Ontological. Relativity. and. Other. Essays. W. V. QUINE This volume consists of the first of the John Dewey Lectures delivered under the auspices of Columbia University's Philosophy Department as well as other essays by the author.
'Ontology and Metaontology: A Contemporary Guide' is a clear and accessible survey of ontology, focussing on the most recent trends in the discipline. -/- Divided into parts, the first half characterizes metaontology: the discourse on the methodology of ontological inquiry, covering the main concepts, tools, and methods of the discipline, exploring the notions of being and existence, ontological commitment, paraphrase strategies, fictionalist strategies, and other metaontological questions. The second half considers a series of case studies, introducing and familiarizing (...) the reader with concrete examples of the latest research in the field. The basic sub-fields of ontology are covered here via an accessible and captivating exposition: events, properties, universals, abstract objects, possible worlds, material beings, mereology, fictional objects. -/- The guide's modular structure allows for a flexible approach to the subject, making it suitable for both undergraduates and postgraduates looking to better understand and apply the exciting developments and debates taking place in ontology today. (shrink)
This provocative book attempts to resolve traditional problems of identity over time. It seeks to answer such questions as 'How is it that an object can survive change?' and 'How much change can an object undergo without being destroyed'? To answer these questions Professor Heller presents a theory about the nature of physical objects and about the relationship between our language and the physical world. According to his theory, the only actually existing physical entities are what the author calls 'hunks', (...) four-dimensional objects extending across time and space. This is a major contribution to ontological debate and will be essential reading for all philosophers concerned with metaphysics. (shrink)
In the era of “big data,” science is increasingly information driven, and the potential for computers to store, manage, and integrate massive amounts of data has given rise to such new disciplinary fields as biomedical informatics. Applied ontology offers a strategy for the organization of scientific information in computer-tractable form, drawing on concepts not only from computer and information science but also from linguistics, logic, and philosophy. This book provides an introduction to the field of applied ontology that (...) is of particular relevance to biomedicine, covering theoretical components of ontologies, best practices for ontology design, and examples of biomedical ontologies in use. After defining an ontology as a representation of the types of entities in a given domain, the book distinguishes between different kinds of ontologies and taxonomies, and shows how applied ontology draws on more traditional ideas from metaphysics. It presents the core features of the Basic Formal Ontology (BFO), now used by over one hundred ontology projects around the world, and offers examples of domain ontologies that utilize BFO. The book also describes Web Ontology Language (OWL), a common framework for Semantic Web technologies. Throughout, the book provides concrete recommendations for the design and construction of domain ontologies. (shrink)
Existence questions have been topics for heated debates in metaphysics, but this book argues that they can often be answered easily, by trivial inferences from uncontroversial premises. This 'easy' approach to ontology leads to realism about disputed entities, and to the view that metaphysical disputes about existence questions are misguided.
Ontological dependence is a relation—or, more accurately, a family of relations—between entities or beings. For there are various ways in which one being may be said to depend upon one or more other beings, in a sense of “depend” that is distinctly metaphysical in character and that may be contrasted, thus, with various causal senses of this word. More specifically, a being may be said to depend, in such a sense, upon one or more other beings for its existence or (...) for its identity. Some varieties of ontological dependence may be analyzed in modal terms—that is, in terms of distinctly metaphysical notions of possibility and necessity—while others seem to demand an analysis in terms of the notion of essence. The latter varieties of ontological dependence may accordingly be called species of essential dependence. Notions of ontological dependence are frequently called upon by metaphysicians in their proposed analyses of other metaphysically important notions, such as the notion of substance. (shrink)
Both science and philosophy are interested in questions of ontology- questions about what exists and what these things are like. Science and philosophy, however, seem like very different ways of investigating the world, so how should one proceed? Some defer to the sciences, conceived as something apart from philosophy, and others to metaphysics, conceived as something apart from science, for certain kinds of answers. This book contends that these sorts of deference are misconceived. A compelling account of ontology (...) must appreciate the ways in which the sciences incorporate metaphysical assumptions and arguments. At the same time, it must pay careful attention to how observation, experience, and the empirical dimensions of science are related to what may be viewed as defensible philosophical theorizing about ontology. The promise of an effectively naturalized metaphysics is to encourage beliefs that are formed in ways that do justice to scientific theorizing, modeling, and experimentation. But even armed with such a view, there is no one, uniquely rational way to draw lines between domains of ontology that are suitable for belief, and ones in which it would be better to suspend belief instead. In crucial respects, ontology is in the eye of the beholder: it is Informed by underlying commitments with implications for the limits of inquiry, which inevitably vary across rational inquirers. As a result, the proper scope of ontology is subject to a striking form of voluntary choice, yielding a new and transformative conception of scientific ontology. (shrink)
This is a short introduction to ontological arguments. It begins with a brief characterization of ontological arguments that proceeds mainly by way of example. The rest of the discussion is given over to consideration of what looks like a very simple ontological argument. This consideration turns up many of the issues that arise when more complex ontological arguments are examined.
