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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

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Bill,

I think that the last word of the the last sentence of the paragraph beginning with "P is a substantive thesis" should be "existent" rather than "nonexistent". If I understand your point, you intended the former rather than the later.

Holy moly! I proofread and proofread and still mistakes go undetected. Thanks. I have just edited the post.

>>So it seems that if presentism is to be a substantive thesis of metaphysics, then it must be formulated using a temporally unqualified use of 'exist(s).'

Londonistas prefer to stick with the trivial tautology. Londonistas hold that there are no substantive theses of metaphysics. Londistas are committed to the following principles.

(1) Strict avoidance of the word ‘exists’, in favour of analysis in terms of copula or relational verbs only

(2) Avoidance of any commitment to ‘queer entities’ by means of logico-linguistic analysis. Any proposition that apparently requires commitment to a queer thing, can be translated into a proposition that has no such requirement.

(3) All ‘metaphysics’ is purportedly about queer entities

Logical conclusion: there are no substantive theses of metaphysics. Desert landscapes only. Yet there is still an interesting problem for Londonism here. No existing item can stand in any kind of relation to a non-existent thing. Thus we can’t even refer to things that used to exist. For reference (if it is a relation) must relate a term which exists, to an object which no longer exists. For example “‘Caesar’ refers to Caesar’ apparently relates the presnt term ‘Caesar’ to some past individual. This is impossible.

Fortunately, Londonistas can fall back on (2). Clearly ‘a refers to b’ has the linguistic form of a relation, but obviously and manifestly (for those who are able to ‘see’ this) doesn’t signify one. I can give arguments for this, but only if requested. Note: anyone who requests an argument must read it, and preferably give evidence of having read and understood it.

PS:
>>But how the devil can a relation obtain between two items when one of them ain't there?

Yes this is a problem for the London Ockhamist also. I will put this in the 'something to think about' box for now. One solution might be to analyse 'A is the son of B', when there is no B as 'A was born of B'. But this is still tricky. To work, 'A' must refer to someone in the past (Vallicella at age 0). To complete the intended meaning, we must assert the identity of Vallicella now, with Vallicella then. This also requires a relation that is forbidden by Londonism.

Bill, never let it be said I fail to concede a problem, when I see a genuine problem.

Londonistas’ No-Metaphysics Manifesto,

“Londonistas hold that there are no substantive theses of metaphysics. Londistas are committed to the following principles.

(1) Strict avoidance of the word ‘exists’, in favour of analysis in terms of copula or relational verbs only
(2) Avoidance of any commitment to ‘queer entities’ by means of logico-linguistic analysis. Any proposition that apparently requires commitment to a queer thing, can be translated into a proposition that has no such requirement.
(3) All ‘metaphysics’ is purportedly about queer entities
Logical conclusion: there are no substantive theses of metaphysics. Desert landscapes only.”

There were some doubts about its existence, but the Prime-Minister of the Londonistas, the honorable EO, finally submitted the Londonistas’ No-Metaphysics Manifesto everyone has been waiting for. It actually *exists*. And it seems to include the following three theses:

“(1) Strict avoidance of the word ‘exists’, in favour of analysis in terms of copula or relational verbs only
(2) Avoidance of any commitment to ‘queer entities’ by means of logico-linguistic analysis. Any proposition that apparently requires commitment to a queer thing, can be translated into a proposition that has no such requirement.
(3) All ‘metaphysics’ is purportedly about queer entities”

No one really knows the origin of these “queer-theses” or how they found their way into the hearts of Londonistas. Yet, there they are bare, so to speak, for all to see. The prelude to the theses says that “Londonistas hold that there are no substantive theses of metaphysics.” Interesting! Is this a “substantive thesis of metaphysics”? Must be! But apparently Londonistas are unaware or unimpressed by such detail. We shall return to this question later. Meanwhile, let us examine each thesis separately.

(A) Thesis (1): I suppose that the first clause of thesis (1) about strict avoidance of the word ‘exists’ is meant to prohibit the use, and not the mention, of the word ‘exists’; otherwise, the first clause of the first thesis already violates what it prohibits (not a good start!). If so, then I invite EO to explain clearly the distinction between use and mention without using the word ‘exists’ or any of its cognate terms. I hope EO is not going to answer by distinguishing use and mention orthographically; i.e., in terms of enclosing the word in parenthesis in the later cases, but not the former. After all, such an orthographic distinction is a conventional way of marking a distinction we have discerned antecedently to the convention. So what is the distinction we have discerned antecedently to the convention?

(B) Thesis (2):
(i) What are “queer-entities” and how do we determine whether a given entity is “queer” or “straight”? For instance, I have a lot of chairs in my house and occasionally I even sit on one of them. I suppose Londonistas have the opportunity to do the same. Are chairs “queer” or “straight”? How do we decide?

(ii) What is “logico-linguistic analysis”? Suppose we decide to do some logical analysis of a simple sentence such as “John is a male”. We say things like:

“Since the term ‘John’ is a singular term, it must refer to an individual object; the ‘is’ in this sentence is syncategorematic: it is not a referential term nor is it used to express the relation of identity. Rather it has a predicative use only; the term ‘male’ is not used as a singular term, but rather it is used as a predicate.”

Good! But, on the basis of what considerations are we making these distinctions among terms: i.e., the distinction between syncategorematic terms and those that are not syncategorematic; singular terms, predicative terms, relational terms, quantifiers, etc? Are these mere arbitrary conventions? If so, then we could have contrived instead any arbitrary category of terms we fancy and make any arbitrary distinctions we wish. On the conventionalist view, there is nothing special or sacrosanct about the category of singular terms, predicative terms, relational terms, syncategorematic terms, etc.

Moreover, on each occasion of a “logical analysis” viewed from this perspective, we could have quite arbitrarily classified any given term to this or that category. Logical analysis, according to this conventionalist picture, is more like a cross-word puzzle in which you are allowed to invent any word as you go. It is like playing with words while the world went on a well deserved holiday (to parody a well known Wittgensteinean phrase). Do Londinistas subscribe to this empty form of logical analysis? Hopefully, they do not.

Of course, the cross-word puzzle model of logical analysis described above is a caricature of both the workings of language as well as the nature of logical analysis. The use of singular terms is not an arbitrary matter. It is based on the Metaphysical presupposition that individual objects exist (oops; the forbidden word). The difficult metaphysical question is whether this assumption is correct and if it is, then what is the nature of their existence. The same goes regarding all other categories of terms. To pretend as if one is in a superior position that enables them to undertake logical analysis without any metaphysical assumptions is acting like the naked Emperor who thinks that everyone else is naked but themselves.

(iii) “Any proposition that apparently requires commitment to a queer thing, can be translated into a proposition that has no such requirement.” (Thesis (2))

This is a strange thing to say even for a Londinista. First, there is the problem raised above about motivating the distinction between “queer” and “straight” things. Either the criteria used to draw this distinction themselves are laced with metaphysical assumptions or they are devoid of any such metaphysical assumptions. If the former, then Londinistas have their own metaphysics, although it is one which they think is so obvious that it does not even count as metaphysics. I suspect that they are wrong on both counts. The assumptions that motivate the distinction are neither obvious and they are surely metaphysical in nature. If the later, then what are the considerations on the basis of which these criteria are motivated? Are we to revert back to the cross-word puzzle picture of logical analysis where the world and reason are on holiday?

Second: propositions? Need I say more!

Third: Normally we think of words, phrases, and sentence of a language that are translated, not propositions. Propositions, if such exist, are not the sort of things that can be translated into other propositions. So this part of the thesis must be reformulated. But let us suppose it is.

