Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings
Hales (Steven D.), Ed.
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Back Cover Blurb

  1. Exploring contemporary metaphysics . . . an accessible, reviewer-praised collection.
  2. The intrinsic nature of existence — the ontological heart of contemporary metaphysics — has never been more approachable than with this exciting new collection. Stephen Hales brings together essays surveying many of the most prominent topics in contemporary metaphysics. The essays have been selected specifically for their accessibility to readers with little or no background in symbolic logic.
  3. To further enhance understanding, each of the book's nine sections begins with a specially commissioned introduction by a leading expert on the topic of that section. These introductions provide historical context and explain what the ensuing debate is about and why it is important.
  4. Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings features . . .
    • Thirty-four accessible essays covering such topics as existence; realism/antirealism; truth; properties, numbers, and propositions; secondary qualities; events; substance; holes, boundaries and surfaces; and mereology
    • Study questions that accompany each selection to help readers focus on main points and argumentative structure
    • An extensive list of Further Readings at the end of each section


In-Page Footnotes ("Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings")

Footnote 1: Extract from "Nozick (Robert) - Philosophical Explanations".


Wadsworth Publishing Co Inc (11 Mar. 1999)

"Hales (Steven D.) - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings: Prefaces & Contents"

Source: Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

Preface for Instructors1
  1. Metaphysics is not only one of the oldest, but also one of the most diverse fields in philosophy. No single volume could offer readings from every area of a field as multiplex as metaphysics, and in fact there has been a conspicuous dearth of anthologies that make any attempt at all. The selections in the present book represent those topics and viewpoints at the forefront of contemporary metaphysical inquiry. These are the seminal, cutting-edge articles that have advanced the frontiers of knowledge; indeed, the numerous original pieces in this book contribute to that advance. The volume in your hands presents precisely the issues with which advanced undergraduates and beginning graduate students need to be familiar in order to understand what metaphysicians care about and why. Some issues in metaphysics, such as modality2 and possible worlds semantics, have not been included here because an adequate treatment of them requires too much logical sophistication for undergraduates. Other topics, such as free will, causation3, and personal identity, are not treated in this volume because in some respects they have become cul-de-sacs on the map of late twentieth-century metaphysics. Though they are important topics in their own right, they lack the interconnectedness that unifies the ontological core of metaphysics. It is this core that the current book attempts to capture.
  2. One may think that it is too much to expect undergraduates to step up to the rarified realms of recent metaphysics. This is not so! The selections in this book were specifically selected for their accessibility and lack of logical formulae, so that students with little or no background in symbolic logic can make sense of them. Even so, the language and background assumptions of some of the articles may be challenging for the philosophically uninitiated. That is why each of the nine parts of the book is introduced by a leading expert on the topic of the part. These parts are
    • existence (introduced by Michael Burke),
    • the realism/anti-realism debate (Simon Blackburn),
    • truth (Frederick Schmitt),
    • abstract objects (Bob Hale),
    • secondary qualities (Edward Averill),
    • events (Jonathan Bennett),
    • substance (E. J. Lowe),
    • dependent particulars (H. Scott Hestevold), and
    • mereology (Peter Simons).
    In addition, there is a previously unpublished article by Michael Devitt defending realism, along with a postscript in which Devitt addresses the interpretation of his position that Simon Blackburn gives in the introduction to this part. These introductions provide the historical context of the issue they introduce, explain what the debate concerns and why it is important, and outline the major positions taken. They serve to bring students up to speed and provide an appetizer for students before they tackle the entrees. In addition to the introductions, detailed study questions accompany each selection that will enable students to quickly apprehend the main points and argumentative structure of the articles they read. For more advanced students, or anyone wishing to delve more deeply into the topics of this book, extensive lists of further readings accompany each part.
  3. I teach at a mid-sized comprehensive state university in rural Pennsylvania and have successfully used these readings with upper-division undergraduates. You can, too. And when you do, your students will really know what contemporary metaphysics is all about.
  4. I wish to thank …

