- In the first section of this chapter, I introduce a certain kind of defense of commonsense ontology, one that derives from ordinary language considerations.
- The defense presupposes that quantifier expressions can have different meanings in different languages, and this idea is discussed in the second section.
- In philosophy we often operate at two levels. At one level we use the language of our community - English, in the present instance - to make assertions about various philosophical topics. At another level we may be thinking about the nature of language, in particular about how linguistic behavior determines meaning. The interaction between these two levels can become problematical when we find ourselves at the second level disagreeing about the meanings of our own assertions at the first level.
- Let me try to illustrate the issue I'm driving at by considering the famous debate between Locke and Butler about the identity of a tree. Locke held that we have to distinguish between a tree and the masses of matter that successively constitute it. A tree may lose a branch and still retain its identity as that same tree, though it is now made up of a different mass of matter. Butler insisted, on the contrary, that if we have a different mass of matter then, strictly speaking, we don't have the same tree. According to Butler, no object can persist through a change of parts.
- Some philosophers (not all, by any means) will share my own immediate intuitive feeling that this dispute between Locke and Butler is not substantive, that it is in some sense merely verbal2. Locke and Butler agree that we are faced with a situation in which some tree-composing masses of matter are related to each other in certain qualitative, spatiotemporal, and causal ways. ...
Footnote 1: Truncated rather arbitrarily!
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