Ontology Made Easy

Hardcover | November 28, 2014

byAmie L. Thomasson

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In the decades following Quine, debates about existence have taken center stage in the metaphysics. But neo-Quinean ontology has reached a crisis point, given the endless proliferation of positions and lack of any clear idea of how to resolve debates. The most prominent challenge to mainstreamontological debates has come from the idea that disputants can be seen as using the quantifier with different meanings, leaving the dispute merely verbal. Nearly all of the work in defense of hard ontology has gone into arguing against quantifier variance. This volume argues that hard ontology faces an entirely different challenge, which remains even if the threat of quantifier variance can be avoided. The challenge comes from the "easy approach to ontology": a view that is arguably the heir to Carnap's own position. The idea of the easy approach isthat many ontological questions can be answered by undertaking trivial inferences from uncontroversial premises, making prolonged disputes about the questions out of place. This book aims to develop the easy approach to ontology, showing how it leads to both a first-order simple realism about thedisputed entities and a form of meta-ontological deflationism that takes ontological disputes themselves to be misguided, since existence questions may be answered by straightforward conceptual and/or empirical work. It also aims to defend the easy approach against a range of arguments wieldedagainst it and to show it to be a viable and attractive alternative to the quagmire of hard ontology.

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In the decades following Quine, debates about existence have taken center stage in the metaphysics. But neo-Quinean ontology has reached a crisis point, given the endless proliferation of positions and lack of any clear idea of how to resolve debates. The most prominent challenge to mainstreamontological debates has come from the idea ...

Amie Thomasson is Professor of Philosophy and Cooper Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Miami. She is the author of Ordinary Objects and Fiction and Metaphysics, and co-editor (with David W. Smith) of Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind. In addition, she has published more than 50 book chapters and articles on...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:360 pages, 8.25 × 5.5 × 0.98 inPublished:November 28, 2014Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199385114

ISBN - 13:9780199385119

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Forgotten Easy Approach1. The historical back story2. The rise of neo-Quineanism3. The easy approach to ontology: a preliminary sketch4. The plan of this bookPart 1: Developing Easy Ontology1. Whatever Happened to Carnapian Deflationism?1. Carnap's approach to existence questions2. Quine and the ascendency of ontology3. Putnam takes deflationism on an unfortunate turn4. 'Exists' as a formal notion: a brief history5. Is Carnap committed to quantifier variance?6. Conclusion2. The Unbearable Lightness of Existence1. A core rule of use for 'exists'2. What are application conditions?3. Do application conditions for 'K' include that Ks exist?4. Answering existence questions easily5. Against substantive criteria of existence6. Lines of reply3. Easy Ontology and its Consequences1. Using trivial inferences to answer existence questions2. Three forms of easy ontology3. First result: simple realism4. Second result: Meta-ontological deflationism4. Other ways of being Suspicious1. Denying that ontological disputes are genuine disputes2. Denying that we can know the answers3. Denying that there are answers to know4. Understanding hard ontology5. Fictionalism versus Deflationism1. Motives for fictionalism2. The fictionalist's case against easy arguments3. A problem for the fictionalist's analogy4. How the fictionalist incurs a debt5. A reply for the fictionalist6. The deflationary alternative7. ConclusionPart II: Defending Easy Ontology6. "Easy arguments give us problematic ontological commitments"1. Unwanted ontological commitments?2. Why easy arguments require no magic3. Do we get the objects we wanted?4. Conclusion7. "Easy arguments rely on the questionable idea of conceptual truths"1. Why easy ontology needs conceptual truths2. Williamson's attack on epistemic analyticity3. How easy inferences survive4. Caveats and conclusions8. "Easy arguments rely on principles that keep bad company"1. The bad company challenge for the easy approach2. Avoiding bad company3. The limited impact of bad company objections9. "The conclusions of easy arguments don't answer ontological questions"1. Hofweber's solution to the puzzle about ontology2. Focus and ontology3. Ways to read the quantifier10. "Hard ontological questions can be revived in Ontologese"1. Existence questions in Ontologese2. Just more metaphysics?3. Avoiding the joint-carving quantifier4. Problematizing the joint-carving quantifierConclusion: The Importance of Not Being Earnest1. The empirical, conceptual, and pragmatic case for deflationism2. Metaphysics in a new key?

Editorial Reviews

"This important book offers an interpretation and defence of the neo-Carnapian deflationist view of ontology - a view which, as Thomasson persuasively argues, has been widely misunderstood. It fills a significant gap in the literature, and does so with Thomasson's characteristic thoroughness,insight and clarity." --Huw Price, Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy, Cambridge