Preface for Students4=1
  1. Metaphysics is one of the oldest and most central divisions of philosophy, and its study is found in full flower among the Greeks of the fifth century BCE. The word metaphysics itself comes from a first-century BCE edition of certain collected writings of Aristotie, assembled under the title To Meta ta Phusika, which means no more than "what comes after the writings on nature" (ta phusika). The topics treated by Aristotle in this posthumous edition became the focus of the specialty of metaphysics.
  2. Aristotle set out three main tasks in Ta Meta ta Phusika.
    • The first was the study of the first principles of logic and causation5.
    • The second chore was the reasoned investigation of the nature of divinity.
    • The third was ontology; the exploration of being qua being, or the intrinsic nature of existence.
    In the past two thousand years,
    • The first assignment has been divided variously among logicians, philosophers of science, and scientists.
    • The second task has become the specialized subject of the philosophy of religion.
    • It is the third task, that of ontology, which remains to metaphysics proper today.
  3. Ontology has three primary objectives. The first is to establish the basic categories of what there is, or the taxonomy of the ultimate furniture of reality. In one respect, a kind of taxonomy is implied by the very divisions of this book, in which, for example, an entire part is devoted to one kind of thing (such as truth) and another whole part is devoted to another kind of thing (such as events). In another respect, debate about which entities are the real denizens of the ontological zoo and which are mere pretenders is a theme that runs throughout the selections. As you will see, in Part V, entitled "Secondary Qualities," some philosophers believe that colors are real things in the world and others maintain that colors are just illusions of the mind. In Part IV, "Abstracta," you will see a similar debate over properties, numbers, and propositions; in Part VIII, "Dependent Particulars," the same question is asked about holes, surfaces, and boundaries. In a very general way, Part II on "Realism/Anti-Realism" asks whether reality even has a determinate, mind-independent structure, thus putting the entire taxonomic enterprise on the table for debate.
  4. The second task of ontology is to investigate the relations that hold among different types of things. This question too arises throughout the volume. What is the relationship between a true sentence and the nonlinguistic facts of the world. How about between properties and the predicates that express them (the relationship might be identity)? What is the real difference between substances (your eye) and events (your eye moving across this page)? In what way are surfaces dependent on the substances that have them? Could we remove only the surface from an object? If so, how?
  5. The third objective of ontology is to delineate the relations that obtain among things in the same category. This is the focus of Part IX, "Mereology." How are parts related to their wholes? Are they essential, so that if a whole were to lose a part it would go out of existence? If you replace a tire on your car, is it a new car? How about if you replace the engine and half the body? Part I, "Existence," also addresses relations that obtain among things in the same category by focusing on the very broadest category — that of entity. Of everything there is, why does it exist rather than not? Are there facts about what exists that explain why there is something rather than nothing at all?
  6. Though no single book could cover every issue in metaphysics, the volume you are holding surveys some of the most prominent topics in contemporary metaphysics. Each of the nine parts of the book is introduced by a leading scholar on the topic of that part, and each of the articles is accompanied by study questions to help you quickly grasp the key points of the article. In addition, extensive further readings at the end of each part allow you to delve more deeply. All study questions and further lists of readings have been written or compiled by the editor, with the exception of the study questions in Part VIII, which were written by H. Scott Hestevold.

In-Page Footnotes ("Hales (Steven D.) - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings: Prefaces & Contents")

Footnotes 1, 4: Full Text.

"Burke (Michael) - Introduction to Existence"

Source: Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

"Blackburn (Simon) - Introduction to the Realism Debates"

Source: Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

"Schmitt (Frederick) - Introduction to Truth"

Source: Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

"Hale (Bob) - Introduction to Abstracta"

Source: Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

"Averill (Edward) - Introduction to Secondary Qualities"

Source: Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

"Bennett (Jonathan) - Introduction to Events"

Source: Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

"Lowe (E.J.) - Introduction to Substance"

Source: Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

"Hestevold (H. Scott) - Introduction to Dependent Particulars"

Source: Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

"Simons (Peter) - Introduction to Mereology"

Source: Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

"Armstrong (David) - The Secondary Qualities"

Source: Armstrong - A Materialist Theory of the Mind, Chapter 12

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. The paper does not attempt to put forward a thesis about the nature of the secondary qualities (color, sound, taste, smell, heat and cold, etc.), but instead tries to classify various theories held by different philosophers.
  2. A three-way classification into 'subjectivist', 'realist' and 'Lockean' theories is suggested, and then a second, independent, three-way classification into 'dualist', 'attribute' and 'materialist' theories, yielding nine types of view in all.
  3. It is shown that each of the nine positions has been held by some well-known philosopher. The major difficulties facing each of the nine positions are indicated.

