The concepts we use to value and prescribe are historically contingent, and we could have found ourselves with others. But what does it mean to say that some concepts are better than others for purposes of action-guiding and deliberation? What is it to choose between different normative conceptual frameworks?
The main thesis of this paper is that we sometimes are disposed to accept false and even jointly inconsistent claims by virtue of our semantic competence, and that this comes to light in the sorites and liar paradoxes. Among the subsidiary theses are that this is an important source of indeterminacy in truth conditions, that we must revise basic assumptions about semantic competence, and that classical logic and bivalence can be upheld in the face of the sorites paradox.
The problem, or cluster of problems, of the unity of the proposition, along with the cluster of problems that tend to go under the name of Bradley’s regress, has recently again become a going concern for philosophers, after having for some time been regarded as primarily of historical interest. In this paper, I distinguish between the different problems that tend to be brought up under the heading of the unity of the proposition, and between different related regress arguments. I present (...) my favored solutions to these problems. (shrink)
Neo-Fregeanism in the philosophy of mathematics consists of two main parts: the logicist thesis, that mathematics (or at least branches thereof, like arithmetic) all but reduce to logic, and the platonist thesis, that there are abstract, mathematical objects. I will here focus on the ontological thesis, platonism. Neo-Fregeanism has been widely discussed in recent years. Mostly the discussion has focused on issues specific to mathematics. I will here single out for special attention the view on ontology which underlies the neo-Fregeans’ (...) claims about mathematical objects, and discuss this view in a broader setting. (shrink)
(1) Abstract objects. The nominalist (as the label is used today) denies that there exist abstract objects. The platonist holds that there are abstract objects. One example is numbers. The nominalist denies that there are numbers; the platonist typically affirms it.
My focus here will be Rudolf Carnap’s views on ontology, as these are presented in the seminal “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology” (1950). I will first describe how I think Carnap’s distinction between external and internal questions is best understood. Then I will turn to broader issues regarding Carnap’s views on ontology. With certain reservations, I will ascribe to Carnap an ontological pluralist position roughly similar to the positions of Eli Hirsch and the later Hilary Putnam. Then I turn to some (...) interrelated arguments against the pluralist view. The arguments are not demonstrative. Some possible escape routes for the pluralist are outlined. But I think the arguments constitute a formidable challenge. There should be serious doubt as to whether the pluralist view, as it emerges after discussion of these arguments, will be worth defending. Moreover, there is an alternative ontological view which equally well subserves the motivations underlying ontological pluralism. (shrink)
The main question of the paper is that ofwhat vagueness consists in. This question must be distinguished from other questions about vagueness discussed in the literature. It is argued that familiar accounts of vagueness for general reasons failto answer the question ofwhat vagueness consists in. A positive view is defended, according to which, roughly, the vagueness of an expression consists in it being part ofsemantic competence to accept a tolerance principle for the expression. Since tolerance principles are inconsistent, this is (...) an inconsistency view on vagueness. (shrink)
Many theorists hold that there is, among value concepts, a fundamental distinction between thin ones and thick ones. Among thin ones are concepts like good and right. Among concepts that have been regarded as thick are discretion, caution, enterprise, industry, assiduity, frugality, economy, good sense, prudence, discernment, treachery, promise, brutality, courage, coward, lie, gratitude, lewd, perverted, rude, glorious, graceful, exploited, and, of course, many others. Roughly speaking, thick concepts are value concepts with significant descriptive content. I will discuss a number (...) of problems having to do with how best to understand the notion of a thick concept. Thick concepts have been widely discussed in the .. (shrink)
According to a certain pluralist view in philosophy of mathematics, there are as many mathematical objects as there can coherently be. Recently, Justin Clarke-Doane has explored what consequences the analogous view on normative properties would have. What if there is a normative pluriverse? Here I address this same question. The challenge is best seen as a challenge to an important form of normative realism. I criticize the way Clarke-Doane presents the challenge. An improved challenge is presented, and the role of (...) pluralism in this challenge is assessed. (shrink)
Mark Johnston and Eric Olson have both pressed what Johnston has dubbed the personite problem. Personites, if they exist, are person-like entities whose lives extend over a continuous proper part of a person’s life. They are so person-like that they seem to have moral status if persons do. But this threatens to wreak havoc with ordinary moral thinking. For example, simple decisions to suffer some short-term hardship for long-term benefits become problematic. And ordinary punishment is always also punishment of the (...) innocent, since it punishes personites that didn’t exist when the crime was committed. An initially attractive way around the personite problem may be to simply deny that personites exist. But as I discuss in this talk, relating to contemporary discussions in metaontology, this response for principled reasons doesn’t work. The problems I discuss illustrate the significance of metaontological considerations for issues in ethics and metaethics, and generalize widely beyond the personite problem. (shrink)