Fourth: Will these translations preserve the meaning of the original sentence or will they alter its meaning? If the putative translation preserves all the meaning of the original sentence, then the translation will have to carry over to the new sentence whatever it is that gave rise to the *apparent* commitment to “queer” things. But, then, the new sentence will feature a meaning that likewise gives rise to the *apparent* commitment to those “queer” things. So the translation gained nothing.

If the translation alters the meaning of the original sentence, then in what sense is it a genuine *translation* rather than a substantive analysis? And if it is a substantive analysis, then what are the criteria that guide such an analysis? i.e., what are the criteria that determine whether the analysis is a correct analysis of the original sentence or a misguided one? So here we are again facing the problem of the criterion. And we have seen this movie a few paragraphs back.

Fifth: how do we distinguish between merely *apparent* commitments vs. *genuine* ones? Are we guided here by some antecedent view about what sort of commitments are genuine commitments and which ones are fake commitments? For instance, are we approaching our analysis guided by the antecedent conception that only concrete, physical, individual objects exist and, therefore, all other commitment are to count as merely *apparent*? If so, then we are approaching our analysis with a heavy antecedent metaphysics rather than with a metaphysical tabula-rasa. This heavy metaphysics of the Londinistas to be sure is not our own, but it is metaphysics nonetheless. Unless, of course, the Londinistas have a very bizarre elitist view that, unlike in the case of the rest of us, their metaphysics does not smell, taste, nor feel like metaphysics. But this bizarre view is just another symptom of the naked Emperor’s syndrome.

Sixth: This part of the thesis is an enormous IOU accumulating high interest. And while unfortunately we are all now burdened with debt, I see no basis for optimism that the Londinista realm has the philosophical resources to redeem its debt in the foreseeable future, if ever. Of course, this later point may be disputed by the honorable Prime-Minister EO and so we are all earnestly awaiting to hear the kind of guarantees he might offer to relieve our anxiety.

(C) Thesis (3): “All ‘metaphysics’ is purportedly about queer entities”

Perhaps! But as I have shown above, Londinistas are buried to their neck in metaphysics and, hence, in “queer entities”, although their senses have become so blunt that they do not even know it.

(D) Conclusion: “Logical conclusion: there are no substantive theses of metaphysics. Desert landscapes only.”

The last sentence contradicts the first. Yet, to be fair, the Londinistas have been all along very consistent about this particular inconsistency.

Happy New Year and best wishes from us all to the Londinistas Realm.

Ockham: I hope you will view this post in the cheerful spirit in which I intend it.

Bill asks

But how the devil can a relation obtain between two items when one of them ain't there? 
The Londinista tendency agrees there is a genuine problem. Yerwot? (also a London term)

Presumably we can talk now about objects that existed together and were related in the past but perhaps are no more. Let Rxyt mean that x and y stood in relation R at time t. Define R*xy by existential quantification over t:

R*xy <---> ∃t. Rxyt
R* is a relation with possibly now non-existent relata. Is there anything at all problematic about this?

David,

"R* is a relation with possibly now non-existent relata. Is there anything at all problematic about this?"

Yes! The same problem Bill raised in the quote you cite: i.e., how can there be a relation between things where one of them does not exist? Let 'R' stand for 'is a grandfather of'. Suppose Robert is a grandfather of Bill. How are we going to construe this when Robert does not exists? It is not enough to introduce a stipulative definition as above; this will just cover up the problem unless the relation makes sense. But, how can it make sense when one or more of the relata do not exist? That is the problem Bill originally raised for presentism and it is still with us.

Hi Peter,
You ask

Suppose Robert is a grandfather of Bill. How are we going to construe this when Robert does not exists?
and
...how can it make sense when one or more of the relata do not exist?
I hope you won't think I'm evading the question but I don't follow why you would think that understanding a sentence like 'Robert is a grandfather of Bill' is in any way dependent on the time at which the attempted understanding takes place.

Peter writes: >>(D) Conclusion: “Logical conclusion: there are no substantive theses of metaphysics. Desert landscapes only.”

The last sentence contradicts the first. Yet, to be fair, the Londinistas have been all along very consistent about this particular inconsistency. <<

Indeed. It would be as if someone said, 'There are no substantive theses of geography. There are only deserts.'

David,

'Robert is the grandfather of Bill' is a sentence-type we have no trouble understanding. The question concerns the truth or falsity of a token of this type. Suppose 'Bill' refers to me, who exists, and 'Robert' refers to one of my grandfathers who is dead and nonexistent. And suppose the sentence is uttered today. The problem concerns the truthmaker of this sentence token. How can the relational fact which serves as truthmaker exist when one of the relata does not exist?

On presentism Robert does notexist at all. How then can the relation *grandfather of* hold or obtain?


It is worse if both relata do not exist. Suppose Alfonso is the father of Felix, and both are dead and nonexistent. What is the truthmaker of 'Alfonso is the father of Felix'?

Take a look at this paper by Alan Rhoda. http://www.alanrhoda.net/papers/Presentism,%20Truthmakers,%20and%20God.pdf

Bill, Peter,

I have taken a look at Alan's paper. Towards the top of page 15 he writes

Similarly, that Caesar was assassinated after Troy was conquered is grounded in the ‘earlier than’ relation holding between the respective ‘times’ representing those two events as present.
Now if Alan had substituted 'follows from' for 'is grounded in' I'd have said his sentence was clearly true. But Alan (or rather the author he is paraphrasing) seems to want the 'earlier than' relation over these 'times' to do more work. This is an example, I think, of where Alan's and your concept of relation parts company with mine. For me, to say 'Earlier-than(t1, t2)' where 'Earlier-than' denotes a logical gadget we call a relation is just another way of saying 't1 is earlier than t2'. It's a translation of the latter sentence into a more limited language. But for you chaps I think a relation must have a greater significance. To test this hypothesis can I ask you whether in your view a relation can be subject to change? For example, if just after Felix is born Alphonso is still alive you would presumably say that the father relation holds between them. If Alphonso then dies (ceases to exist) your intuition is that the father relation no longer holds between them, and this would seem to be an instance of change. Modulo the exact form of words ('holds between' etc), am I right?

Too many questions!. This is clearly a den of Stanford Platonists (‘Stanfordsistas’). I’ll try and answer a few.

1. Is the thesis that ‘there are no substantive theses of metaphysics’ itself a substantive thesis of metaphysics? No. Consider the ghosts. There could be a theory of ghosts, and there could be substantive theses of this theory. On the other hand, there is science, and there could be a scientific account about reports of ghosts, which sought to explain the reports, and the associated ‘evidence’, in a way that does not require the existence of ghosts as the first theory would have it. The scientific theory is in a sense about ‘ghosts’, since it is concerned with reports and phenomena that seem to imply their existence. And perhaps the thesis that ‘there are no substantive theses of ghosts’ is in a sense a substantive thesis about ghosts. But there is a clear equivocation here. The scientific thesis is about reports of ‘ghosts’. You could put ‘ghosts’ in scare quotes to make this clear, if you like. Thus, the London Ockhamists hold there are no substantive theses of ‘metaphysics’.

2. What are ‘queer entities’? The proper London term for these is ‘dodgy entities’. Or ‘well dodgy’, as David knows. Ockhamistas hold that we should not multiply entities according to the multiplicity of terms. If this principle is correct, and if certain people are doing what they shouldn’t, it follows that some people are wrongly multiplying entities according to the multiplicity of terms. The ‘multiplied entities’ are the ‘dodgy entities’. Just a turn of phrase, of course, there are no such entities at all. A better and less apparently self-contradictory way of explaining this is as follows. Londonistas hold the following inference is invalid.