  1. The problem of the secondary qualities – 270
  2. A priori objections to identifying secondary qualities with physical properties – 273
  3. Empirical objections to identifying secondary qualities with physical properties – 283

COMMENT: Also in "Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings".

"Armstrong (David) - Universals as Attributes"

Source: Loux - Metaphysics - Contemporary Readings

  1. Uninstantiated Universals1?
  2. Disjunctive, Negative, and Conjunctive Universals2
  3. Predicates and Universals3
  4. States of Affairs
  5. A World of States of Affairs
  6. The Thin and the Thick Particular
  7. Universals4 as Ways
  8. Multiple Location
  9. Higher-Order Types
  10. The Formal Properties of Resemblance
  11. Resemblances Between Universals5
  12. The Fundamental Tie
  13. The Apparatus of an Attribute Theory of Universals6


"Benacerraf (Paul) - What Numbers Could Not Be"

Source: Laurence & Macdonald - Contemporary Readings in the Foundations of Metaphysics

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. In reviewing the essentials of a logicist analysis of number it is noted that no analysis identifying numbers with particular sets is "correct" to the exclusion of other analyses, which identify the numbers with different sets. But if the sense of, e.g., "Three" determines its reference, and at least two analyses of "three" are equally "correct" but assign it two different sets as its referent, then the condition in the analyses that states that three is a set is a superfluous one, and numbers couldn't be sets at all.
  2. In a final section it is suggested that by substituting the word "object" for the word "set" a similar argument arises which can then be used to refute the identification of numbers with any given system of objects: to characterize the numbers is to characterize not a system of objects but an abstract structure which many systems of objects might exhibit.

COMMENT: Also in:-

"Boghossian (Paul) & Velleman (David) - Colour as a Secondary Quality"

Source: Mind, 1989; 98: 81-103

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. We defend a projectivist account of color experience, which implies that external objects do not possess the color-properties that they are seen as possessing.
  2. We offer criticism of various alternative views, especially those of Christopher Peacocke, John McDowell, and David Wiggins.

COMMENT: Also in "Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings".

"Carnap (Rudolf) - Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology"

Source: Linsky - Semantics and the Philosophy of Language - A Collection of Readings

Author’s Introduction1
  1. Empiricists are in general rather suspicious with respect to any kind of abstract entities like properties, classes, relations, numbers, propositions, etc. They usually feel much more in sympathy with nominalists than with realists (in the medieval sense). As far as possible they try to avoid any reference to abstract entities and to restrict themselves to what is sometimes called a nominalistic language, ie., one not containing such references.
  2. However, within certain scientific contexts it seems hardly possible to avoid them. In the case of mathematics, some empiricists try to find a way out by treating the whole of mathematics as a mere calculus, a formal system for which no interpretation is given or can be given. Accordingly, the mathematician is said to speak not about numbers, functions, and infinite classes, but merely about meaningless symbols and formulas manipulated according to given formal rules.
  3. In physics it is more difficult to shun the suspected entities, because the language of physics serves for the communication of reports and predictions and hence cannot be taken as a mere calculus. A physicist who is suspicious of abstract entities may perhaps try to declare a certain part of the language of physics as uninterpreted and uninterpretable, that part which refers to real numbers as space-time coordinates or as values of physical magnitudes, to functions, limits, etc. More probably he will just speak about all these things like anybody else but with an uneasy conscience, like a man who in his everyday life does with qualms many things which are not in accord with the high moral principles he professes on Sundays.
  4. Recently the problem of abstract entities has arisen again in connection with semantics, the theory of meaning and truth. Some semanticists say that certain expressions designate certain entities, and among these designated entities they include not only concrete material things but also abstract entities, eg., properties as designated by predicates and propositions as designated by sentences. Others object strongly to this procedure as violating the basic principles of empiricism and leading back to a metaphysical ontology of the Platonic kind.
  5. It is the purpose of this article to clarify this controversial issue. The nature and implications of the acceptance of a language referring to abstract entities will first be discussed in general; it will be shown that using such a language does not imply embracing a Platonic ontology but is perfectly compatible with empiricism and strictly scientific thinking. Then the special question of the role of abstract entities in semantics will be discussed. It is hoped that the clarification of the issue will be useful to those who would like to accept abstract entities in their work in mathematics, physics, semantics, or any other field; it may help them to overcome nominalistic scruples.


