The fictional monster Cthulhu was created by HP Lovecraft. Therefore there is some thing, Cthulhu, that Lovecraft created. Cthulhu is a fictional being, so there are fictional beings. You can’t kick a fictional being, so they are abstract. Thankfully, all of this is compatible with a sparse nominalistic ontology. What is important for the nominalist is that a world of concreta suffices to ground all truths, and fictional beings have their grounds in concrete acts of interpretation. Or so I will (...) argue. Along the way we’ll deal with indeterminate identity of fictional characters, as well as making some general remarks about metaontology. (shrink)
Truthmaker theory says that there is an intimate link between truth and ontology: i.e. between what is the case and what there is. According to truthmaker theory, for a proposition to be true requires there to be some thing (or things) that makes it true. The truthmaker is the ontological ground of the truth; its existence explains why the proposition in question is true.
In a recent paper I appeal to a metaontological view I have defended in a number of places and put it to work to solve a puzzle regarding musical ontology: how can it be that musical works, which are seemingly abstract if they exist, are created? My view is subject to criticism from Stefano Predelli, who argues that it is neither original nor successful. Fortunately, Predelli’s criticism does not survive close scrutiny.
Truthmaking and ontological commitment How do we determine the ontological commitments of a theory? Quine told us to look to the quantifier.1 What must be in the domain of the quantifiers if the (regimented) sentences of the theory are all to be true? Those are the ontological commitments of the theory.
The connection between whole and part is intimate: not only can we share the same space, but I’m incapable of leaving my parts behind; settle the nonmereological facts and you thereby settle what is a part of what; wholes don’t seem to be an additional ontological commitment over their parts. Composition as identity promises to explain this intimacy. But it threatens to make the connection too intimate, for surely the parts could have made a different whole and the whole have (...) had different parts. In this paper I attempt to offer an account of parthood that is intimate enough but not too intimate: the parts generate the whole, but they are not themselves the whole. (shrink)
Orthodoxy says that the thesis that composition is identity (CAI) entails universalism: the claim that any collection of entities has a sum. If this is true it counts in favour of CAI, since a thesis about the nature of composition that settles the otherwise intractable special composition question (SCQ) is desirable. But I argue that it is false: CAI is compatible with the many forms of restricted composition, and SCQ is no easier to answer given CAI than otherwise. Furthermore, in (...) seeing why this is the case we reveal an objection to CAI: that it allows for the facts concerning what there is to be settled whilst leaving open the question about what is identical to what. (shrink)
Some argue that Lewisian realism fails as a reduction of modality because in order to meet some criterion of success the account needs to invoke primitive modality. I defend Lewisian realism against this charge; in the process, I hope to shed some light on the conditions of success for a reduction. In §1 I detail the resources the Lewisian modal realist needs. In §2 I argue against Lycan and Shalkowski’s charge that Lewis needs a modal notion of ‘world’ to ensure (...) that worlds correspond to possibilities. In §3 I respond to Divers and Melia’s objection that Lewis needs to invoke primitive modality to give a complete account of what worlds there are. In §4 I ask what it is for a notion to ‘involve’ modality. I conclude that the question is either in bad standing or at best offers little traction on the debate, and propose a different way of assessing when materials are appropriately included in a reductive base. (shrink)
Many of us are tempted by the thought that the future is open, whereas the past is not. The future might unfold one way, or it might unfold another; but the past, having occurred, is now settled. In previous work we presented an account of what openness consists in: roughly, that the openness of the future is a matter of it being metaphysically indeterminate how things will turn out to be. We were previously concerned merely with presenting the view and (...) exploring its consequences; we did not attempt to argue for it over rival accounts. That is what we will aim to do in this paper. (shrink)
I argue that the truthmaker theorist should be a priority monist if she wants to avoid commitment to mysterious necessary connections. In section 1 I briefly discuss the ontological options available to the truthmaker theorist. In section 2 I develop the argument against truthmaker theory from the Humean denial of necessary connections. In section 3 I offer an account of when necessary connections are objectionable. In section 4 I use this criterion to narrow down the options from section 1. In (...) section 5 I argue that the account leads us to priority monism. (shrink)
