Rule Following and Metaontology

Journal of Philosophy 112 (5):247-265 (2015)
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Abstract

Wittgenstein’s rule-following argument suggests that linguistic understanding does not consist in knowing interpretations, whereas Kripkenstein’s version suggests that meaning cannot be metaphysically fixed by interpretations. In the present paper, rule-following considerations are used to suggest that certain ontological questions cannot be answered by interpretations. Specifically, if the aim is to specify the ontology of a language, an interpretation cannot answer what object an expression of L denotes, if the interpretations are themselves L-expressions. Briefly, that’s because the ontology of such interpretations would naturally be in question as much as the expressions they interpret. So in order to settle the question of ontology, the interpretations themselves would need to be interpreted, and thus a regress. I conclude that knowing the answer to what ontology underlies L cannot be a matter of knowing interpretations. The paper ends with a quietist conclusion; the slogan is that empirical science is ontology enough, or rather, it is about all the ontology one should expect.

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T. Parent
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References found in this work

Ontological Realism.Theodore Sider - 2009 - In David Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 384--423.
Symposium: On What There Is.P. T. Geach, A. J. Ayer & W. V. Quine - 1948 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 25 (1):125-160.
Composition, Colocation, and Metaontology.Karen Bennett - 2009 - In David Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 38.
Knowing the Answer.Jonathan Schaffer - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2):383-403.
Non-Cognitivism and Rule-Following.John McDowell - 1981 - In S. Holtzman & Christopher M. Leich (eds.), Wittgenstein: To Follow A Rule. Routledge. pp. 141--62.

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