The Monist 59 (3):353-372 (1976)

I have been interested for quite some time in the relevance of reference to ontology. Another who has shown equal interest is W. V. Quine. Surprisingly, because of many other disagreements, there is a large area in which we agree about reference and ontology, namely, that there is some reason to think that both are “inscrutable.” Not so surprisingly, there is a crucial point where we disagree, namely, concerning the relativity of reference and ontology. Although it is not clear, it seems that Quine holds that both reference and ontology are relative to what he calls a “background language” in a way that results in metaphysical questions, as I describe them, being senseless or meaningless. He argues for this relativity from inscrutability. I, however, explain it by postulating that ontological problems and certain referential problems are in a certain sense, “external.” In this paper I propose to lay out what I take to be the relevance of reference to ontological problems, show where Quine’s claims of inscrutability agree with my view, clarify Quine’s claims about relativity, and finally show that, given the inscrutability we both find acceptable, it is reasonable to reject the relativity only Quine accepts.
Keywords Analytic Philosophy  Contemporary Philosophy  General Interest  Philosophy of Mind  Philosophy of Science
Categories No categories specified
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ISBN(s) 0026-9662
DOI monist19765933
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