Two main claims are defended in this paper: first, that typical disputes in the literature about the ontology of physical objects are merely verbal; second, that the proper way to resolve these disputes is by appealing to common sense or ordinary language. A verbal dispute is characterized not in terms of private idiolects, but in terms of different linguistic communities representing different positions. If we imagine a community that makes Chisholm's mereological essentialist assertions, and another community that makes Lewis's four-dimensionalist (...) assertions, the members of each community speak the truth in their respective languages. This follows from an application of the principle of interpretive charity to the two communities. (shrink)
A sense of unity -- Basic objects : a reply to Xu -- Objectivity without objects -- The vagueness of identity -- Quantifier variance and realism -- Against revisionary ontology -- Comments on Theodore Sider's four dimensionalism -- Sosa's existential relativism -- Physical-object ontology, verbal disputes, and common sense -- Ontological arguments : interpretive charity and quantifier variance -- Language, ontology, and structure -- Ontology and alternative languages.
The central question in this book is why it seems reasonable for the words of our language to divide up the world in ordinary ways rather than other imaginable ways. Hirsch calls this the division problem. His book aims to bring this problem into sharp focus, to distinguish it from various related problems, and to consider the best prospects for solving it. In exploring various possible responses to the division problem, Hirsch examines series of "division principles" which purport to express (...) rational constraints on how our words ought to classify and individuate. The ensuing discussion deals with a wide range of metaphysical and epistemological topics, including projectibility and similarity, alternative analyses of natural properties and things, the inscrutability of reference, and the relevance of such pragmatic notions as salience and economy. The final chapters of the book develop what Hirsch contends is the most promising response to the division problem: a theory in which constraints on classification and individuation are seen to derive from the necessary structure of "fine-grained" propositions and the necessary dependence of some concepts on others. (shrink)
Two main claims are defended in this paper: first, that typical disputes in the literature about the ontology of physical objects are merely verbal; second, that the proper way to resolve these disputes is by appealing to common sense or ordinary language. A verbal dispute is characterized not in terms of private idiolects, but in terms of different linguistic communities representing different positions. If we imagine a community that makes Chisholm’s mereological essentialist assertions, and another community that makes Lewis’s four-dimensionalist (...) assertions, the members of each community speak the truth in their respective languages. This follows from an application of the principle of interpretive charity to the two communities. (shrink)
In the work of both Matti Eklund and John Hawthorne there is an influential semantic argument for a maximally expansive ontology that is thought to undermine even modest forms of quantifier variance. The crucial premise of the argument holds that it is impossible for an ontologically "smaller" language to give a Tarskian semantics for an ontologically "bigger" language. After explaining the Eklund-Hawthorne argument (in section I), we show this crucial premise to be mistaken (in section II) by developing a Tarskian (...) semantics for a mereological universalist language within a mereological nihilist language (a case which we, and Eklund and Hawthorne, take as representative). After developing this semantics we step back (in section III) to discuss the philosophical motivations behind the Eklund- Hawthorne argument’s demand for a semantics. We ultimately conclude that quantifier variantists can meet any demand for a semantics that might reasonably be imposed upon them. (shrink)
Theodore Sider has given us a terrific book, bursting at the seams with new arguments and new takes on old arguments. Whether or not one is convinced by his conclusions, the thoroughness, lucidity, fair-mindedness—and the sheer exuberance—of his discussions make Four Dimensionalism a major contribution to contemporary metaphysics.
The Evans-Salmon position on vague identity has deservedly elicited a large response in the literature. I think it is in fact among the most provocative metaphysical ideas to appear in recent years. I will try to show in this paper, however, that the position is vulnerable to a fundamental criticism that seems to have been virtually ignored in the many discussions of it. I take the Evans-Salmon position to consist of the following two theses: Thesis I. There cannot be objects (...) x and y such that it is indeterminate whether x is (identical with) y. Thesis II. The only way for an identity sentence to be indeterminate in truth-value is if one of the expressions flanking the identity symbol is referentially ambiguous.] The argument for Thesis I is essentially as follows. We are assuming that the sense of identity under discussion satisfies the standard formal logic of identity including Leibniz's Law. Suppose, now, that it is indeterminate whether x is y. Since it is determinate that x is x, x differs from y with respect to the property of being determinately x, from which it follows by Leibniz's Law that x is not y. Since the supposition that it is indeterminate whether x is y leads to the conclusion that x is not y, this supposition is incoherent. (shrink)
According to one view, death is bad for the one who dies. The challenge for this view is to explain exactly why and when death is bad for the one who dies. According to an alternative view, death is not actually bad for the one who dies. There is a third alternative, according to which the thought of one’s own death elicits an experience that reveals the horror of one’s own death in a way that is ineffable. This paper explores (...) this third alternative. (shrink)
We can describe languages in which no words refer to objects. Such languages may contain sentences equivalent to any sentences of English, and hence may allow for as much objectivity as English does. It is wrong to try to deal with such languages by claiming that there are more objects than those accepted by common sense ontology. The correct move is rather to acknowledge a sense in which the concept of an object might have been different. A consequence of this (...) position is that we cannot have a general semantics applicable to every describable language in which words are referentially connected to objects. The point here is not that reference may be inscrutable, but that different concepts of ‘referring to an object’ may be required for different languages. (shrink)
It is difficult to understand questions about the evolution of ants. It seems often to be assumed that there are specific features that ants possess because of the "survival value" of such features. This makes very little sense, because it is very hard to believe that there are any features at all that can be viewed as having survival value for ants.
In Eli Hirsch’s clever and careful Dividing Reality he asks us to consider several strange languages. For example, in the Gricular language there is no word that applies to all and only green things and none that applies to all and only circular things, but there are the three words “gricular,” which applies to anything that is either green or circular, “grincular,” which applies to anything that is either green or not circular, and “ngricular,” which applies to anything that is (...) either circular or not green. Griculese is but one of the strange languages Hirsch explores, but they are all alike in having the same descriptive content as English—anything that can be said in English can be said in the strange languages, and vice versa. For instance, to say that something is green, we can say “it is both gricular and grincular.” Our strong intuition is that these languages are strange—irrational or worse. The challenge is to ground this intuition in some particular feature of the language that makes it defective. The problem is that there seems no good response to this challenge. Hirsch examines many proposals, and rejects every one. Thus he finds himself reaching a conclusion even he finds it difficult to accept. The disturbing conclusion, division relativism by title, is that our strong intuition is misguided—the “strange” languages are just as reasonable as English. (shrink)
Timothy Williamson has argued that the safety condition on knowledge places certain limits on iterations of knowledge. But at the same time, Williamson claims that interpersonal iterations of knowledge aren’t so restricted as to rule out ordinary cases. The present authors show that Williamson’s discussion misconstrues the challenge to iterated interpersonal knowledge. The proper argument against interpersonal iterations is rather what the authors call a third-person argument that does not share the major weaknesses of the argument Williamson considers. The challenge (...) that the safety condition poses to interpersonal iterations of knowledge therefore seems robust, even in ordinary cases. But the authors also identify an underlying assumption that their argument relies on, and they show that Williamson’s original argument as well as his argument against intrapersonal iterations of knowledge rely on analogous assumptions. In assessing the extent of the clash between safety and iterated knowledge, the focus must be on the viability of these assumptions. (shrink)