Monday, July 23, 2007


In connection with the issue about labels here, Ghislain Guigon has suggested to me ‘indifferentism’:

"it seems to me that it reflects two aspects of your true dismissivism: first there is no difference in truthmakers between the opposite views. Second, the right philosophical attitude is to remain indifferent regarding the dispute."
I've just leared that the label does already exist:
"In Roman Catholicism, indifferentism is a condemned heresy that holds that one religion is as good as another, and that all religions are equally valid paths to salvation. Its condemnation is closely linked to the dogmatic definition that outside the Church there is no salvation."
I'm not sure about whether this goes against or in favor of using the label in the metametaphysical discussion (although I'm inclined to say that probably the latter)!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

CFP: LOGOS Conference on Meta-Metaphysics

LOGOS Conference on Meta-Metaphysics
, 19-21 June 2008

First Call for Papers

Do numbers, sets, and other abstract entities, exist? Does mereological composition ever occur? Does it always occur? How do objects persist through time? In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the status of certain traditional debates in metaphysics such as these. Some think that some of these turn out to be genuine disputes but of a semantic or conceptual character. Some think that some of these turn out to be pseudo-disputes that should be just dismissed. (Some others think, of course, that the disputes are indeed genuine, but not of a semantic or conceptual character.) Reflection of these issues promises to shed light on the nature of philosophical inquiry in general.

LOGOS—Grup de Recerca en Lògica, Llenguatge i Cognició is organizing a conference on meta-metaphysics. Invited and submitted papers will be made available to participants one month before the conference. Participants are expected to read them in advance, as there will be no presentation of them during the conference. Sessions will start with a critical commentary (lasting 20 minutes at most), followed by a response by the author(s) (lasting 10 minutes at most) and a general open discussion period.

Proposals to participate as a speaker and/or as a commentator should be sent by e-mail to by 1 April 2008. Full papers in suitable form for blind refereeing should be submitted in order to participate as a speaker, and a short CV is to be supplied as to participate as a commentator. We expect to notify accepted proposals within four weeks of the deadline.

Participants other than invited speakers will have to rely on their own institutions to defray the cost of travel and accommodation.

Confirmed Invited Speakers:

John Hawthorne (Oxford )
Amie Thomasson (
Stephen Yablo (MIT)

Organizing Committee:

Manuel García-Carpintero (Barcelona)
Dan López de Sa (NYU/St Andrews)
Pablo Rychter (Barcelona)

Scientific Committee:

Fabrice Correia (Rovira i Virgili)
Manuel García-Carpintero (Barcelona)
John Hawthorne (Oxford)
Max Kölbel (Birmingham)
Dan López de Sa (NYU/St Andrews)
Sven Rosenkranz (Barcelona/St Andrews)
Pablo Rychter (Barcelona)
Amie Thomasson (Miami)
Gabriel Uzquiano (Oxford)
Timothy Williamson (Oxford)
Stephen Yablo (MIT)

Further information:

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Is the Problem of the Many a Problem in Metaphysics? (Bristol)

The 2007 Joint Session in Bristol, organized by Anthony Everett and his team, was also excellent! Besides philosophy, and as expected, it was great seeing lots of friends, and meeting lots of new people: apparently it was the biggest JS ever!

There I presented my ‘Is the Problem of the Many a Problem in Metaphysics?,’ which I very happily had just learned has been accepted in Noûs. The discussion didn’t go that well at the time, as I was particularly slow and obtuse, but now I think it was very useful. (The following reconstruction is greatly indebted to posterior discussion with Patrick Greenough and Katherine Hawley.)

Tim Williamson objected that there is the danger that many if not all genuine disputes in metaphysics turn out to be “in semantics” in the sense in which I was claiming that the dispute between different solutions to the problem of the many is “in semantic”—assuming the view of vagueness as semantic indecision. One might try to block this overgeneralization concern via appealing to both parties agreeing that the ‘mountain’-free description is complete with respect to all the facts—except for facts about which should also be described as facts involving mountains—, along the lines I suggested in the paper. But then, Tim worried, one would be thereby committed to a coarse-grained notion of fact incapable of expressing controversial issues in philosophy—for under this sense (one of the parties would hold) the fact that mountains are mountains* is identical to the fact that mountains* are mountains* and so on. On reflection, I am now inclined to say that this is indeed right, but something that the defenders of the view should actually endorse. Consider, for an analogy, a Lewisian conception about values according to which it is analytic that something is good iff we are disposed to value it under appropriate conditions. If this is correct, then the fact that something is good would be identical to the fact that we are disposed to value it under appropriate conditions—its philosophical controversiality and non-obviousness notwithstanding.

Katherine Hawley pointed out that, as stated, a dispute would qualify as in semantics according to me even if the parties agreed on what things there are and which properties they have—when they are described in a suitably neutral way—but disagree about the relative naturalness of these objects and properties and, as a result of this, disagree about the semantics of certain expressions. I think I agree on the general point, and that a full characterization of the relevant metametaphysical attitude should take this point into consideration. I don’t think this would affect the particular claim about the problem of the many, as the different objects and properties seem to be equally natural according to both parties, but I’d like to think more about this.

Robbie Williams wondered whether the main issues could be more neutrally raised directly in terms of the relevant definiteness-involving statements, leaving the view of vagueness as semantic indecision as one possible way among others of explicating the notion. As I said there, I haven’t explored yet the shape to these issues if the assumption of vagueness as semantic indecision is not in place.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

A Meta-Metaphysical Taxonomy (Ovronnaz)

I’ve just come back from Europe. In Ovronnaz, we enjoyed a wonderful metaphysics workshop, excellently organized by Jiri Benovsky. Very friendly atmosphere, very fruitful discussions of the pre-read papers, and, as you can see in the pic (thanks to Ghislain Guigon), a very very enjoyable venue!

In my paper I defended that there are two very different meta-metaphysical attitudes sometimes conflated in the recent literature. On the one hand there is the idea that some apparent disputes in metaphysics are genuine disputes, but in semantics. This I illustrated with the dispute among defenders of the different solutions to the problem of the many, assuming vagueness is semantic indecision. (This was my paper in the JS, I’ll post on it separately later.) I really enjoyed the discussion about this. Among many other things discussed, John Drivers pointed out that some disputes satisfying my sufficient condition might be “less in order” than I suggested—if, for instance, semantics of English leaves indeterminate which of the different semantic claims is correct—; and both Jiri and Mark Heller worried whether there are examples where the initial appearance of the dispute being in metaphysics is stronger.

On the other hand, there is the quite distinct idea that some apparent disputes in metaphysics turn out to be merely apparent disputes, given that the views in question are metaphysically equivalent. The workshop itself provided further illustrations, as Jiri was in effect arguing that this is indeed the case between (versions of) the bundle theory vs the substratum theory, and Mark between 3D and 4D theories about persistence.

One thing some of us also discussed was which label would be appropriate for the latter kind of attitude. In the paper I used ‘(true) dismissivism,’ as to distinguish it from Karen Bennett’s usage (see here why). Another alternative label I found myself using in Mark’s discussion was ‘equivalentism.’ Any views?