Paraphrase is ubiquitous in philosophy, especially in discussions about ontological commitment. But should it be? Paraphrases are seldom accompanied by evidence that would convince, say, a linguist that the paraphrase and the paraphrased sentence have the same meaning. Indeed, from the perspective of linguistics, many paraphrases would seem to be nothing but bad jokes. For this reason, many philosophers have become deeply suspicious about paraphrase. I ague in this paper that this worry is misguided--that successful paraphrases do not need to (...) preserve semantic content, and that the way that paraphrase has been used in Quinean meta-ontology, and philosophical inquiry more generally, corresponds, at least roughly, to the way it should be used. (shrink)
There is a puzzle about the use of paraphrase in philosophy, presented most famously in Alston's  ‘Ontological Commitments’, but found throughout the literature. The puzzle arises from the fact that a symmetry required for a paraphrase to be successful seems to necessitate a symmetry sufficient for a paraphrase to fail, since any two expressions that stand in the means the same as relation must also stand in the has the same commitments as relation. I show that, while this problem (...) does undermine some conceptions of paraphrase, on a proper understanding of paraphrase the puzzle gets no purchase. Since paraphrase is an important component of Quinean approaches to meta-ontology, this paper constitutes a partial defence of Quinean meta-ontology. Since paraphrase is an important component of traditional methods of philosophical inquiry, this paper constitutes a partial defence of traditional modes of philosophizing as well. (shrink)
Nathan Ballantyne argues that the knockdown status of certain non-philosophical arguments can be transferred to arguments for substantive philosophical conclusions. Thus, if there are knockdown non-philosophical arguments, there are knockdown philosophical arguments. I show that Ballantyne’s argument is unsound, since arguments that are knockdown in non-philosophical contexts may become question-begging when used to argue for philosophical conclusions.
Propositions are (generally taken to be) the semantic values of declarative sentences in context. There is a long history of thinking that an important reason for taking propositions to be structured stems from the fact that the semantic values of such sentences are (typically) compositionally determined. In this paper, I argue that compositionality does not entail, nor provide good evidence for, the claim that propositions are structured. I go on to argue that there is no additional feature of declarative sentences—for (...) example, that they are true or false—that, in conjunction with compositionality, entails or provides good evidence for the claim that the semantic values of those sentences are complex. (shrink)
In this article, we evaluate the Compositionality Argument for structured propositions. This argument hinges on two seemingly innocuous and widely accepted premises: the Principle of Semantic Compositionality and Propositionalism (the thesis that sentential semantic values are propositions). We show that the Compositionality Argument presupposes that compositionality involves a form of building, and that this metaphysically robust account of compositionality is subject to counter-example: there are compositional representational systems that this principle cannot accommodate. If this is correct, one of the most (...) important arguments for structured propositions is undermined. (shrink)
John Keller presents a set of new essays on ontology, time, freedom, God, and philosophical method. Our understanding of these subjects has been greatly advanced, since the 1970s, by the work of Peter van Inwagen. The contributions, from some of the most prominent living philosophers, engage with van Inwagen's work and offer new insights in metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and the philosophy of philosophy. Van Inwagen himself gives selective responses. In metaphysics, the volume will particularly interest philosophers working on free (...) will, relational vs constituent ontologies, and time travel; in philosophy of religion, notable topics include the ontological argument, the compatibility of theism and evolution, the problem of evil, and the doctrine of atonements. And there are three papers on the hot topic of philosophical success, with responses from van Inwagen. (shrink)
What does it take for an argument to be a success? Peter van Inwagen argues that an argument for conclusion c is one that, when ideally presented in the company of an ideal opponent, would be convincing to an audience of ideal neutral agnostics about c. He goes on to argue that, by this criterion, there are (almost certainly) no successful arguments for substantive philosophical conclusions. I outline several problems with both van Inwagen's account of success and the others in (...) the literature, and argue for an alternative conception--one that allows for the existence of successful arguments for substantive philosophical conclusions. This alternative conception of success is individualistic, in that it relativizes success to the individual evaluating it. I argue that this form of relativism is not as bad as it seems. (shrink)
The Doctrine of the Trinity says that there is one God, that there are three divine Persons, and that each divine Person is God. The Logical Problem of the Trinity is that these claims seem logically inconsistent. We argue that any coherent and orthodox solution to the Logical Problem must use the technique of paraphrase: a logically or metaphysically more perspicuous reformulation. If so, discussions of paraphrase deserve more prominence in the literature on the Doctrine of the Trinity. We also (...) show that such explicit discussion has important implications for theorizing about the Trinity. (shrink)
An "overview article" that (a) clarifies the nature of theological anti-realism and how that thesis should be formulated, and (b) negatively assesses some of the most common arguments for being a theological anti-realist.