About this topic
Summary Both the idea of ontological commitment and its connection to the idea of quantification are associated especially with the work of Quine. In Quine’s scheme (as in most others) the highest-level ontic category is that provided by the form of the variable itself; to be assumed as an entity is to be assumed as a value of a variable. Below this level, the question becomes one of the adoption of particular ranges of variables for particular ranges of putative entities (class variables versus individual variables, just for instance). In excluding semantically plural variables – a possiblity Quine seemingly never considered – his formulation is ‘singularist’; but this, it seems, should make no ontological difference. The idea of a distinctively ontic operator is articulated by Quine in several closely related ways - for example, ‘We commit ourselves outright to an ontology containing numbers when we say there are prime numbers between 1000 and1010; we commit ourselves to an ontology containing centaurs when we say there are centaurs’. Thus conceived, the role of the (so-called) existential quantifier is quite precise. It is not a device for expressing just any kind of existential information; it is a quite specifically ontic device, for speaking of categories and kinds of things exclusively – not for information as to numbers of the items in these categories and kinds. Ontically, what matters is purely and simply whether there are things of this or that kind or not. Quine declares: ‘Existence is what existential quantification expresses’, and continues, using the (bare plural) form, ‘There are things of kind F if and only if (∃x)(Fx)’. What the operator ∃ represents is here quantification in name only, precisely because its role is to be numerically neutral. Commonplace accounts of quantifiers stating that they specify ‘which or how many of some kind of things have some property’ misrepresent the content of the existential quantifier, in contrast with so-called numerical quantifiers (as in ‘There are exactly two prime numbers between 1 and 4’). Yet  insofar as the semantics of variables, whether singular or plural, implicate countability in the first place, the question of the ontological neutrality of their use is not distinct from the unsettled question of whether talk of entities or objects itself is ontically neutral. For Quine’s claim is that ‘all traits of reality worthy of the name can be set down in an idiom of this austere form if in any idiom’ – in spirit, ‘a philosophical doctrine of categories’. But Quine frequently indicates serious concern, regarding what he calls the 'artifice' or 'reduction' of talk involving his so-called 'mass terms' to talk of entities or objects in the first place.
Key works  Quine 1961 marks an early and powerful affirmation of the tight bond promoted by Quine between the semantics of current basic logic and ontology. Carnap 1950, in the spirit of Quine, explicitly relativises ontology to a 'linguistic framework', and in Quine 1957 and Quine 1960, a distinction is made between the inescapable formal framework of our 'adult' or 'mature' conceptual scheme, based on individuation or the use of variables, and the logically recalcitrant pre-individuative status of so-called 'mass terms' - which can only be accommodated in the scheme via certain artificial reductive devices. Ontological relativism is thereby reinforced.
Introductions  Church 1958 (but see also Laycock 2010 )
Related categories

210 found
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  1. added 2019-01-02
    On the Dispensability of Grounding: Ground-Breaking Work on Metaphysical Explanation.James Norton - 2017 - Dissertation, The University of Sydney
    Primitive, unanalysable grounding relations are considered by many to be indispensable constituents of the metaphysician’s toolkit. Yet, as a primitive ontological posit, grounding must earn its keep by explaining features of the world not explained by other tools already at our disposal. Those who defend grounding contend that grounding is required to play two interconnected roles: accounting for widespread intuitions regarding what is ontologically prior to what, and forming the backbone of a theory of metaphysical explanation, in much the same (...)
  2. added 2018-12-29
    Misak's Peirce and Pragmatism's Metaphysical Commitments.Andrew Howat - 2018 - Transactions of the Charles S. Peirce Society 54 (3):378.
    In this comment on Misak’s Cambridge Pragmatism, I examine a case study—debate about the existence of free will—in order to explore residual tensions between Misak’s ‘truth-affirming,’ Peircean pragmatism, and mainstream analytic philosophy. I suggest that Misak’s Peirce makes a metaphysical commitment to the existence of rational self-control, and thereby to the existence of free will. I also suggest, however, that her ‘analytic pragmatism’ thus far offers few clues about how we should defend such a commitment from skeptical arguments emerging from (...)
