Coincident Entities and Question-Begging Predicates: an Issue in Meta-Ontology
Meta-ontology (in van Inwagen's sense) concerns the methodology of ontology, and a controversial meta-ontological issue is to what extent ontology can rely on linguistic analysis while establishing the furniture of the world. This paper discusses an argument advanced by some ontologists (I call them unifiers) against supporters of or coincident entities (I call them multipliers) and its meta-ontological import. Multipliers resort to Leibniz's Law to establish that spatiotemporally coincident entities a and b are distinct, by pointing at a predicate F() made true by a and false by b. Unifiers try to put multipliers in front of a dilemma: in attempting to introduce metaphysical differences on the basis of semantic distinctions, multipliers either (a) rest on a fallacy of verbalism, entailed by a trade-off between a de dicto and a de re reading of modal claims, or (b) beg the question against unifiers by having to assume the distinction between a and b beforehand. I shall rise a tu quoque, showing that unifiers couldn't even distinguish material objects (or events) from the spatiotemporal regions they occupy unless they also resorted to linguistic distinctions. Their methodological aim to emancipate themselves from linguistic analysis in ontological businesses is therefore problematic.
KeywordsMaterial Object Temporal Part Linguistic Analysis Persistence Condition Ontological Distinction
- Burke M.B. , “Copper, Statues and Pieces of Copper: a Challenge to the Standard Account”, Analysis 52: 12–7.Google Scholar
- Cartwright, R. , Identity and Substitutivity, in Munitz : 119–34.Google Scholar
- Della Rocca M. [1996b], “Recent Work on Essentialism (Parts 1 and 2)”, Philosophical Books 37: 1–13 and 81–9.Google Scholar
- Dummett M. , Frege. Philosophy of Language, Duckworth, London.Google Scholar
- Fraassen B. Van , “Essence and Existence”, American Philosophical Quarterly Monograph.Google Scholar
- Frege G. , The Foundations of Arithmetic, Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
- Gallois A. , Occasions of Identity, Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
- Goodman N. , The Structure of Appearance, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
- Heller M. , The Ontology of Physical Objects, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
- Inwagen P. van , “Meta-ontology”, Erkenntnis 48: 233–50, repr. in van Inwagen : 13–31.Google Scholar
- Inwagen P. van , Ontology, Identity, and Modality. Essays in Metaphysics, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
- Jubien M. , Ontology, Modality and the Fallacy of Reference, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
- Lewis D. , On the Plurality of Worlds, Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
- Locke J. , An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Clarendon, Oxford.Google Scholar
- Lowe E.J. , Kinds of Being. A Study of Individuation, Identity and the Logic of Sortal Terms, Basil Blackwell, Oxford.Google Scholar
- Neale S. , Descriptions, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
- Noonan H. , “Reply to Lowe on Ships and Structures”, Analysis 48: 221–3.Google Scholar
- Pfeifer K. , Actions and Events. The Unifier-Multiplier Controversy, Peter Lang, Frankfurt a.M.Google Scholar
- Quine W.V.O. , Word and Object, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass.Google Scholar
- Quine W.V.O. , “Natural Kinds”, in Ontological Relativity and Other Essays, Columbia University Press, New York.Google Scholar
- Rea M.C. (ed.) [1997a], Material Constitution. A Reader, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham.Google Scholar
- Rea M.C. [1997b], “Supervenience and Co-Location”, American Philosophical Quarterly 34: 367–75.Google Scholar
- Rea M.C. , World Without Design, Oxford University Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
- Russell. B. , “Vagueness”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy and Psychology 1: 84–92, repr. in Keefe and Smith : 61–8.Google Scholar
- Sidelle A. , Necessity, Essence, and Individuation, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY.Google Scholar
- Talmy L. , Towards a Cognitive Semantics, I: Concept Structuring Systems, MIT Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
- Talmy L. , “Universals of Semantics”, forthcoming in Hogan  - available at http://linguistics.buffalo.edu/people/faculty/talmy/talmyweb/Recent/universals.html.
- Varzi A. , Words and Objects, available at http://www.columbia.edu/~av72/papers.
- Varzi A. , “Mereology”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, CSLI, Stanford, CA, available at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/mereology.