This paper examines an often-ignored aspect of the evaluation of metaphysical analyses, namely, their ontological commitments. Such evaluations are part of metaphysical methodology, and reflection on this methodology is itself part of metametaphysics. I will develop a theory for assessing what these commitments are, and then I will apply it to an important historical and an important contemporary metaphysical analysis of the concept of an individual substance (i.e., an object, or thing). I claim that in evaluating metaphysical analyses, we (...) should not only rule out counterexamples, but also compare them with respect to their ontological commitments, and we should hold that if they are comparable in other respects, then an analysis with fewer such commitments is preferable to one with more (There is, of course, a connection between counterexamples and ontological commitments. If the existence or possible existence of something one is committed to the existence or possible existence of is incompatible with an analysis, then one should reject that analysis as inadequate to the data. On the other hand, if one is uncertain about the existence or possible existence of something that is incompatible with an analysis, then while this does not refute the analysis for one, it raises doubts about it. The fewer such doubts are raised by an analysis, the better it is.). (shrink)
Metaphysics is concerned with the foundations of reality. It asks questions about the nature of the world, such as: Aside from concrete objects, are there also abstract objects like numbers and properties? Does every event have a cause? What is the nature of possibility and necessity? When do several things make up a single bigger thing? Do the past and future exist? And so on. -/- Metametaphysics is concerned with the foundations of metaphysics. It asks: Do the questions of (...) metaphysics really have answers? If so, are these answers substantive or just a matter of how we use words? And what is the best procedure for arriving at them—common sense and conceptual analysis? Or assessing competing hypotheses with quasi-scientific criteria? -/- This volume gathers together sixteen new essays that are concerned with the semantics, epistemology, and methodology of metaphysics. My aim is to introduce these essays within a more general (and mildly opinionated) survey of contemporary challenges to metaphysics . (shrink)
Is arguing over ontology a mistake? A recent proposal by Karen Bennett suggests that some metaphysical disputes, such as those over constitution and composition, can be dismissed on epistemic grounds. Given that both sides in a dispute try to minimize the differences between them, there are no good metaphysical grounds for choosing between them. In this paper, I expand on her epistemic dismissivism, arguing that given the Quinean conception of the task and method of metaphysics, we are warranted in believing (...) that all ontological disputes will end in a draw, even if they have not yet done so. By a draw, I mean that while both sides in a dispute are genuinely disagreeing about what there is and there are still moves open to them, there are no moves remaining that will advance the discourse further. (shrink)
When I say that my conception of metaphysics is Aristotelian, or neo-Aristotelian, this may have more to do with Aristotle’s philosophical methodology than his metaphysics, but, as I see it, the core of this Aristotelian conception of metaphysics is the idea that metaphysics is the first philosophy . In what follows I will attempt to clarify what this conception of metaphysics amounts to in the context of some recent discussion on the methodology of metaphysics (e.g. Chalmers et al . (2009), (...) Ladyman and Ross (2007)). There is a lot of hostility towards the Aristotelian conception of metaphysics in this literature: for instance, the majority of the contributors to the Metametaphysics volume assume a rather more deflationary, Quinean approach towards metaphysics. In the process of replying to the criticisms towards Aristotelian metaphysics put forward in recent literature I will also identify some methodological points which deserve more attention and ought to be addressed in future research. (shrink)
According to the standard view of his metaphysics, Leibniz endorses idealism: the thesis that the world is made up solely of minds or monads and their perceptual and appetitive states. Recently,this view has been challenged by some scholars, who argue that Leibniz can be seen as admitting corporeal substances, that is, animals or embodied souls, into his ontology, and that, therefore, it is false to attribute a strict idealism to him. Subtler accounts suggest that Leibniz begins his philosophical career as (...) an advocate of (some form of) the modern ‘mechanical’ philosophy and ends his career as an idealist, raising the issue when and why Leibniz adopts his monadological metaphysics. This article argues that, given a constellation of metaphysical, logical, and theological views, Leibniz is committed to the ontological primacy of mind or form even in his ‘middle years’. (shrink)
In what does philosophical progress consist? 'Vertical' progress corresponds to development within a specific paradigm/framework for theorizing (of the sort associated, revolutions aside, with science); 'horizontal' progress corresponds to the identification and cultivation of diverse paradigms (of the sort associated, conservativism aside, with art and pure mathematics). Philosophical progress seems to involve both horizontal and vertical dimensions, in a way that is somewhat puzzling: philosophers work in a number of competing frameworks (like artists or mathematicians), while typically maintaining that only (...) one of these is correct (like scientists). I diagnose this situation as reflecting that we are presently quite far from the end of inquiry into philosophical methodology. The good news is that we appear to be making advances on this score. The bad news is that failure to recognize or make explicit that our standards are in flux often leads to dogmatism, as I illustrate by attention to three assumptions presently operative in metaphysical and metametaphysical contexts. I close by identifying a tension between vertical and horizontal progress in philosophy, and suggesting an updated version of Carnap's principle of tolerance for new philosophical forms. (shrink)
In this book, a Grice/Strawson account of analyticity is explained and formalized, and a corresponding account of logic is offered. The implications of these views for science/substantive inquiry are explored and a neo-Carnapian/verificationist meta-theory is presented.