  3. added 2018-12-28
    The Question of Moral Ontology.Daniel Nolan - 2014 - Philosophical Perspectives 28 (1):201-221.
    Our ordinary moral practices not only suppose that some people ought to perform some actions, and that some outcomes are morally better or worse than others, but also that there are rights, duties, goodness, and other apparently abstract moral entities. What should we make of these entities, and the talk of these entities? It is not straighforward to account for these entities in other terms. On the other hand, this paper will argue that talk of such entities is not easily (...)
  4. added 2018-12-06
    Descrição semântica E postulação de entidades.Celso R. Braida - 2003 - Philósophos - Revista de Filosofia 8 (1).
    Nesse artigo eu proponho, partindo da distinção entre conceitos semânticos e conceitos ontológicos, a separação entre descrição semântica e postulação de entidades. A postulação de uma entidade implica o fornecimento de um critério de identificação, isto é, a verdade de uma asserção de identidade entre dois dispositivos de designação. Isso parece indicar que a existência da entidade seria garantida pela simples existência de um critério de identificação. Porém, esta é uma condição de significatividade para um termo referencial: que ele codifique (...)
  5. added 2018-11-19
    The Scope of Deflationism: Reply to Gregory.Paul O'Grady - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (3):649-653.
    Paul Gregory’s careful and insightful response to “Camap and Two Dogmas of Empiricism” highlights a number of points which were underdeveloped in that paper. I think that he has brought into relief a central issue between Camap and Quine by supplying a crucial distinction. However I still maintain that Quine’s assault is less than successful and that Gregory’s further analysis of the debate sheds light on why this is so.
  6. added 2018-11-12
    Frames and the Ontology of Particular Objects.David Hommen - forthcoming - Dialectica.
    The theory of frames has recently been proposed as a universal format for knowledge representation in language, cognition and science. Frames represent categories as well as individual objects and events in terms of recursive attribute-value structures. In this paper, we would like to explore the potential ontological commitments of frame-based knowledge representations, with particular emphasis on the ontological status of the possessors of quality attributes in individual object frames. While not strictly incompatible with nominalistic, bundle- or substratum-theoretic approaches to the (...)
  7. added 2018-10-27
    Ontology.Barry Smith - 2003 - In The Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 153-166.
    Ontology as a branch of philosophy is the science of what is, of the kinds and structures of objects, properties, events, processes and relations in every area of reality. ‘Ontology’ in this sense is often used by philosophers as a synonym of ‘metaphysics’ (a label meaning literally: ‘what comes after the Physics’), a term used by early students of Aristotle to refer to what Aristotle himself called ‘first philosophy’. But in recent years, in a development hardly noticed by philosophers, the (...)
  8. added 2018-10-10
    Commitment.Mark Richard - 1998 - Philosophical Perspectives 12 (S12):255-281.
  9. added 2018-10-10
    On What There Are in Metaphysics.Sydney Shoemaker - 1988 - Philosophical Topics 16 (1):201-223.
  10. added 2018-08-19
    Ontological Commitment and Quantifiers.T. Parent - manuscript
    This is a slightly opinionated review of three main factions in metaontology: Quineans, Carnapians, and Meinongians. Emphasis is given to the last camp, as the metaontological aspect of Meinongianism has been underappreciated. The final section then offers some general remarks about the legitimacy of ontology, touching on ideas I have developed in other publications.
  11. added 2018-07-29
    Ontology.Barry Smith - 2003 - In Luciano Floridi (ed.), Blackwell Guide to the Philosophy of Computing and Information. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 155-166.
    Ontology as a branch of philosophy is the science of what is, of the kinds and structures of objects, properties, events, processes and relations in every area of reality. ‘Ontology’ in this sense is often used by philosophers as a synonym of ‘metaphysics’ (a label meaning literally: ‘what comes after the Physics’), a term used by early students of Aristotle to refer to what Aristotle himself called ‘first philosophy’. But in recent years, in a development hardly noticed by philosophers, the (...)