The paper points out that the modern formulation of Bohm’s quantum theory known as Bohmian mechanics is committed only to particles’ positions and a law of motion. We explain how this view can avoid the open questions that the traditional view faces according to which Bohm’s theory is committed to a wave-function that is a physical entity over and above the particles, although it is defined on configuration space instead of three-dimensional space. We then enquire into the status of the (...) law of motion, elaborating on how the main philosophical options to ground a law of motion, namely Humeanism and dispositionalism, can be applied to Bohmian mechanics. In conclusion, we sketch out how these options apply to primitive ontology approaches to quantum mechanics in general. (shrink)
Although the relationship of part to whole is one of the most fundamental there is, this is the first full-length study of this key concept. Showing that mereology, or the formal theory of part and whole, is essential to ontology, Simons surveys and critiques previous theories--especially the standard extensional view--and proposes a new account that encompasses both temporal and modal considerations. Simons's revised theory not only allows him to offer fresh solutions to long-standing problems, but also has far-reaching consequences (...) for our understanding of a host of classical philosophical concepts. (shrink)
This article is a brief overview of major ontological arguments. The most noteworthy feature of this article is the statement of a new parody of the Anselmian and Cartesian arguments that is obviously immune to objections adverting to intrinsic minima and maxima.
Ontology as a branch of philosophy is the science of what is, of the kinds and structures of objects, properties, events, processes and relations in every area of reality. ‘Ontology’ in this sense is often used by philosophers as a synonym of ‘metaphysics’ (a label meaning literally: ‘what comes after the Physics’), a term used by early students of Aristotle to refer to what Aristotle himself called ‘first philosophy’. But in recent years, in a development hardly noticed by (...) philosophers, the term ‘ontology’ has gained currency in the field of computer and information science, and in information-driven research in bioinformatics and related areas. We examine these new developments in applied ontology, and show what lessons they might have for both philosophers and information scientists. (shrink)
The Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI) is an ontology that provides terms with precisely defined meanings to describe all aspects of how investigations in the biological and medical domains are conducted. OBI re-uses ontologies that provide a representation of biomedical knowledge from the Open Biological and Biomedical Ontologies (OBO) project and adds the ability to describe how this knowledge was derived. We here describe the state of OBI and several applications that are using it, such as adding semantic (...) expressivity to existing databases, building data entry forms, and enabling interoperability between knowledge resources. OBI covers all phases of the investigation process, such as planning, execution and reporting. It represents information and material entities that participate in these processes, as well as roles and functions. Prior to OBI, it was not possible to use a single internally consistent resource that could be applied to multiple types of experiments for these applications. OBI has made this possible by creating terms for entities involved in biological and medical investigations and by importing parts of other biomedical ontologies such as GO, Chemical Entities of Biological Interest (ChEBI) and Phenotype Attribute and Trait Ontology (PATO) without altering their meaning. OBI is being used in a wide range of projects covering genomics, multi-omics, immunology, and catalogs of services. OBI has also spawned other ontologies (Information Artifact Ontology) and methods for importing parts of ontologies (Minimum information to reference an external ontology term (MIREOT)). The OBI project is an open cross-disciplinary collaborative effort, encompassing multiple research communities from around the globe. To date, OBI has created 2366 classes and 40 relations along with textual and formal definitions. The OBI Consortium maintains a web resource providing details on the people, policies, and issues being addressed in association with OBI. (shrink)
This essay provides an opinionated survey of some recent developments in the literature on ontological dependence. Some of the most popular definitions of ontological dependence are formulated in modal terms; others in non-modal terms (e.g., in terms of the explanatory connective, ‘because’, or in terms of a non-modal conception of essence); some (viz., the existential construals of ontological dependence) emphasise requirements that must be met in order for an entity to exist; others (viz., the essentialist construals) focus on conditions that (...) must be satisfied in order for an entity to be the very entity it is at each time at which it exists; some are rigid, in the sense that they concern a relation between particular entities; others are generic, in the sense that they involve only a relation between an entity and some entities or other, which bear certain characteristics. I identify three potential measures of success with respect to which these different definitions of ontological dependence can be evaluated and consider the question of how well they in fact meet these desiderata. I end by noting that certain challenges face even the most promising essentialist construals of ontological dependence. (shrink)
