Ontology Made Easy

ISBN : 9780199385119

Amie L. Thomasson
360 Pages
148 x 214 mm
Pub date
Jan 2015
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In the decades following Quine, debates about existence have taken center stage in the metaphysics. But neo-Quinean ontology has reached a crisis point, given the endless proliferation of positions and lack of any clear idea of how to resolve debates. The most prominent challenge to mainstream ontological debates has come from the idea that disputants can be seen as using the quantifier with different meanings, leaving the dispute merely verbal. Nearly all of the work in defense of hard ontology has gone into arguing against quantifier variance. This volume argues that hard ontology faces an entirely different challenge, which remains even if the threat of quantifier variance can be avoided. The challenge comes from the 'easy approach to ontology': a view that is arguably the heir to Carnap's own position. The idea of the easy approach is that many ontological questions can be answered by undertaking trivial inferences from uncontroversial premises, making prolonged disputes about the questions out of place. This book aims to develop the easy approach to ontology, showing how it leads to both a first-order simple realism about the disputed entities and a form of meta-ontological deflationism that takes ontological disputes themselves to be misguided, since existence questions may be answered by straightforward conceptual and/or empirical work. It also aims to defend the easy approach against a range of arguments wielded against it and to show it to be a viable and attractive alternative to the quagmire of hard ontology.


Introduction: The Forgotten Easy Approach
1. The historical back story
2. The rise of neo-Quineanism
3. The easy approach to ontology: a preliminary sketch
4. The plan of this book
Part 1: Developing Easy Ontology
1) Whatever Happened to Carnapian Deflationism?
1. Carnap's approach to existence questions
2. Quine and the ascendency of ontology
3. Putnam takes deflationism on an unfortunate turn
4. 'Exists' as a formal notion: a brief history
5. Is Carnap committed to quantifier variance?
6. Conclusion
2) The Unbearable Lightness of Existence
1. A core rule of use for 'exists'
2. What are application conditions?
3. Do application conditions for 'K' include that Ks exist?
4. Answering existence questions easily
5. Against substantive criteria of existence
6. Lines of reply
3) Easy Ontology and its Consequences
1. Using trivial inferences to answer existence questions
2. Three forms of easy ontology
3. First result: simple realism
4. Second result: Meta-ontological deflationism
4) Other ways of being Suspicious
1. Denying that ontological disputes are genuine disputes
2. Denying that we can know the answers
3. Denying that there are answers to know
4. Understanding hard ontology
5) Fictionalism versus Deflationism
1. Motives for fictionalism
2. The fictionalist's case against easy arguments
3. A problem for the fictionalist's analogy
4. How the fictionalist incurs a debt
5. A reply for the fictionalist
6. The deflationary alternative
7. Conclusion
Part II: Defending Easy Ontology
6) "Easy arguments give us problematic ontological commitments"
1. Unwanted ontological commitments?
2. Why easy arguments require no magic
3. Do we get the objects we wanted?
4. Conclusion
7) "Easy arguments rely on the questionable idea of conceptual truths"
1. Why easy ontology needs conceptual truths
2. Williamson's attack on epistemic analyticity
3. How easy inferences survive
4. Caveats and conclusions
8) "Easy arguments rely on principles that keep bad company"
1. The bad company challenge for the easy approach
2. Avoiding bad company
3. The limited impact of bad company objections
9) "The conclusions of easy arguments don't answer ontological questions"
1. Hofweber's solution to the puzzle about ontology
2. Focus and ontology
3. Ways to read the quantifier
10) "Hard ontological questions can be revived in Ontologese"
1. Existence questions in Ontologese
2. Just more metaphysics?
3. Avoiding the joint-carving quantifier
4. Problematizing the joint-carving quantifier
Conclusion: The Importance of Not Being Earnest
1. The empirical, conceptual, and pragmatic case for deflationism
2. Metaphysics in a new key?

About the author: 

Amie Thomasson is Professor of Philosophy and Cooper Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Miami. She is the author of Ordinary Objects and Fiction and Metaphysics, and co-editor (with David W. Smith) of Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind. In addition, she has published more than 50 book chapters and articles on topics in metaphysics, metaontology, fiction, philosophy of mind and phenomenology, the philosophy of art, and social ontology.

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