The purpose of this thesis is to demonstrate that metaphysics is a necessary discipline -- necessary in the sense that all areas of philosophy, all areas of science, and in fact any type of rational activity at all would be impossible without a metaphysical background or metaphysical presuppositions. Because of the extremely strong nature of this claim, it is not possible to put forward a very simple argument, although I will attempt to construct one. A crucial issue here is what (...) metaphysics in fact is -- the nature of metaphysics. The conception of metaphysics which I support could be called Aristotelian, as opposed to Kantian: metaphysics is the first philosophy and the basis of all other philosophical and scientific inquiry. I will argue that this is indeed the most plausible conception of metaphysics. (shrink)
This paper defends the view that ontological questions (properly understood) are easy—too easy, in fact, to be subjects of substantive and distinctively philosophical debates. They are easy, roughly, in the sense that they may be resolved straightforwardly—generally by a combination of conceptual and empirical enquiries. After briefly outlining the view and some of its virtues, I turn to examine two central lines of objection. The first is that this ‘easy’ approach is itself committed to substantive ontological views, including an implausibly (...) permissive ontology. The second is that it, like neo-Fregean views, relies on transformation rules that are questionable on both logical and ontological grounds. Ultimately, I will argue, the easy view is not easily assailed by either of these routes, and so remains (thus far) a tenable and attractive approach. (shrink)
Wittgenstein’s rule-following argument indicates that linguistic understanding does not consist in knowing interpretations, whereas Kripkenstein’s version suggests that meaning cannot be metaphysically fixed by interpretations. In the present paper, rule-following considerations are used to suggest that certain ontological questions cannot be answered by interpretations. Specifically, if the aim is to specify the ontology of a language, an interpretation cannot answer what object an expression of L denotes, if the interpretations are themselves L-expressions. Briefly, that’s because the ontology of such interpretations, (...) e.g., “ ‘Pollux’ denotes Pollux” or “ ‘Pollux’ denotes Beta Geminorum,” would naturally be in question as much as the expressions they interpret. So in order to settle the question of ontology, the interpretations themselves would need to be interpreted, and thus a regress. I conclude that knowing the answer to what ontology underlies L cannot be a matter of knowing interpretations. The paper ends with a quietist conclusion; the slogan is that empirical science is ontology enough, or rather, it is about all the ontology one should expect. (shrink)
The paper is an extended discussion of what I call the ‘dismissive attitude’ towards metaphysical questions. It has three parts. In the first part, I distinguish three quite different versions of dismissivism. I also argue that there is little reason to think that any of these positions is correct about the discipline of metaphysics as a whole; it is entirely possible that some metaphysical disputes should be dismissed and others should not be. Doing metametaphysics properly requires doing metaphysics first. (...) I then put two particular disputes on the table to be examined in the rest of the paper: the dispute over whether composite objects exist, and the dispute about whether distinct objects can be colocated. In the second part of the paper, I argue against the claim that these disputes are purely verbal disputes. In the third part of the paper, I present a new version of dismissivism, and argue that it is probably the correct view about the two disputes in question. They are not verbal disputes, and the discussion about them to date has not remotely been a waste of time. At this stage, however, our evidence has run out. I argue that neither side of either dispute is simpler than the other, and that the same objections in fact arise against both sides. (For example, the compositional nihilist does not in fact escape the problem of the many, and the one-thinger does not in fact escape the grounding problem.). (shrink)
I discuss David Chalmers’ “scrutability thesis,” roughly that a Laplacean intellect could know every truth about the universe from a “compact class” of basic truths. It is argued that despite Chalmers’ remarks to the contrary, the thesis is problematic owing to quantum indeterminacy. Chalmers attempts to “frontload” various principles into the compact class to help out. But though frontloading may succeed in principle, Chalmers does not frontload enough to avoid the problem.
