Date of Award
Master of Philosophy (MA)
David Hitchcock, Mark Vorobej
In this master’s thesis I defend a Quinean approach to ontology. I first describe the Quinean approach as consisting of three steps and three theses. All three theses have been challenged in the contemporary literature. In each chapter I describe one such challenge, and then provide a response. The first challenge states that ontology is actually easy. Proponents of this challenge include Matti Eklund’s maximalist, as well as Amie Thomasson. In response, I argue that the maximalist cannot consistently determine whether abstract entities exist. I also argue that Thomasson’s account involves a certain slide in logic and is, in certain cases, ontologically uninformative. I then turn to the second challenge, which states that traditional ontological questions are not even worth pursuing. Here I discuss the work of Rudolf Carnap and of Jonathan Schaffer. I argue that Carnap fails to provide a cogent argument for the meaninglessness of ontological questions. Furthermore, I argue that one should not adopt Schaffer’s Aristotelian view of metaphysics and ontology. I do so by constructing an argument, logically parallel to one of Schaffer’s own, to demonstrate that there are no fundamental grounds. Finally, I consider the challenge posed by an ambiguity in ‘existence’. According to Eli Hirsch, such an ambiguity results in verbal disputes. Hirsch argues that the remedy is to adopt ordinary English. In response, I accept that ‘existence’ is ambiguous. But I deny that this poses a significant problem for Quinean ontology.
Pikkert, Owen, "Contemporary Challenges to Quinean Ontology" (2012). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 7290.
McMaster University Library