  12. added 2018-07-06
    Quantifier Variance Dissolved.Suki Finn & Otávio Bueno - 2018 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 82:289-307.
    Quantifier variance faces a number of difficulties. In this paper we first formulate the view as holding that the meanings of the quantifiers may vary, and that languages using different quantifiers may be charitably translated into each other. We then object to the view on the basis of four claims: (i) quantifiers cannot vary their meaning extensionally by changing the domain of quantification; (ii) quantifiers cannot vary their meaning intensionally without collapsing into logical pluralism; (iii) quantifier variance is not an (...)
  13. added 2018-06-04
    Ontological Commitment.Daniel Durante Pereira Alves - manuscript
    Disagreement over what exists is so fundamental that it tends to hinder or even to block dialogue among disputants. The various con- troversies between believers and atheists, or realists and nominalists, are only two kinds of examples. Interested in contributing to the intelligibility of the debate on ontology, in 1939 Willard van Orman Quine began a series of works which introduces the notion of ontological commitment and proposes an allegedly objective criterion to identify the exact conditions under which a theoretical (...)
  14. added 2018-05-13
    Meta-Metaphysics.Tuomas Tahko - 2018 - Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Meta-metaphysics concerns the nature and methodology of metaphysics and metaphysical inquiry. The emergence of meta-metaphysics as a systematic area of study is relatively recent, going back to the late 1990s. But the issues pursued in meta-metaphysics are certainly not novel: an age old question about the nature of metaphysics is whether it is possible to obtain knowledge about metaphysical matters in the first place, and if it is, how this knowledge is obtained.
  15. added 2018-05-01
    Willard Van Orman Quine's Philosophical Development in the 1930s and 1940s.Frederique Janssen-Lauret - 2018 - In Walter Carnielli, Frederique Janssen-Lauret & William Pickering (eds.), The Significance of the New Logic. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    As analytic philosophy is becoming increasingly aware of and interested in its own history, the study of that field is broadening to include, not just its earliest beginnings, but also the mid-twentieth century. One of the towering figures of this epoch is W.V. Quine (1908-2000), champion of naturalism in philosophy of science, pioneer of mathematical logic, trying to unite an austerely physicalist theory of the world with the truths of mathematics, psychology, and linguistics. Quine's posthumous papers, notes, and drafts revealing (...)
  16. added 2018-05-01
    The Significance of the New Logic.W. V. Quine, Frederique Janssen-Lauret, Walter Carnielli & William Pickering - 2018 - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
    W. V. Quine was one of the most influential figures of twentieth-century American analytic philosophy. Although he wrote predominantly in English, in Brazil in 1942 he gave a series of lectures on logic and its philosophy in Portuguese, subsequently published as the book O Sentido da Nova Lógica. The book has never before been fully translated into English, and this volume is the first to make its content accessible to Anglophone philosophers. Quine would go on to develop revolutionary ideas about (...)
  17. added 2018-03-11
    On the Apparent Antagonism Between Feminist and Mainstream Metaphysics.Mari Mikkola - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (10):2435-2448.
    The relationship between feminism and metaphysics has historically been strained. Metaphysics has until recently remained dismissive of feminist insights, and many feminist philosophers have been deeply skeptical about any value that metaphysics might have when thinking about advancing gender justice. Nevertheless, feminist philosophers have in recent years increasingly taken up explicitly metaphysical investigations. Such feminist investigations have expanded the scope of metaphysics in holding that metaphysical tools can help advance debates on topics outside of traditional metaphysical inquiry. Moreover, feminist philosophers (...)
  18. added 2018-03-09
    Ontology Without Borders. [REVIEW]Daniel Z. Korman - 2018 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
    A review of Jody Azzouni's "Ontology without Borders". Azzouni defends "ontological projectivism", a variety of ontological nihilism according to which "ontological borders" are not "worldly". I raise some questions about the view and about his master argument for it.
