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?

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