In-Page Footnotes ("Carnap (Rudolf) - Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology")

Footnote 1: Section 1: The Problem of Abstract Entities.

"Casati (Roberto) & Varzi (Achille) - Immaterial Bodies"

Source: Casati & Varzi - Holes and Other Superficialities, MIT, 1994

"Chisholm (Roderick) - Boundaries as Dependent Particulars"

Source: Grazer - Philosophische Studien, Vol. 20, 1983


"Church (Alonzo) - On Carnap's Analysis of Statements of Assertion and Belief"

Source: Analysis, Vol. 10, No. 5 (Apr., 1950), pp. 97-99

Author’s Introduction
  1. For statements such as
    • (1) Seneca said that man is a rational animal and
    • (A) Columbus believed the world to be round,
    the most obvious analysis makes them statements about certain abstract entities which we shall call 'propositions' (though this is not the same as Carnap's use of the term), namely the proposition that man is a rational animal and the proposition that the world is round; and these propositions are taken as having been respectively the object of an assertion by Seneca and the object of a belief by Columbus.
  2. We shall not discuss this obvious analysis here except to admit that it threatens difficulties and complications of its own, which appear as soon as the attempt is made to formulate systematically the syntax of a language in which statements like (1) and (A) are possible.
  3. But our purpose is to point out what we believe may be an insuperable objection against alternative analyses that undertake to do away with propositions in favour of such more concrete things as sentences.

"David (Marian) - Truth as Correspondence"

Source: David - Correspondence and Disquotation: An Essay on the Nature of Truth, OUP, 1994

"Davidson (Donald) - The Individuation of Events"

Source: Davidson - Essays on Actions and Events, Chapter 8


"Devitt (Michael) - A Naturalistic Defense of Realism"

Source: Hales - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

Author’s Abstract
  1. Anti-realism about the physical world is an occupational hazard of philosophy. Most of the great philosophers have been anti-realists in one way or another. Many of the cleverest contemporary philosophers are also: Michael Dummett, Nelson Goodman, Hilary Putnam, and Bas van Fraassen. Yet anti-realism is enormously implausible on the face of it.
  2. The defense of realism depends on distinguishing it from other doctrines and on choosing the right place to start the argument. And the defense of that choice depends on naturalism.
    1. In part I, I shall say what realism is, distinguishing it from semantic doctrines with which it is often confused.
    2. In part II, I shall consider the arguments for and against realism about observables.
    3. In part III, I shall consider the arguments for and against realism about unobservables, "scientific" realism.
    The discussion is based on my book "Devitt (Michael) - Realism and Truth" (1997).

COMMENT: See "Devitt (Michael) - Postscript to A Naturalistic Defense of Realism" for a Postscript

"Devitt (Michael) - Postscript to A Naturalistic Defense of Realism"

Source: Hales - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

COMMENT: Postscript to "Devitt (Michael) - A Naturalistic Defense of Realism".

"Dummett (Michael) - Realism and Anti-Realism"

Source: Extract from Dummett - The Seas of Language, 1993

"Haack (Susan) - The Pragmatist Theory of Truth"

Source: The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, Vol. 27, No. 3 (Sep., 1976), pp. 231-249

  1. Introduction.
  2. Sketch of the Theory.
  3. Some Replies to Some Critics, and Some New Criticisms.
    • a) A Definition or a Criterion of Truth?
    • b) Truth and Utility.
    • c) Truth and Verifiability.
    • d) The Pragmatist Theory and the T-Schema.
    • e) A Subjectivist Theory?
    • f) Truth as the End of Enquiry.
  4. Some Concluding Remarks.