(A) Will wants a cigarette.
(B) For some x, x is a cigarette and Will is looking for x

For (B) commits us to a ‘dodgy entity’. That does not mean that ‘dodgy entities’ exist. The whole point is that no such things exist. Note my use of scare quotes, lest I be accused of accepting the existence of ‘them’ simply by using the term.

3. “Sentences versus propositions”. Apologies. I translate Latin philosophy a lot, where a proposition is a form of sentence. For ‘proposition’ read ‘declarative sentence’ or whatever term the modernistas now use.

4. “If the putative translation preserves all the meaning of the original sentence, then the translation will have to carry over to the new sentence whatever it is that gave rise to the *apparent* commitment to “queer” things.” That’s a very interesting objection, and I have heard it used by Stanfordistas before. Reply: the Ockhamist theory is essentially a theory about correct inference. A theory about correct inference cannot avoid discussing incorrect inference. Any theory of incorrect inference will have to explain how certain people (those who are ignorant of logic) tend to make inferences that are invalid (such as the one from A to B above). Ockhamistas have found that a good way to illuminate such simpletons is to re-write the antecedent sentence (or proposition) so that the apparent consequent manifestly does not follow. Does that change the meaning of the sentence? No, for the meaning of a sentence is defined by its truth-conditions, and its proper truth-conditions are essential to the inferences we associate with it.

PS the master himself writes "(5) Unde in talibus magis reputo difficultatem vocalem, dependentem ex logica, quam realem. Propter quod nescientes logicam quaternos innumeros circa talia inutiliter replent, facientes difficultatem ubi nulla est, et deserentes difficultatem quam investigare deberent."

I translate: "Therefore in such cases I judge more a verbal difficulty depending on logic rather than a real one. Because of this, persons ignorant of logic have uselessly filled up innumerable tomes on such things, making a difficulty where there is none, and abandoning a difficulty they ought to investigate."

David : >> If Alphonso then dies (ceases to exist) your intuition is that the father relation no longer holds between them

Surely the correct account is that 'Alphonso is the father of Felix' is no longer true, but that 'Alphonso was the father of Felix' is now true. That does not resolve the difficulty for the Ockhamist, of course, since it appears to relate something with something. But in the case of 'Alphonso', the proper name now refers to nothing. So how can 'Alphonso was the father of Felix' be true at all?

How about from

Alphonso was the father of Felix
infer
for some x, x was the father of Felix
Maybe you are a little too strict wrt referents of proper names? Why so?

>>How about from --- Alphonso was the father of Felix
infer --- for some x, x was the father of Felix

I pointed out the problem with this in the previous thread. We need to connect Felix then with Felix now. If 'Felix' refers to Felix now, we have the problem of a non-existent related to an existent. If to Felix then, that is fine, but we have the problem of how to say that Felix then = Felix now. I can see a number of ways out, but not sure which one, if any, resolves the apparent problem.

Problems! Problems! So many problems already! Didn't we decide in the discussion that followed Bill's posting on van Inwagen's ship that talk of 'Felix now' and 'Felix then' was dodginess on stilts?

>>Problems! Problems! So many problems already! Didn't we decide in the discussion that followed Bill's posting on van Inwagen's ship that talk of 'Felix now' and 'Felix then' was dodginess on stilts?

Yes I'm keenly aware of that. Further discussion of the problem here http://ocham.blogspot.com/2010/12/album-fuit-disputaturum.html .

Nothing is ever decided in philosophy.

"Nothing is ever decided in philosophy." On the contrary, everything is decided.

EO,

1)"Too many questions!. This is clearly a den of Stanford Platonists (‘Stanfordsistas’)."

Sorry! Tried to get at what I take the central Meta-Philosophical issues that divide us. Will now focus on only one:

" Is the thesis that ‘there are no substantive theses of metaphysics’ itself a substantive thesis of metaphysics? No."

2) Let us focus on your central claim:

(EOC) "There are no substantive theses of metaphysics."

3) I maintain that (EOC) is patently false:

(a) There are clear examples of substantive metaphysical theses: e.g.,

(i) There are abstract objects; (Platonism)
(ii) Mental objects are different in nature from physical objects; (Dualism)
(iii) There are Universals;
(iv) There are no entities (i.e., particulars and properties) other than physical entities; (Materialism)
(v) There are no entities other than concrete, individual, and physical objects; (Nominalism)

Therefore,

(b) There are substantive metaphysical theses;

Therefore,

(c)(EOC) is false.

(4) In order to escape the above trivial objection, we might want to rephrase (EOC) as follows:

(EOC*) There are no *true* substantive metaphysical theses.

But (EOC*) is inconsistent with Nominalism ((iv) above): i.e., the substantive thesis that there are only concrete, individual, physical entities. So if one maintains that Nominalism is true, then one must reject (EOC); and vice versa. And I think you wish to maintain that Nominalism is true.

(5) The only way out that I can see is to rephrase once again (EOC) as follows:

(EOC**) There are no true and substantive metaphysical theses *other than* Nominalism.

Unlike (EOC), (EOC**) is not trivially false. And, unlike (EOC*), (EOC**) is consistent with simultaneously maintaining that the substantive metaphysical thesis of Nominalism is true. It says so explicitly.

(6) But now notice that (EOC**) entails the proposition:

(N) There exists at least one true and substantive metaphysical thesis (namely, Nominalism).

Whether true or false, (N) is certainly not a trivial claim and it is consistent with holding the substantive metaphysical thesis of Nominalism. Unfortunately, (N) is a far cry from your original claim (EOC).

Thus, you can either hold on to a trivially false claim (EOC) or to a claim that is inconsistent with holding Nominalism (EOC*) or countenance (EOC**), which is consistent with holding Nominalism, but is inconsistent with your original claim.

Your choice!


Peter, I reply as before. Is the thesis that there are no such things as ghosts, a substantive thesis in the theory of ghosts? No. Because it is not a thesis about ghosts. Any thesis in the theory of ghosts is about ghosts. But the thesis that there are no ghosts is a substantive theory about the world. Namely, that the world contains no ghosts. So, not being a thesis about ghosts, it is not part of the theory of ghosts.

Analogously, the nominalist holds that there are no universals. His thesis is a substantive one, to be sure. But it is not part of the theory of universals. Rather, it is a substantive part of the theory of the world, that it contains no such things as ‘universals’.

EO,

You are not getting the bite of my objection.

Your meta-philosophical thesis about the non-existence of metaphysical theses is inconsistent with holding on to Nominalism, which is a metaphysical thesis.

>>EO, You are not getting the bite of my objection. Your meta-philosophical thesis about the non-existence of metaphysical theses is inconsistent with holding on to Nominalism, which is a metaphysical thesis

And you are not getting the bite of my reply. I deny that Nominalism is a metaphysical thesis. Any more than the claim that there are no ghosts, is part of the theory of ghosts.
Surely I don't need to explain this one more time?

OK I'll explain it one more time. You are clearly exercised by the idea that

(*) There are universals

is a metaphysical thesis. And I agree that it is. And for that reason you infer that its contradictory

(**) it is false that there are universals

is also a metaphysical thesis. Why? Prove this please. Why should the contradictory of a statement that is part of a theory of X also be part of a theory of X? You have given no evidence or argument whatsoever to support this. Furthermore, my counterexamples (theories of ghosts, UFOs, whatever) you have completely ignored. A theory of ghosts presupposes the existence of ghosts. Denial of the existence of ghosts clearly does not presuppose any such thing. Or if it does, please give a coherent argument.

