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.
This challenging study places fiction squarely at the centre of the discussion of metaphysics. Philosophers have traditionally treated fiction as involving a set of narrow problems in logic or the philosophy of language. By contrast Amie Thomasson argues that fiction has far-reaching implications for central problems of metaphysics. The book develops an 'artifactual' theory of fiction, whereby fictional characters are abstract artifacts as ordinary as laws or symphonies or works of literature. By understanding fictional characters we come to understand (...) how other cultural and social objects are established on the basis of the independent physical world and the mental states of human beings. (shrink)
Philosophical theories often hinge on claims about what is necessary or possible. But what are possibilities and necessities, and how could we come to know about them? This book aims to help demystify the methodology of philosophy, by treating such claims not as attempted descriptions of strange facts or distant 'possible worlds', but rather as ways of expressing rules or norms.
Arguments that ordinary inanimate objects such as tables and chairs, sticks and stones, simply do not exist have become increasingly common and increasingly prominent. Some are based on demands for parsimony or for a non-arbitrary answer to the special composition question; others arise from prohibitions against causal redundancy, ontological vagueness, or co-location; and others still come from worries that a common sense ontology would be a rival to a scientific one. Until now, little has been done to address these arguments (...) in a unified and systematic way. Ordinary Objects is designed to fill this gap, demonstrating that the mistakes behind all of these superficially diverse eliminativist arguments may be traced to a common source. It aims to develop an ontology of ordinary objects subject to no such problems, providing perhaps the first sustained defense of a common sense ontology in two generations. The work done along the way addresses a number of major issues in philosophy of language and metaphysics, contributing to debates about analyticity, identity conditions, co-location and the grounding problem, vagueness, overdetermination, parsimony, and ontological commitment. In the end, the most important result of addressing these eliminativist arguments is not merely avoiding their conclusions; examining their failings also gives us reason to suspect that many apparent disputes in ontology are pseudo-debates. For it brings into question widely-held assumptions about which uses of metaphysical principles are appropriate, which metaphysical demands are answerable, and how we should go about addressing such fundamental questions as "What exists?". As a result, the work of Ordinary Objects promises to provide not only the route to a reflective understanding of our unreflective common-sense view, but also a better understanding of the proper methods and limits of metaphysics. (shrink)
It is often noted that institutional objects and artifacts depend on human beliefs and intentions and so fail to meet the realist paradigm of mind-independent objects. In this paper I draw out exactly in what ways the thesis of mind-independence fails, and show that it has some surprising consequences. For the specific forms of mind-dependence involved entail that we have certain forms of epistemic privilege with regard to our own institutional and artifactual kinds, protecting us from certain possibilities of ignorance (...) and error; they also demonstrate that not all cases of reference to these kinds can proceed along a causal model. As a result, realist views in ontology, epistemology, and semantics that were developed with natural scientific kinds in mind cannot fully apply to the everyday world. In closing I consider some wider consequences of these results for social science and philosophy. (shrink)
The existence of a social world raises both the metaphysical puzzle: how can there be a “reality” of facts and objects that are genuinely created by human intentionality? and the epistemological puzzle: how can such a product of human intentionality include objective facts available for investigation and discovery by the social sciences? I argue that Searle’s story about the creation of social facts in The Construction of Social Reality is too narrow to fully solve either side of the puzzle. By (...) acknowledging different forms of rules for constructing social reality paralleling rules for creating ‘make-believe’ truths, we can build a more comprehensive social ontology and allow for a more appropriate range of discovery for the social sciences. Nonetheless, I argue that despite the parallels between methods for constructing make-believe and social facts, it would be mistaken to treat talk about social reality as involving a mere pretense to refer. (shrink)
Drawing on a landscape analysis of existing data-sharing initiatives, in-depth interviews with expert stakeholders, and public deliberations with community advisory panels across the U.S., we describe features of the evolving medical information commons. We identify participant-centricity and trustworthiness as the most important features of an MIC and discuss the implications for those seeking to create a sustainable, useful, and widely available collection of linked resources for research and other purposes.