"Hardin (C.L.) - Color and Illusion"

Source: From the first edition of Lycan - Mind and Cognition, 1990

"Heller (Mark) - Temporal Parts of Four-Dimensional Objects"

Source: Rea - Material Constitution

Author’s Introduction
  1. Probably the best objection to there being so-called temporal parts is that no one has adequately made sense of what a temporal part is supposed to be.
  2. Such phrases as "temporal part", "temporal phase", and "temporal slice" have been used in ways that suggest such varied purported objects as processes, events, ways things are, sets, and portions of careers or histories.
  3. The account which comes closest to making sense of temporal parts is "Thomson (Judith Jarvis) - Parthood and Identity Across Time". Consider an object O which exists from time to to t3. On Thomson's account, a temporal part of O, call it P, is an object that comes into existence at some time t1 >= t0 and goes out of existence at some time t2 =< t3 and takes up some portion of the space that O takes up for all the time that P exists.
  4. Her account has the strength of being reasonably explicit about what she means by "temporal part". Furthermore, as she explains them, temporal parts do, at least on the face of it, seem to be parts. Her account, however, has the weakness of, as Thomson claims, making the existence of temporal parts fairly implausible.
  5. I shall offer an account which is at once explicit and supportive.


"Horwich (Paul) - The Disquotational Conception of Truth"

Source: Horwich - Truth, OUP, 1998, Chapter 2

"Kim (Jaegwon) - Events as Property Exemplifications"

Source: Kim - Supervenience and Mind

COMMENT: Also in

"Lewis (David) & Lewis (Stephanie) - Holes"

Source: Lewis - Philosophical Papers Volume I, Part 1: Ontology, Chapter 1

  1. Co-written with his wife, Stephanie Lewis, this whimsical dialogue features Argle and Bargle debating the ontological nature of holes.
  2. Argle ingeniously defends the claim that a hole is just the lining of matter that surrounds it.
  3. Responding to Bargle's disinclination toward accepting a view that flouts common sense, Argle comments that philosophical argument involves "measuring [the] price" that one must pay in order to accept the contested position. It is a telling remark, given the "incredulous stares" that often greet Lewis's modal1 realism.

COMMENT: Also in "Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings".

"Lombard (Lawrence B.) - Events"

Source: Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Vol. 9, No. 3 (Sep., 1979), pp. 425-460

Author’s Abstract
  1. In this paper, I want eventually to get around to proposing a criterion of identity for events which are changes in physical objects, where events are construed as comprising a distinct metaphysical category of thing.
  2. The proposal will be preceded by a discussion of what I take to be a mistaken suggestion for such a criterion; I will do that because I think that seeing what it takes to show why that suggestion fails helps to motivate a theory about what it is to be an event; and that theory will supply the conceptual foundations for my proposal concerning the criterion of identity for events.
  3. Before that suggestion is discussed, however, I want to discuss briefly an aspect of the question, Why do we have to give a criterion of identity for events, or for objects of any sort whatsoever? I want to have a brief look at the connection between identity criteria and the idea of a kind of object.
  4. And I want to say something which bears on the idea that metaphysicians, when wondering about what there is, are not interested in the existence of tigers, bachelors, or prime numbers, but are interested in the existence of sets, properties, physical objects, and events. The sorts of objects whose existence is, I believe, of interest to metaphysicians form what I shall call ''metaphysical categories" of thing.

"Parfit (Derek) - Why is Reality as It Is?"

Source: Hales - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings

Reading Questions1
  1. Parfit starts by asking, "Why is the Universe as it is?" Is this just a version of the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" or is Parfit asking something importantly different?
  2. Parfit claims it is puzzling that the initial conditions of the universe were precisely those that permitted life, given long odds against it. Compare Parfit's claim with the following claim. Presumably there are certain initial conditions of our lives — decisions we made when we were young — such that if we had decided slightly differently, we would never have met our current mates. Is the following question a puzzle? "Why were the decisions that I made precisely those that allowed me to meet my mate? " This seems analogous to Parfit's question about the universe.
  3. What does Parfit mean by "a plausible Selector"? Is there any possible Selector you would find to be explanatorily adequate?
  4. Parfit thinks that the global possibility that obtains may not be random, even though that Selector which is the actual Selector is random. Why doesn't Selector arbitrariness produce arbitrariness all the way down?


In-Page Footnotes ("Parfit (Derek) - Why is Reality as It Is?")

Footnote 1:

"Putnam (Hilary) - Why There Isn't a Ready-made World"

Source: Putnam - Philosophical Papers 3 - Realism and Reason

Philosophers Index Abstract
  1. Modern materialism is the only version of metaphysical realism with clout, but modern materialism is incoherent.
  2. The snag is the impossibility of reducing intentional notions to physicalistic ones. Contemporary attempts are surveyed, and found to "cheat"; each attempt smuggles in an intentional notion which the materialist has not shown he can reduce.
  3. "Natural metaphysics" – metaphysics within the bounds of science alone – is as much of a failure as the traditional speculative metaphysics.

