Words without Objects: Semantics, Ontology, and Logic for Non-Singularity

Hardcover | April 6, 2006

byHenry Laycock

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A picture of the world as chiefly one of discrete objects, distributed in space and time, has sometimes seemed compelling. It is however one of two main targets of Henry Laycock's book; for it is seriously incomplete. The picture, he argues, leaves no space for stuff like air and water. Withdiscrete objects, we may always ask 'how many?', but with stuff the question has to be 'how much?' Within philosophy, stuff of certain basic kinds is central to the ancient pre-Socratic world-view; but it also constitutes the field of modern chemistry and is a major factor in ecology. Philosophers these days, in general, are unlikely to deny that stuff exists. But they are very likely to deny that it is ('ultimately') to be contrasted with things, and it is on this account that logic and semantics figure largely in the framework of the book. Elementary logic is a logic whichtakes values for its variables; and these values are precisely distinct individuals or things. Existence is then symbolized in just such terms; and this, it is proposed, creates a pressure for 'reducing' stuff to things. Non-singular expressions, which include words for stuff, 'mass' nouns, and alsoplural nouns, are 'explicated' as semantically singular. Here then is the second target of the book. The posit that both mass and plural nouns name special categories of objects (set-theoretical 'collections' of objects in the one case, mereological 'parcels' or 'portions' of stuff in the other) represents, so Laycock urges, the imposition of an alienlogic upon both the many and the much.

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A picture of the world as chiefly one of discrete objects, distributed in space and time, has sometimes seemed compelling. It is however one of two main targets of Henry Laycock's book; for it is seriously incomplete. The picture, he argues, leaves no space for stuff like air and water. Withdiscrete objects, we may always ask 'how many...

Henry Laycock is at Queen's University, Ontario.
Format:HardcoverDimensions:224 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.78 inPublished:April 6, 2006Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199281718

ISBN - 13:9780199281718

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Table of Contents

Introduction1. A proposed semantical solution to the so-called 'problem of mass nouns'2. In thrall to the idea of The One3. Non-count descriptions and non-singularity4. Quantification and its discontents5. The Ideal Language project and the non-discreteAppendix I: AtomismAppendix II: Substances and physical objects: Quine's labyrinthAppendix III: Reductive approaches to non-singularityAppendix IV: The gradual transition from count nouns to pure non-count nouns

Editorial Reviews

"WWO is an enjoyable polemic that grapples with some of the interesting and confusing issues of non-singularity, bringing semantic, ontic and logical considerations to bear on the puzzling phenomenon of non-singular nouns.... Words Without Objects is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in some of the philosophical considerations regarding the many and the much. ...the book contains some very insightful and interesting arguments about a very difficult topic, and provides some delightful philosophical back-story."--Adam Sennet, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews