Noûs 44 (4):628-649 (2010)

Kris McDaniel
Syracuse University
I am attracted to ontological pluralism, the doctrine that some things exist in a different way than other things.1 For the ontological pluralist, there is more to learn about an object’s existential status than merely whether it is or is not: there is still the question of how that entity exists. By contrast, according to the ontological monist, either something is or it isn’t, and that’s all there is say about a thing’s existential status. We appear to be to be ontological committed to what I will call almost nothings. Examples of almost nothings include holes, cracks, and shadows; almost nothings thrive in the absence of ‘positive’ entities such as donuts, walls, and sunlight. Let’s focus on holes, since the literature on them is voluminous.2 We quantify over holes, and even count them: we say, for example, that there are some holes in the cheese, seven to be precise. We ascribe features to them and talk as though they stand in relations: that hole is three feet wide, much wider than that tire over there. Holes apparently persist through time, as evidenced by the fact that my sweater has the same hole in it as the last time you saw me wear it. We even talk as though holes are causally efficacious: my ankle was badly sprained because I stepped in that hole in the sidewalk.3 It seems then that we believe in holes. If our beliefs are true, holes must enjoy some kind of reality. This puts the ontological monist in an uncomfortable position. According to her, everything that there is enjoys the same kind of reality, which is the kind of reality enjoyed by full-fledged concrete entities such as ourselves. She is committed to the unpleasant claim that holes are just as real as concretia, a claim that is apt to be met with incredulous stares by those not acquainted with contemporary metaphysics. Roy Sorensen (2008, p. 19) notes the tension almost nothings generate for ontological monists: ‘… it feels paradoxical to say that absences exist—but no better to say that absences do not exist’..
Keywords holes  ontological pluralism  existence  degree of being  minor entities  absences
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DOI 10.1111/j.1468-0068.2010.00752.x
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References found in this work BETA

New Work for a Theory of Universals.David Lewis - 1983 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61 (4):343-377.
Philosophical Papers.David Kellogg Lewis - 1983 - Oxford University Press.
Monism: The Priority of the Whole.Jonathan Schaffer - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (1):31-76.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 178 (3):388-390.

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Citations of this work BETA

Holes.Roberto Casati & Achille C. Varzi - 2019 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Existence Predicates.Friederike Moltmann - 2020 - Synthese 197 (1):311-335.
Ordinary Objects.Daniel Z. Korman - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Degrees of Being.Kris McDaniel - 2013 - Philosophers' Imprint 13.
The General Truthmaker View of Ontological Commitment.Bradley Rettler - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (5):1405-1425.

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