Social ontology is the study of the nature and properties of the social world. It is concerned with analyzing the various entities in the world that arise from social interaction. -/- A prominent topic in social ontology is the analysis of social groups. Do social groups exist at all? If so, what sorts of entities are they, and how are they created? Is a social group distinct from the collection of people who are its members, and if so, (...) how is it different? What sorts of properties do social groups have? Can they have beliefs or intentions? Can they perform actions? And if so, what does it take for a group to believe, intend, or act? -/- Other entities investigated in social ontology include money, corporations, institutions, property, social classes, races, genders, artifacts, artworks, language, and law. It is difficult to delineate a precise scope for the field (see section 2.1). In general, though, the entities explored in social ontology largely overlap with those that social scientists work on. A good deal of the work in social ontology takes place within the social sciences (see sections 5.1–5.8). -/- Social ontology also addresses more basic questions about the nature of the social world. One set of questions pertains to the constituents, or building blocks, of social things in general. For instance, some theories argue that social entities are built out of the psychological states of individual people, while others argue that they are built out of actions, and yet others that they are built out of practices. Still other theories deny that a distinction can even be made between the social and the non-social. -/- A different set of questions pertains to how social categories are constructed or set up. Are social categories and kinds produced by our attitudes? By our language? Are they produced by causal patterns? And is there just one way social categories are set up, or are there many varieties of social construction? -/- The term ‘social ontology’ has only come into wide currency in recent years, but the nature of the social has been a topic of inquiry since ancient Greece. As a whole, the field can be understood as a branch of metaphysics, the general inquiry into the nature of entities. (shrink)
Metaphysicians should pay attention to quantum mechanics. Why? Not because it provides definitive answers to many metaphysical questions-the theory itself is remarkably silent on the nature of the physical world, and the various interpretations of the theory on offer present conflicting ontological pictures. Rather, quantum mechanics is essential to the metaphysician because it reshapes standard metaphysical debates and opens up unforeseen new metaphysical possibilities. Even if quantum mechanics provides few clear answers, there are good reasons to think that any adequate (...) understanding of the quantum world will result in a radical reshaping of our classical world-view in some way or other. Whatever the world is like at the atomic scale, it is almost certainly not the swarm of particles pushed around by forces that is often presupposed. This book guides readers through the theory of quantum mechanics and its implications for metaphysics in a clear and accessible way. The theory and its various interpretations are presented with a minimum of technicality. The consequences of these interpretations for metaphysical debates concerning realism, indeterminacy, causation, determinism, holism, and individuality are explored in detail, stressing the novel form that the debates take given the empirical facts in the quantum domain. While quantum mechanics may not deliver unconditional pronouncements on these issues, the range of possibilities consistent with our knowledge of the empirical world is relatively small-and each possibility is metaphysically revisionary in some way. This book will appeal to researchers, students, and anybody else interested in how science informs our world-view. (shrink)
Though the realm of biology has long been under the philosophical rule of the mechanistic magisterium, recent years have seen a surprisingly steady rise in the usurping prowess of process ontology. According to its proponents, theoretical advances in the contemporary science of evo-devo have afforded that ontology a particularly powerful claim to the throne: in that increasingly empirically confirmed discipline, emergently autonomous, higher-order entities are the reigning explanantia. If we are to accept the election of evo-devo as our (...) best conceptualisation of the biological realm with metaphysical rigour, must we depose our mechanistic ontology for failing to properly “carve at the joints” of organisms? In this paper, I challenge the legitimacy of that claim: not only can the theoretical benefits offered by a process ontology be had without it, they cannot be sufficiently grounded without the metaphysical underpinning of the very mechanisms which processes purport to replace. The biological realm, I argue, remains one best understood as under the governance of mechanistic principles. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to summarize a particular approach of doing metaphysics through physics - the primitive ontology approach. The idea is that any fundamental physical theory has a well-defined architecture, to the foundation of which there is the primitive ontology, which represents matter. According to the framework provided by this approach when applied to quantum mechanics, the wave function is not suitable to represent matter. Rather, the wave function has a nomological character, given that its (...) role in the theory is to implement the law of evolution for the primitive ontology. (shrink)
