How do we come to know metaphysical truths? How does metaphysical inquiry work? Are metaphysical debates substantial? These are the questions which characterize metametaphysics. This book, the first systematic student introduction dedicated to metametaphysics, discusses the nature of metaphysics - its methodology, epistemology, ontology and our access to metaphysical knowledge. It provides students with a firm grounding in the basics of metametaphysics, covering a broad range of topics in metaontology such as existence, quantification, ontological commitment and ontological (...) realism. Contemporary views are discussed along with those of Quine, Carnap and Meinong. Going beyond the metaontological debate, thorough treatment is given to novel topics in metametaphysics, including grounding, ontological dependence, fundamentality, modal epistemology, intuitions, thought experiments and the relationship between metaphysics and science. The book will be an essential resource for those studying advanced metaphysics, philosophical methodology, metametaphysics, epistemology and the philosophy of science. (shrink)
Every paper in this collection is worth reading, for one reason or another. Still, due to certain problematic metametaphysical presuppositions most of these discussions miss the deeper mark, on the pessimist as well as the optimist side. My reasons for thinking this come from considering how best to answer three metametaphysical questions. First, why be pessimistic about metaphysics – why be Carnapian in a post-positivist age? There is, I’ll suggest, a post-positivist strategy for reviving Carnapian pessimism, but it is almost (...) entirely neglected here; and the motivations that pessimists offer instead are not compelling. Second, why think that the best way to approach metametaphysical questions is by attention to features of language, and in particular to quantifier semantics, in ordinary or ontological language(s)? Here again we are offered little motivation for this supposition, which, notwithstanding its acceptance by nearly all contributors, faces clear difficulties. Third, granting that quantification is somehow bound up with first-order questions about what exists, what is the nature of this connection, and what are the associated implications for metametaphysics? Here I find the accounts of the connection on offer implausible, especially as compared to an alternative that makes better sense of metaphysical practice and disagreement. The moral following consideration of these questions is that real progress in metametaphysics is likely to occur less by attention to semantic issues pertaining to representation, translation and quantification and more to non-semantic issues pertaining to epistemology and metaphysical determinacy. (shrink)
This paper examines an often-ignored aspect of the evaluation of metaphysical analyses, namely, their ontological commitments. Such evaluations are part of metaphysical methodology, and reflection on this methodology is itself part of metametaphysics. I will develop a theory for assessing what these commitments are, and then I will apply it to an important historical and an important contemporary metaphysical analysis of the concept of an individual substance (i.e., an object, or thing). I claim that in evaluating metaphysical analyses, we (...) should not only rule out counterexamples, but also compare them with respect to their ontological commitments, and we should hold that if they are comparable in other respects, then an analysis with fewer such commitments is preferable to one with more (There is, of course, a connection between counterexamples and ontological commitments. If the existence or possible existence of something one is committed to the existence or possible existence of is incompatible with an analysis, then one should reject that analysis as inadequate to the data. On the other hand, if one is uncertain about the existence or possible existence of something that is incompatible with an analysis, then while this does not refute the analysis for one, it raises doubts about it. The fewer such doubts are raised by an analysis, the better it is.). (shrink)
Is arguing over ontology a mistake? A recent proposal by Karen Bennett suggests that some metaphysical disputes, such as those over constitution and composition, can be dismissed on epistemic grounds. Given that both sides in a dispute try to minimize the differences between them, there are no good metaphysical grounds for choosing between them. In this paper, I expand on her epistemic dismissivism, arguing that given the Quinean conception of the task and method of metaphysics, we are warranted in believing (...) that all ontological disputes will end in a draw, even if they have not yet done so. By a draw, I mean that while both sides in a dispute are genuinely disagreeing about what there is and there are still moves open to them, there are no moves remaining that will advance the discourse further. (shrink)
Metaphysics is concerned with the foundations of reality. It asks questions about the nature of the world, such as: Aside from concrete objects, are there also abstract objects like numbers and properties? Does every event have a cause? What is the nature of possibility and necessity? When do several things make up a single bigger thing? Do the past and future exist? And so on. -/- Metametaphysics is concerned with the foundations of metaphysics. It asks: Do the questions of (...) metaphysics really have answers? If so, are these answers substantive or just a matter of how we use words? And what is the best procedure for arriving at them—common sense and conceptual analysis? Or assessing competing hypotheses with quasi-scientific criteria? -/- This volume gathers together sixteen new essays that are concerned with the semantics, epistemology, and methodology of metaphysics. My aim is to introduce these essays within a more general (and mildly opinionated) survey of contemporary challenges to metaphysics . (shrink)
Using meta-metaphysical instruments, the paper analyzes the dispute between ‘reductionist’ Humean categoricalism and ‘bold’ Anti-Humean dispositionalism. It is argued that both views are non-Quinean, hence, heavyweight ontological realisms: careful analysis of specific scientific theories alone is not sufficient. Further, sophisticated philosophical reasoning is needed to defend Anti-Humeanism as well as Humeanism. The paper finally suggests that most if not all ontological disputes are unavoidably “speculative” due to essentialism which cannot be read off contemporary physical theories.
