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About this topic

Perhaps the answers to ontological questions turn on facts about our conventions—how we have collectively decide to think and talk about reality. Some even think of ontological questions as being answerable only relative to a given conceptual, linguistic, or theoretical framework. (Both views come in limited forms  as well, applied to specific ontological questions-- like whether there are fictional entities, possible worlds, or even macro-sized objects.) This category covers a range of metaontological views in the vicinity.

Key works Carnap 1950 Goodman 1978 Putnam 1981 Putnam 1987 Sidelle 1992 Sosa 1999 Hirsch 2005 Chalmers 2009 Thomasson 2007
Introductions Classic works in themselves, there is enough introductory material in the following papers that they may serve as useful beginning points: Sidelle 1992 Sosa 1999 Hirsch 2005 Chalmers 2009 Thomasson 2007. Views of this sort are also surveyed in the introduction to Chalmers et al 2009.
Related categories

64 found
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  1. Absolutism Vs. Relativism in Contemporary Ontology.Robert F. Allen - 1998 - Journal of Philosophical Research 23:343-352.
    In this paper, I examine Emest Sosa’s defense of Conceptual Relativism: the view that what exists is a function of human thought. My examination reveals that his defense entails an ontology that is indistinguishable from that of the altemative he labels less “sensible,” viz., Absolutism: the view that reality exists independently of our thinking. I conclude by defending Absolutism against Sosa’s objections.
  2. Deflating Existential Consequence: A Case for Nominalism.Jody Azzouni - 2004 - Oup Usa.
    If we must take mathematical statements to be true, must we also believe in the existence of abstract eternal invisible mathematical objects accessible only by the power of pure thought? Jody Azzouni says no, and he claims that the way to escape such commitments is to accept (as an essential part of scientific doctrine) true statements which are about objects that don't exist in any sense at all. Azzouni illustrates what the metaphysical landscape looks like once we avoid a militant (...)
  3. 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).
  4. Animal Interrupted, or Why Accepting Pascal's Wager Might Be the Last Thing You Ever Do.Sam Baron & Christina Dyke - 2014 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 52 (S1):109-133.
    According to conventionalist accounts of personal identity, persons are constituted in part by practices and attitudes of certain sorts of care. In this paper, we concentrate on the most well-developed and defended version of conventionalism currently on offer (namely, that proposed by David Braddon-Mitchell, Caroline West, and Kristie Miller) and discuss how the conventionalist appears forced either (1) to accept arbitrariness concerning from which perspective to judge one's survival or (2) to maintain egalitarianism at the cost of making “transfiguring” decisions (...)
  5. Spatio-Temporal Coincidence and the Grounding Problem.Karen Bennett - 2004 - Philosophical Studies 118 (3):339-371.
    A lot of people believe that distinct objects can occupy precisely the same place for the entire time during which they exist. Such people have to provide an answer to the 'grounding problem' – they have to explain how such things, alike in so many ways, nonetheless manage to fall under different sortals, or have different modal properties. I argue in detail that they cannot say that there is anything in virtue of which spatio-temporally coincident things have those properties. However, (...)
  6. Relational and Substantival Ontologies, and the Nature and the Role of Primitives in Ontological Theories.Jiri Benovsky - 2010 - Erkenntnis 73 (1):101-121.
    Several metaphysical debates have typically been modeled as oppositions between a relationist approach and a substantivalist approach. Such debates include the Bundle Theory and the Substratum Theory about ordinary material objects, the Bundle (Humean) Theory and the Substance (Cartesian) Theory of the Self, and Relationism and Substantivalism about time. In all three debates, the substantivalist side typically insists that in order to provide a good treatment of the subject-matter of the theory (time, Self, material objects), it is necessary to postulate (...)
