Ontological and conceptual relativity and the self
In Michael J. Loux & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics. Oxford University Press (2003)
This chapter takes up, in six sections, issues of realism and of ontological and conceptual relativity. Section 1 briefly lays out the kind of absolutist realism of interest in what follows. Section 2 considers arguments against ordinary commonsense entities such as bodies, and for the view that subjects enjoy a superior ontological position. No such argument is found persuasive. I find no good argument against ordinary bodies or other common-sense entities, nor any good argument that subjects enjoy any ontological superiority. Section 3 lays out three options in ontology, opts for a kind of conceptual relativism, and takes up three problems for the proposed view. Section 4 then offers a compromise position based on a kind of existential relativity meant to accommodate our most settled beliefs about what there is, while retaining a fundamentally realist and objectivist ontology. The main argument of that section relies on a distinction between semantical relativity and ontological relativity. Section 5 defends my use of the semantical-ontological distinction against objections to it in the recent literature. Section 6, in conclusion, takes up arguments for the view that, as subjects of consciousness and thought, we must after all occupy a special ontological position in objective reality, one whose status remains mysterious
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