This paper reflects on metametaphysics and as such develops a metametameta-physical view: that quietist metametaphysics requires dialetheism, and in turn a paraconsistent logic. I demonstrate this using Carnap’s metametaphysical position in his 'Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology' as an example, with regard to how it exhibits self-reference and results in inconsistency. I show how applying Carnap’s position to itself produces a dilemma, both horns of which lead to a contradiction. Such inconsistency commonly arises from meta-theories with global scope, as (...) the 'meta' approach aims to transcend the scope of that which it is theorizing about, whilst the global nature will place itself back within the scope of that which it is theorizing about, which together result in the theory referring to itself whilst refuting itself. I argue that any global metametaphysical theory that draws a limit to thought will face self-reference problems leading to contradictory realms. My conclusion is conditional: If we want to meta-philosophize in such a way and treat quietist meta-theories as being true, then we need to be dialetheist and utilize a paraconsistent logic in order to accommodate the contradictions that result from such theorizing. (shrink)
In his important book The Construction of Logical Space (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 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.
According to the standard view of his metaphysics, Leibniz endorses idealism: the thesis that the world is made up solely of minds or monads and their perceptual and appetitive states. Recently,this view has been challenged by some scholars, who argue that Leibniz can be seen as admitting corporeal substances, that is, animals or embodied souls, into his ontology, and that, therefore, it is false to attribute a strict idealism to him. Subtler accounts suggest that Leibniz begins his philosophical career as (...) an advocate of (some form of) the modern ‘mechanical’ philosophy and ends his career as an idealist, raising the issue when and why Leibniz adopts his monadological metaphysics. This article argues that, given a constellation of metaphysical, logical, and theological views, Leibniz is committed to the ontological primacy of mind or form even in his ‘middle years’. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Rudolf Carnap’s “Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology” (ESO) has received a good deal of sympathetic interest over the years from philosophers who are not particularly sympathetic to verificationism, or suspicious of metaphysics in general. Recent work has favorably cited ESO in connection with doubts about the genuine content of debates in the metaphysics of material objects. But, when we look at how Carnap introduces his central notion of a ‘framework’, and the questions he wants to use it to deflate, there (...) seem to be significant differences in his approach and aim from that of contemporary deflationists about the metaphysics of material objects. This paper first looks at some of these differences, and suggests a way of seeing them as arising more from differences in focus and interest than fundamental approach. However, a further question is whether philosophers who may entirely disagree with Carnap about abstract entities, or the substantiveness of the debate between Realists and Idealists – possibly all of his negative conclusions in ESO - can really be seen as heirs to his approach and argument therein. We look first at his discussion of the Realism/Idealism debate, to sort out different aspects of his analysis, and determine to what extent one can disagree with it while not thinking this undermines other analyses using the same general strategy. In the course of this, we are able to distinguish the basic Carnapian analysis of metaphysical disputes, from the question of whether, if the analysis is correct, this actually subverts the disputes. I suggest that, if we put verificationism aside, ESO really provides us with an approach and a type of skeptical challenge more than an argument, and it is open to contemporary philosophers to think that this skeptical challenge can (or can’t) be met, or can be supplemented by further argument, on a case by case basis. (shrink)
Title in English translation: Metametaphysics - with and without Categories. A comment paper on An Introduction to Metametaphysics by Tuomas Tahko. Ehdotan artikkelissa uutta olevan ja sen muodon välistä erottelua. Erottelun avulla voidaan antaa täsmällinen käsitys ontologisen kategorian käsitteestä ja metafysiikan tutkimuskohteesta. Argumentoin myös, että metafysiikan epistemologiaa ja semantiikkaa sekä metafyysistä selitttämistä pitää lähestyä kategorianäkökulmasta. Artikkeli on kommentti Tuomas Tahkon oppikirjaan An Introduction to Metametaphysics.