  7. Dharmakirti, Davidson, and Knowing Reality.Lajos Brons - 2013 - Comparative Philosophy 3 (1):30-57.
    If we distinguish phenomenal effects from their noumenal causes, the former being our conceptual(ized) experiences, the latter their grounds or causes in reality ‘as it is’ independent of our experience, then two contradictory positions with regards to the relationship between these two can be distinguished: either phenomena are identical with their noumenal causes, or they are not. Davidson is among the most influential modern defenders of the former position, metaphysical non-dualism. Dharmakīrti’s strict distinction between ultimate and conventional reality, on the (...)
  8. Bare and Indexical Existence: Integrating Logic and Sensibility in Ontology.Lajos L. Brons - 2012 - In S. Watanabe (ed.), Logic and Sensibility. Keio University Press.
    This is the published version of a talk on meta-ontology in a conference of a multidisciplinary research project on "logic and sensibility". It argues against univocalism about "existence" and for a variety of perspectivism.
  9. Applied Relativism and Davidson's Arguments Against Conceptual Schemes.Lajos L. Brons - 2011 - The Science of Mind 49:221-240.
    This paper argues that Davidson's argument against conceptual schemes fail against so-called "Applied Relativisms", i.e. theories of conceptual relativism found outside philosophy such as Whorf's. These theories make no metaphysical claims, which Davidson seems to assume. Ultimately, the misunderstanding (and resulting strawman argument) illustrates (the effect of) differences in conceptual schemes more than that it undermines it.
  10. The Limits of Realism.Tim Button - 2015 - Oxford University Press UK.
    Tim Button explores the relationship between minds, words, and world. He argues that the two main strands of scepticism are deeply related and can be overcome, but that there is a limit to how much we can show. We must position ourselves somewhere between internal realism and external realism, and we cannot hope to say exactly where.
  11. Reading Putnam, Edited by Maria Baghramian.Tim Button - 2014 - Mind 123 (490):569-575.
    Reading Putnam consists largely of papers from the fantastic ‘Putnam @80’ conference (organised by Maria Baghramian in 2007) together with replies from Hilary Putnam. Given the diversity of Putnam’s work, the papers in this collection cover many different topics. This makes the collection difficulty to read but, ultimately, extremely rewarding. In this review, I focus on the contributions from Michael Devitt, Charles Parsons, Richard Boyd, Ned Block, Charles Travis and John McDowell, together with Putnam’s responses. My aim is to highlight (...)
  12. Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology.D. Chalmers, D. Manley & R. Wasserman (eds.) - 2009 - Oxford University Press.
  13. Minimalism and the Unbearable Lightness of Being.John Divers & Alexander Miller - 1995 - Philosophical Papers 24 (2):127-139.
  14. Review of The Construction of Logical Space by Agustín Rayo. [REVIEW]Cian Dorr - 2014 - Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 201406.
  15. Taking the Concepts of Others Seriously.Terence Rajivan Edward - 2016 - Meta 8 (1):143-153.
    This paper assesses an argument against the representationalist tradition in anthropology: the tradition of reporting how a cultural group represents the world. According to the argument, anthropologists working within this tradition cannot take the concepts of those they study seriously. I defend the representationalist tradition against this argument.
  16. Toward a Conceptualist Solution of the Grounding Problem.Iris Einheuser - 2011 - Noûs 45 (2):300-314.
    This paper defends a conceptualist answer to the question how objects come by their modal properties. It isolates the controversial metaphysical assumptions that are needed to get ontological conceptualism off the ground, outlines the conceptualist answer to the question and shows that conceptualism is not in as bad a shape as some critics have maintained.
  17. Counterconventional Conditionals.Iris Einheuser - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 127 (3):459-482.
    Some philosophical positions maintain that some aspect of reality depends on human practices, cognitive attitudes or sentiments. This paper presents a framework for understanding such positions in a way that renders them immune to a number of natural but allegedly devastating objections.
  18. Conventionalism.Iris Einheuser - 2003 - Dissertation, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Certain fundamental philosophical disputes, in contrast to disputes in the empirical sciences, are characterized by the persistence of disagreement. This has led some to endorse conventionalism, the view that the 'facts of the matter' partly depend on our conventions and that disagreements persist because both sides to the dispute employ different conventions. What does it mean to say that the facts of the matter partly depend on conventions? My thesis is concerned with this question. It has four parts. ;Part I (...)