EO,

So far as I can see you got two options only:

1) You hold on to a *robust* Nominalism which states that only particular (physical?) entities exist. That will offer a motivation for the negative thesis that there are no universals, since the former entails the later. However, robust Nominalism is a substantive metaphysical thesis and as such it is inconsistent with your meta-philosophical claim that there are no substantive metaphysical theses.

2) You hold on to your meta-philosophical claim that there are no substantive metaphysical thesis. But then you must give up on your robust Nominalism and maintain only a negative thesis: i.e., There are no Universals. Call this *thin* Nominalism. The problem with thin Nominalism is that it is completely unmotivated. e.g., what would be your answer to the following question: What justifies your claim that there are no universals? You cannot justify this claim based on robust Nominalism because you are not entitled to hold on to robust Nominalism while also maintaining your meta-philosophical position.

That in a nutshell is my argument. It has nothing to do with the old problem of how one can deny that ghosts exists without affirming their existence.

As far as Peter's inference goes, I don't see what the problem is. Theories that mediums and other cases of ostensible paranormal powers are really instances of heretofore undiscovered natural physical laws, or fraud, or whatever, would count as theories in parapsychology. Why shouldn't nominalism count as a metaphysical thesis?

In any case, this is just empty arguing about words until we get to the heart of what a metaphysical thesis is. To do this, we need to get clear on what metaphysics is. Metaphysics is the study of being qua being; a thesis to the effect that all beings are F sounds like a metaphysical thesis to me.

@Peter. Obviously I am defending a version of 'thin' nominalism. "The difficulties are verbal rather than real". Since the difficulties are not real, the difficulties are not interesting or substantive.

>> [...] There are no Universals. Call this *thin* Nominalism. The problem with thin Nominalism is that it is completely unmotivated. e.g., what would be your answer to the following question: What justifies your claim that there are no universals?

I turn this around. What justifies your claim that certain pieces of language name anything? Thin nominalism is merely the view that certain words do not name anything (and thus, nothing interesting or substantive).

The justification that certain terms are not names for anything is linguistic or logical. For example, in a passage of Ockham that I am translating at the moment, he argues that the linguistic distinction between abstract terms like 'humanity' and concrete terms like 'man' is linguistic only. Logically they function in a similar way, and 'supposit' only for individual men such as Socrates, Plato etc. But because the abstract term looks more like a proper name for something (a universal), those 'ignorant of logic' have filled up innumerable tomes of rubbish.

You may not like the argument. But if it is valid, it is clearly motivated, and not motivated by any 'metaphysical' thesis or idea. Motivated by logical and linguistic considerations only.

Steven: >>To do this, we need to get clear on what metaphysics is.

We taking as a working definition, the idea that metaphysics, if it is about anything, is about 'queer entities', and we are further narrowing down 'queer entity' to 'universal'.

>>Theories that mediums and other cases of ostensible paranormal powers are really instances of heretofore undiscovered natural physical laws, or fraud, or whatever, would count as theories in parapsychology.

Yes they would, and if these theories were true, they would be interesting and substantive. The question is whether the fact they are false (if they are false) is equally interesting and substantive. I would argue: probably not. If it turns out that a medium has been producing spectacular results by sleight of hand, or photography or some other trickery, that is not particularly interesting, but rather a banal triviality about human nature (namely, the propensity to commit fraud in order to achieve fame).

Peter - >>It has nothing to do with the old problem of how one can deny that ghosts exists without affirming their existence.

Of course not, and I never suggested that. The question is whether the contradictory of some 'interesting' or 'substantive' proposition is equally interesting as the proposition itself.

I would argue not. Suppose someone claims to have irrefutable evidence or proof of life after death. Now that would be really interesting. More interesting than any philosophy I have read, or mathematics. It would be the most interesting thing ever to have happened. But if it turns out that the apparently convincing evidence was merely an elaborate fraud, that would not be so interesting. Interesting for other reasons, also (the human angle, again).

So with nominalism. There is an analogy between trickery and sleight of hand and mediumistic fraud, and the sort of playground linguistic illusion that (if we Ockhamists are right) has led realists into beliefs about weird objects like sets, universals, accidental being and so on. If we can genuinely expose the trickery and illusion, we have not produced anything interesting at all - except perhaps a further proof of the propensity of humans to believe in the miraculous and supernatural. Linguistics and logic in themselves are, sadly, quite dull.

David sez: >>"Nothing is ever decided in philosophy." On the contrary, everything is decided.<<

That is very nice as an aphorism, and I may swipe it. But it equivocates on 'decided.' The first sentence is true if 'decided' means 'resolved in a manner to satisfy all competent practioners.' The second sentence is true if 'decided' means 'answered by some philosopher.'

"The difficulties are verbal rather than real" Would you accept the following as a statement of your position:

All philosophical problems are verbal rather than real. The problems arise due to some misuse of ordinary language. The solutions to the problems are as unreal as the problems. The solutions typically involve the positing of 'queer entities.' All of the following fall into this class: transcendent universals, immanent universals, mathematical sets, mereological sums, Fregean propositions, Fregean senses generally, Russellian propositions, facts, numbers, tropes, bare particulars, sense data, values as a species of ideal or abstract object, all abstract objects, quantifiers, operators, logical connectives (if these are ascribed any extralinguistic status), nonphysical particulars such as Cartesian minds, mental acts, dispositions, capacities, powers, potencies, potentialities, possible worlds, properties (if distinct from predicates), pure forms, materia prima, relations (whether as universals or as particulars if extralingusitic), times other than the present, . . . . and indeed everything except material particulars and bits of spoken or written language.

The way to dispense with these queer entities is by a method of paraphrase and translation. Thus 'Wisdom is a virtue' which appears to commit one to the existence of Wisdom is paraphrased as 'For any x, if x is a wise man,then x is a virtuous man.' (Not that this is a good paraphrase! Please supply a better one! You probably can't, nyah, nyah)

Of course, we Phoenician 'queers' (Bill, Peter, and Steven) do not deny that some problems are pseudo and treatable by paraphrase. For example, we don't think that 'Nothing is in the drawer' commits one to the existence of the queer entity Nothingness. We paraphrase by saying: It is not the case that there exists an x such that x is in the drawer.'

And of course we Phoenicians are not committed to saying that there are no unbearably queer entities.

EO,

(A) Let us take it a step at a time. We agree that you hold the following thesis:

(T1) Meta-Philosophical thesis: "there are no substantive metaphysical theses";

(B) You claim that you hold *thin* Nominalism. Now, in my previous post I defined *thin* Nominalism as follows:

(T2) *Thin* Nominalism: "There are no Universals."

Regarding this definition of *thin* Nominalism, I raised the following problem: “The problem with thin Nominalism is that it is completely unmotivated. e.g., what would be your answer to the following question: What justifies your claim that there are no universals?”

(C) To this problem you responded as follows:

“I turn this around. What justifies your claim that certain pieces of language name anything? Thin nominalism is merely the view that certain words do not name anything (and thus, nothing interesting or substantive)."

(D) There are several things wrong with the above answer.