The term ‘intelligence’ as used in this paper refers to items of knowledge collected for the sake of assessing and maintaining national security. The intelligence community (IC) of the United States (US) is a community of organizations that collaborate in collecting and processing intelligence for the US. The IC relies on human-machine-based analytic strategies that 1) access and integrate vast amounts of information from disparate sources, 2) continuously process this information, so that, 3) a maximally comprehensive understanding of world actors (...) and their behaviors can be developed and updated. Herein we describe an approach to utilizing outcomes-based learning (OBL) to support these efforts that is based on an ontology of the cognitive processes performed by intelligence analysts. Of particular importance to the Cognitive Process Ontology is the class Representation that is Warranted. Such a representation is descriptive in nature and deserving of trust in its veridicality. The latter is because a Representation that is Warranted is always produced by a process that was vetted (or successfully designed) to reliably produce veridical representations. As such, Representations that are Warranted are what in other contexts we might refer to as ‘items of knowledge’. (shrink)
Ontological Pluralism is the view that there are different modes, ways, or kinds of being. In this paper, I characterize the view more fully (drawing on some recent work by Kris McDaniel) and then defend the view against a number of arguments. (All of the arguments I can think of against it, anyway.).
If there is something (P) that every possible agent is committed to value, and certain actions or attitudes either enhance or diminish P, then normative claims about a range of intentional actions can be objectively and non-trivially evaluated. I argue that the degree of existence as an agent depends on the consistency of reflexive-relating with other individuals of the agent-kind: the ontological thesis. I then show that in intending to act on a reason, every agent is rationally committed to value (...) ‘above all else’ being an agent, what consists in exercising the capacity to act and having the freedom to discriminate between more or less valuable actions: the transcendental thesis. Since the degree of possession of this personal but non-contingent good depends on relating to other agents in a special way, certain actions and attitudes may be objectively right or wrong for all agents. (shrink)
The basic question of ontology is “What exists?”. The basic question of metaontology is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ontology? Here ontological realists say yes, and ontological anti-realists say no. (Compare: The basic question of ethics is “What is right?”. The basic question of metaethics is: are there objective answers to the basic question of ethics? Here moral realists say yes, and moral anti-realists say no.) For example, the ontologist may ask: Do numbers exist? (...) The Platonist says yes, and the nominalist says no. The metaontologist may ask: is there an objective fact of the matter about whether numbers exist? The ontological realist says yes, and the ontological anti-realist says no. Likewise, the ontologist may ask: Given two distinct entities, when does a mereological sum of those entities exist? The universalist says always, while the nihilist says never. The metaontologist may ask: is there an objective fact of the matter about whether the mereological sum of two distinct entities exists? The ontological realist says yes, and the ontological anti-realist says no. Ontological realism is often traced to Quine (1948), who held that we can determine what exists by seeing which entities are endorsed by our best scientiﬁc theory of the world. In recent years, the practice of ontology has often presupposed an ever-stronger ontological realism, and strong versions of ontological realism have received explicit statements by Fine (this volume), Sider (2001; this volume), van Inwagen (1998; this volume), and others. (shrink)
'Ontological dependence' is a term of philosophical jargon which stands for a rich family of properties and relations, often taken to be among the most fundamental ontological properties and relations. Notions of ontological dependence are usually thought of as 'carving reality at its ontological joints', and as marking certain forms of ontological 'non-self-sufficiency'. The use of notions of dependence goes back as far as Aristotle's characterization of substances, and these notions are still widely used to characterize other concepts and to (...) formulate metaphysical claims. This paper first gives an overview of the varieties of these notions, and then discusses some of their main applications. (shrink)