D. W. Mertz provides a "new" competitor in the universals debate by reviving, developing, and defending the medieval doctrine of Moderate Realism. This book is a substantial contribution to ontology and logic, combining interesting new arguments for polyadic relations and unit attributes, careful and thorough historical studies, and a logic that could solve many old problems.
In “The Standing to Blame: A Critique” (2013), Macalester Bell challenges theories that claim that ‘standing’ plays a central role in blaming practices. These standard accounts posit that it is not enough for the target of blame to be blameworthy; the blamer also must have the proper standing to blame the wrongdoer. Bell identifies and criticizes four different standing conditions, (1) the Business Condition, (2) the Contemporary Condition, (3) the Nonhypocricy Condition, and (4) the Noncomplicity Condition. According to standard accounts, (...) these conditions must be met in order for a would-be blamer to properly blame a wrongdoer. In this paper, I defend the Business Condition against Bell’s critique. My argument, then, is that some version of the standard account survives and ‘standing’ should be part of our theory of properly-wielded blame. I conclude by raising two additional concerns regarding the agency of blamers and the possibility that, without proper standing, a blamer could make things worse. (shrink)
This collection of original essays examines the relationship between women and religion in the history of political thought broadly conceived. This theme is a remarkably revealing lens through which to view the Western philosophical and poetical traditions that have culminated in secular and egalitarian modern society. The essays also give highly analytical accounts of the manifold and intricate relationships between religion, family and public life in the history of political thought, and the various ways in which these relationships have manifested (...) themselves in pagan, Jewish, Christian and post-Christian settings. (shrink)
Crawford Elder’s Real Natures and Familiar Objects promises to give naturalistically inclined metaphysicians reason to accept an ontology that includes many common sense objects, including persons, organisms, and at least many artifacts, behaviors, customs, and so on. This is a brave book, running against the current of trends towards austerity in ontology, tackling centuries old problems about how modal facts may be empirically discovered, and defending a commonsense ontology from a strictly naturalistic approach rather than via traditional appeals to ordinary (...) language or common sense. (shrink)
The challenge of handling fictional discourse is to find the best way to resolve the apparent inconsistencies in our ways of speaking about fiction. A promising approach is to take at least some such discourse to involve pretense, but does all fictional discourse involve pretense? I will argue that a better, less revisionary, solution is to take internal and fictionalizing discourse to involve pretense, while allowing that in external critical discourse, fictional names are used seriously to refer to fictional characters. (...) I then address two objections to such realist theories of fiction: One, that they can’t adequately account for the truth of singular nonexistence claims involving fictional names, and two, that accepting that there are fictional characters to which we refer is implausible or ontologically profligate. (shrink)
Modality presents notorious philosophical problems, including the epistemic problem of how we could come to know modal facts and metaphysical problems about how to place modal facts in the natural world. These problems arise from thinking of modal claims as attempts to describe modal features of this world that explain what makes them true. Here I propose a different view of modal discourse in which talk about what is “metaphysically necessary” does not aim to describe modal features of the world, (...) but, rather, provides a particularly useful way of expressing constitutive semantic and conceptual rules in the object language. The result is a “modal normativist” view that enables us to avoid the epistemic problems of modality and mitigate the metaphysical worries, while also leaving open the possibility of a unified account of the function of modal language. Finally, I address a serious challenge: we have the norms we do in order to track the modal facts of the world, so that the order of explanation must go in the opposite direction. I close by showing how the normativist may answer that challenge. (shrink)
Those who aim to give an account of modal knowledge face two challenges: the integration challenge of reconciling an account of what is involved in knowing modal truths with a plausible story about how we can come to know them, and the reliability challenge of giving a plausible account of how we could have evolved a reliable capacity to acquire modal knowledge. I argue that recent counterfactual and dispositional accounts of modal knowledge cannot solve these problems regarding specifically metaphysical modal (...) truths—leaving us with the threat of skepticism about large portions of metaphysics, and certain other areas of philosophy. I argue, however, that both of these problems look insuperable only if we assume that metaphysical modal discourse serves a describing or tracking function. If we adopt instead a normativist approach to metaphysical modal discourse, which sees the basic function of modal discourse as giving us perspicuous ways of conveying, reasoning with, and renegotiating semantic rules, the problems show up very differently. The modal normativist can give a plausible response to both of the classic problems of how we can come to know metaphysical modal truths. (shrink)
