless because of being unverifiable. Much of the ensuing discussion concerned whether verifiability is really necessary for meaningfulness. But clearly, even (...) if the logical positivists were wrong about this, they could still have a strong case for the elimination of metaphysics. For already if they could establish that the statements made by metaphysicians are unverifiable. If we cannot obtain good evidence for or against the statements of metaphysics, surely metaphysics is a pointless enterprise. I will argue here that we find another instance of the same general phenomenon in the debate about truth. I think deflationists defend a radical doctrine – and a problematic one – where a less radical doctrine, which I will call (sophisticated) rejectionism, would satisfy the underlying motivations equally well. Roughly, this less radical doctrine is the doctrine that the only use we have for a truth predicate is expressive. What I will do here is to explain what this rejectionist view is, how it differs from deflationism, and how it satisfies the motivations underlying deflationism. I will not actually defend the rejectionist view. In fact, I believe it is false. All I want to argue is that much effort spent on arguing for and against deflationism is better spent arguing for and against rejectionism. (shrink)
A central element in neo-Fregean philosophy of mathematics is the focus on abstraction principles, and the use of abstraction principles to ground various areas of mathematics. But as is well known, not all abstraction principles are in good standing. Various proposals for singling out the acceptable abstraction principles have been presented. Here I investigate what philosophical underpinnings can be provided for these proposals; specifically, underpinnings that fit the neo-Fregean's general outlook. Among the philosophical ideas I consider are: general views on (...) a priori justification; the idea of abstraction as reconceptualization, the idea that truth is prior to reference in the sense associated with Frege's context principle; and various broadly relativistic views. The conclusions are by and large negative. (shrink)
My focus here will be Rudolf Carnap’s views on ontology, as these are presented in the seminal “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology” (1950). I will first describe how I think Carnap’s distinction between external and internal questions is best understood. Then I will turn to broader issues regarding Carnap’s views on ontology. With certain reservations, I will ascribe to Carnap an ontological pluralist position roughly similar to the positions of Eli Hirsch and the later Hilary Putnam. Then I turn to some (...) interrelated arguments against the pluralist view. The arguments are not demonstrative. Some possible escape routes for the pluralist are outlined. But I think the arguments constitute a formidable challenge. There should be serious doubt as to whether the pluralist view, as it emerges after discussion of these arguments, will be worth defending. Moreover, there is an alternative ontological view which equally well subserves the motivations underlying ontological pluralism. (shrink)
Mark Eli Kalderon has argued for a fictionalist variant of non-cognitivism. On his view, what the Frege–Geach problem shows is that standard non-cognitivism proceeds uncritically from claims about use to claims about meaning; if non-cognitivism's claims were solely about use it would be on safe ground as far as the Frege–Geach problem is concerned. I argue that Kalderon's diagnosis is mistaken: the problem concerns the non-cognitivist's account of the use of moral sentences too.
I will here present a number of problems concerning the idea that there is ontological vagueness, and the related claim that appeal to this idea can help solve some vagueness-related problems. A theme underlying the discussion will be the distinction between vagueness specifically and indeterminacy more generally (and, relatedly, the distinction between ontological vagueness and ontological indeterminacy). Even if the world is somehow ontologically indeterminate it by no means follows that it is, properly speaking, ontologically vague.1..
(1) Abstract objects. The nominalist (as the label is used today) denies that there exist abstract objects. The platonist holds that there are abstract objects. One example is numbers. The nominalist denies that there are numbers; the platonist typically affirms it.
Here is the liar paradox. We have a sentence, (L), which somehow says of itself that it is false. Suppose (L) is true. Then things are as (L) says they are. (For it would appear to be a mere platitude that if a sentence is true, then things are as the sentence says they are.) (L) says that (L) is false. So, (L) is false. Since the supposition that (L) is true leads to contradiction, we can assert that (L) is (...) false. But since this is just what (L) says, (L) is then true. (For it would appear to be a mere platitude that if things are as a given sentence says they are, the sentence is true.) So (L) is true. So (L) is both true and false. Contradiction. (shrink)
I shall here discuss some matters related to the so-called radical indeterminacy or inscrutability arguments due to, e.g., Willard v. O. Quine, Hilary Putnam, John Wallace and Donald Davidson.1 These are arguments that, on the face of it, demonstrate that there is radical indeterminacy in what the expressions in a theory refer to and in what the ontology of the theory is. I will use “inscrutability argument” as a general label for these arguments. My main topic – after I have (...) dealt with some issues that in the context are mere preliminaries – will be what the consequences of inscrutability for ontology might be. (The label ‘inscrutability’ is not ideal, as it suggests that the problem raised is primarily epistemic. But it is common to use the label in the context of Quine’s arguments. And it has the advantage over the alternative suggestion “indeterminacy” that it signals that we are here dealing with a special kind of indeterminacy, not only more widespread but also in principle irremediable.). (shrink)
I go through, and criticize, Stephen Schiffer's account of vagueness and the sorites paradox. I discuss his notion of a happy-face solution to a paradox, his appeal to vagueness-related partial belief, his claim that indeterminacy is a psychological notion, and his view that the sorites premise and the inference rule of modus ponens are indeterminate.