Ontological nihilism is the radical-sounding thesis that there is nothing at all. This chapter first discusses how the most plausible forms of this thesis aim to be slightly less radical than they sound and what they will have to do in order to succeed in their less radical ambitions. In particular, they will have to paraphrase sentences of best science into ontologically innocent counterparts. The chapter then points out the defects in two less plausible strategies, before going on to argue (...) that strategies that look more promising, including one based on Quine's predicate-functor language, face the same defects. (shrink)
Two major questions have dominated work on the metaphysics of social groups: first, Are there any? And second, What are they? I will begin by arguing that the answer to the ontological question is an easy and obvious ‘yes’. We do better to turn our efforts elsewhere, addressing the question: “What are social groups?” One might worry, however, about this question on grounds that the general term ‘social group’ seems like a term of art—not a well-used concept we can analyze, (...) or can presuppose corresponds to a real kind we can investigate. But while the general notion of ‘social group’ may be a term of art, our terms for clubs and courts, races and genders, are not. It is worth stepping back to ask what function these social group concepts serve. I will argue that individual social group concepts function to give normative structure to our lives together. Paying attention to the role of norms in social groups, I will argue, can enable us to provide a unified understanding of the importance of core social groups, while still respecting the great differences among social groups of different kinds. (shrink)
The thesis of methodological individualism in social science is commonly divided into two different claims—explanatory individualism and ontological individualism. Ontological individualism is the thesis that facts about individuals exhaustively determine social facts. Initially taken to be a claim about the identity of groups with sets of individuals or their properties, ontological individualism has more recently been understood as a global supervenience claim. While explanatory individualism has remained controversial, ontological individualism thus understood is almost universally accepted. In this paper I argue (...) that ontological individualism is false. Only if the thesis is weakened to the point that it is equivalent to physicalism can it be true, but then it fails to be a thesis about the determination of social facts by facts about individual persons. Even when individualistic facts are expanded to include people’s local environments and practices, I shall argue, those still underdetermine the social facts that obtain. If true, this has implications for explanation as well as ontology. I first consider arguments against the local supervenience of social facts on facts about individuals, correcting some flaws in existing arguments and affirming that local supervenience fails for a broad set of social properties. I subsequently apply a similar approach to defeat a particularly weak form of global supervenience, and consider potential responses. Finally, I explore why it is that people have taken ontological individualism to be true. (shrink)
First published in 1988 as volume 63 of his Collected Works, Ontology—The Hermeneutics of Facticity is the text of Heidegger's lecture course at the University of Freiburg during the summer of 1923. In these lectures, Heidegger reviews and makes critical appropriations of the hermeneutic tradition from Plato, Aristotle, and Augustine to Schleiermacher and Dilthey in order to reformulate the question of being on the basis of facticity and the everyday world. Specific themes deal with the history of ontology, (...) the development of phenomenology and its relation to Hegelian dialectic, traditional theological and philosophical concepts of man, the present situation of philosophy, and the influences of Aristotle, Luther, Kierkegaard, and Husserl on Heidegger's thinking. Students of Heidegger will find initial breakthroughs in his unique elaboration of the meaning of human experience and the "question of being," which received mature expression in Being and Time. (shrink)
This paper defends an interventionist account of causation by construing this account as a contribution to methodology, rather than as a set of theses about the ontology or metaphysics of causation. It also uses the topic of causation to raise some more general issues about the relation between, on the one hand, methodology, and, on the other hand, ontology and metaphysics, as these are understood in contemporary philosophical discussion, particularly among so-called analytic metaphysicians. It concludes with the suggestion (...) that issues about the ontology of causation often can be fruitfully reconstrued as methodological proposals. (shrink)
In this chapter, I examine Lewis's ideas about ontological innocence, ontological commitment and double-counting, in his discussion of composition as identity in Parts of Classes. I attempt to understand these primarily as epistemic or methodological claims: how far can we get down this route without adopting radical metaphysical theses about composition as identity?