I argue that the ontological status of fictional characters is determined by the beliefs and practices of those who competently deal with works of literature, and draw out three important consequences of this. First, heavily revisionary theories cannot be considered as ‘discoveries’ about the ‘true nature’ of fictional characters; any acceptable realist theory of fiction must preserve all or most of the common conception of fictional characters. Second, once we note that the existence conditions for fictional characters are extremely minimal, (...) it makes little sense to deny the existence of fictional characters, leaving anti-realist views of fiction unmotivated. Finally, the role of ordinary beliefs and practices in determining facts about the ontology of fictional characters explains why non-revisionary theories of fiction are bound to yield no determinate or precise answer to certain questions about fictional characters, demonstrating the limits of a theory of fiction. (shrink)
It is often noted that institutional objects and artifacts depend on human beliefs and intentions and so fail to meet the realist paradigm of mind-independent objects. In this paper I draw out exactly in what ways the thesis of mind-independence fails, and show that it has some surprising consequences. For the specific forms of mind-dependence involved entail that we have certain forms of epistemic privilege with regard to our own institutional and artifactual kinds, protecting us from certain possibilities of ignorance (...) and error; they also demonstrate that not all cases of reference to these kinds can proceedalong a purely causal model. As a result, realist views in ontology, epistemology, and semantics that were developed with natural scientific kinds in mind cannot fully apply to the kinds of the social and human sciences. In closing I consider some wider consequences of these results for social science and philosophy. (shrink)
Fictionalism has long presented an attractive alternative to both heavy-duty realist and simple eliminativist views about entities such as properties, propositions, numbers, and possible worlds. More recently, a different alternative to these traditional views has been gaining popularity: a form of deflationism that holds that trivial arguments may lead us from uncontroversial premisses to conclude that the relevant entities exist — but where commitment to the entities is a trivial consequence of other claims we accept, not a posit to explain (...) what makes the relevant claims true. The deflationist’s trivial arguments, however, have been attacked by fictionalists, who suggest that the ontological conclusions we get from these arguments should not be taken as serious ontological assertions at all, but rather as implicitly in the context of a fiction or simulation. This paper examines the fictionalist’s criticisms of ‘easy’ arguments for numbers, properties, and other entities, and concludes that they beg the question against the deflationist and so do not undermine the deflationist’s position. Close attention to the argument also reveals a crucial disanalogy between overtly fictional discourse and discourse about numbers, properties, and so on, which undermines the case for fictionalism. Finally, I argue that the motivations for fictionalism (particularly those based in its ability to offer a good account of the discourse) are served as well or better by deflationism. Overall, this gives us reason to think that deflationism may provide a preferable approach for those looking for an alternative to both traditional realism and traditional eliminativism. (shrink)
I argue that thinking of existence questions as deep questions to be resolved by a distinctively philosophical discipline of ontology is misguided. I begin by examining how to understand the truth-conditions of existence claims, by way of understanding the rules of use for ‘exists’ and for general noun terms. This yields a straightforward method for resolving existence questions by a combination of conceptual analysis and empirical enquiry. It also provides a blueprint for arguing against most common proposals for uniform substantive (...) ‘criteria of existence’, whether they involve mind-independence, possession of causal powers, observability, etc., and thus for showing that many arguments for denying entities (numbers, ordinary objects, fictional characters, propositions…) on grounds of their failure to meet one or more of these proposed existence criteria are mistaken. (shrink)
In this paper, we explore the perspectives of expert stakeholders about who owns data in a medical information commons and what rights and interests ought to be recognized when developing a governance structure for an MIC. We then examine the legitimacy of these claims based on legal and ethical analysis and explore an alternative framework for thinking about participants' rights and interests in an MIC.
