Philosophical Studies

, Volume 172, Issue 4, pp 1051–1077 | Cite as

Reading the Book of the World

  • Thomas Donaldson


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.


Metametaphysics Metaontology Sider Fundamentality Quantification Predicate functors 



Most of all I would like to thank Brian Weatherson, who read many drafts of this paper and discussed them with me. I would also like to thank the other members of my PhD committee—Ernie Lepore, Cian Dorr and Andy Egan—for their advice. Jonathan Schaffer helped me with section six. An anonymous reviewer at Philosophical Studies said that I should add section seven—and (s)he was quite right. Thanks to Ted Sider for defending his views in conversation with me. Thanks to Kate Manne for her detailed comments on an earlier draft. I have also benefited from discussions with Jenn Wang, Tobias Wilsch, Matthias Jenny, Josh Armstrong, Krista Lawlor, Alexi Burgess, Mark Crimmins, Ken Taylor and Anna-Sara Malmgren.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Harvard Society of FellowsCambridgeUSA

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