First, you changed my definition of *thin* Nominalism as stated in (T2), without so noting. Fine! Let us presently go along with your definition:

(T3) *Thin* Nominalism: “certain words do not name anything (and thus, nothing interesting or substantive)”;

But (T3) as stated is trivially true and no one including myself denies it. Everyone agrees that there are *certain* words in our language that do not name anything: e.g., ‘or’. These words are called ‘syncategorematic’. So there is no dispute about this issue. Moreover, everyone agrees that while syncategorematic words do not name things, not all the words of a language are syncategorematic. So some words do refer to things: e.g., ‘chair’ refers to chairs and ‘London’ refers to the city of London. Are we to infer from the fact that ‘chair’ and ‘London’ are referential that chairs and the city of London exist? i.e., are we to infer from the fact that ‘chair’ and ‘London’ refer that they refer in a way that entails certain ontological commitments? Let us suppose so.

Second, In light of the fact that some terms of the language refer in a manner that entails ontological commitments whereas others do not entail such commitments or do not refer at all, two fundamental questions arise:

(Q1) Beyond the trivial instances (e.g., ‘or’) of syncategorematic terms, which other terms of a language refer in a way that entails ontological commitments and which do not?

(Q2) What are the considerations or criteria on the basis of which we decide how to draw the distinction between terms which refer in a way that entails ontological commitments and those which do not so refer or do not refer at all?

Although you exert quite an effort to avoid admitting so explicitly, I strongly suspect that your answer to (Q1) is this: Singular terms characteristically refer (with certain exceptions) in a way that entails ontological commitments to particulars, whereas general terms or predicates do not refer at all or at least they do not refer in a way that commits us to entities such as Universals. So if this is your real view, then let us make this explicit in the form of a new formulation of *thin* Nominalism:

(T4) *Thin* Nominalism: Singular terms characteristically refer (with certain exceptions) in a way that entails ontological commitments to particulars, whereas general terms or predicates do not refer at all or at least they do not refer in a way that commits us to entities such as Universals.

(E) It is at this point that I challenge you to answer question (Q2). In response you attempt to evade my challenge by turning the burden of proof on me. You say:

“I turn this around. What justifies your claim that certain pieces of language name anything?”

If you mean by this question to inquire as to my justification for the claim that some “pieces of language name”; i.e., have a referential function, then my answer is obvious and I have answered it in (D) above: but, of course, *some* words name some things. Does anyone deny this?

If, on the other hand, your question demands from me to justify the claim that specifically general terms or predicates name something, or have a referential function that entails ontological commitment to Universals, then my answer is: I made no such claim nor do I need to make this claim in the present debate. For it is you who holds (T4) which maintains that general terms or predicates do not refer or at least do not refer in a manner that entails ontological commitments, while simultaneously insisting upon holding (T1). I merely challenge you to explain how you can consistently hold the view that there are no substantive metaphysical theses (T1), while simultaneously maintaining some version of Nominalism (e.g., (T4)).

Given the nature of this debate, you are not in the position to shift the burden of proof on me. Presently I only have to maintain the minimal and trivial claim that *some* words in a language refer. But no one in their right mind denies this proposition. It is *you* who wants to go beyond this minimal claim and maintain a more robust thesis about which words refer, or refer in a manner that entails ontological commitments, and which do not so refer or do not refer at all. Therefore, you have the burden to justify this robust thesis, which is just a different way of saying that you are obligated to answer my (Q2).

Now, it is obvious to me why you have invested so much effort in avoiding the burden of answering question (Q2) and I have alluded to this reason before. In order to answer (Q2) you will have to abandon *thin* Nominalism and opt for a more robust version. But, of course, a robust form of Nominalism is a substantive metaphysical thesis and, therefore, it is incompatible with (T1). And why do I think that in order to answer (Q2) you will have to adopt a robust form of Nominalism? Well, I have already answered this question in my previous posts, but let me briefly repeat my reasoning.

How would you decide that a certain class of terms is referential in a way that entails ontological commitments, whereas other terms are not? Surely, you do not want to suggest that you draw this distinction by starring at a word or a class of words and somehow discern whether the term or class of terms is referential or not. Rather once the distinction between referential and non-referential function of words is recognized, and setting aside the trivial examples of syncategorematic terms such as ‘or’, we rely upon an antecedent theory about what exists in order to decide which terms serve a referential function and which do not. And this theory is a substantive metaphysical theory. You seem to want something out of nothing. I do not see how you can get it.

(F) But, even if we were to assume that certain words; i.e., general terms, do not have a referential function in a way that entails ontological commitments to Universals, it would not follow that Universals do not exist. For one thing, there may be evidence that supports the existence of Universals that has nothing to do with linguistic considerations such as whether general *terms* refer.

For instance, our perception that concrete things appear to share certain features may convince us that they must have something in common. We may then conclude that that which they have in common is that they instantiate the same universals.

Secondly, why should we believe even for one second that only those things exist for which we happen to have referential words in a language? Such a thesis would be absurd. Five hundred years ago no human language contained words for galaxies, genes, neurons, quarks, etc. If humanity would have been destroyed then or if humanity would have failed to make any scientific progress beyond what was achieved at that time, then no words for galaxies, genes, neurons, quarks, etc., would have been introduced into any human language. Would it be reasonable to infer that galaxies, genes, neurons, quarks, etc., do not exist merely because no human language contains suitable words that refer to these entities? The reasonable thing to say is exactly the opposite: words such as ‘galaxies’, ‘genes’, ‘neurons’, ‘quarks’, etc., were introduced into the language as referential words precisely because we believe that these sort of entities exist.


Peter - short version: you challenge me to answer (Q2) below, while upholding both the triviality thesis (T1) and some version of 'thin nominalism' (T4).

In particular, you want me to say how I decide that a certain class of terms is referential in a way that entails ontological commitments, whereas other terms are not. Is that correct?

It is party time here in London and I must go out shortly, and if I resume it must be next year (tomorrow). If you could confirm that this is the question, I will answer. Perhaps Bill could even oblige with a separate thread?

Meanwhile, here are the fabulous Black Eyed Peas http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JwQZQygg3Lk Happy New Year :)

------------------------------------------
(T1) Meta-Philosophical thesis: "there are no substantive metaphysical theses";

(T4) *Thin* Nominalism: Singular terms characteristically refer (with certain exceptions) in a way that entails ontological commitments to particulars, whereas general terms or predicates do not refer at all or at least they do not refer in a way that commits us to entities such as Universals.

(Q2) What are the considerations or criteria on the basis of which we decide how to draw the distinction between terms which refer in a way that entails ontological commitments and those which do not so refer or do not refer at all?
------------------------------------------

EO,

That is right! And happy new Year and have fun at the party. Do not countenance any Universals at your New Year Party!

Happy New Year. London fireworks were awesome http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xy_9bx6U8_0 .

As promised. I am not aiming to prove nominalism, nor to prove that there are no substantive metaphysical theses. I am simply aiming to prove that the thesis that there are no metaphysical entities is consistent with (some forms of) nominalism.

1. No purely semantic, logical or linguistic thesis is a metaphysical thesis.

2. (Thin nominalism) Every nominalist thesis about metaphysical entities is purely semantic, logical or linguistic

3. The claim that there are no substantive metaphysical theses is therefore consistent with nominalist theses concerning the (non) existence of a metaphysical entity

E.g. the claim that there are no universals. A universal (if there is such a thing) is a classic metaphysical entity. The classic nominalist disproof of universals involves only logic and semantics. The proof therefore does not involve any metaphysical thesis.

I imagine you will take issue with (2). But that is irrelevant. Even if (2) is false, it is still consistent with (1), which was to be proved.