The challenge of handling fictional discourse is to find the best way to resolve the apparent inconsistencies in our ways of speaking about fiction. A promising approach is to take at least some such discourse to involve pretense, but does all fictional discourse involve pretense? I will argue that a better, less revisionary, solution is to take internal and fictionalizing discourse to involve pretense, while allowing that in external critical discourse, fictional names are used seriously to refer to fictional characters. (...) I then address two objections to such realist theories of fiction: One, that they can't adequately account for the truth of singular nonexistence claims involving fictional names, and two, that accepting that there are fictional characters to which we refer is implausible or ontologically profligate. (shrink)
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 an earlier paper in this journal I argued that deflationism is preferable to fictionalism as an alternative to both traditional realism and eliminativism. Gabriele Contessa questions this conclusion, denying that fictionalist arguments beg the question against easy ontological arguments, presenting a new argument against easy ontology, and suggesting a response to the challenge I raise for fictionalists. Below I respond to these points in turn. In so doing, I hope to clarify the broader theoretic orientation of easy ontology—in particular, (...) its rejection of a Quinean criterion of ontological commitment and its commitment to a form of functional pluralism about language. (shrink)
The common thought that Husserl was committed to a Platonist ontology of essences, and to a mysterious epistemology that holds that we can ‘intuit’ these essences, has contributed substantially to his work being dismissed and marginalized in analytic philosophy. This paper aims to show that it is misguided to dismiss Husserl on these grounds. First, the author aims to explicate Husserl’s views about essences and how we can know them, in ways that make clear that he is not committed to (...) a traditional Platonism, or a mystical epistemology. Second, the author argues that Husserl’s approach was an important source for Carnap in “Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology”, where Carnap tried to overcome the empiricists’ qualms about referring to abstracta. Finally, the author will argue that Husserl’s approach can be reconstructed in contemporary analytic terms by appeal to the idea of pleonastic transformations. By seeing both Husserl’s views and their influences on later analytic work more clearly, the hope is to build bridges and make clear that the approach is of lasting value and interest. (shrink)
This paper examines what’s at stake in which form of metaontological deflationism we adopt. Stephen Yablo has argued for a ‘quizzicalist’ approach, holding that many ontological questions are ‘moot’ in the sense that there is simply nothing to settle them. Defenders of the ‘easy approach’ to ontology, by contrast, think not that these questions are unsettled, but that they are very easily settled by trivial inferences from uncontroversial premises—so obviously and easily settled that there is no point debating them. The (...) views may differ in terms of how far the deflation extends—while easy ontology deflates debates about ordinary objects, Yablo doesn’t think his view does. But the crucial underlying difference lies in whether we think there are ontological presuppositions for introducing terminology. (shrink)
An account of the source of ﬁrst-person knowledge is essential not just for phenomenology, but for anyone who takes seriously the apparent evidence that we each have a distinctive access to knowing what we experience. One standard way to account for the source of ﬁrst-person knowledge is by appeal to a kind of inner observation of the passing contents of one’s own mind, and phenomenology is often thought to rely on introspection. I argue, however, that Husserl’s method of phenomenological reduction (...) was designed precisely to ﬁnd a route to knowledge of the structures of consciousness that was independent of any appeal to observation of one’s own mental states. The goals of this essay are to explicate Husserl’s method of phenomenological reduction in contemporary terms that (1) show its distance from all inner-observation accounts, (2) exhibit its kinship to and historical inﬂuence on outer-observation accounts of selfknowledge popularized by Sellars, and (3) demonstrate that a contemporary ‘cognitive transformation’ view based on Husserl’s method may provide a viable contribution to contemporary debates about the source of self-knowledge. (shrink)
Those working in experimental philosophy have raised a number of arguments against the use of conceptual analysis in philosophical inquiries. But they have typically focused on a model that pursues conceptual analysis by taking intuitions as a kind of (defeasible) evidence for philosophical hypotheses. Little attention has been given to the constitutivist alternative, which sees metaphysical modal facts as reflections of constitutive semantic rules. I begin with a brief overview of the constitutivist approach and argue that we can defend a (...) role for conceptual analysis, so understood, in ontological disputes against both the general skepticism about the relevance of intuitions, and against the specific worries raised by experimental results. Finally, I argue that even if the constitutivist view is adopted, experimental philosophy may still have quite a useful role to play, though purely empirical inquiries cannot in principle do the ontological work alone. (shrink)