Current controversies about knowledge integration reflect conflicting ideas of what it means to “take Indigenous knowledge seriously”. While there is increased interest in integrating Indigenous and Western scientific knowledge in various disciplines such as anthropology and ethnobiology, integration projects are often accused of recognizing Indigenous knowledge only insofar as it is useful for Western scientists. The aim of this article is to use tools from philosophy of science to develop a model of both successful integration and integration failures. On the (...) one hand, I argue that cross-cultural recognition of property clusters leads to an ontological overlap that makes knowledge integration often epistemically productive and socially useful. On the other hand, I argue that knowledge integration is limited by ontological divergence. Adequate models of Indigenous knowledge will therefore have to take integration failures seriously and I argue that integration efforts need to be complemented by a political notion of ontological self-determination. (shrink)
I develop ontological pluralism about non-being, the view that there are multiple ways, kinds, or modes of non-being. I suggest that the view is both more plausible and defensible than it first seems, and that it has many useful applications across a wide variety of metaphysical and explanatory problems. After drawing out the relationship between pluralism about being and pluralism about non-being, I discuss quantificational strategies for the pluralist about non-being. I examine historical precedent for the view. Finally, I suggest (...) that pluralism about non-being has explanatory power across a variety of domains, and that the view can account for differences between nonexistent past and future times, between omissions and absences, and between different kinds of fictional objects. (shrink)
Ontological pluralism is the view that there are different fundamental ways of being. Trenton Merricks has recently raised three objections to combining pluralism with a generic way of being enjoyed by absolutely everything there is: first, that the resulting view contradicts the pluralist’s core intuition; second, that it is especially vulnerable to the charge—due to Peter van Inwagen—that it posits a difference in being where there is simply a difference in kind; and, third, that it is in tension with various (...) historically influential motivations for pluralism. I reply to each of these objections in turn. My replies will help to bring out the true nature of the pluralist’s basic commitments. (shrink)
John Locke is the greatest English philosopher. _An Essay Concerning Human Understanding_, one of the most influential books in the history of thought, is his greatest work. In this study the historical meaning and philosophical significance of Locke's _Essay_ are investigated more comprehensively than ever before. _Locke_ was originally published in two volumes, _Epistemology_ and _Ontology_. This paperback edition has within its covers the full text of both volumes.