COMMENT: Also in "Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings".

"Quine (W.V.) - Identity, Ostension, and Hypostasis"

Source: Quine - From a Logical Point of View

Author’s Introduction
  1. Identity is a popular source of philosophical perplexity. Undergoing change as I do, how can I be said to continue to be myself? Considering that a complete replacement of my material substance takes place every few years, how can I be said to continue to be I for more than such a period at best?
  2. It would be agreeable to be driven, by these or other considerations, to belief in a changeless and therefore immortal soul as the vehicle of my persisting self-identity. But we should be less eager to embrace a parallel solution of Heracleitus's parallel problem regarding a river: "You cannot bathe in the same river twice, for new waters are ever flowing in upon you."
  3. The solution of Heracleitus's problem, though familiar, will afford a convenient approach to some less familiar matters. The truth is that you can bathe in the same river twice, but not in the same river-stages. You can bathe in two river-stages which are stages of the same river, and this is what constitutes bathing in the same river twice. A river is a process through time, and the river-stages are its momentary parts. Identification of the river bathed in once with the river bathed in again is just what determines our subject-matter to be a river process as opposed to a river stage.
  4. Let me speak of any multiplicity of water molecules as a water. Now a river-stage is at the same time a water-stage, but two stages of the same river are not in general stages of the same water. River stages are water stages, but rivers are not waters. You may bathe in the same river twice without bathing in the same water twice, and you may, in these days of fast transportation, bathe in the same water twice while bathing in two different rivers.


"Quine (W.V.) - Meaning and Truth"

Source: Quine - Philosophy of Logic, Chapter 1

  • Objection to propositions – 1
  • Propositions as information – 3
  • Diffuseness of empirical meaning – 5
  • Propositions dismissed – 8
  • Truth and semantic ascent – 10
  • Tokens and eternal sentences – 13

COMMENT: Also in "Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings".

"Quine (W.V.) - On What There Is"

Source: Quine - From a Logical Point of View

Frazer MacBride’s Notes on W.V.O. Quine "On What There Is" (MPhil Stud Seminar, Birkbeck, 3rd October 2005)

Fundamental Point: "To be assumed as an entity is, purely and simply, to be reckoned as the value of a variable.... We are convicted of a particular ontological presupposition if, and only if, the alleged presuppositum has to be reckoned among the entities over which our variables range in order to render one of our affirmations true" (OWI: 13).

Structure of paper
  1. Plato's Beard—unsatisfactory responses to the Puzzle of Non-Being (OWI: 1-5)
  2. Untangling the Beard using Russell's Theory of Descriptions (OWI: 5-9)
  3. The Problem of Universals1—there are no universals2 (OWI: 9-15)
  4. Ontological Methodology—how to adjudicate between rival ontologies (OWI: 15-19)
  1. Plato's Beard: Does Pegasus exist? If he doesn't then what am I denying the existence of?
    • a) McX3 identifies Pegasus with a mental idea but Pegasus no more an idea than the Parthenon.
    • b) Wyman4 identifies Pegasus with an un-actualised possibility but such entities are unduly mysterious and there also non-existent things which could not exist (e.g. the round square cupola).
  2. Untangling the Beard
    There's no necessity to admit non-existent objects because
    • (c) Russell's theory of descriptions and
    • (d) Frege's distinction between sense and reference
    show that being meaningful and naming are different things.
      (TD5): The F Gs ↔ (∃xFx & (∀yFy → x=y)) & Gx
  3. The Problem of Universals6
    There is no need to admit mysterious entities like being red any more than non-existent things like Pegasus because
    • (e) the semantic role of a predicate is simply to be true or false of an entity picked out by a name,
    • (f) expressions can be meaningful without there being meanings and
    • (g) we do not quantify over predicate expressions.
    Clarifying ontological commitment by comparison with philosophy of mathematics:
      realism—logicism, conceptualism—intuitionism, nominalism—formalism.
  4. Ontological Methodology
    A criterion of ontological commitment does not tell us what there is, but what someone says there is; whether we accept what someone says is guided by the general ideals of theory construction; a choice of ontology is determined by the over-all conceptual scheme that accommodates science in the broadest sense.