Apologies. Hit return too soon. I should have said "I am simply aiming to prove that the thesis that there are no substantive metaphysical theses is consistent with (some forms of) nominalism.

EO,

As a general assessment, your latest post does not come even close to addressing the issues raised for following reasons:

(a) As Bill suspected, you define metaphysics narrowly and in a manner convenient for you to include only those conceptions that countenance entities other than particulars. The correct definition would be something along the following lines: Metaphysics is any philosophical conception that endorses the existence of certain types of entities. This will include Nominalism which endorses only the existence of particulars to the exclusion of all other entities, including universals.

(b) You have failed to answer (Q2);

(c) You say that your aim is to prove that your meta-philosophical thesis that there are no substantive metaphysical theses is consistent with "some form of" Nominalism. Which form? Your (2)? If so, then you need to address all my objections against this view in my last post and earlier as well as answer (Q2).

(d) "I imagine you will take issue with (2). But that is irrelevant. Even if (2) is false, it is still consistent with (1), which was to be proved."

Wrong! I do not take issue with (2) on account of its falsity. (2) sounds like a definition of *thin* Nominalism along the lines I have proposed in my earlier post. I take issue with (2) on account of its inconsistency with your (1). However, unless you answer (Q2) you have not addressed this claim.


EO sez "1. No purely semantic, logical or linguistic thesis is a metaphysical thesis."

I should think that the following would count as a linguistic thesis:

1. 'Snow is white' is a grammatically correct sentence of the English language.

Note that (1) is not about the pixels on the screen or certain marks on paper, but about a sentence-type. Note also that (1) makes reference to the English language, something not usefully thought of as a physical particular. Dropping the word 'metaphysical' which to 'Ockham' is like a red flag to a bull, let us say that this simple example suggests ontological commitment to entities that are not physical particulars. The one is a sentence-type, the other is the English language itself.

Queerness is going to have to come in somewhere if we are to make sense of this, if only the queerness of sets or mereological sums.

Even if it is true that no linguistic thesis is an ontological thesis, that is not to say that lingusitic theses do have ontological commitments. It will turn out that some of these commitments are to entities 'Ockham' will consider 'queer.'

The penultimate sentence should read: Even if it is true that no linguistic thesis is an ontological thesis, that is not to say that linguistic theses do NOT have ontological commitments.

>>The correct definition would be something along the following lines: Metaphysics is any philosophical conception that endorses the existence of certain types of entities other than particulars.

I don't agree with that definition, therefore don't agree with your assessment of nominalism which follows.

>> You haven't answered Q2 ("What are the considerations or criteria on the basis of which we decide how to draw the distinction between terms which refer in a way that entails ontological commitments and those which do not so refer or do not refer at all? ")

Well I don't see why I have to answer it, since what prompted this was the claim that my nominalism was inconsistent with my claim that there are no substantive metaphysical thesis. But I will answer it anyway. The question is badly phrased, since any term that refers automatically has 'ontological commitment'. It refers to *some thing* ergo to *some existing thing*.

To answer it: the relevant considerations or criteria are those whereby we distinguish between terms which may appear to refer to something, but which don't, and those which actually refer. Simple Carroll example: a realist may take

(*) I passed no one on the way

as implying the existence of someone called 'no one'. The consideration we use to persuade him otherwise involve logic and semantics. We explain (if we can, not always an easy task) the meaning of the expression 'no one', using logical and semantical considerations.

>>(c) You say that your aim is to prove that your meta-philosophical thesis that there are no substantive metaphysical theses is consistent with "some form of" Nominalism. Which form? Your (2)?

Correct.

>>If so, then you need to address all my objections against this view in my last post and earlier as well as answer (Q2).

Why? What were the objections?

>>I take issue with (2) on account of its inconsistency with your (1).

How is it inconsistent. Here they are again

1. No purely semantic, logical or linguistic thesis is a metaphysical thesis.
2. (Thin nominalism) Every nominalist thesis about metaphysical entities is purely semantic, logical or linguistic

Perhaps I should have put scare quotes around 'metaphysical entities'. Was that your point.

Bill - >>simple example suggests ontological commitment to entities that are not physical particulars.

As I have said, I am not committed to this form of Nominalism. I am committed to pure London nominalism as laid out in Ockham's Summa Logicae (written in London). This firmly expresses the view that 'metaphysics' is a confusion in those who know no logic, and who imagine that terms which do not in fact have a reference, have a reference (to 'queer' entities).

You can find the same doctrine in almost any part of any work by C.J.F. Williams.

>>Even if it is true that no linguistic thesis is an ontological thesis, that is not to say that linguistic theses do NOT have ontological commitments.

Linguistic theses do of course have 'ontological commitments'. I.e. they refer to things. But we are talking about 'metaphysical theses' here. These have commitment to entities which the thin nominalist calls 'queer'. I.e. the commitment arises from wrongly imagining a term to have a reference, when it does not.

Putting it another way: a 'queer' or 'metaphysical' entity is anything that is wrongly supposed, on bad logical grounds alone, to be the referent of a non-referring term.

I will put myself forward as the man on the street (=not trained in philosophy) who has thought about time. Putting the metaphilosophical debate to one side I suggest there are two questions here that we could usefully examine. It turns out that both questions are primarily logical.

Q1. Should the scope of the existential quantifier be restricted to terms referring to presently existing things? For it seems that the reason that the anti-presentist, as characterised here by Bill, wants to grant no longer extant things some kind of ghostly existence is in order to get them under the scope of the existential quantifier.

Q2. What restrictions are to be placed on logical relations? For if no longer existing things cannot be related to extant things, say, that too forms a reason for wanting to grant them a ghostly existence.

My answers:

A1. No. If we want to talk about the past then from 'Caesar crossed the Rubicon' we will surely want to infer 'for some x, x crossed the Rubicon'. Hence Caesar, and objects that once existed but perhaps now do not must fall under the scope of the 'for some' quantifier.

A2. None. We should allow that relations hold between objects that are or were.

Can it be shown that these relaxations lead to contradiction?

Earlier, regarding the 'grandfather of' relation Bill asked me How can the relational fact which serves as truthmaker exist when one of the relata does not exist? I confess I don't understand what a truthmaker is. And I'd have to take talk of certain facts existing as elliptical for certain sentences being true. And it's a bit easier for me if I consider 'grandmother of' . I'd say that we use the form of words 'x is/was the grandmother of z' when we recognise an instance of a certain pattern in time. That pattern can be described as follows: for some y and some times t1 and t2, x gave birth to y at t1 and y gave birth to z at t2. If x is still extant we tend to say 'x is...' else we say 'x was...'.

I dare say this is open to objections. Please be unsparing.

David,

As regards your two questions, I would point out that the anti-presentist would protest your imputation to him of the view that past items have a "ghostly kind of existence." He is surely not saying that present and past existence are of two different kinds or that the past kind is ghostly. Existence is existence: it does not come in kinds. He would explain himself using a spatial analogy. There is a difference between the spatially present and the spatially distant. But the spatially distant is just as existent as the spatially present. The interior of the sun is just as real as the interior of my study. Similarly, past actualia are just as real as present actualia.

More later.

EO,

1) “The question is badly phrased, since any term that refers automatically has 'ontological commitment'. It refers to *some thing* ergo to *some existing thing*.”

Not so! My (Q2) was phrased as follows: “What are the considerations or criteria on the basis of which we decide how to draw the distinction between terms which refer in a way that entails ontological commitments and those which do not so refer or do not refer at all?”