Tim Button explores the relationship between words and world; between semantics and scepticism. A certain kind of philosopher—the external realist—worries that appearances might be radically deceptive; we might all, for example, be brains in vats, stimulated by an infernal machine. But anyone who entertains the possibility of radical deception must also entertain a further worry: that all of our thoughts are totally contentless. That worry is just incoherent. We cannot, then, be external realists, who worry about the possibility of radical (...) deception. Equally, though, we cannot be internal realists, who reject all possibility of deception. We must position ourselves somewhere between internal realism and external realism, but we cannot hope to say exactly where. We must be realists, for what that is worth, and realists within limits. In establishing these claims, Button critically explores and develops several themes from Hilary Putnam's work: the model-theoretic arguments; the connection between truth and justification; the brain-in-vat argument; semantic externalism; and conceptual relativity. The Limits of Realism establishes the continued significance of these topics for all philosophers interested in mind, logic, language, or the possibility of metaphysics. (shrink)
Sometimes metaphysicians appeal to simplicity as a reason to prefer one metaphysical theory to another, especially when a philosophical dispute has otherwise reached a state of equilibrium. In this paper, I show that given a Quinean conception of metaphysics, several initially plausible justifications for simplicity as a metaphysical criterion do not succeed. If philosophers wish to preserve simplicity as a metaphysical criterion, therefore, they must radically reconceive the project of metaphysics.
The most basic divide amongst analytic metaphysicians separates realists from anti-realists. By examining certain characteristic and problematic features of these two families of views, we uncover their underlying metametaphysicalorientations, which turn out to coincide. This shared philosophical picture that underlies both the realist and the anti-realist project we call the Modern Picture. It rests on a crucial distinction between reality as it is for us and reality as it is in itself. It is argued that this distinction indeed generates the (...) realism/anti-realism dichotomy, and is also responsible for the problematic aspects highlighted earlier. We conclude by sketching an alternative philosophical picture that rejects the distinction between reality as it is for us and reality as it is in itself, which we call the Aristotelian Picture, and consider whether it is able to avoid the issues to which the Modern Picture gives rise. (shrink)
On the now dominant Quinean view, metaphysics is about what there is. Metaphysics so conceived is concerned with such questions as whether properties exist, whether meanings exist, and whether numbers exist. I will argue for the revival of a more traditional Aristotelian view, on which metaphysics is about what grounds what. Metaphysics so revived does not bother asking whether properties, meanings, and numbers exist (of course they do!) The question is whether or not they are fundamental.
In the middle of the twentieth century a dispute erupted between the chief architect of Logical Empiricism, Rudolf Carnap, and Logical Empiricism’s chief reformer, Willard van Orman Quine -- who was attempting to save what he took to be its main insights by recasting them in a more acceptable form. Though both eschewed metaphysics of the traditional apriori sort, and both were intent on making the investigation of science the center of philosophy, they disagreed about how to do so. Part (...) of the disagreement involved the nature of ontological disputes. The central documents in the debate are: (i) Quine’s 1948 article, “On What There Is,” which tells us how to discern ontological.. (shrink)
In , Peter van Inwagen asked a good question. (Asking the right question is often the hardest part.) He asked: what do you have to do to some objects to get them to compose something---to bring into existence some further thing made up of those objects? Glue them together or what?1 Some said that you don’t have to do anything.2 No matter what you do to the objects, they’ll always compose something further, no matter how they are arranged. Thus we (...) learned of the fusion of the coins in our pockets and the Eiffel tower. (shrink)
The basic question of ontology is “What exists?”. The basic question of metaontology is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ontology? Here ontological realists say yes, and ontological anti-realists say no. (Compare: The basic question of ethics is “What is right?”. The basic question of metaethics is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ethics? Here moral realists say yes, and moral anti-realists say no.) For example, the ontologist may ask: Do numbers exist? The Platonist (...) says yes, and the nominalist says no. The metaontologist may ask: is there an objective fact of the matter about whether numbers exist? The ontological realist says yes, and the ontological anti-realist says no. Likewise, the ontologist may ask: Given two distinct entities, when does a mereological sum of those entities exist? The universalist says always, while the nihilist says never. The metaontologist may ask: is there an objective fact of the matter about whether the mereological sum of two distinct entities exists? The ontological realist says yes, and the ontological anti-realist says no. Ontological realism is often traced to Quine (1948), who held that we can determine what exists by seeing which entities are endorsed by our best scientiﬁc theory of the world. In recent years, the practice of ontology has often presupposed an ever-stronger ontological realism, and strong versions of ontological realism have received explicit statements by Fine (this volume), Sider (2001; this volume), van Inwagen (1998; this volume), and others. (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)
