Philosophical Studies

, Volume 162, Issue 3, pp 683-696

First online:

Ontology: minimalism and truth-conditions

Rent the article at a discount

Rent now

* Final gross prices may vary according to local VAT.

Get Access


In this paper, I develop a criticism to a method for metaontology, namely, the idea that a discourse’s or theory’s ontological commitments can be read off its sentences’ truth-conditions. Firstly, I will put forward this idea’s basis and, secondly, I will present the way Quine subscribed to it (not actually for hermeneutical or historic interest, but as a way of exposing the idea). However, I distinguish between two readings of Quine’s famous ontological criterion, and I center the focus on (assuming without further discussion the other one to be mistaken) the one currently dubbed “ontological minimalism”, a kind of modern Ockhamism applied to the mentioned metaontological view. I show that this view has a certain application via Quinean thesis of reference inscrutability but that it is not possible to press that application any further and, in particular, not for the ambitious metaontological task some authors try to employ. The conclusion may sound promising: having shown the impossibility of a semantic ontological criterion, intentionalist or subjectivist ones should be explored.


Ontology Truth-conditions Ontological minimalism Ontological criterion Quine Reference inscrutability