It Ain’t Easy: Fictionalism, Deflationism, and Easy Arguments in Ontology

Mind 125 (499):763-773 (2016)
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Abstract

Fictionalism and deflationism are two moderate meta-ontological positions that try to occupy a middle ground between the extremes of heavy-duty realism and hard-line eliminativism. Deflationists believe that the existence of certain entities (e.g.: numbers) can be established by means of ‘easy’ arguments—arguments that, supposedly, rely solely on uncontroversial premises and trivial inferences. Fictionalists, however, find easy arguments unconvincing. Amie Thomasson has recently argued that, in their criticism of easy arguments, fictionalists beg the question against deflationism and that the fictionalist alternative interpretation of easy arguments is untenable. In this paper, I argue that both charges are unsubstantiated. Properly understood, the fictionalist’s objection to ‘easy’ arguments takes the form of a dilemma—either the premises of ‘easy’ arguments are not truly uncontroversial or the inferences on which they rely are not truly trivial. Moreover, I argue not only that, contrary to what Thomasson claims, the fictionalist’s interpretation of easy argument is tenable but that the fictionalist might, in fact, have a better explanation of the seemingly trivial nature of the inferences involved in easy arguments than the deflationist’s.

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Gabriele Contessa
Carleton University

Citations of this work

Fictionalism Versus Deflationism: A New Look.Matteo Plebani - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (2):301-316.
The Unbearable Circularity of Easy Ontology.Jonas Raab - 2021 - Synthese 199 (1-2):3527-3556.
Transparent Contents and Trivial Inferences.Mirco Sambrotta - 2019 - Studia Semiotyczne 33 (1):9-28.

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Objects and Persons.Trenton Merricks - 2001 - New York: Oxford University Press.
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Material Beings.Peter van Inwagen - 1993 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (3):701-708.
Modal Fictionalism.Gideon Rosen - 1990 - Mind 99 (395):327-354.
Objects and Persons.Trenton Merricks - 2003 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67 (3):727-744.

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