The basic philosophical controversy regarding ordinary objects is: Do tables and chairs, sticks and stones, exist? This paper aims to do two things: first, to explain why how this can be a controversy at all, and second, to explain why this controversy has arisen so late in the history of philosophy. Section 1 begins by discussing why the 'obvious' sensory evidence in favor of ordinary objects is not taken to be decisive. It goes on to review the standard arguments against (...) the existence of ordinary objects – including those based on problems with causal redundancy, parsimony, co-location, sorites arguments, and the special composition question. Section 2 goes on to address what it is about the contemporary approach to metaphysics that invites and sustains this kind of controversy, and helps make evident why debates about ordinary objects lead so readily to debates in metametaphysics about the nature of metaphysics itself. (shrink)
In order to perfectly describe the world, it is not enough to speak truly. In this ambitious and ground-breaking book, Theodore Sider argues that for a representation to be fully successful, truth is not enough; the representation must also use the right concepts--concepts that 'carve at the joints'--so that its conceptual structure matches reality's structure. There is an objectively correct way to 'write the book of the world'. Sider's argument begins from the assertion that metaphysics is about the fundamental structure (...) of reality. Not about what's necessarily true; not about what properties are essential; not about conceptual analysis; and not about what there is. While inquiry into necessity, essence, concepts, or ontology might help to illuminate reality's structure, the ultimate goal is insight into this structure. Sider argues that part of the theory of structure is an account of how structure connects to other concepts. For example, structure can be used to illuminate laws of nature, explanation, reference, induction, physical geometry, substantivity, conventionality, objectivity, and metametaphysics. Another part is an account of how structure behaves. Since structure is a way of thinking about fundamentality, Sider's account implies distinctive answers to questions about the nature of fundamentality. These answers distinguish his theory of structure from other recent theories of fundamentality, including Kit Fine's theory of ground and reality, the theory of truthmaking, and Jonathan Schaffer's theory of ontological dependence. (shrink)
This book appears as the eighth installment of the series Controversies, which is edited by Marcelo Dascal at Tel Aviv University. The series has as its stated goal publishing "studies in the theory of controversy, . . . studies in the history of controversy forms and their evolution, case studies of particular or current controversies, . . . and other controversy focused books". Senderowicz is a Kantian scholar, having also written The Coherence of Kant's Transcendental Idealism and several papers interpreting (...) Kant. Both of these themes are evident in Controversies and the Metaphysics of Mind. The book offers a decidedly neo-Kantian interpretation of the role that controversies play in metaphysical theorizing and applies this interpretation to two recent debates in the metaphysics of mind. The first is the debate about physicalism and the second is the debate about personal identity. The issues that are addressed include the relation of metaphysics to science and whether or not metaphysics deals with a distinctive subject matter or uses a distinctive method. This puts the book amongst the growing number of works in metametaphysics. (shrink)
There is a long history of worrying about whether or not metaphysics is a legitimate philosophical discipline. Traditionally such worries center around issues of meaning and epistemological concerns. Do the metaphysical questions have any meaning? Can metaphysical methodology lead to knowledge? But these questions are, in my opinion, not as serious as they have sometimes (historically) been taken to be. What is much more concerning is another set of worries about metaphysics, which I take to the greatest threat to metaphysics (...) as a philosophical discipline. These worries, in effect, hold that the questions that metaphysics tries to answer have long been answered in other parts of inquiry, ones that have much greater authority. And if they haven’t been answered yet then one should not look to philosophy for an answer. What metaphysics tries to do has been or will be done by the sciences. There is nothing left to do for philosophy, or so the worry. Let me illustrate this with two examples, one of which is our main concern here. (shrink)