In this paper I further elucidate and defend a metaontological position that allows you to have a minimal ontology without embracing an error-theory of ordinary talk. On this view 'there are Fs' can be strictly and literally true without bringing an ontological commitment to Fs. Instead of a sentence S committing you to the things that must be amongst the values of the variables if it is true, I argue that S commits you to the things that must exist as (...) truthmakers for S if it is true. I rebut some recent objections that have been levelled against this metaontological view. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that there are some sentences whose truth makes no demands on the world, being trivially true in that their truth-conditions are trivially met. I argue that this does not amount to their truth-conditions being met necessarily: we need a non-modal understanding of the notion of the demands the truth of a sentence makes, lest we be blinded to certain conceptual possibilities. I defend the claim that the truths of pure mathematics and set theory are trivially (...) true, and hence accepting their truth brings no ontological commitment; I further defend the claim that the truths of applied mathematics and set theory do not demand the existence of numbers or sets. While the notion of a demand must not be reduced to anything modal, I nonetheless argue that sentences that are trivially true must also be necessary, lest we violate a very weak version of the principle that truth depends on the world. I further argue that all necessary truths are trivially true, lest we admit unexplained necessities. I end by showing one important consequence of this: I argue that if there are truthmakers for intrinsic predications, they must be states of affairs rather than tropes. (shrink)
Some truths are necessary, others could have been false. Why? What is the source of the distinction between the necessary and the contingent? What's so special about the necessary truths that account for their necessity? In this article, we look at some of the most promising accounts of the grounds of necessity: David Lewis' reduction of necessity to truth at all possible worlds; Kit Fine's reduction of necessity to essence; and accounts of necessity that take the distinction between the necessary (...) and the contingent to be a matter of convention. (shrink)
I attempt to accommodate the phenomenon of vagueness with classical logic and bivalence. I hold that for any vague predicate there is a sharp cut-off between the things that satisfy it and the things that do not; I claim that this is due to the greater naturalness of one of the candidate meanings of that predicate. I extend the thought to the problem of the many and Benacerraf cases. I go on to explore the idea that (...) it is ontically indeterminate what the most natural meanings are, and hence ontically indeterminate where the sharp cut-off in a sorites series is. (shrink)
In his Truth and Ontology,1 Trenton Merricks argues against the truthmaker principle: Truthmaker: ∀p( p → ∃xxᮀ(Exx → p)). Truthmaker says that for any true proposition, there are some things whose existence guarantees the truth of that proposition: that is, some things which couldn’t all exist and the proposition fail to be true. His main arguments against Truthmaker are that there cannot be satisfactory truthmakers for (i) negative existentials, (ii) modal truths, (iii) truths about the past (given that presentism is (...) true) and (iv) certain subjunctive conditionals, in particular so-called ‘counterfactuals of freedom’ and dispositional conditionals. I’m going to concentrate on the ﬁrst three of these. But ﬁrst I’ll say a bit about why we should care about Truthmaker. Merricks says that “No one gives much of an argument for Truthmaker. Instead, Truthmaker’s main support comes from something like the brute intuition that what is true depends in a non-trivial way on what there is” ( p. 2). He is, unfortunately, correct that truthmaker theorists have in general not been very good at motivating their theory. Too often is Truthmaker taken to be obvious, or an obvious consequence of realism, when really it is neither. But I think we can do better. (shrink)
When there is truth, there must be some thing (or things) to account for that truth: some thing(s) that couldn’t exist and the true proposition fail to be true. That is the truthmaker principle. True propositions are made true by entities in the mind-independently existing external world. The truthmaker principle seems attractive to many metaphysicians, but many have wanted to weaken it and accept not that every true proposition has a truthmaker but only that some important class of propositions require (...) truthmakers.1 Let us, following Armstrong, call the claim that all true propositions, without exception, have a truthmaker, Truthmaker Maximalism. Why might one be tempted to the spirit of truthmaker theory but reject Truthmaker Maximalism? Well, you might deny that necessary truths need truthmakers, for one, and insist that only contingent truths have truthmakers. But I think it’s fair to say that the most common motivation for rejecting maximalism concerns negative truths. The thought that negative truths are exempt from the demand for truthmakers could be justified in one of two ways: there is the claim that we don’t need truthmakers for negative truths, and there is the claim that we can’t have.. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that warrant for Lewis' principle of recombination presupposes warrant for a combinatorial analysis of intrinsicality, which in turn presupposes warrant for the principle of recombination. This, I claim, leads to a vicious circularity: warrant for neither doctrine can get off the ground.
What are the ontological commitments of a sentence? In this paper I offer an answer from the perspective of the truthmaker theorist that contrasts with the familiar Quinean criterion. I detail some of the benefits of thinking of things this way: they include making the composition debate tractable without appealing to a neo-Carnapian metaontology, making sense of neo-Fregeanism, and dispensing with some otherwise recalcitrant necessary connections.