When I say that my conception of metaphysics is Aristotelian, or neo-Aristotelian, this may have more to do with Aristotle’s philosophical methodology than his metaphysics, but, as I see it, the core of this Aristotelian conception of metaphysics is the idea that metaphysics is the first philosophy . In what follows I will attempt to clarify what this conception of metaphysics amounts to in the context of some recent discussion on the methodology of metaphysics (e.g. Chalmers et al . (2009), (...) Ladyman and Ross (2007)). There is a lot of hostility towards the Aristotelian conception of metaphysics in this literature: for instance, the majority of the contributors to the Metametaphysics volume assume a rather more deflationary, Quinean approach towards metaphysics. In the process of replying to the criticisms towards Aristotelian metaphysics put forward in recent literature I will also identify some methodological points which deserve more attention and ought to be addressed in future research. (shrink)
Resumo Neste artigo o autor apresenta cinco abordagens diferentes ao debate entre o platonismo e o nominalismo: a quantificacional, a reducionista, a dependência da mente / linguagem, a extensional versus intensional, a hierárquica. Cada uma apresenta suas vantagens e desvantagens que devem ser discutidas em detalhe. Palavras-chave : existência, meta-metafísica, nominalismo, platonismoIn this paper I present five different approaches to the debate between Platonism and Nominalism: the quantifier approach, the reductionist approach, the mind / language dependence approach, the extension versus (...) intension approach and the hierarchichal approach. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages that have to be discussed in detail. Keywords : existence, metametaphysics, nominalism, platonism. (shrink)
I argue that the present (if not insuperable) lack of fixed standards in philosophy is associated with three barriers to philosophical progress, pertaining to intra-disciplinary siloing, sociological rather than philosophical determinants of philosophical attention, and the encouraging of bias.
This paper aims to better motivate the naturalization of metaphysics by identifying and criticizing a class of theories I call 'free range metaphysics'. I argue that free range metaphysics is epistemically inadequate because the constraints on its content — consistency, simplicity, intuitive plausibility, and explanatory power — are insufficiently robust and justificatory. However, since free range metaphysics yields clarity-conducive techniques, incubates science, and produces conceptual and formal tools useful for scientifically engaged philosophy, I do not recommend its discontinuation. I do (...) recommend, however, ending the discipline's bad faith. That is, I urge that free range metaphysics not be taken to have fully satisfactory epistemic credentials over and above its pragmatic ones. (shrink)
Metaphysicians frequently appeal to the idea that theoretical simplicity is truth conducive in metaphysics, in the sense that, all other things being equal, simpler metaphysical theories are more likely to be true. In this paper I defend the notion that theoretical simplicity is truth conducive in metaphysics, against several recent objections. I do not give any direct arguments for the thesis that simplicity is truth conducive in metaphysics, since I am aware of no such arguments. I do argue, however, that (...) there is no special problem with the notion that simplicity is truth conducive in metaphysics. More specifically, I argue that if you accept the idea that simplicity is truth conducive in science, then it would be objectionably arbitrary to reject the idea that simplicity is truth conducive in metaphysics. (shrink)
What is the aim of philosophy? There may be too many philosophical branches, traditions, practices, and programs to admit of a single overarching aim. Here I focus on a fairly traditional philosophical project that has recently received increasingly sophisticated articulation, especially by Frank Jackson (1998) and David Chalmers (2012). In §1, I present the project and suggest that it is usefully thought of as ‘total axiomatics’: the project of attempting to axiomatize the total theory of the world. In §2, I (...) raise a problem for the project that I call the ‘problem of multiple axiomatizations.’ I consider some initially alluring but ultimately unpromising approaches to this problem in §3. In §4, I defend a surprising approach to the problem, according to which competing axiomatizations of the total theory of the world are effectively evaluated for their aesthetic virtues. (shrink)
The paper is an extended discussion of what I call the ‘dismissive attitude’ towards metaphysical questions. It has three parts. In the first part, I distinguish three quite different versions of dismissivism. I also argue that there is little reason to think that any of these positions is correct about the discipline of metaphysics as a whole; it is entirely possible that some metaphysical disputes should be dismissed and others should not be. Doing metametaphysics properly requires doing metaphysics first. (...) I then put two particular disputes on the table to be examined in the rest of the paper: the dispute over whether composite objects exist, and the dispute about whether distinct objects can be colocated. In the second part of the paper, I argue against the claim that these disputes are purely verbal disputes. In the third part of the paper, I present a new version of dismissivism, and argue that it is probably the correct view about the two disputes in question. They are not verbal disputes, and the discussion about them to date has not remotely been a waste of time. At this stage, however, our evidence has run out. I argue that neither side of either dispute is simpler than the other, and that the same objections in fact arise against both sides. (For example, the compositional nihilist does not in fact escape the problem of the many, and the one-thinger does not in fact escape the grounding problem.). (shrink)
