Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Meta-Metaphysical Taxonomy: The Sematic View vs (True) Dismissivism

The MetaMetaphysical e-Reading Group at The bLOGOS is getting busier and busier! (See there posts starting with ‘MM Bennett’ and ‘MM Sider.’)

Thinking about these issues, here is an abstract of a paper I plan to write after the break.

In the last couple of years, there has been a renewed interest in issues in meta-metaphysics on the nature of certain apparent disputes in metaphysics. The underlying worry seems to be that some of them are merely apparent disputes in metaphysics. In this paper I defend that there are two quite radically different ways in which this can be held to hold—although they are often not sharply distinguished in the debate.

On the one hand, one might hold that the disputes are indeed genuine, but of a semantic rather than metaphysical character. This I label the semantic view. I offer a criterion for identifying them, compare it with some alternatives by Bennett, Chalmers, Hirsch and Sider, and illustrate it with the dispute between defenders of the so-called “supervaluationist” vs almost-identity solution to the problem of the many.

On the other hand, one might hold that the apparent disputes are merely apparent, given that the views allegedly under dispute turn out to be, in a certain sense, equivalent to each other. Following Bennett’s terminology (although not her way of explicating the position), I propose to label this (true) dismissivism given that, by contrast with genuine semantic disputes, there is indeed something to be dismissed, if the apparent disputes turn out not to be genuine. Again I offer a criterion for identifying them, compare it with some alternatives by Bennett, McCall&Lowe, Miller, Sidele and Sider, and illustrate it, although more tentatively, with the 3D/4D dispute about persistence.

These two positions are in contrast with regarding the disputes as genuine and metaphysical in character (which I illustrate with the dispute between universalists and restrictivists with respect to composition). But I hope it will transpire the significance of the way they differ from each other vis-à-vis the kind of attitude that seems vindicated with respect to them.

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