In this paper I outline an alternative to hermeneutic fictionalism, an alternative I call indifferentism, with the same advantages as hermeneutic fictionalism with respect to ontological issues but avoiding some of the problems that face fictionalism. The difference between indifferentism and fictionalism is this. The fictionalist about ordinary utterances of a sentence S holds, with more orthodox views, that the speaker in some sense commits herself to the truth of S. It is only that for the fictionalist this is truth (...) in the relevant fiction. According to the indifferentist, by contrast, we are simply non-committal – or indifferent – with respect to some aspects of what is literally said in our assertive utterances. (shrink)
This chapter discusses the defence of metaphysical indeterminacy by Elizabeth Barnes and Robert Williams and discusses a classical and bivalent theory of such indeterminacy. Even if metaphysical indeterminacy arguably is intelligible, Barnes and Williams argue in favour of it being so and this faces important problems. As for classical logic and bivalence, the chapter problematizes what exactly is at issue in this debate. Can reality not be adequately described using different languages, some classical and some not? Moreover, it is argued (...) that the classical and bivalent theory of Barnes and Williams does not avoid the problems that arise for rival theories. (shrink)
I discuss some problems faced by the meaning‐inconsistency view on the liar and sorites paradoxes which I have elsewhere defended. Most of the discussion is devoted to the question of what a defender of the meaning‐inconsistency view should say about semantic competence.
I will here present a number of problems concerning the idea that there is ontological vagueness, and the related claim that appeal to this idea can help solve some vagueness-related problems. A theme underlying the discussion will be the distinction between vagueness specifically and indeterminacy more generally (and, relatedly, the distinction between ontological vagueness and ontological indeterminacy). Even if the world is somehow ontologically indeterminate it by no means follows that it is, properly speaking, ontologically vague.1..
Let the moral question of personal identity be the following: what is the nature of the entities we should focus our prudential concerns and ascriptions of responsibility around? (If indeed we should structure these things around any entities at all.) Let the semantic question of personal identity be the question of what is the nature of the entities that ‘person’ is true of. A naive (in the sense of simple and intuitive) view would have it that the two questions are (...) so intimately connected that the entities we should focus our concerns and ascriptions around are, pretty trivially, the persons. In part, my aim here is to evaluate this naive view. However, I will not actually attempt to give a definite verdict on it. Rather, I will identify the assumptions under which the naive view is true, and discuss how to go about evaluating those assumptions. (shrink)
The article is an extended critical discussion of Kevin Scharp’s Replacing Truth. Scharp’s case for the claim that the concept of truth is inconsistent is criticized, and so is his case for the claim that the concept of truth must be replaced because of its inconsistency.
In (2001), (2003), and elsewhere, Ted Sider presents two arguments concerning the existential quantifier which are justly central to the recent discussion of metaontology. What we will call Sider's indeterminacy argument is an attempted reductio of the suggestion that the existential quantifier might be semantically indeterminate. What we will call Sider's naturalness argument is an argument for the claim that the semantic value of the existential quantifier is the most eligible existence-like meaning there is, à la David Lewis' eligibility theory (...) of meaning. We will argue that these arguments cannot be jointly maintained: Sider must give up at least one. Before arguing this, we will present Sider's two arguments in a bit more detail, and discuss their relationship. A few remarks on the broader significance of our conclusions are in order at the outset. One may think that since one successful argument for a given conclusion is sufficient the point that Sider's arguments cannot both work is purely academic. But we think that Sider's two arguments at bottom reflect different ways of thinking about metaphysics. Moreover, we think that it is only the naturalness argument that promises to deliver all that Sider wants when it comes to metaontology, and it is only the indeterminacy argument that promises to deliver all that Sider wants when it comes to ontology. (shrink)
Mark Eli Kalderon has argued for a fictionalist variant of non-cognitivism. On his view, what the Frege–Geach problem shows is that standard non-cognitivism proceeds uncritically from claims about use to claims about meaning; if non-cognitivism's claims were solely about use it would be on safe ground as far as the Frege–Geach problem is concerned. I argue that Kalderon's diagnosis is mistaken: the problem concerns the non-cognitivist's account of the use of moral sentences too.