  19. added 2018-03-01
    Ontologie Neofreghiane.Michele Lubrano - 2016 - Philosophy Kitchen 3 (4):113-125.
    In the present contribution I would like to examine some theories of the ontology of abstract entities that take inspiration from the deep insights of Gottlob Frege. These theories develop in full details some ideas explicitly or implicitly articulated in Frege’s works and try to defend a sophisticated version of Platonism about abstract entities. The review of such theories should allow us to cast light on their merits and their possible flaws and, moreover, to determine which of them is the (...)
  20. added 2018-02-17
    Ontology (Science).Barry Smith - 2003 - In Carola Eschenbach & Michael Grüninger (eds.), Formal Ontology in Information Systems. Oxford: IOS Press. pp. 21-35.
    Increasingly, in data-intensive areas of the life sciences, experimental results are being described in algorithmically useful ways with the help of ontologies. Such ontologies are authored and maintained by scientists to support the retrieval, integration and analysis of their data. The proposition to be defended here is that ontologies of this type – the Gene Ontology (GO) being the most conspicuous example – are a part of science. Initial evidence for the truth of this proposition (which some will find self-evident) (...)
  21. added 2018-02-16
    Constructive Empiricism, Observability and Three Kinds of Ontological Commitment.Gabriele Contessa - 2006 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (3):454-468.
    In this paper, I argue that, contrary to the constructive empiricist’s position, observability is not an adequate criterion as a guide to ontological commitment in science. My argument has two parts. First, I argue that the constructive empiricist’s choice of observability as a criterion for ontological commitment is based on the assumption that belief in the existence of unobservable entities is unreasonable because belief in the existence of an entity can only be vindicated by its observation. Second, I argue that (...)
  22. added 2017-09-21
    An Epistemic Account Of Metaphysical Equivalence1.Michaela Markham McSweeney - 2017 - Philosophical Perspectives 30 (1):270-293.
    I argue that, in order for us to be justified in believing that two theories are metaphysically equivalent, we must be able to conceive of them as unified into a single theory, which says nothing over and above either of them. I propose one natural way of precisifying this condition, and show that the quantifier variantist cannot meet it. I suggest that the quantifier variantist cannot meet the more general condition either, and argue that this gives the metaphysical realist a (...)
  23. added 2017-09-20
    Natural Language and its Ontology.Friederike Moltmann - forthcoming - In Alvin Goldman & Brian Mclaughlin (eds.), Metaphysics and Cognitive Science. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    This paper gives a characterization of the ontology implicit in natural language and the entities it involves, situates natural language ontology within metaphysics, and responds to Chomskys' dismissal of externalist semantics.
  24. added 2017-09-14
    Review of 'Ontology After Carnap' Edited by Stephan Blatti and Sandra Lapointe. [REVIEW]Darren Bradley - 2017 - Analysis 77 (4):858-861.
    © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Analysis Trust. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: journals.permissions@oup.com‘Carnap is not completely unknown to us’ comments Richard Creath in his contribution to this book. ‘We often know just enough to be baffled’. It will be no surprise to anyone when I say that this book will not unbaffle us. But it does give us a collection of rewarding papers that each wrestle with the legacy Carnap has (...)
  25. added 2017-07-26
    Review of The Metaphysics of Relations, Edited by Marmodoro & Yates, OUP, 2015. [REVIEW]Fraser MacBride - forthcoming - Philosophy.
    In this review I take to task the related views of E.J. Lowe, John Heil and Peter Simons according to which relations don't exist because they're dispensable qua truth-makers. I argue that this view is methodologically unstable because we also have reason to believe that relations exist because our best mathematical and scientific theories say so, i.e. quantify over them.