Quine has called the question, ‘What is there?’ the “ontological question.” But if we call this question by that name, what name shall we use for the question, ‘What are we asking when we ask “What is there?”’? I shall call it ‘the meta-ontological question’. I shall call the attempt to answer the meta-ontological question ‘meta-ontology’ and any proposed answer to it ‘a meta-ontology’. In this essay, I shall briefly sketch a meta-ontology. The meta-ontology I shall (...) present is broadly Quinean. I am, in fact, willing to call it an exposition of Quine’s meta-ontology. (shrink)
This book gathers together thirteen of Peter van Inwagen's essays on metaphysics, several of which have acquired the status of modern classics in their field. They range widely across such topics as Quine's philosophy of quantification, the ontology of fiction, the part-whole relation, the theory of 'temporal parts', and human knowledge of modal truths. In addition, van Inwagen considers the question as to whether the psychological continuity theory of personal identity is compatible with materialism, and defends the thesis that (...) possible states of affairs are abstract objects, in opposition to David Lewis's 'extreme modal realism'. A specially-written introduction completes the collection, which will be an invaluable resource for anyone interested in metaphysics. (shrink)
Many significant problems in metaphysics are tied to ontological questions, but ontology and its relation to larger questions in metaphysics give rise to a series of puzzles that suggest that we don't fully understand what ontology is supposed to do, nor what ambitions metaphysics can have for finding out about what the world is like. Thomas Hofweber aims to solve these puzzles about ontology and consequently to make progress on four metaphysical debates tied to ontology: the (...) philosophy of arithmetic, the metaphysics of ordinary objects, the problem of universals, and the question of whether the fact-like aspect of reality is independent of us. Crucial parts of the proposed solution involve considerations about quantification and its relationship to ontology, the place of reference in natural languages, the relationship between syntactic form and focus, whether there could be any ineffable facts, and others. (shrink)
According to standard trope nominalism, there are simple tropes that do not have parts or multiply distinct aspects. Douglas Ehring’s reductio ad absurdum against this standard view concludes that there are no simple tropes. In this paper, we provide a response to Ehring defending the standard view. Ehring’s argument may be refuted by (1) distinguishing the ontological form of tropes from their contribution to the ontological content of the world, and (2) construing tropes as having primitive identity. At the same (...) time, standard trope nominalism is elaborated on by distinguishing between ontological form and content, for which there are also independent reasons. (shrink)
The concept of an ontological category is central to metaphysics. Metaphysicians argue about which category of existence an object should be assigned to, whether one category can be reduced to another one, or whether there might be different equally adequate systems of categorization. Answers to these questions presuppose a clear understanding of what precisely an ontological category is, and Jan Westerhoff now provides the first in-depth analysis. After examining a variety of attempted definitions, he proceeds to argue for a new (...) understanding of ontological categories, according to which they are systematizations of our knowledge of the world rather than essential characteristics of the world itself. Metaphysicians will find his work highly stimulating. (shrink)
[Stephen Yablo] The usual charge against Carnap's internal/external distinction is one of 'guilt by association with analytic/synthetic'. But it can be freed of this association, to become the distinction between statements made within make-believe games and those made outside them-or, rather, a special case of it with some claim to be called the metaphorical/literal distinction. Not even Quine considers figurative speech committal, so this turns the tables somewhat. To determine our ontological commitments, we have to ferret out all traces of (...) nonliterality in our assertions; if there is no sensible project of doing that, there is no sensible project of Quinean ontology. /// [Andre Gallois] I discuss Steve Yablo's defence of Carnap's distinction between internal and external questions. In the first section I set out what I take that distinction, as Carnap draws it, to be, and spell out a central motivation Carnap has for invoking it. In the second section I endorse, and augment, Yablo's response to Quine's arguments against Carnap. In the third section I say why Carnap's application of the distinction between internal and external questions runs into trouble. In the fourth section I spell out what I take to be Yablo's version of Carnap. In the last I say why that version is especially vulnerable to the objection raised in the second. (shrink)