I address the question of whether there is any role for metaphysics to play on which it is both non-redundant and capable of genuinely illuminating whatever subject matter is at issue. I first argue that metaphysical methodology itself obliges metaphysicians to take this question seriously. I then argue that the currently popular “hands-off” conception of metaphysical theorizing is unable to provide a satisfactory answer to the question of metaphysics. Third, I present my preferred “embedded” conception of metaphysics, and say why (...) it makes good sense of metaphysics as a non-redundant discipline, capable of producing intelligible and illuminating results. (shrink)
Theodore Sider’s recent book, “Writing the Book of the World”, employs a primitive notion of metaphysical structure in order to make sense of substantive metaphysics. But Sider and others who employ metaphysical primitives face serious epistemological challenges. In the first section I develop a specific form of this challenge for Sider’s own proposed epistemology for structure; the second section develops a general reliability challenge for Sider’s theory; and the third and final section argues for the rejection of Siderean structure in (...) the course of answering a transcendental argument against such rejection. (shrink)
I argue for the claim in the title. Along the way, I also address an independently interesting question: what is metaphysics, anyway? I think that the typical characterizations of metaphysics are inadequate, that a better one is available, and that the better one helps explain why metaphysics is no more problematic than the rest of philosophy.
Metaphysical views typically draw some distinction between reality and appearance, endorsing realism about some subject matters and antirealism about others. There are different conceptions of how best to construe antirealist theories. A simple view has it that we are antirealists about a subject matter when we believe that this subject matter fails to obtain. This paper discusses an alternative view, which I will call the fundamentality-based conception of antirealism. We are antirealists in this sense when we think that the relevant (...) matter fails to be constitutive of fundamental reality. The following discussion will not rely on any particular understanding of fundamental reality, covering conceptions based on grounding, naturalness and truthmaking, to name three salient ones. This paper argues that there are serious issues with fundamentality-based metaphysics. It will be argued that: the fundamentality-based approach shapes and restricts our realist and antirealist views in unsatisfying ways, that it is unable to handle the conflicting facts that lie across the envisaged ‘layers’ of the metaphysically structured world, and that the methodological reasons for adopting the fundamentality-based approach fail. The paper will conclude with a diagnosis of the discussed issues, identifying a common source. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to develop an argument against metaphysical debates about the existence of human races. I argue that the ontology of race is underdetermined by both empirical and non-empirical evidence due to a plurality of equally permissible candidate meanings of "race." Furthermore, I argue that this underdetermination leads to a deflationist diagnosis according to #hich disputes about the existence of human races are non-substantive verbal disputes. $hile this diagnosis resembles general deflationist strategies in contemporary metaphysics" I (...) show that my argument does not presuppose controversial metametaphysical assumptions. (shrink)
Amie Thomasson and Eli Hirsch have both attempted to deflate metaphysics, by combining Carnapian ideas with an appeal to ordinary language. My main aim in this paper is to critique such deflationary appeals to ordinary language. Focussing on Thomasson, I draw two very general conclusions. First: ordinary language is a wildly complicated phenomenon. Its implicit ontological commitments can only be tackled by invoking a context principle; but this will mean that ordinary language ontology is not a trivial enterprise. Second: ordinary (...) language often points in different directions simultaneously, so that a wide variety of existence questions cannot be deflated merely by appealing to ordinary language. (shrink)
Some philosophers argue that many contemporary debates in metaphysics are “illegitimate,” “shallow,” or “trivial,” and that “contemporary analytic metaphysics, a professional activity engaged in by some extremely intelligent and morally serious people, fails to qualify as part of the enlightened pursuit of objective truth, and should be discontinued” (Ladyman and Ross, Every thing must go: Metaphysics naturalized , 2007 ). Many of these critics are explicit about their sympathies with Rudolf Carnap and his circle, calling themselves ‘neo-positivists’ or ‘neo-Carnapians.’ Yet (...) despite the fact that one of the main conclusions of logical positivism was that metaphysical statements are meaningless, many of these neo-positivists are themselves engaged in metaphysical projects. This paper aims to clarify how we may see a neo-positivist metaphysics as proceeding in good faith, one that starts with serious engagement with the findings of science, particularly fundamental physics, but also has room for traditional, armchair methods. (shrink)
Sometimes metaphysicians appeal to simplicity as a reason to prefer one metaphysical theory to another, especially when a philosophical dispute has otherwise reached a state of equilibrium. In this paper, I show that given a Quinean conception of metaphysics, several initially plausible justifications for simplicity as a metaphysical criterion do not succeed. If philosophers wish to preserve simplicity as a metaphysical criterion, therefore, they must radically reconceive the project of metaphysics.