  19. Carnap's Metaontology.Matti Eklund - 2013 - Noûs 47 (2):229-249.
  20. Putnam on Ontology.Matti Eklund - 2008 - Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 95 (1):203-222.
    I here critically discuss Hilary Putnam's views on ontology, especially as recently expounded in his Ethics without Ontology. In particular, I discuss Putnam's thesis of conceptual relativity and his criticism of the thesis that objectivity requires objects. Although I think that much of what Putnam says is important, and that there are important elements of truth to it, my points will largely be negative. Along the way I will discuss Putnam's and Wittgenstein's views in the philosophy of mathematics, and I (...)
  21. The Picture of Reality as an Amorphous Lump.Matti Eklund - 2008 - In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Blackwell. pp. 382--96.
    (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.
  22. Neo-Fregean Ontology.Matti Eklund - 2006 - Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):95–121.
    Neo-Fregeanism in the philosophy of mathematics consists of two main parts: the logicist thesis, that mathematics (or at least branches thereof, like arithmetic) all but reduce to logic, and the platonist thesis, that there are abstract, mathematical objects. I will here focus on the ontological thesis, platonism. Neo-Fregeanism has been widely discussed in recent years. Mostly the discussion has focused on issues specific to mathematics. I will here single out for special attention the view on ontology which underlies the neo-Fregeans’ (...)
  23. Familiar Objects and Their Shadows.Crawford L. Elder - 2013 - Cambridge University Press.
    Most contemporary metaphysicians are sceptical about the reality of familiar objects such as dogs and trees, people and desks, cells and stars. They prefer an ontology of the spatially tiny or temporally tiny. Tiny microparticles 'dog-wise arranged' explain the appearance, they say, that there are dogs; microparticles obeying microphysics collectively cause anything that a baseball appears to cause; temporal stages collectively sustain the illusion of enduring objects that persist across changes. Crawford L. Elder argues that all such attempts to 'explain (...)
  24. Nominalism and Conventionalism in Social Constructivism.Paul Ernest - 2004 - Philosophica 74.
  25. La pragmatica del vuoto in Nagarjuna.Giacomo Foglietta - 2010 - Nóema 1:1-26.
    Nāgārjuna, vissuto in India attorno al primo secolo dopo Cristo, è certamente una delle figure più importanti del pensiero buddhista. In una delle sue opere principali, le ‘Strofe sulla via di mezzo ’, egli elabora in modo compiuto la nozione di ‘vuoto’, che diverrà uno dei concetti fondamentali di tutto il buddhismo successivo, dando vita alla ‘scuola del vuoto’, la quale avrà grande fortuna in Tibet, Cina e Giappone. Per vuoto non si intende certo il nulla, bensì l’inconsistenza rivelata dal (...)
  26. Ways of Worldmaking.Nelson Goodman - 1978 - Harvester Press.
    Required reading at more than 100 colleges and universities throughout North America.
  27. The Metaontology of Abstraction.Bob Hale & Crispin Wright - 2009 - In David John Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 178-212.
  28. Relativism and the Foundations of Philosophy.Steven D. Hales - 2006 - MIT Press.
    The grand and sweeping claims of many relativists might seem to amount to the argument that everything is relative--except the thesis of relativism. In this book, Steven Hales defends relativism, but in a more circumscribed form that applies specifically to philosophical propositions. His claim is that philosophical propositions are relatively true--true in some perspectives and false in others. Hales defends this argument first by examining rational intuition as the method by which philosophers come to have the beliefs they do. Analytic (...)
  29. Can Persistence Be a Matter of Convention?Tobias Hansson Wahlberg - 2011 - Axiomathes 21 (4):507-529.
    This paper asks whether persistence can be a matter of convention. It argues that in a rather unexciting de dicto sense persistence is indeed a matter of convention, but it rejects the notion that persistence can be a matter of convention in a more substantial de re sense. However, scenarios can be imagined that appear to involve conventional persistence of the latter kind. Since there are strong reasons for thinking that such conventionality is impossible, it is desirable that our metaphysical-cum-semantic (...)