The second conjunct is a disjunction that encompasses two types of cases: i.e., cases where terms do not refer in a manner that entails ontological commitments and cases that do not refer at all. Moreover, the former include cases of terms that refer and, hence, do entail ontological commitments, but the nature of the entities to which commitment is entailed is in dispute. Examples forthcoming. The later is a subset of terms that belongs to a category of terms the members of which typically refer, yet it is disputed that this particular subset of terms refers at all.

1.1) Examples of the former:

(a) Consider the expression ‘this house’. Clearly, it is a referring expression: it refers to a particular house. Does it follow that houses exist as fundamental entities? Not necessarily. van Inwagen, for one, denies that houses exist as fundamental entities. Is he right or wrong? Could you point out how one would decide this issue based merely on logical considerations and without the aid of any other assumptions?
(b) Consider the following expression: “this rock”. Clearly “this rock” is a referring expression and everyone would agree. Does it entail ontological commitments? Well, perhaps. But to what sort of entities? Idealists maintain that it refers to a bundle of properties, whereas realists maintain that it refers to a particular which is a physical thing. Thus, even when there is agreement that a certain kind of term refers, the question to what sort of entities it refers still needs to be resolved.
(c) Consider: “All of John’s beliefs are false.” Clearly, this sentence involves quantification over John’s beliefs. So there is no question that the term ‘belief’ is referential. The question now is whether ‘belief’ refers to mental entities that are fundamentally distinct from physical entities (Dualism) or whether such terms refer to physical entities (Materialism). Only eliminative-materialists maintain that such terms fail to refer and they maintain this NOT on purely logical grounds (see Churchland’s arguments).

1.2) Examples of the later:
(d) Consider the debate about “theoretical entities”. Both instrumentalists and realists agree that theoretical terms such as ‘electron’, ‘quark’, ‘gene’, etc., belong to a set of terms that typically refer. Nevertheless, instrumentalists deny that theoretical entities exist and, therefore, they deny that these terms feature a referential function within theories. Yet the motivation for their view is based on Epistemological considerations, NOT purely logical ones.

2) You finally offer an answer to (Q2), albeit a totally inadequate one: “To answer it (i.e., (Q2): the relevant considerations or criteria are those whereby we distinguish between terms which may appear to refer to something, but which don't, and those which actually refer.” (see (1) above for a full statement of (Q2)).

2.1) Your answer is inadequate for the following reason. My (Q2) asks you to supply the criteria on the basis of which we distinguish between two kinds of cases:

Case (a): terms which refer in a way that entails ontological commitments;
Case (b): terms which do not so refer or do not refer at all.

2.2) Your answer: the “…criteria are *those* whereby we distinguish between terms which may appear to refer to something, but which don’t, and those which actually refer.” (My emphasis)

Yes! And what are *those* criteria exactly? Once again you avoid supplying the criteria. Instead, you humor us with an example (*) from Carroll. Unlike real cases such as the ones I offered above (i.e., (a)-(d)), your example is trivial and fails to involve any real issues. We all know that ‘no one’ is not a referential term, but rather it is a quantified expression. (OF course, it took Frege to work out precisely how this is so.) Anyone who thinks otherwise is confused. Good! So now show me how you replicate this simple lesson in the cases that really matter.

2.3) e.g.,

(**) The set of all and only bachelors is smaller than the set of all and only married men.

This sentence includes references to two sets: i.e., the set of all and only bachelors and the set of all and only married men. So it appears to entail a commitment to sets. Are there sets? Not according to you. Why? Your answer appears to be this: expressions of the form ‘the set of ….’ are not referential, even though they appear to be. Ok! So what are the criteria on the basis of which you determine that these expressions are not referential? So far, you have been avoiding a straight answer to this question like the plaque. Why? I have stated my suspicions in my last post.

3) Let us now examine the two theses you seem to hold:

“1. No purely semantic, logical or linguistic thesis is a metaphysical thesis.
2. (Thin nominalism) Every nominalist thesis about metaphysical entities is purely semantic, logical or linguistic.”

3.1) Both of these theses are replete with notions that require clarification:

(i) What is a “purely” semantic, logical, or linguistic thesis? How do we distinguish between *pure* vs. *impure* semantic, logical, or linguistic theses or theories? For instance, is Frege’s semantic theory “pure”? Is Russell’s theory of types “pure”? Is second order logic a *pure* logical system or an *impure* one? Second order logic quantifies over properties (or sets if you construe properties as sets). Is a logic that quantifies over sets a *pure* logic or *impure* one? How do we decide? What are the criteria that determine this difference? Is first-order logic which quantifies only over individuals *pure*? Why? Is modal logic which quantifies over possible worlds *pure* or *impure* logical system? If the later, then what is the basis on which we render it so?

(ii) Your thesis (2) about Thin Nominalism states something general about “every nominalist thesis about metaphysical entities”. Hence, Thin Nominalism and Nominalism are different. What is Nominalism? In particular, what entities, if any, does Nominalism countenance? Only particular entities? If Nominalism countenances only particulars, then (2) means that the thesis that there are only particulars is a *purely* semantic, logical, or linguistic thesis. Which pure semantic, logical or linguistic thesis you have in mind? And what does it mean to say that such theses are *pure*? What are the criteria ….?

3.2) In response to Bill, you state your penultimate “London Nominalism” position:

“As I have said, I am not committed to this form of Nominalism. I am committed to pure London nominalism as laid out in Ockham's Summa Logicae (written in London). This firmly expresses the view that 'metaphysics' is a confusion in those who know no logic, and who imagine that terms which do not in fact have a reference, have a reference (to 'queer' entities).”

Is “London Nominalism” your Nominalism? If so, then two points need to be made. First, the above statement is not a view, a position, or a thesis about Nominalism or anything else of substance. It is simply charging your opponents as “logically ignorant”. Such a charge needs to be proven or supported by arguments. You have not done so even in one case of a metaphysical view that you allege involves some type of logical confusion.

Second, the above statement suggests that “London Nominalism” is just “Thin Nominalism”. Then what is (2) about? (2) appears to say something about “every nominalist thesis about metaphysical entities.” But which nominalist thesis? What is the content of this thesis?

3.3) Your theses (1) and (2) lack any content unless you answer the questions posed above and in earlier posts. Yet thus far you have been avoiding direct and clear answers, just like you refuse to answer queries about the criterion you presuppose in order to distinguish “queer” from “kosher” entities. Surely, you do not want to suggest that your criterion is that the former are entities that EO does not like, and the later are the ones EO likes.

4) Unless the above issues and others raised by Bill are addressed and addressed with direct and clear answers, there is no way we can make any progress whatsoever on this or any other issue. We are simply going in circles entangled in verbal distinctions without clear differences and in theses that emit very loud howls, but upon careful examination have no bite, since they don’t seem to have clear content. This is at least how I feel about this round of exchanges.

Peter,

A long comment of yours, and not much time to reply. Let me try.

>>Not so! My (Q2) was phrased as follows: “What are the considerations or criteria on the basis of which we decide how to draw the distinction between terms which refer in a way that entails ontological commitments and those which do not so refer or do not refer at all?”

Perhaps I am being pedantic, but I don't understand how a term could refer without having 'ontological commitment'. 'Refer' has a precise usage, such that if 'a' is a referring term then

Fa or ~Fa implies for some x Fx

Thus 'a' must have ontological commitment.

>>So now show me how you replicate this simple lesson [Lewis Carroll] in the cases that really matter.