COMMENT: Required reading for Birkbeck MPhil Stud Seminar 03/10/2005; Also in:- Photocopy filed in "Various - Heythrop Essays & Supporting Material (Boxes)". Note - see "Funkhouser (Eric) - Notes on Quine, 'On What There Is'".

In-Page Footnotes ("Quine (W.V.) - On What There Is")

Footnote 3: TT: Presumably McTaggart.

Footnote 4: TT: Presumably Meinong.

Footnote 5: TD = “(Russell’s) Theory of Descriptions.” For helpful HTML tags for logical connectives, see Wikipedia: List of logic symbols.

"Rescher (Nicholas) - On Explaining Existence: Real Possibility as the Key to Actuality"

Source: From Rescher's The Riddle of Existence, 1984.

"Rescher (Nicholas) - Truth as Ideal Coherence"

Source: The Review of Metaphysics, Vol. 38, No. 4 (Jun., 1985), pp. 795-806

Author’s Abstract
  1. Supporters of a coherentist standard of truth must be able to establish that this criterion is duly consonant with the definitional nature of truth, for there ought rightfully to be a continuity between our evidential criterion of acceptability-as-true and the "truth" as definitionally specified.
  2. Any satisfactory criterion must be such as to yield the real thing – at any rate in sufficiently favorable circumstances. Fortunately for coherentism, it is possible to demonstrate rigorously that truth is tantamount to ideal coherence – that a proposition's being true is in fact equivalent with its being optimally coherent with an ideal data base.
  3. Given that the preceding continuity requirement is satisfied, the traditional view of truth as accord with fact (adaequatio ad rem) is thus also available to coherentists.
  4. However, the element of idealization at issue means that we cannot claim that coherence provides us with unqualified truth in actual practice. The coherence-based inquiries we actually carry out, can go only so far as to afford our best available estimate of the real truth.

"Rosenkrantz (Gary) & Hoffman (Joshua) - The Independence Criterion of Substance"

Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 51.4 (Dec 1991), pp. 835-853

Philosophers Index Abstract
    We construct a new version of the traditional view that an individual substance as ordinarily understood is that which could exist all by itself or which is in some sense "independent." We intend this analysis of substance to be ontologically neutral in the sense that it is compatible with the existence of entities of any intelligible sort, given some plausible view about the natures, existence conditions, and interrelationships of such entities. Employing a hierarchy of ontological categories, we argue that the category of substance is distinctive (partly) because it could have a single instance over an interval of time.

COMMENT: Also in "Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings".

"Simons (Peter) - Particulars in Particular Clothing: Three Trope Theories of Substance"

Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 54, No. 3 (Sep., 1994), pp. 553-575

Philosophers Index Abstract
    If the attributes of concrete individuals (substances) are tropes, particular instances, what are the substances? Are they bundles of tropes related by compresence, or is there a non- trope bearer or substratum? Both theories have their drawbacks. This paper proposes a third, "nuclear" theory, according to which substances have an inner bundle or nucleus of essential tropes tied by strong ontological dependence, and an outer swarm of generically necessary and optional tropes. The theory's flexibility is tested by examining the differences between fermions and bosons considered as trope bundles.

COMMENT: Also in "Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings".

"Sosa (Ernest) - Putnam's Pragmatic Realism"

Source: Journal of Philosophy 90.12, Dec. 1993, pp. 605-626

"Stroll (Avrum) - Two Conceptions of Surfaces"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol IV) - Metaphysics

COMMENT: Also in "Hales (Steven D.), Ed. - Metaphysics: Contemporary Readings".

"Tarski (Alfred) - The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundation of Semantics"

Source: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Vol. 4, No. 3 (Mar., 1944), pp. 341-376

  • ‘It is probable that the content of the word "true" is unique and indefinable’ wrote "Frege (Gottlob) - The Thought: A Logical Inquiry" (1918). Tarski demurred.
  • In this article he introduces the reader to some basic semantic terminology, the Liar Paradox, and then gives an informal but authoritative summary of his important technical work on the concept of truth in formalized languages.
  • The article is clearly written and accessible to all students.