  30. Superficialism in Ontology.John Hawthorne - 2009 - In David John Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 213--30.
  31. The Donkey Problem.Mark Heller - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 140 (1):83-101.
    The Donkey Problem (as I am calling it) concerns the relationship between more and less fundamental ontologies. I will claim that the moral to draw from the Donkey Problem is that the less fundamental objects are merely conventional. This conventionalism has consequences for the 3D/4D debate. Four-dimensionalism is motivated by a desire to avoid coinciding objects, but once we accept that the non-fundamental ontology is conventional there is no longer any reason to reject coincidence. I therefore encourage 4Dists to become (...)
  32. Ontology and Alternative Languages.Eli Hirsch - 2009 - In David John Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 231--58.
  33. The Flying Termite.Laszlo Katona (ed.) - 2015 - Vernon Press.
    ABSTRACT of The Flying Termite by L.L. Katona -/- In this book I would like to show the term “intelligence“ has a universal, non-anthropomorphic meaning. We can perceive intelligence in dogs, dolphins or gorillas without understanding of it, but intelligence can be also seen in many other things from insects and the Solar System to elementary particles or the rules of a triangle. But that doesn’t mean intelligence comes from Intelligent Design, yet alone a Designer, they seems to be the (...)
  34. Quantifier Variance and Realism: Essays in Metaontology. [REVIEW]David Liebesman - 2013 - Philosophical Review 122 (2):310-314.
  35. Metaontological Minimalism.Øystein Linnebo - 2012 - Philosophy Compass 7 (2):139-151.
    Can there be objects that are ‘thin’ in the sense that very little is required for their existence? A number of philosophers have thought so. For instance, many Fregeans believe it suffices for the existence of directions that there be lines standing in the relation of parallelism; other philosophers believe it suffices for a mathematical theory to have a model that the theory be coherent. This article explains the appeal of thin objects, discusses the three most important strategies for articulating (...)
  36. Hysteria, Race, and Phlogiston. A Model of Ontological Elimination in the Human Sciences.David Ludwig - 2014 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 45 (1):68-77.
    Elimination controversies are ubiquitous in philosophy and the human sciences. For example, it has been suggested that human races, hysteria, intelligence, mental disorder, propositional attitudes such as beliefs and desires, the self, and the super-ego should be eliminated from the list of respectable entities in the human sciences. I argue that eliminativist proposals are often presented in the framework of an oversimplified “phlogiston model” and suggest an alternative account that describes ontological elimination on a gradual scale between criticism of empirical (...)
  37. Relativity of Fact and Content.Michael P. Lynch - 1998 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 37 (4):579-595.
    A common strategy amongst realists grants relativism at the level of language or thought but denies it at the level of fact. Their point is that even if our concept of an object is relative to a conceptual scheme, it doesn't follow that objects themselves are relative to conceptual schemes. This is a sensible point. But in this paper I present a simple argument for the conclusion that it is false. According to what I call the T-argument, relativism about content (...)
  38. Review of The Metaphysics and Ethics of Relativism, Written by C. Rovane.Diego E. Machuca - 2017 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 14 (4):463-466.
  39. Pyrrhonian Relativism.Diego E. Machuca - 2015 - Elenchos: Rivista di Studi Sul Pensiero Antico 36:89-114.
    This paper argues that Sextus Empiricus’s Pyrrhonism is a form of relativism markedly different from the positions typically referred to by this term. The scholars who have explored the relativistic elements found in Sextus’s texts have claimed that his outlook is not actually a form of relativism, or that those elements are inconsistent with his account of Pyrrhonism, or that he is confusing skepticism with relativism. The reason for these views is twofold: first, when employing the term ‘relativism’ one hardly (...)
