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.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The Problem of the Many, Supervaluations, and the Sorites

(Cross-posted at The bLOGOS.)

These days I am revising this paper, once again :-(! There I argue against the so-called ‘supervaluationist’ solution to the problem of the many, which is often the one favored by fellow defenders of the view of vagueness as semantic indecision.

In a nutshell, I claim that the feature of precisifications that such a solution requires—selecting just one of the many candidate-mountains in the vicinity of paradigmatic mountain Kilimanjaro—render them inadmissible. In my paper I focus on the penumbral truth that if something is a paradigmatic mountain, and something else is very similar to the former in that which is required for something to be a mountain, then the latter is also a mountain. One other main difficulty, emphasized by McGee 1998, is that such precisifications fail to preserve clear cases of application of the predicate, in that there is no entity that is determinately a mountain—at least, on standard ways of characterizing what it is for something to satisfy a 'determinately'-involving matrix.

In Williams 2006, Robbie claims that, in virtue of nothing determinately satisfying ‘is a mountain,’ the solution undermines the explanation offered by defenders of the view of vagueness as semantic indecision such as Keefe 2000 of the persuasiveness that the (false) sorites premise certainly has. According to her,

“Our belief that there is no true instance of the quantification gets confused with a belief that the quantified statement is not true. … The confusion … is a confusion of scope, according to whether the truth predicate appears inside or outside the existential quantifier” (Keefe 2000, 185).

Insofar as I can see, however, the difference in scope in truth- (or determinate-) involving existential statements appealed to here is compatible with nothing determinately satisfying ‘is a mountain’—disturbing as the latter might be for other reasons, of course.