Author’s Abstract
  1. This paper consists of two parts; the first has an expository character, and the second is rather polemical.
  2. In the first part I want to summarize in an informal way the main results of my investigations concerning the definition of truth and the more general problem of the foundations of semantics. These results have been embodied in a work which appeared in print several years ago. Although my investigations concern concepts dealt with in classical philosophy, they happen to be comparatively little known in philosophical circles, perhaps because of their strictly technical character. For this reason I hope I shall be excused for taking up the matter once again.
  3. Since my work was published, various objections, of unequal value, have been raised to my investigations; some of these appeared in print, and others were made in public and private discussions in which I took part. In the second part of the paper I should like to express my views regarding these objections. I hope that the remarks which will be made in this context will not be considered as purely polemical in character, but will be found to contain some constructive contributions to the subject.

  • I. Exposition
    1. The Main Problem - A Satisfactory Definition Of Truth
    2. The Extension Of The Term "True"
    3. The Meaning Of The Term "True"
    4. A Criterion For The Material Adequacy Of The Definition
    5. Truth As A Semantic Concept.
    6. Languages With A Specified Structure
    7. The Antinomy Of The Liar
    8. The Inconsistency Of Semantically Closed Languages
    9. Object-Language And Meta-Language
    10. Conditions For A Positive Solution Of The Main Problem
    11. The Construction (In Outline) Of The Definition
    12. Consequences Of The Definition
    13. Extension Of The Results To Other Semantic Notions
  • II. Polemical Remarks
    1. Is The Semantic Conception Of Truth The "Right" One?
    2. Formal Correctness Of The Suggested Definition Of Truth
    3. Redundancy Of Semantic Terms - Their Possible Elimination
    4. Conformity Of The Semantic Conception Of Truth With Philosophical And Common-Sense Usage
    5. The Definition In Its Relation To "The Philosophical Problem Of Truth" and To Various Epistemological Trends
    6. Alleged Metaphysical Elements In Semantics
    7. Applicability Of Semantics To Special Empirical Sciences
    8. Applicability Of Semantics To The Methodology Of Empirical Science
    9. Applications Of Semantics To Deductive Science
    10. Final Remarks


In-Page Footnotes ("Tarski (Alfred) - The Semantic Conception of Truth and the Foundation of Semantics")

Footnote 1: Taken from "Harnish (Robert M.) - Basic Topics in the Philosophy of Language: Introduction".

"Van Cleve (James) - Mereological Essentialism, Mereological Conjunctivism, and Identity Through Time"

Source: Midwest Studies in Philosophy (Vol XI) - Studies in Essentialism

Author’s Abstract
  1. Mereological essentialism is the doctrine that no whole can change its parts;
  2. Mereological conjunctivism is the doctrine that any two objects form a whole.
  3. In what follows I shall say something about how the two doctrines are related, defend at least a limited version of each, and draw morals for the problem of identity through time.


"Van Cleve (James) - Three Versions of the Bundle Theory"

Source: Philosophical Studies, Vol. 47, No. 1 (Jan., 1985), pp. 95-107

Author’s Abstract
  1. 'A thing (individual, concrete particular) is nothing but a bundle of properties'. If we take it as it stands, this traditional metaphysical view is open to several familiar and, to my mind, decisive objections.
  2. Sophisticated upholders of the tradition, such as Russell and Castaneda, do not take it as it stands, but I shall argue that even their version of it remains open to some of the same objections.
  3. Then I shall suggest a third version of the view that avoids all the standard objections, but only at a price I think most people would be unwilling to pay.

COMMENT: Also in

"Van Inwagen (Peter) - Four-Dimensional Objects"

Source: Haslanger (Sally) & Kurtz (Roxanne) - Persistence : Contemporary Readings

Author’s Introduction
  1. It is sometimes said that there are two theories of identity across time. First, there is "three-dimensionalism," according to which persisting objects are extended in the three spatial dimensions and have no other kind of extent and persist by "enduring through time" (whatever exactly that means). Secondly, there is "four-dimensionalism," according to which persisting objects are extended not only in the three spatial dimensions, but also in a fourth, temporal, dimension, and persist simply by being temporally extended.
  2. In this paper, I shall argue that there are not two but three possible theories of identity across time, and I shall endorse one of them, a theory that may, as a first approximation, be identified with what I have called "three-dimensionalism." I shall present these three theories as theories about the ways in which our names for persisting objects are related to the occupants (or the alleged occupants) of certain regions of spacetime.


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