World food production is facing exorbitant challenges like climate change, use of resources, population growth, and dietary changes. These, in turn, raise major ethical and political questions, such as how to uphold the right to adequate nutrition, or the right to enact a gastronomic culture and to preserve the conditions to do so. Proposals for utopic solutions vary from vertical farming and lab meat to diets filled with the most fanciful insects and seaweeds. Common to all proposals is a polarized (...) understanding of food and diets, famously captured by Warren Belasco in the contraposition between technological fixes and anthropological fixes. According to the first, technology will deliver clean, just, pleasurable, affordable food; future generations will not need to adjust much of their dietary cultures. According to the second, future generations should dramatically change their dietary habits (what they eat and how they eat it) to achieve a sustainable diet. The two fixes found remarkably distinct perspectives over dietary politics and the ethics of food production and consumption. In this paper we argue that such polarized thinking rests on a misrepresentation of the ontological status of food, which in turn affects the underlying ethical and political issues. Food is a socially constructed object that draws in specific ways on habits, norms, traditions, geographical, and climatic conditions. Although this thesis seems somewhat obvious, its consequences on the ethical and political perspectives on the future of food have not been derived properly. After introducing the issue at stake (¤1), we point out the polarities that characterize food utopias (¤2) and their ontological faults (¤3). We hence suggest that a socio-ontological analysis of food can better deliver the principles for a foundation of food utopias (¤4). (shrink)
In a number of recent publications Thomasson has defended a deflationary approach to ontological disputes, according to which ontological disputes are relatively easy to settle, by either conceptual analysis, or conceptual analysis in conjunction with empirical investigation. Thomasson’s “easy” approach to ontology is intended to derail many prominent ontological disputes. In this paper I present an objection to Thomasson’s approach to ontology. Thomasson’s approach to existence assertions means that she is committed to the view that application conditions associated (...) with any term “K” with non-trivial application conditions must refer to the existence of things other than Ks. Given other components of her meta-ontological scheme, this leads to either an infinite regress or circularity of application conditions, both of which seem objectionable. Accordingly, some part of Thomasson’s meta-ontological scheme should be modified or abandoned. (shrink)
Epistemic reasons are mental states. They are not propositions or non-mental facts. The discussion proceeds as follows. Section 1 introduces the topic. Section 2 gives two concrete examples of how our topic directly affects the internalism/externalism debate in normative epistemology. Section 3 responds to an argument against the view that reasons are mental states. Section 4 presents two problems for the view that reasons are propositions. Section 5 presents two problems for the view that reasons are non-mental facts. Section 6 (...) argues that reasons are mental states. Section 7 responds to objections. (shrink)
The paper explains in what sense the GRW matter density theory is a primitive ontology theory of quantum mechanics and why, thus conceived, the standard objections against the GRW formalism do not apply to GRWm. We consider the different options for conceiving the quantum state in GRWm and argue that dispositionalism is the most attractive one.
Priority Monism, as defined by Jonathan Schaffer, has a number of components. It is the view that: the cosmos exists; the cosmos is a maximal actual concrete object, of which all actual concrete objects are parts; the cosmos is basic—there is no object upon which the cosmos depends, ontologically; ontological dependence is a primitive and unanalysable relation. In a recent attack, Lowe has offered a series of arguments to show that Monism fails. He offers up four tranches of argument, with (...) different focuses. These focal points are: being a concrete object; aggregation and dependence; analyses of ontological dependence; Schaffer’s no-overlap principle. These are all technical notions, but each figures at the heart of a cluster of arguments that Lowe puts forward. To respond, I work through each tranche of argument in turn. Before that, in the first section, I offer a cursory statement of Monism, as Schaffer presents it in his 2010 paper, Monism: The Priority of the Whole. I then respond to each of Lowe’s criticisms in turn, deploying material from Schaffer’s 2009 paper Spacetime: the One Substance, as well as various pieces of conceptual machinery from Lowe’s own works to deflect Lowe’s attacks. In the process of defending Monism from Lowe, I end up offering some subtle refinements to Schaffer’s view and explain how the resulting ‘hybrid’ view fares in the wider dialectic. (shrink)
The paper outlines a new interpretation of informational privacy and of its moral value. The main theses defended are: (a) informational privacy is a function of the ontological friction in the infosphere, that is, of the forces that oppose the information flow within the space of information; (b) digital ICTs (information and communication technologies) affect the ontological friction by changing the nature of the infosphere (re-ontologization); (c) digital ICTs can therefore both decrease and protect informational privacy but, most importantly, they (...) can also alter its nature and hence our understanding and appreciation of it; (d) a change in our ontological perspective, brought about by digital ICTs, suggests considering each person as being constituted by his or her information and hence regarding a breach of one’s informational privacy as a form of aggression towards one’s personal identity. (shrink)
relations between events both require a more complex structure on the domain underlying the meaning representations than is commonly assumed. This paper proposes an ontology based on such notions as causation and consequence, rather than on purely temporal primitives. A central notion in the ontology..