Analytic philosophy is once again in a methodological frame of mind. Nowhere is this more evident than in metaphysics, whose practitioners and historians are actively reflecting on the nature of ontological questions, the status of their answers, and the relevance of contributions both from other areas within philosophy (e.g., philosophical logic, semantics) and beyond (notably, the natural sciences). Such reflections are hardly new: the debate between Willard van Orman Quine and Rudolf Carnap about how to understand and resolve ontological questions (...) is widely seen as a turning point in 20th-century analytic philosophy. And indeed, this volume is occasioned by the fact that the deflationary approach advocated by Carnap that debate is once again attracting considerable interest and support. Containing ten original and previously unpublished essays by many of today's leading voices in metametaphysics, Ontology After Carnap aims both to deepen our understanding of Carnap's contributions to metaontology and to explore how this legacy might be mined for insights into the contemporary debate. Contributors: Richard Creath, Matti Eklund, Simon Evnine, Eli Hirsch, Thomas Hofweber, Kathrin Koslicki, Robert Kraut, Greg Lavers, Alan Sidelle, Amie Thomasson, Jessica Wilson & Stephen Biggs. (shrink)
Kris McDaniel (2009). Ways of Being. In David John Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press.score: 3.0
There are many kinds of beings – stones, persons, artifacts, numbers, propositions – but are there also many kinds of being? The world contains a variety of objects, each of which exists – but do some objects exist in different ways? The historically popular answer is yes. This answer is suggested by the Aristotelian slogan that “being is said in many ways”, and according to some interpretations is Aristotle’s view.1 Variants of this slogan were championed by medieval philosophers, such as (...) Aquinas, who worried that God cannot be said to exist in the same sense (or in the same way?) as created things.2 Descartes alluded to the medievals’ worry, but extensive discussion of the problem of being disappeared from the central stage by the time of the modern period.3 However, in the early 20th century, friends of ways of being included Alexius Meinong (1910: 49- 62), G.E. Moore (1903: 161-163), Russell (1912: 91-100), Husserl (1901: 249-250), and Heidegger (1927).4 In what follows, I develop a meta-ontological theory based on the work of Martin Heidegger circa Being and Time. I take Heidegger’s work as my inspiration because of the historical importance of Heidegger’s philosophy, and because Heidegger provides a particularly clear statement of the doctrine that there are many ways to be. I begin by carefully discussing and then formulating the relevant aspects of Heidegger’s metaontological theory. Heidegger claims both that the word “being” has many meanings and that there are different ways in which things exist. Section 2 explicates the former thesis, as well as elucidates the connection between senses of “being” and quantification. Most contemporary analytic metaphysicians believe that the idea that different kinds of beings can enjoy different ways of being is metaphysically bankrupt, and probably even meaningless.5 They are mistaken. In section 3, I discuss the doctrine that there are ways of being, and show how we can understand this doctrine in terms of the meta-ontological framework defended by Theodore Sider.. (shrink)
Metaphysics, having long since recovered the logical positivist/empiricist objections that were supposed to signal its death, is once again coming under sustained criticism, and from a similar direction. Once it was realised that speculative systematic metaphysics needn’t be abandoned in light of empiricist scruples, metaphysics flourished. But it’s become increasingly clear that, even if the logical empiricists didn’t exactly get their objections right, there is something worrying about the evidential basis for contemporary metaphysics. Not that metaphysicians are unaware of this. (...) There is lots of recent activity in metametaphysics, and much of this research is more or less connected to worries about whether we can have evidence in favour of a metaphysical hypothesis. Roughly: there are alternative views according to which metaphysical disputes variously.. (shrink)
While fights about ontology rage on in the ring, there’s long been a suspicion whispered in certain corners of the stadium that some of the fights aren’t real. Granted the disputants all think they are really disagreeing—it’s not the sincerity of the serious ontologists that’s in question, but rather their judgment that they are engaged in a real debate about genuine issues of substance.
Review of G. Duke: Dummett onObjects References G. Frege. Über Sinn und Bedeutung. Zeitschrift für Philosophie und philosophische Kritik, 100, 25–50, 1892. Translated in G.Frege, Collected Papers on Mathematics, Logic and Philosophy, edited by B. McGuinness. Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 157–77. G. Frege. Die Grundlagen der Arithmetik. Breslau, Verlag von W. Koebner, 1884. Translated by J.L. Austin as The Foundations of Arithmetic, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, second revised edition 1953. M. Dummett. Frege: Philosophy of Language. London, Duckworth, 1973. M. Dummett. Frege: Philosophy (...) of Mathematics. London: Duckworth, 1991. B. Hale. Abstract Objects. Oxford: Basil Blackwells, 1987. B. Hale. Dummett's critique of Wright's attempt to resuscitate Frege. Philosophia Mathematica 2 (2):122–47 , 1994 http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/philmat/2.2.122 B. Hale and C. Wright. The Reason's Proper Study: Essays towards a Neo-Fregean Philosophy of Mathematics. Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001. B. Hale and C. Wright. The Metaontology of Abstraction. In D. Chalmers, D. Manley & R. Wasserman, editors, Metametaphysics: New essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 178–213, 2009. C. Wright. Frege’s Conception of Numbers as Objects. Scots Philosophical Monographs. Aberdeen, Aberdeen University Press, 1983. (shrink)