Ontological Commitments, Ordinary Language and Theory Choice

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


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.


Meta-ontology Ontological commitment Theory choice in metaphysics Quine 



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.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

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

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