, Volume 149, Issue 1, pp 73-97
Date: 03 Apr 2010

Getting priority straight

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Consider the kinds of macroscopic concrete objects that common sense and the sciences allege to exist:

Quine (1948, p. 23) was prepared to give the word “exists” to philosophers who wanted to distinguish claims about what there is from claims about what exists. I am for stylistic reasons unwilling to be so generous. So when I talk about a particular thing’s existing I always have in mind the claim that there is something identical to that thing. Likewise, when I speak generically, saying, “F’s exist”, I always have in mind the claim that there are some F’s.

tables, raindrops, tectonic plates, galaxies, and the rest. Are there any such things? Opinions differ. Ontological liberals say they do; ontological radicals say they don’t. Liberalism seems favored by its plausible acquiescence to the dictates of common sense abetted by science; radicalism by its ontological parsimony. Priority theorists claim we can have the virtues of both views. They hold that tables, raindrops, etc., exist, bu ...