- Quine (1948) said that the ontological question can be asked in three words, ‘What is there?’ and answered in one, ‘everything’. He was wrong. We need an extra word to ask the ontological question: it is ‘What is there, really?’; and it cannot be answered truthfully with ‘everything’ because there are some things that exist but which don’t really exist (and maybe even some things that really exist but which don't exist).
- You may doubt both the coherence of, and the motivation for, what I've just said; the purpose of this chapter is to motivate this departure from Quineanism and to show that it is perfectly coherent.
- I’m attracted to an ontology whereby what there really is is just: space-time, simple substances, and the location relations that fix what substances are at what locations at what times. These simple substances have their intrinsic natures essentially: they do not change in their intrinsic natures over time (thus making it harmless to say that they endure, and hence avoiding the need for temporal parts), nor could they have differed in their intrinsic nature (thus allowing them to be the truthmaker for the fact that they have the intrinsic nature they have, and hence avoiding the need for properties).
- Everything that is true is true in virtue of the distribution of these simple substances throughout spacetime. Sometimes there exist things arranged so as to make it true that there are people, tables, cities, universities, etc; other times, there are no such things. But more important than any particular ontology is the methodological lesson concerning how to do ontology. Common sense 'Moorean' truths about what there is can guide us in ontology; but we must be cautious about how we proceed: the task of the ontologist is to show how a perhaps sparse ontology is nevertheless sufficient for grounding the truth of those existential claims in English.
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