Ontological Dependence, Spatial Location, and Part Structure
Moltmann (Friederike)
Source: Claudio Masolo, Roberta Ferrario, Stefano Borgo and Laure Vieu (eds.): Ontology Makes Sense. Essays in Honor of Nicola Guarino
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. This paper presents new observations about ontologically dependent objects which cannot have a host-independent spatial location or a physical part structure, namely disturbances (holes, folds, scratches), tropes, and attitudinal objects (claims, thoughts, promises, requests).
  2. It proposes an account of such attributively limited objects in terms of Fregean abstraction, which has so far been applied only to abstract objects.

Author’s Introduction
  1. Applied ontology, natural language ontology as well as the metaphysics of ordinary objects generally recognize that their domain of entities comprises a great range of ontologically dependent, minor entities. Such entities include what are called disturbances (entities of the sort of holes, folds, faults, and scratches) and tropes (particularized properties or features). A general approach to such entities is to take them to be ontologically derivative, introduced by an ontological operation from more basic entities or conditions, an operation which one may consider an operation of reification.
  2. There are two important operations of reification that have been discussed in the literature.
    1. One of them introduces an entity on the basis of the truthmaking relation.
    2. The other operation is more familiar from the philosophy of mathematics, namely abstraction in the Fregan sense.
    In this paper, I argue that certain ontologically dependent entities, including disturbances and tropes, should be viewed as entities introduced by a combination of truthmaking and abstraction. This is needed in order to order to account for both their concreteness and a surprising lack of specification for certain types of properties.
  3. It is a standard view in contemporary metaphysics that concrete objects come with a spatial location and a physical part structure. This view faces a serious challenge from our intuitions about the spatial location and the part structure of certain ontologically dependent concrete objects. Those ontologically dependent objects, it appears, simply lack a non-relative spatial location (a location not just relative to another object) or the sort of part structure they are expected to have as concrete objects.
  4. I will call objects of this sort attributively limited objects and their peculiarity attributive limitation. Attributive limitation is more familiar from abstract objects as entities introduced by a form of Fregean abstraction, such as numbers or directions on the Fregean account. This paper will suggest that the attributive limitations of the relevant class of concrete objects be accounted for by a form of abstraction as well. It will do so by drawing on a notion of an abstract state that is already an entity somewhat between abstract and concrete, and arguably plays a significant role in the semantics of natural language.
  5. I will first present standard assumptions regarding the distinction between concrete and abstract objects as well as particular views about the inheritance of properties of objects from more fundamental ones. I then present the central issue of the paper, intuitions about the spatial location and part structure of certain ontologically dependent concrete objects. Finally, I will suggest a way of applying an abstractionist account to the relevant types of ontologically dependent concrete objects.


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