I address an intuition commonly endorsed by metaphysicians, that there must be a fundamental layer of reality, i.e., that chains of ontological dependence must terminate: there cannot be turtles all the way down. I discuss applications of this intuition with reference to Bradley’s regress, composition, realism about the mental and the cosmological argument. I discuss some arguments for the intui- tion, but argue that they are unconvincing. I conclude by making some suggestions for how the intuition should be argued for, (...) and discussing the ramiﬁcations of giving the justiﬁcation I think best. (shrink)
This paper attempts to locate, within an actualist ontology, truthmakers for modal truths: truths of the form or . In Sect. 1 I motivate the demand for substantial truthmakers for modal truths. In Sect. 21 criticise Armstrong's account of truthmakers for modal truths. In Sect. 31 examine essentialism and defend an account of what makes essentialist attributions true, but I argue that this does not solve the problem of modal truth in general. In Sect. 41 discuss, and dismiss, a theistic (...) account of the source of modal truth proposed by Alexander Pruss. In Sect. 5 I offer a means of (dis)solving the problem. (shrink)
In this paper I examine the objection to truthmaker theory, forcibly made by David Lewis and endorsed by many, that it violates the Humean denial of necessary connections between distinct existences. In Sect. 1 I present the argument that acceptance of truthmakers commits us to necessary connections. In Sect. 2 I examine Lewis’ ‘Things-qua-truthmakers’ theory which attempts to give truthmakers without such a commitment, and find it wanting. In Sects. 3–5 I discuss various formulations of the denial of necessary connections (...) and argue that each of them is either false or compatible with truthmaker theory. In Sect. 6 I show how the truthmaker theorist can resist the charge that they are committed to necessary exclusions between possible existents. I conclude that there is no good objection to truthmaker theory on the grounds that it violates the Humean dictum. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that warrant for Lewis’ Modal Realism is unobtainable. I consider two familiar objections to Lewisian realism – the modal irrelevance objection and the epistemological objection – and argue that Lewis’ response to each is unsatisfactory because they presuppose claims that only the Lewisian realist will accept. Since, I argue, warrant for Lewisian realism can only be obtained if we have a response to each objection that does not presuppose the truth of Lewisian realism, this circularity (...) is vicious. I end by contrasting Lewis’ methodology with Forrest’s in order to illustrate a rival method that does not fall victim to the objection I lay against Lewis. (shrink)
There is widespread disagreement as to what the facts are concerning just when a collection of objects composes some further object; but there is widespread agreement that, whatever those facts are, they are necessary. I am unhappy to simply assume this, and in this paper I ask whether there is reason to think that the facts concerning composition hold necessarily. I consider various reasons to think so, but find fault with each of them. I examine the theory of composition as (...) identity, but argue that the version of this doctrine that entails universalism is implausible. I consider the claim that the a priority of such facts leads to their necessity, but give a defence of substantial contingent a priori truths. I ask whether the contingency of such facts would lead to unwelcome possibilities, but argue that the worrying looking possibilities can be blocked if it is desired. Next, I argue against the thought that the Lewis-Sider argument against restricted composition might give us reason to accept the necessity of universalism. Lastly, I respond to two objections from the 2006 BSPC. I conclude in favour of the contingency of the facts concerning when some things compose some thing. (shrink)
This paper is an investigation of metaphysical nihilism: the view that there could have been no contingent or concrete objects. I begin by showing the connections of the nihilistic theses to other philosophical doctrines. I then go on to look at the arguments for and against metaphysical nihilism in the literature and find both to be flawed. In doing so I will look at the nature of abstract objects, the nature of spacetime and mereological simples, the existence of the empty (...) set, the dependence of universals on particulars, and other general questions of ontology. (shrink)
In this paper I examine two principles of orthodox truthmaker theory: truthmaker maximalism - the doctrine that every (contingent) truth has a truthmaker, and truthmaker necessitarianism - the doctrine that the existence of a truthmaker necessitates the truth of any proposition which it in fact makes true. I argue that maximalism should be rejected and that once it is we only have reason to hold a restricted form of necessitarianism.
The thesis that composition is identity (CAI) is the thesis that the Xs compose A iff the Xs is identical to A.1 If this thesis is to be compatible with any mereological view other than mereological nihilism, we must allow that many-one identity statements make sense: that is, that it makes sense to say of a plurality of things that they are (collectively) identical to some one thing. Identity, on this view, holds between every thing and itself, but can also (...) between a thing and some things. (shrink)