In this paper, I first propose a new account of the concept of ontological form and its difference from the notion of ontological matter or content. I begin by suggesting that we replace “ontological matter” or “content” with just “being” because the latter term catches my proposal better. My first main theses are that the concept of ontological form is explicated by the concepts of nature-neutral internal relation and existence or being and that the ontological forms of entities consist of (...) these relations, that is, of formal ontological relations in which the entities are. Secondly, I apply this account of ontological form to categories and their existence and reality. I defend a relationist view that, to put it briefly, categories are pluralities of entities that exist in the same formal ontological relations (in the same order in some cases). Therefore they do not exist as additional entities to their members; they exist only as pluralities. Yet they may be said to be real in a sense that their membership is determined by formal ontological relations that actually hold of the relata of these relations and the holding can be expressed by true relational predications. My view is moderately realist although I do not identify categories with universals. Hence, I hold a nominalist view of categories. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to show why the theories of impossible worlds do not fully solve the problem of counterpossibles, but merely shift it. Moreover, by making a distinction between two types of languages, we will show that some expectations about proper theory of counterfactuals might be too great.
This article defends strong formal ontological conception of ontological categories against Lewis's "deflanationary" conception. Here, it sides with E.J. Lowe (1998) among others. However, the paper argues against Lowe's conception of metaphysics as an a priori science. Different category systems are compared and the best system is selected on the basis of its ability to accommodate our the best a posteriori conceptions of reality.
In what does philosophical progress consist? 'Vertical' progress corresponds to development within a specific paradigm/framework for theorizing (of the sort associated, revolutions aside, with science); 'horizontal' progress corresponds to the identification and cultivation of diverse paradigms (of the sort associated, conservativism aside, with art and pure mathematics). Philosophical progress seems to involve both horizontal and vertical dimensions, in a way that is somewhat puzzling: philosophers work in a number of competing frameworks (like artists or mathematicians), while typically maintaining that only (...) one of these is correct (like scientists). I diagnose this situation as reflecting that we are presently quite far from the end of inquiry into philosophical methodology. The good news is that we appear to be making advances on this score. The bad news is that failure to recognize or make explicit that our standards are in flux often leads to dogmatism, as I illustrate by attention to three assumptions presently operative in metaphysical and metametaphysical contexts. I close by identifying a tension between vertical and horizontal progress in philosophy, and suggesting an updated version of Carnap's principle of tolerance for new philosophical forms. (shrink)
Thomas Hofweber's well-known ontological project crucially involves inferring negative existential statements from statements of non-reference, i.e. statements that say that some term or terms do not refer. Here, after explaining the context of this move, I aim to show that it is fallacious, and that this vitiates Hofweber's ontological project.
This paper defends the view that ontological questions (properly understood) are easy—too easy, in fact, to be subjects of substantive and distinctively philosophical debates. They are easy, roughly, in the sense that they may be resolved straightforwardly—generally by a combination of conceptual and empirical enquiries. After briefly outlining the view and some of its virtues, I turn to examine two central lines of objection. The first is that this ‘easy’ approach is itself committed to substantive ontological views, including an implausibly (...) permissive ontology. The second is that it, like neo-Fregean views, relies on transformation rules that are questionable on both logical and ontological grounds. Ultimately, I will argue, the easy view is not easily assailed by either of these routes, and so remains (thus far) a tenable and attractive approach. (shrink)
In Writing the Book of the World, Ted Sider argues that David Lewis’s distinction between those predicates which are ‘perfectly natural’ and those which are not can be extended so that it applies to words of all semantic types. Just as there are perfectly natural predicates, there may be perfectly natural connectives, operators, singular terms and so on. According to Sider, one of our goals as metaphysicians should be to identify the perfectly natural words. Sider claims that there is a (...) perfectly natural first-order quantifier. I argue that this claim is not justified. Quine has shown that we can dispense with first-order quantifiers, by using a family of ‘predicate functors’ instead. I argue that we have no reason to think that it is the first-order quantifiers, rather than Quine’s predicate functors, which are perfectly natural. The discussion of quantification is used to provide some motivation for a general scepticism about Sider’s project. Shamik Dasgupta’s ‘generalism’ and Jason Turner’s critique of ‘ontological nihilism’ are also discussed. (shrink)