  26. added 2017-07-25
    Committing Ourselves to Nothing: An Anti-Orthodox View of Existential Quantifier Expressions.Stephen M. Nelson - 2013 - Dissertation, University of Minnesota
    There is a significant difference between the words `is' and `exists' that has either been overlooked or under-appreciated by many philosophers. This difference comes in sentences that express existential quantification using `is', `exists', or their cognates, such as, "There are cookies in the jar," or, "There exists a strange species of fish that nobody has studied yet." Phrases such as `there are' and `there exists' are existential quantifier expressions, since they're used to express existential quantification. The orthodox view of these (...)
  27. added 2017-07-06
    Straightening Priority Out.Tatjana von Solodkoff - 2012 - Philosophical Studies 161 (3):391-401.
    In recent work, Louis deRosset (Philosophical Studies 149:73–97, 2010) has argued that priority theorists, who hold that truths about macroscopic objects can be metaphysically explained without reference to such things, cannot meet an independently motivated constraint upon good explanation. By clarifying the nature of the priority theorist’s project, I argue that deRosset’s argument fails to establish its conclusion.
  28. added 2017-01-27
    Some Notes on Ontological Commitment and the Social Sciences.Steven Miller - 2003 - ProtoSociology 18:333-344.
    The analysis is a reflection of Alston’s contention that much of what we assert or believe carries no real ontological commitment. I place these remarks in the context of the social sciences, and attempt to show for the special sciences the condition holds true. The major reason for this is that our notions of “collective intentionality” or “weakly conceiver-independent” reality depends on the successful blocking of a regress problem. Because this problem has not been sufficiently addressed, what passes as an (...)
  29. added 2017-01-25
    The Predicate Approach to Ontological Commitment.Yvonne Raley & Richard N. Burnor - 2011 - Logique Et Analyse 54 (215):359-377.
  30. added 2017-01-22
    Can Truthmaker Theorists Claim Ontological Free Lunches?Peter Schulte - 2014 - European Journal of Philosophy 22 (2):249-268.
    Truthmaker theorists hold that propositions about higher-level entities (e.g. the proposition that there is a heap of sand) are often made true by lower-level entities (e.g. by facts about the configuration of fundamental particles). This generates a problem: what should we say about these higher-level entities? On the one hand, they must exist (since there are true propositions about them), on the other hand, it seems that they are completely superfluous and should be banished for reasons of ontological parsimony. Some (...)
  31. added 2017-01-22
    In Defense of Quinean Ontological Naturalism.Patrick Dieveney - 2012 - Erkenntnis 76 (2):225-242.
    Quinean Ontological Naturalism addresses the question “What is there?” Advocates of the view maintain that we can answer this question by applying Quine’s criterion of ontological commitment to our best scientific theories. In this paper, I discuss two major objections that are commonly offered to this view, what I call the “Paraphrase Objection” and “First Philosophy Objection”. I argue that these objections arise from a common uncharitable characterization of the Quinean Ontological Naturalist’s project that fails to distinguish two distinct roles (...)
  32. added 2017-01-22
    Quine on Meaning and Existence, II. Existential Commitment.Gilbert Harman - 1967 - Review of Metaphysics 21 (2):343 - 367.
  33. added 2017-01-20
    On What There Is.W. V. Quine - 1961 - In From a Logical Point of View. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. pp. 1-19.
  34. added 2017-01-19
    What is a Second Order Theory Committed To?Charles Sayward - 1983 - Erkenntnis 20 (1):79 - 91.
    The paper argues that no second order theory is ontologically commited to anything beyond what its individual variables range over.
  35. added 2017-01-19
    Ontological Clarity and Semantic Obscurity.Morton White - 1951 - Journal of Philosophy 48 (12):373-380.
  36. added 2017-01-18
    The General Truthmaker View of Ontological Commitment.Bradley Rettler - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1405-1425.
    In this paper, I articulate and argue for a new truthmaker view of ontological commitment, which I call the “General Truthmaker View”: when one affirms a sentence, one is ontologically committed to there being something that makes true the proposition expressed by the sentence. This view comes apart from Quinean orthodoxy in that we are not ontologically committed to the things over which we quantify, and it comes apart from extant truthmaker views of ontological commitment in that we are not (...)