Phenomenology and analytic philosophy were born out of the same historical problem---the growing crisis about how to characterize the proper methods and role of philosophy, given the increasing success and separation of the natural sciences. A common 18th and 19th century solution that reached its height with John Stuart Mill’s psychologism was to hold that the while natural science was concerned with “external, physical phenomena”, philosophy was concerned with “internal, mental phenomena”, and thus proceeded by turning our observational gaze inward (...) at the mind, rather than outward towards the world. Both Husserlian phenomenology and early analytic philosophy grew from dissatisfaction with psychologism, and figures from both traditions developed relentless criticisms of psychologism, beginning with Brentano and G.E. Moore[i] and reaching its peak with Frege / and Husserl. (shrink)
ABSTRACTA ‘sceptical’ approach to easy arguments involves reducing our confidence in the supposedly uncontroversial premise with which the arguments begin. Here I address the question: if we accept Yablo's new version of a sceptical proposal, what difference might that make for the relevant meta-ontological debates? I argue that serious difficulties remain for even this ‘best’ version of a sceptical approach. Noting these difficulties might motivate us to look again at the alternative strategy—of reading the uncontroversial premise straightforwardly and thinking that (...) doubts about the conclusion were based on artificial inflation or confusion. (shrink)
A good phenomenological theory must be able to account equally well for our experiences of veridical perception and hallucination, for our thoughts about universities, colors, numbers, mythical figures and more. For all of these are characteristic mental acts, and a theory of intentionality should be a theory of conscious acts in general, not just of consciousness of a specific kind of thing or of a specific kind of consciousness. In so far as phenomenology purports to be a general study of (...) intentional acts of consciousness, it must be able to account for acts with all kinds of objects and with all kinds of thetic character. Any limitation of these features puts the theory in danger of being an explanation of only some kinds of mental act, and of mis-characterizing the nature of intentionality in general. (shrink)
It is argued that the work of Husserl offers a model for self-knowledge that avoids the disadvantages of standard introspectionist accounts and of a Sellarsian view of the relation between our perceptual judgements and derived judgements about appearances. Self-knowledge is based on externally directed knowledge of the world that is then subjected to a cognitive transformation analogous to the move from a statement to the activity of stating. Appearance talk is (contra Sellars) not an epistemically non-committal form of speech, but (...) talk to which we are fully committed. However, it is a commitment to a certain kind of claim about our experiences, viewed as cognitive phenomena, after a process of transformation. Such reductive and hypostatizing transformations can exhibit the intentional structure of consciousness. Phenomenology thus gives a form of knowledge about our mental states that is first personal but not introspective knowledge in any philosophically problematic sense. The account offered is also, in key respects, dissimilar to Sellars's outer directed view of the origin of self-knowledge. (shrink)
The basic philosophical controversy regarding ordinary objects is: Do tables and chairs, sticks and stones, exist? This paper aims to do two things: first, to explain why how this can be a controversy at all, and second, to explain why this controversy has arisen so late in the history of philosophy. Section 1 begins by discussing why the 'obvious' sensory evidence in favor of ordinary objects is not taken to be decisive. It goes on to review the standard arguments against (...) the existence of ordinary objects – including those based on problems with causal redundancy, parsimony, co-location, sorites arguments, and the special composition question. Section 2 goes on to address what it is about the contemporary approach to metaphysics that invites and sustains this kind of controversy, and helps make evident why debates about ordinary objects lead so readily to debates in metametaphysics about the nature of metaphysics itself. (shrink)
“Ontology” is understood and undertaken very differently in the phenomenological tradition than it is in the recent analytic tradition. Here I argue that those differences are not accidental, but instead reflect deeper differences in views about what the proper role and methods for philosophy are. I aim to show that, from a phenomenological perspective, questions about what exists can be answered ‘easily,’ whether through trivial inferences or by ordinary empirical means—seeing how our observations hang together. As a result, it can (...) get us away from the obscurities, epistemological mysteries, and skepticism that the neo-Quinean approach to ontology has left us in and provide a clearer and less problematic approach to questions of ontology. (shrink)