Advertisement

Ontological Commitments, Ordinary Language and Theory Choice

On Peter van Inwagen’s Meta-Ontology
  • Julia Friederike Göhner
  • Lukas Steinbrink
Chapter
Part of the Münster Lectures in Philosophy book series (MUELP, volume 4)

Abstract

In what follows, we provide a comprehensive summary of van Inwagen’s views on meta-ontology. We then expound two ways of challenging his proposed meta-ontology. First, we inquire whether the proposed Quinean method indeed provides reliable information as to what our ontological commitments are. We argue that it does not, as van Inwagen’s method tacitly presupposes the existence of an independent capacity to decide what our genuine commitments are (as opposed to mere byproducts of ordinary language). Second, we attempt to reconstruct van Inwagen’s idea of how ontological disputes are to be conducted once everybody’s ontological commitments are out in the open: How can rivaling ontologies be evaluated? We demonstrate that van Inwagen’s answer is incomplete, which is quite unfortunate, given the importance of the question.

Keywords

Meta-ontology Ontological commitment Theory choice in metaphysics Quine 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Julia F. Göhner’s research for this paper was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft in the context of the research group “Causation, Laws, Dispositions and Explanations at the Interface of Science and Metaphysics”. She wishes to express her gratitude for their support.

References

  1. Berto, Francesco, Frederick Kroon, and Alberto Voltolini. 2014. Metaontology: Introduction. The Monist 97: 423–429.Google Scholar
  2. Cameron, Ross P. 2008. Truthmakers and ontological commitment: Or how to deal with complex objects and mathematical ontology without getting into trouble. Philosophical Studies 140: 1–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Carnap, Rudolf. 1959. The elimination of metaphysics through logical analysis of language. In Logical positivism, ed. Alfred J. Ayer, 60–81. New York: The Free Press. (Translation of: Carnap, Rudolf. 1931. Überwindung der Metaphysik durch logische Analyse der Sprache. Erkenntnis 2: 219–241).Google Scholar
  4. Chalmers, David J., David Manley, and Ryan Wasserman, eds. 2009. Metametaphysics: New essays on the foundations of ontology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Hofweber, Thomas. 2011. Logic and ontology. In The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy, ed. Edward N. Zalta. http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/logic-ontology/. Accessed 22 Sept 2015.
  6. Ladyman, James, Don Ross, and with David Spurrett and John Collier. 2007. Every thing must go: Metaphysics naturalized. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Lewis, David, and Stephanie Lewis. 1970. Holes. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 48: 206–212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Mackie, Penelope. 1993. Ordinary language and metaphysical commitment. Analysis 53: 243–251.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Parsons, Terence. 1980. Nonexistent objects. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Quine, Willard Van Orman. 1980. On what there is. In From a logical point of view: Nine logico-philosophical essays, Repr. 2nd ed. (1961), pp. 1–19. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  11. Russell, Bertrand. 1905. On denoting. Mind 14: 479–493.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. van Inwagen, Peter. 1990. Material beings. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
  13. ———. 1993. Précis to Material beings. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53: 683–686.Google Scholar
  14. ———. 1998. Meta-Ontology. Erkenntnis 48: 233–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. ———. 2008a. McGinn on existence. The Philosophical Quarterly 58: 36–58.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. ———. 2008b. Quine’s 1946 lecture on nominalism. In Oxford studies in metaphysics: Volume 4, ed. Dean W. Zimmerman, 125–142. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. ———. 2009. Being, existence, and ontological commitment. In Metametaphysics: New essays on the foundations of ontology, ed. Chalmers et al., 472–506. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  18. ———. 2010. Peter van Inwagen. In Five questions, ed. Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen, 179–197. Copenhagen: Automatic Press.Google Scholar
  19. ———. 2011. Relational vs. constituent ontologies. Philosophical Perspectives 25: 389–405.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. ———. 2014a. Dispensing with ontological levels: An illustration. Disputatio 6: 25–43.Google Scholar
  21. ———. 2014b. Introduction: Inside and outside the ontology room. In Existence: Essays in ontology, 1–14. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. ———. 2014c. A theory of properties. In Existence: Essays in ontology, 153–182. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. ———. 2015. Metaphysics. 4th ed. Boulder: Westview Press.Google Scholar
  24. Wikipedia. 2015. Meta-ontology. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meta-ontology. Accessed 22 Sept 2015.

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of PhilosophyHHU DüsseldorfDüsseldorfGermany
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyWWU MünsterMünsterGermany

Personalised recommendations