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Ontology

Ontology

Robert K. Garcia on Platonism

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The scuttlebutt has it that Platonism is a posh piece of metaphysical speculation, a rather rococo knickknack on the top shelf of a worldview, maximally aloof from the concerns of everyday life. … The dispute between Platonism and naturalism is perennial. In fact, Plato himself describes it as an “interminable battle” (Sophist, 246A-C). Plato’s choice of “interminable” was prescient, as it was succeeded by two thousand years of philosophical fracas. Indeed, it seems that a resolution to this dispute retreats from the advancing philosopher like a rainbow’s end. But what’s the battle about, exactly? The Stranger in Plato’s Sophist says it’s a quarrel about reality: the “giants” have it that all reality is bodily and visible, whereas the “gods” have it that true reality consists in bodiless and invisible forms.

E.J. Lowe on Ontology, Partial Truth, and Reality

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Why cannot each special science, be it empirical or a priori, address its own ontological questions on its own behalf, without recourse to any overarching ‘science of being’? The short answer to this question is that reality is one and truth indivisible. Each special science aims at truth, seeking to portray accurately some part of reality. But the various portrayals of different parts of reality must, if they are all to be true, fit together to make a portrait which can be true of reality as a whole. No special science can arrogate to itself the task of rendering mutually consistent the various partial portraits: that task can alone belong to an overarching science of being, that is, to ontology. But we should not be misled by this talk of ‘portraits’ of reality. The proper concern of ontology is not the portraits we construct of it, but reality itself.

E. J. Lowe on Progress in Metaphysics and Philosophy

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There is a widespread assumption amongst non-philosophers, which is shared by a good many practising philosophers too, that ‘progress’ is never really made in philosophy, and above all in metaphysics. In this respect, philosophy is often compared, for the most part unfavourably, with the empirical sciences, and especially the natural sciences, such as physics, chemistry and biology. Sometimes, philosophy is defended on the grounds that to deplore the lack of ‘progress’ in it is to misconceive its central aim, which is to challenge and criticise received ideas and assumptions rather than to advance positive theses. But this defence itself is liable to be attacked by the practitioners of other disciplines as unwarranted special pleading on the part of philosophers, whose comparative lack of expertise in other disciplines, it will be said, ill-equips them to play the role of all-purpose intellectual critic. It is sometimes even urged that philosophy is now ‘dead’, the relic of a pre-scientific age whose useful functions, such as they were, have been taken over at last by genuine sciences. What were once ‘philosophical’ questions have now been transmuted, allegedly, into questions for more specialised modes of scientific inquiry, with their own distinctive methodological principles and theoretical foundations.

Beyond the Control of God?

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The question of God’s relationship to abstract objects touches on a number of perennial concerns related to the nature of God. God is typically thought to be an independent and self-sufficient being. Further, God is typically thought to be supremely sovereign such that all reality distinct from God is dependent on God’s creative and sustaining activity. However, the view that there are abstract objects seems to be a repudiation of this traditional understanding of God. Abstract objects are typically thought to exist necessarily and it is natural to think that if something exists necessarily, it does so because it is its nature to exist. Thus, abstract objects exist independently of God. Philosophers have called this the problem of God and abstract objects. In this book, six contemporary solutions to the problem are set out and defended against objections. It will be valuable for all students or scholars who are interested in the concept and nature of God. ~ Publisher’s Description

Universals

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Things are particulars and their qualities are universals, but do universals have an existence distinct from the particular things? And what must be their nature if they do? This book provides a careful and assured survey of the central issues of debate surrounding universals, in particular those issues that have been a crucial part of the emergence of contemporary analytic ontology. The book begins with a taxonomy of extreme nominalist, moderate nominalist, and realist positions on properties, and outlines the way each handles the phenomena of predication, resemblance, and abstract reference. The debate about properties and philosophical naturalism is also examined. Different forms of extreme nominalism, moderate nominalism, and minimalist realism are critiqued. Later chapters defend a traditional realist view of universals and examine the objections to realism from various infinite regresses, the difficulties in stating identity conditions for properties, and problems with realist accounts of knowledge of abstract objects. In addition the debate between Platonists and Aristotelians is examined alongside a discussion of the relationship between properties and an adequate theory of existence. The book’s final chapter explores the problem of individuating particulars. The book makes accessible for students a difficult topic without blunting the sophistication of argument required by a more advanced readership. Universals provides an authoritative treatment of the subject for both student and scholar alike.

Theories of Individuation

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The metaphysical problem of individuation requires an answer to two different but intimately related questions: 1) How are we to characterize individuality ontologically? To what ontological category or logical type does individuality belong? 2) What sort of distinction is there between the individuality and nature of an individual, e.g. a real distinction, a modal distinction, a distinction of reason, or some other distinction. My purpose in this article is to clarify a bare particular account of individuation and respond to objections that have been raised against bare particulars as individuators. ~ Abstract

Nominalism and Abstract Reference

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What kinds of things are redness, hairiness, and humanness. We take such things for granted. And yet, there is great controversy about the ontological nature of such properties. There are three basic approaches: “Extreme Nominalism (properties do not exist), Nominalism (properties exist and are themselves particulars), and Realism (properties exist and are universals).” Moreland argues for the superior explanatory power of Realism in accounting for these realities. While this argument may seem academic, there is a lot at stake for the Naturalistic world view in at least one respect. If, in fact, non-physical properties exist, then the universe is not comprised solely of matter and energy. The door creaks open for other kinds of non-physical entities like numbers, consciousness, and perhaps even God. ~ Afterall

J.L. Mackie on Moral Properties

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Moral properties constitute so odd a cluster of properties and relations that they are most unlikely to have arisen in the ordinary course of events without an all-powerful god to create them.