On the Adequacy of a Type Ontology

  • Eddy M. Zemach
Part of the Synthese Language Library book series (SLAP, volume 6)


In this note I shall try to answer two counter-arguments (the first of which consists of two separate objections) against one of the theses advocated in my ‘Four Ontologies’.1 The thesis is that an ontology of types (types, on my view, include masses) may be self-sufficient and quite adequate for all our descriptive and theoretical needs.2 Types (and, thus, masses), I argued, are fully real particulars: The Polar Bear,3 The Taxpayer, Man, Dog, Oil, Gold, Sand, Blue Stuff, etc. are neither universals, nor classes, but material particulars which are continuous (i.e., repeatable) in both time and space. Just as Mr Jones (Mr Jones himself, not a part of him) may be found to exist at two distinct temporal points, so can gold (gold itself, not a part of it) be found to exist at two distinct spatial points.4 Jones (a temporally continuous thing) is bald now and nonbald then; Man (a spatially continuous type) is bald here and nonbald there. Exactly as we say (when we speak about masses) that Sugar is expensive here, but cheap there, we can say that Cat is running here, and simultaneously is asleep over there. Another analogy to the logic of types is to be found in the logic of trans-world (e.g., Kripkean) individuals: the same individual, Jones, is a tall sailor in W 1 and a short lawyer in W 2 . Similarly the same particular, Woman, is servile in the east and rebellious in the west.


Temporal Point Spatial Point Separate Objection Continuous Type Type Ontology 
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  1. 1.
    The Journal of Philosophy 67 (1970) 231–247.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    In the said article I have argued that ordinary materialistic and nominalistic language uses four distinct and mutually incompatible ontologies, resulting from four distinct methods of ‘carving up’ the world into sundry particulars. But I have claimed that, in principle, any of the ontologies can suffice for all our needs; the plurality of ontologies is a matter of convenience only.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    For easy identification. I shall from now on capitalize the first letter in names of types.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Mr Jones is continuous in time, but bounded in space. Aida is bounded in time, but continuous in space. Water is continuous in both space and time, and four dimensional ‘worms’ are bounded in both space and time. (Theoretically there can be not four but sixteen kinds of entities, since there are three spatial dimensions, and we could regard our entities as either continuous or bounded in any dimension.)Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    H. Reichenbach, The Philosophy of Space and Time, New York 1957, Chapter 1, §12; R. Swinburne, Space and Time, Macmillan, London, 1968, pp. 130–132.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Cf. John Bacon, ‘Do Generic Descriptions Denote?’, Mind 82 (1973), 331–347, and ‘The Untenability of Genera’, Logique et Analyse 17 (1974) 197–208.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eddy M. Zemach
    • 1
  1. 1.The Hebrew University of JerusalemIsrael

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