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Ideology and its role in metaphysics

  • Peter FinocchiaroEmail author


Metaphysicians now typically distinguish between a theory’s ontology and its ideology. But besides a few cursory efforts, no one has explained the role of ideology in theory choice. In this paper I develop a framework for discussing how differing approaches to ideology impact metaphysical disputes. I first provide an initial characterization of ideology and develop two contrasting types of criteria used to evaluate its quality. In using externalist criteria, we judge the quality of a theory’s ideology by its relation to external features of the world. In contrast, in using internalist criteria, we judge the quality of a theory’s ideology by features internal to the theory and the theorizer, e.g. the intelligibility of the terminology employed. I then argue for an unrestricted application of externalist criteria, what I call maximal realism. According to maximal realism, we ought to apply externalist criteria to the entirety of a theory’s ideology—to not only predicates but also to quantifiers and logical operators. I defend maximal realism from what I take to be the best objection to it: that the view leads to bad questions. As part of my defense, I argue that those who would restrict their application of externalist criteria either adopt an unjustified partition of ideology or reject seemingly benign questions. Finally, I apply my discussion of ideology to two extant metaphysical disputes.


Ideology Metametaphysics Methodology Ontological disagreement Theory choice 



I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to many people for their contributions to the development of this paper over the past few years. Among those people are: Sara Bernstein, Andrew Brenner, Anjan Chakravartty, Rebecca Chan, Justin Christy, Michael Longenecker, Daniel Nolan, David Pattillo, Callie K. Phillips, Benjamin Rossi, Margaret Schmitt, S.C. Schramm, Jeff Snapper, Jeff Speaks, Meghan Sullivan, Jeffrey Tolly, Jason Turner, Peter van Inwagen, and two anonymous reviewers for Synthese. I owe an even more enormous debt of gratitude to Michael Rea for the philosophical, practical, and emotional wisdom that he so generously shared throughout this paper’s journey.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of PhilosophyWuhan UniversityWuhanPeople’s Republic of China

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