In my “Deep Inconsistency”, I compared my meaning-inconsistency view on the liar with Graham Priest’s dialetheist view, using my view to help cast doubt on Priest’s arguments for his view. Jc Beall and Priest have recently published a reply to my article. I here respond to their criticisms. In addition, I compare the meaning–inconsistency view with Anil Gupta and Nuel Belnap’s revision theory of truth, and discuss how best to deal with the strengthened liar.
This article is in three parts. The first discusses trends in philosophy. The second defends reliance on intuitions in philosophy from some doubts that have recently been raised. The third discusses Philip Kitcher's contention that contemporary analytic philosophy does not have its priorities straight. While the three parts are independent, there is a common theme. Each part defends what is regarded as orthodoxy from attacks. Of course there are other reasonable challenges to philosophical methodology. The article's aim is just to (...) respond to some charges that have been made. (shrink)
My theme here will be vagueness. But first recall Quine’s arguments for the indeterminacy of translation and the inscrutability of reference. (I will presume these arguments to be familiar.) If Quine is right, then there are radically different acceptable assignments of semantic values to the expressions of any language: different assignments of semantic values that for all that is determined by whatever it is that determines semantic value are all acceptable, and all equally good. Quine even argued that the indeterminacy (...) is so radical that some sentences are true under some acceptable assignments but false under others.1 Still, Quine does not allow intermediate truth-values or truthvalue gaps. (As I will put it, avoiding the disjunctive formulation: does not allow that there are sentences which are neuter.) Quine holds on to classical logic and bivalence and requires each acceptable assignment to be classical and bivalent.2. (shrink)
I shall here discuss some matters related to the so-called radical indeterminacy or inscrutability arguments due to, e.g., Willard v. O. Quine, Hilary Putnam, John Wallace and Donald Davidson.1 These are arguments that, on the face of it, demonstrate that there is radical indeterminacy in what the expressions in a theory refer to and in what the ontology of the theory is. I will use “inscrutability argument” as a general label for these arguments. My main topic – after I have (...) dealt with some issues that in the context are mere preliminaries – will be what the consequences of inscrutability for ontology might be. (The label ‘inscrutability’ is not ideal, as it suggests that the problem raised is primarily epistemic. But it is common to use the label in the context of Quine’s arguments. And it has the advantage over the alternative suggestion “indeterminacy” that it signals that we are here dealing with a special kind of indeterminacy, not only more widespread but also in principle irremediable.). (shrink)
Here is the liar paradox. We have a sentence, (L), which somehow says of itself that it is false. Suppose (L) is true. Then things are as (L) says they are. (For it would appear to be a mere platitude that if a sentence is true, then things are as the sentence says they are.) (L) says that (L) is false. So, (L) is false. Since the supposition that (L) is true leads to contradiction, we can assert that (L) is (...) false. But since this is just what (L) says, (L) is then true. (For it would appear to be a mere platitude that if things are as a given sentence says they are, the sentence is true.) So (L) is true. So (L) is both true and false. Contradiction. (shrink)
A central element in neo-Fregean philosophy of mathematics is the focus on abstraction principles, and the use of abstraction principles to ground various areas of mathematics. But as is well known, not all abstraction principles are in good standing. Various proposals for singling out the acceptable abstraction principles have been presented. Here I investigate what philosophical underpinnings can be provided for these proposals; specifically, underpinnings that fit the neo-Fregean's general outlook. Among the philosophical ideas I consider are: general views on (...) a priori justification; the idea of abstraction as reconceptualization, the idea that truth is prior to reference in the sense associated with Frege's context principle; and various broadly relativistic views. The conclusions are by and large negative. (shrink)
In his important book The Construction of Logical Space, Agustín Rayo lays out a distinctive metametaphysical view and applies it fruitfully to disputes concerning ontology and concerning modality. In this article, I present a number of criticisms of the view developed, mostly focusing on the underlying metametaphysics and Rayo’s claims on its behalf.