  40. Ontological Deflationism in Madhyamaka.Matthew MacKenzie - 2008 - Contemporary Buddhism 9 (2):197-207.
  41. Is the Hirsch-Sider Dispute Merely Verbal?Gerald Marsh - 2010 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 88 (3):459-469.
    There is currently debate between deflationists and anti-deflationists about the ontology of persisting objects. Some deflationists think that disputes between, for example, four-dimensionalists (e.g. Ted Sider and David Lewis) and quasi-nihilists (e.g. Peter Van Inwagen and Trenton Merricks) are merely verbal disputes. Anti-deflationists deny this. Eli Hirsch is a deflationist who maintains that many ontological disputes are merely verbal. Theodore Sider maintains that the disputes are not merely verbal. Hirsch and Sider are thus engaged in a metaontological dispute. In this (...)
  42. Relativism.Paul O'Grady - 2002 - Mcgill-Queen's University Press.
    Paul O'Grady clearly distinguishes five main kinds: relativism about truth, relativism about logic, ontological relativism, epistemological relativism, and, finally, relativism about rationality. In each case he shows what makes a position relativist and how it differs from a sceptical or pluralist position. He ends by presenting a thoroughly integrated position that rejects some forms while defending others. The book includes discussion of recent work by Putnam, Devitt, Searle, Priest, and Quine and offers a succinct survey of contemporary debates. This lively (...)
  43. Carnap, Quine, and the Fate of Metaphysics.Huw Price - 1997 - Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy 5 (1).
    [1] Imagine a well-trained mid-century American philosopher, caught in a rare traffic jam on the New Jersey Turnpike one warm summer afternoon in the early 1950s. He dozes in his warm car ... and awakes in the same spot on a chill Fall evening in the late 1990s, remembering nothing of the intervening years. It is as if he has been asleep at the wheel for almost half a century!
  44. Truth and Convention: On Davidson's Refutation of Conceptual Relativism.Hilary Putnam - 1987 - Dialectica 40 (1--2):69--77.
    SummaryI discuss a simple case in which theories with different ontologies appear equally adequate in every way. . I contend that the appearance of equal adequacy is correct, and that what this shows is that the notion of “existence” has a variety of different but legitimate uses. I also argue that this provides a counterexample to the claim advanced by Davidson, that conceptual relativity is incoherent.RésuméJe discute un cas simple où des théories comportant des ontologies différentes apparaissent également adéquates à (...)
  45. Realism and Reason.Hilary Putnam - 1977 - Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association 50 (6):483-498.
  46. Ontological Relativity.W. V. Quine - 1968 - Journal of Philosophy 65 (7):185-212.
  47. Must a Metaphysical Relativist Be a Truth Relativist?Steven Rappaport - 1993 - Philosophia 22 (1-2):75-85.
  48. Context-Dependence, Perspective and Relativity.François Recanati, Isidora Stojanovic & Neftali Villanueva (eds.) - 2010 - Mouton de Gruyter.
    Aims and Scope -/- This volume brings together original papers by linguists and philosophers on the role of context and perspective in language and thought. Several contributions are concerned with the contextualism/relativism debate, which has loomed large in recent philosophical discussions. In a substantial introduction, the editors survey the field and map out the relevant issues and positions.
  49. Kuhn's Ontological Relativism.Howard Sankey - 2000 - Science & Education 9 (1-2):59-75.
  50. A Snowslide of Entities. Does Sosa's Existential Relativism Provide a Barrier Against Being Buried?Markus Seidel & Alexander Thinius - 2016 - In Bahr Amrei & Seidel Markus (eds.), Ernest Sosa. Targeting His Philosophy. Springer. pp. 101-118.
    This paper discusses Sosa’s via media between existential relativism and absolutism. We discuss three implications of Sosa’s account which require some further clarification. First, we distinguish three alternative readings of Sosa’s account – the indexicalist, the homonymist and the (proper) relativist reading – and argue that they differ with respect to two crucial points: (a) they lead to different analyses of the lack of disagreement in existential discourse, and (b) they differ with respect to the question of whether conceptual schemes (...)
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