Why metaphysical debates are not merely verbal (or how to have a non-verbal metaphysical debate)
Balaguer (Mark)
Source: Synthese, Online First. Accepted: 9 March 2017
Paper - Abstract

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Author’s Abstract

  1. A number of philosophers have argued in recent years that certain kinds of metaphysical debates — e.g., debates over the existence of past and future objects, mereological sums, and coincident objects — are merely verbal. (Roughly speaking, a merely verbal dispute is one in which the two parties to the dispute don’t disagree about any non-verbal facts and only seem to disagree because they mean different things by their words.)
  2. It is argued in this paper that metaphysical debates (of a certain very broad kind) are not merely verbal.
  3. The paper proceeds by uncovering and describing a pattern that can be found in a very wide range of philosophical problems and then explaining how, in connection with any problem of this general kind, there is always a non-verbal debate to be had.
  4. Indeed, the paper provides a recipe for locating the non-verbal debates that surround these philosophical problems. This undermines metametaphysical verbalist views of our metaphysical questions — i.e., views that say that there is no non-verbal debate to be had about some metaphysical question.
  5. Finally, the paper also provides a quick argument against actual-literature verbalist views of our metaphysical questions; in other words, the paper argues that in connection with all of our metaphysical questions, it is easy to find examples of non-verbal debates in the actual philosophical literature.


For the full text, see Balaguer - Why metaphysical debates are not merely verbal.

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