Meta-Ontology
Van Inwagen (Peter)
Source: Erkenntnis (1975-), Vol. 48, No. 2/3, Analytical Ontology (1998), pp. 233-250
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Introduction

  1. Quine has called the question 'What is there?' "the ontological question". But if we call this question by that name, what name shall we use for the question, 'What are we asking when we ask "What is there?"'?
  2. Established usage, or misusage, I suggests the name 'the meta-ontological question', and this is the name I shall use. I shall call the attempt to answer the meta-ontological question 'meta-ontology' and any proposed answer to it 'a meta-ontology'.
  3. In this essay, I shall engage in some meta-ontology and present a meta-ontology. The meta-ontology I shall present is broadly Quinean. I am, in fact, willing to call it an exposition of Quine's meta-ontology. (We must distinguish Quine's meta-ontology from his ontology - from his various theses about what there is and isn't. Quine's meta-ontology comprises such propositions as his theses on quantification and ontological commitment. His ontology comprises such propositions as the proposition that there are no propositions.)
  4. Quine's meta-ontology may be formulated as a fairly short list of theses: about five, depending on how one divides them up. Let us say five. Some of the theses I shall list have never been explicitly stated by Quine - the first in the list certainly has not -, but I do not doubt that he would accept all of them.

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