Dissertation, Durham University (2014)

James (J.T.M.) Miller
Durham University
Metaphysics has had a long history of debate over its viability, and substantivity. This thesis explores issues connected to the realism question within the domain of metaphysics, ultimately aiming to defend a realist, substantive metaphysics by responding to so-called deflationary approaches, which have become prominent, and well supported within the recent metametaphysical and metaontological literature. To this end, I begin by examining the changing nature of the realism question. I argue that characterising realism and anti-realism through theories of truth unduly places epistemology prior to ontology, and is unwarranted in assuming a non-neutrality between theories of truth and positions within the realism debate. I therefore propose a characterisation of realism and anti-realism understood through truthmaking. This produces a suitable working characterisation of realism that will be used within the remainder of this project. In the second section, I trace the historical influences upon current deflationary approaches to metaphysics, most prominently those of Carnap, and Putnam. I argue that Quine’s supposed attack on Carnap’s anti-metaphysical thought fails, and show how current deflationary thought, most prominently exhibited by Hirsch, came to focus on linguistically derived concerns over the substantivity of metaphysics. In the third section, I outline a number of issues for the deflationist, and defend the coherency and legitimacy of the unrestricted existential quantifier. Focusing on the linguistic aspect of deflationism, I argue that the conception of language that the deflationist relies upon lacks suitable empirical and theoretical support within linguistics and other related domains. Furthermore, I suggest that linguistic analysis in fact supports the claim that the quantifier carries no inherent restrictions. This restores our ability to suitably posit the unrestricted existential quantifier, as a quantifier wherein the domain is only restricted by metaphysically substantive restrictions. Through this, I argue that metaphysics is a substantive domain of discourse. Lastly, I sketch a positive account of how, under an empirically and theoretically justified conception of language, metaphysics can be coherently held to be a realist, substantive enterprise, contra claims that hold that the nature of language inherently prevents metaphysics being considered to be a substantive domain of discourse.
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References found in this work BETA

Aspects of the Theory of Syntax.Noam Chomsky - 1965 - Cambridge, MA, USA: MIT Press.
Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature.Richard Rorty - 1979 - Princeton University Press.
Two Dogmas of Empiricism.W. Quine - 1951 - [Longmans, Green].

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