This is a review essay devoted to Pekka Väyrynen’s The Lewd, the Rude and the Nasty. Väyrynen’s book, concerned with thick terms and thick concepts, argues for a pragmatic view on the evaluativeness associated with these terms and concepts. The essay raises a number of critical questions regarding what Väyrynen’s arguments for his view actually show. It deals with, for example, thick properties, the fact-value distinction, what it is for terms and concepts to be (semantically) evaluative, and whether Väyrynen’s arguments (...) generalize to thin evaluative concepts. (shrink)
Peter van Inwagen's book Material Beings is centered on the special composition question: the question of when some simples constitute a complex object. Van Inwagen's answer to this question is that simples only constitute a complex object when they constitute an organism. I argue that van Inwagen's reasoning in favor of this conclusion is unconvincing, and also that the significance of the special composition question itself is doubtful.
The topic of this paper is whether there is metaphysical vagueness. It is shown that it is important to distinguish between the general phenomenon of indeterminacy and the more narrow phenomenon of vagueness. Relatedly, it is important to distinguish between metaphysical indeterminacy and metaphysical vagueness. One can wish to allow metaphysical indeterminacy but rule out metaphysical vagueness. As is discussed in the paper, central argument against metaphysical vagueness, like those of Gareth Evans and Mark Sainsbury, would if successful rule out (...) metaphysical indeterminacy. One way to argue specifically against the possibility of metaphysical vagueness might be thought to be to argue for a specific theory of the nature of vagueness according to which vagueness is a semantic phenomenon. But it is shown that there are complications also pertaining to arguments with that structure. Toward the end of the paper, I discuss Trenton Merricks’ well-known argument against a semantic view on vagueness and for a metaphysical view. (shrink)
I here critically discuss Hilary Putnam's views on ontology, especially as recently expounded in his Ethics without Ontology. In particular, I discuss Putnam's thesis of conceptual relativity and his criticism of the thesis that objectivity requires objects. Although I think that much of what Putnam says is important, and that there are important elements of truth to it, my points will largely be negative. Along the way I will discuss Putnam's and Wittgenstein's views in the philosophy of mathematics, and I (...) will compare Putnam's metaontological views with those of William James, Michael Dummett, Crispin Wright and Simon Blackburn. (shrink)
Supervaluationism, traditionally conceived, is the conjunction of three theses: Vagueness in a language gives rise to there being a multitude of acceptable assignments of semantic values to some expressions of the language, These assignments correspond to possible completions of the meanings of vague expressions, Truth is truth under all acceptable assignments, and falsity is falsity under all acceptable assignments. Supervaluationism has three chief virtues. It preserves classical logic. It provides an account of what vagueness is . And it extends nicely (...) to the vagueness of singular terms. I argue, however, that the existence of vagueifiers ‐ expressions like‘roughly’– pose problems for thesis of Supervaluationism, and that the supervaluationist can get around these problems only at a serious cost. Toward the end of the paper, I present an alternative analysis of vagueness, which preserves the main virtues of Supervaluationism, but which identifies vagueness as semantic Overdetermination, rather than as semantic underdetermination. (shrink)
Jaakko Hintikka has argued that ordinary first-order logic should be replaced by independence-friendly first-order logic, where essentially branching quantification can be represented. One recurring criticism of Hintikka has been that Hintikka's supposedly new logic is equivalent to a system of second-order logic, and hence is neither novel nor first-order. A standard reply to this criticism by Hintikka and his defenders has been to show that given game-theoretic semantics. Hintikka's branching quantifiers receive the exact same treatment as the regular first-order ones. (...) We develop a different reply, based around considerations concerning the nature of logic. In particular, we argue that Hintikka's logic is the logic that best represents the language fragment standard first-order logic is meant to represent. Therefore it earns its keep, and is also properly regarded as first-order. (shrink)