  37. added 2017-01-16
    Stephan Krämer: On What There Is For Things To Be: Ontological Commitment and Second-Order Quantification.Matthias Hoch - 2015 - Metaphysica 16 (1).
  38. added 2017-01-15
    Fundamentals of Ontological Commitment.Paolo Valore - unknown
  39. added 2017-01-15
    13. Ontological Commitment.Paolo Valore - 2016 - In Fundamentals of Ontological Commitment. De Gruyter. pp. 120-136.
  40. added 2017-01-15
    An Expansion of Ontological Commitment Through Noneism.Shoshin Nomura - 2015 - Kagaku Tetsugaku 48 (1):1-16.
    No categories
  41. added 2017-01-15
    Quinean Ontological Commitment Derailed.Roxanne Marie Kurtz - 2013 - Analiza I Egzystencja 24:87-114.
  42. added 2017-01-02
    Meta-Ontology, Naturalism, and The Quine-Barcan Marcus Debate.Frederique Janssen-Lauret - 2015 - In Frederique Janssen-Lauret & Gary Kemp (eds.), Quine and His Place in History. Palgrave. pp. 146-167.
    Twenty-first century critics frequently misread Quinean ontological commitment as a toothless doctrine of anti-metaphysical pragmatism. Janssen-Lauret's historical investigations reveal that they misinterpret the influence of Quine's naturalism. His naturalistic view of philosophy as continuous with science informs a much more interesting conception of ontological commitments as generated by indispensable explanatory roles. But Janssen-Lauret uncovers a previously undetected weakness in Quine's meta-ontology. Careful examination of his debate with another naturalistic nominalist, Ruth Barcan Marcus, reveals that his holism leaves him blind to (...)
  43. added 2016-12-24
    Sider's Third Realm.Jonah Goldwater - 2014 - Metaphysica 15 (1):99-112.
    Sider (2011; Writing the Book of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press) argues it is not only predicates that carve reality at its joints, but expressions of any logical or grammatical category – including quantifiers, operators, and sentential connectives. Even so, he denies these expressions pick out entities in the world; instead, they only represent the world’s “structure”. I argue that this distinction is not viable, and that Sider’s ambitious programme requires an exotic ontology – and even a Fregean “third (...)
  44. added 2016-12-08
    Ontology After Carnap.Stephan Blatti & Sandra Lapointe - 2016 - Oxford University Press UK.
    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 and beyond. 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 (...)
  45. added 2016-12-08
    On Specifying Truth-Conditions.A. Rayo - 2008 - Philosophical Review 117 (3):385-443.
    This essay is a study of ontological commitment, focused on the special case of arithmetical discourse. It tries to get clear about what would be involved in a defense of the claim that arithmetical assertions are ontologically innocent and about why ontological innocence matters. The essay proceeds by questioning traditional assumptions about the connection between the objects that are used to specify the truth-conditions of a sentence, on the one hand, and the objects whose existence is required in order for (...)
  46. added 2016-12-05
    Review of David Chalmers, David Manley, Ryan Wasserman (Eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology[REVIEW]Elizabeth Barnes - 2009 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (10).
  47. added 2016-12-05
    Quine on Reference and Ontology.Peter Hylton - 2006 - In Gibson (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Quine. Cambridge University Press. pp. 115--50.
  48. added 2016-12-05
    Against Pluralism.A. P. Hazen - 1993 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 71 (2):132 – 144.
  49. added 2016-12-05
    Logicism and the Ontological Commitments of Arithmetic.Harold T. Hodes - 1984 - Journal of Philosophy 81 (3):123-149.
  50. added 2016-12-05
    Science Without Numbers.Hartry Field - 1980 - Princeton University Press.
    Science Without Numbers caused a stir in 1980, with its bold nominalist approach to the philosophy of mathematics and science. It has been unavailable for twenty years and is now reissued in a revised edition with a substantial new preface presenting the author's current views and responses to the issues raised in subsequent debate.
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