When philosophers make claims of the form “Fs are fictions”, what they say is often ambiguous in a crucial way. On one way of understanding it, it has clear ontological implications: there are not really any such things as Fs. But there is also a different, non-ontological way of understanding the claim: as merely asserting that F-assertions are normally made in a fictional spirit. Clearly one can hold that we normally make statements about Fs in a fictional spirit while also (...) holding that we would still express truths if we were to make literal statements about Fs. Let ontological fictionalism about F-discourse be the thesis that Fs do not really exist but only exist in fictions. Let linguistic fictionalism about F-discourse be the thesis that we normally make F- statements in a fictional spirit. (Throughout when talking about (linguistic) fictionalism I shall mean hermeneutic fictionalism: fictionalism considered as a thesis about actual discourse, to the effect that we actually do make statements belonging to the discourse in a fictional spirit. Contrast: revolutionary fictionalism, which proposes that we should make statements belonging to the discourse in a fictional spirit.1). (shrink)
The main question of the paper is that ofwhat vagueness consists in. This question must be distinguished from other questions about vagueness discussed in the literature. It is argued that familiar accounts of vagueness for general reasons failto answer the question ofwhat vagueness consists in. A positive view is defended, according to which, roughly, the vagueness of an expression consists in it being part ofsemantic competence to accept a tolerance principle for the expression. Since tolerance principles are inconsistent, this is (...) an inconsistency view on vagueness. (shrink)
Let the moral question of personal identity be the following: what is the nature of the entities we should focus our prudential concerns and ascriptions of responsibility around? (If indeed we should structure these things around any entities at all.) Let the semantic question of personal identity be the question of what is the nature of the entities that ‘person’ is true of. A naive (in the sense of simple and intuitive) view would have it that the two questions are (...) so intimately connected that the entities we should focus our concerns and ascriptions around are, pretty trivially, the persons. In part, my aim here is to evaluate this naive view. However, I will not actually attempt to give a definite verdict on it. Rather, I will identify the assumptions under which the naive view is true, and discuss how to go about evaluating those assumptions. (shrink)
The main thesis of this paper is that we sometimes are disposed to accept false and even jointly inconsistent claims by virtue of our semantic competence, and that this comes to light in the sorites and liar paradoxes. Among the subsidiary theses are that this is an important source of indeterminacy in truth conditions, that we must revise basic assumptions about semantic competence, and that classical logic and bivalence can be upheld in the face of the sorites paradox.
Jaakko Hintikka has argued that ordinary first-order logic should be replaced byindependence-friendly first-order logic, where essentially branching quantificationcan be represented. One recurring criticism of Hintikka has been that Hintikka''ssupposedly new logic is equivalent to a system of second-order logic, and henceis neither novel nor first-order. A standard reply to this criticism by Hintikka andhis defenders has been to show that given game-theoretic semantics, Hintikka''sbranching quantifiers receive the exact same treatment as the regular first-orderones. We develop a different reply, based around (...) considerations concerning thenature of logic. In particular, we argue that Hintikka''s logic is the logic that bestrepresents the language fragment standard first-order logic is meantto represent. Therefore it earns its keep, and is also properly regarded as first-order. (shrink)
According to the received view on logical empiricism, the logical empiricists were involved in the same project as Popper, Lakatos and Kuhn: a project of describing actual scientific method and (with the exception of Kuhn) prescribing methodological rules for scientists. Even authors who seek to show that the logical empiricists were not as simpleminded as widely believed agree with this assumption. I argue that the received view has it wrong.
§1. Here is a familiar regress argument: Take the fact that Ed runs. What is the nature of this fact? If we think ‘runs’ stands for a property, the property of running (call it Running), then, arguably, Ed and this property are constituents of this fact. But the fact cannot simply consist of Ed and Running. For Ed can exist and Running can exist even if Ed doesn’t run. For it to be a fact that Ed runs, Ed must instantiate (...) Running. But adding the talk of instantiation just gets us another constituent of the fact: the relation of instantiation, call it Inst. But Ed can exist, Running can exist, and the relation Inst can exist even if Ed doesn’t run. Trying the same strategy as before we can say that Ed, Running and Inst must stand in the right relation for it to be a fact that Ed runs. But it should be clear that we are off on a vicious regress. As stated, the regress concerns facts, and I will keep referring to as the fact regress. But it is not obvious, at least, that we need to reify facts to get the regress going. All we need is a notion of something’s being the case, and the legitimacy of asking how, or in virtue of what, something is the case: Suppose it is the case that Ed runs. In virtue of what is it so? The existence of Ed and Running are not sufficient for it to be the case that Ed runs. For it to be the case that Ed runs, Ed must instantiate Running. But the existence of Ed, Running, and Inst is not sufficient for it to be the case that Ed runs. Etc. The regress argument given is sometimes called Bradley’s regress. But both because Bradley interpretation is controversial and because there are many different regress arguments bearing family resemblances to each other, I will by and large avoid that label. I think that the regress displayed by this argument brought up clearly is vicious, so some way of blocking the argument must be found. At no stage of the reasoning do we actually find ourselves in a position to say that a fact exists – or that something is the case – but we just add more and more entities, to no avail. Sometimes it is insisted that the regresses established by arguments like the one I have presented are not vicious.. (shrink)