To repeat what I said above: "As promised. I am not aiming to prove nominalism, nor to prove that there are no substantive metaphysical theses. I am simply aiming to prove that the thesis that there are no metaphysical entities is consistent with (some forms of) nominalism."

I am happy to take this further, but the definitions I gave were adequate to prove this thesis, for nominalism as defined, and for 'metaphysical thesis' as defined. I define nominalism as the activity of spotting terms which have confused people into thinking they have a singular reference, but don't, and which can be shown not to have a singular reference on logico-semantic grounds.

>>This sentence includes references to two sets: i.e., the set of all and only bachelors and the set of all and only married men. So it appears to entail a commitment to sets. Are there sets? Not according to you.

Correct, but the requirement for me to demonstrate this goes beyond the original requirement.

>>Your answer appears to be this: expressions of the form ‘the set of ….’ are not referential, even though they appear to be. Ok! So what are the criteria on the basis of which you determine that these expressions are not referential?

Semantic or linguistic or logical ones. We have discussed 'sets' in earlier threads, and they are a perfect example. In ordinary usage, the word 'set' is comparable to the word 'pair', as in 'a pair of F's'. We can easily shows, by purely semantic considerations, that this has a commitment to no more than two entities. I.e. 'a pair of shoes' means 'two shoes', 'a dozen eggs' means '12 eggs' and so on. By merely analysing meaning, we avoid 'ontological commitment to a 3rd of 13th thing.

>>What is a “purely” semantic, logical, or linguistic thesis?

One we can resolve by sitting in an armchair, without using observation or empirical data.

>>Is “London Nominalism” your Nominalism?

It is Ockham's nominalism, as I said earlier (I am currently translating parts of the Summa). He holds that we must not multiply entities according to the multiplicity of terms.

>>You have not done so even in one case of a metaphysical view that you allege involves some type of logical confusion.

Not required. Happy to go deeper into this, if Bill can be persuaded to make a separate thread (do you want to make a guest post?).

>>Your theses (1) and (2) lack any content unless you answer the questions posed above and in earlier posts.

As I said, these questions go beyond what was originally required. I said earlier "I am not aiming to prove nominalism, nor to prove that there are no substantive metaphysical theses. I am simply aiming to prove that the thesis that there are no metaphysical entities is consistent with (some forms of) nominalism."

This can easily be done by defining Nominalism, and by defining 'metaphysical entities' in a way that is close to Ockham's original usage. We define 'metaphysical entity' as the purported referent of a term which in fact has no referent. And we define the procedure for deciding whether there is a referent in very general terms: a procedure that involves wholly linguistic, semantic or logical criteria.

>>Yet thus far you have been avoiding direct and clear answers

I haven't meant to! And I deny the answers were not direct or clear. They were not detailed. But a more detailed answer would involve justifying the whole nominalist project, which requires more space than we have here, and at the very least needs a separate thread. If you would like to ask Bill for a guest post, I am happy to oblige with more detail.

Erratum: I have perpetrated the same typo. I should have said "As promised. I am not aiming to prove nominalism, nor to prove that there are no substantive metaphysical theses. I am simply aiming to prove that the thesis that there are no substantive metaphysical theses is consistent with (some forms of) nominalism."

Surely it is clear I have done this? Whether nominalism is correct, and whether the decision criterion for establishing a nominalist claim is coherent, is a separate question. My point is simply that we can define 'nominalism', 'metaphysical thesis' in such a way that we can claim, uphold both nominalism and the thesis that there are no substantive metaphysical theses. Moreover, these definitions are close to the way that Ockham, the first systematic nominalist, would have liked.

David writes, >>A1. No. If we want to talk about the past then from 'Caesar crossed the Rubicon' we will surely want to infer 'for some x, x crossed the Rubicon'. Hence Caesar, and objects that once existed but perhaps now do not must fall under the scope of the 'for some' quantifier.<<

Everyone will grant that, necessarily, if 'Caesar crossed the Rubicon' is true, then 'Someone crossed the Rubicon' is also true. But the question concerns 'Caesar crossed the Rubicon.' If no longer existing individuals do not exist at all -- as the presentist says -- then it is difficult to understand how anything could be true of them.

Thanks, Bill, but I'm now more confused than ever. You say the anti-presentist agrees that Dean does not exist now. You then say that while the presentist will say that he does not exist at all, the anti-presentist will say that he does exist, though not at present.  Now, we can say 'Socrates runs, but not at present', and this makes sense. Socrates's running is 'gappy'. The set of instants at which Socrates is running is a union of at least two disjoint intervals. But existence is not like that. The set of moments at which something exists is at most a single interval---it doesn't get a second bite at the cherry of existing. So I can't see how the anti-presentist can be using the verb 'exist' in the usual way. If he is then he contradicts himself. My suggestion is that he is equivocating between the presentist's meaning and a second meaning in which to say Socrates exists is to say Socrates is in some domain of logical quantification.

I have just read through the Ned Markosian paper you referred us to in the more recent post. He divides things into the present and the non-present (by implication, everyone agrees what these are). He says that presentist and non-presentist define the 'existing things' as the things on 'the list of all things that our most unrestricted quantifiers range over'. The dispute is as to whether non-present as well as present things are on the list. But this surely gets off on the wrong foot. We need to tease apart logical quantification domains from ontology, rather than conflate them, as Markosian does. For how on earth do we discover the list of things that our most unrestricted quantifiers range over? Don't we rather choose this before embarking on any logical analysis?

Bill,
You say 'If no longer existing individuals do not exist at all -- as the presentist says -- then it is difficult to understand how anything could be true of them.'

Why so? Surely true statements were made from a point of view co-present with Caesar: 'Caesar is crossing the Rubicon', say. We transform this into a true statement from our point of view now by a change of tense to 'Caesar crossed the Rubicon'.

Re the anti-presentist's geometrical analogy, Would it not be better to say that past actualia were just as real as present actualia?

David,

Here is a little argument:
1. To exist = to be actual
2. The actual comprises both past and present items.
Therefore
3. Past items (tenselessly) exist.

>>The set of moments at which something exists is at most a single interval---it doesn't get a second bite at the cherry of existing. So I can't see how the anti-presentist can be using the verb 'exist' in the usual way.<<

I believe Locke says something like this. Nothing has two beginnings of existence. A thing that ceases to exist cannot begin existing again. Assuming that that is true, I don't see the connection with anti-presentism.

Everyone agrees that 'x no longer exists' is to be analyzed as 'x existed & x does not exist now.' But consider this question: from 'x no longer exists' can one validly infer 'x does not exist at all'? The presentist says yes, the anti-presentist no.

Wonder,

Does the presentist maintain that Yesterday-Me went out of existence and Today-Me came into being instead? Or does he accept that Yesterday-Me is the same as Today-Me? i.e., that there is a continuity of me from the past to the present. But since the past does not exist, then how would the presentist give identity conditions so that Yesterday-Me is the same person as Today-Me?

I think this problem goes beyond the well-known problem of personal identity.

Bill >>But consider this question: from 'x no longer exists' can one validly infer 'x does not exist at all'? The presentist says yes, the anti-presentist no.

I don't really understand the meaning of "exist at all". What is the significance of 'at all'? I've searched this thread for the meaning but it's not clear. Do you mean 'doesn't exist even in the tenseless sense of "exist"'?

Bill,

Surely if we can speak of the past actual and the present actual then we can speak of the past extant (the extinct?) and the present extant. The dead and the quick.

'x no longer breathes' implies 'x no longer breathes at all'; 'x no longer eats' implies 'x no longer eats at all'? Well, possibly not, because there is a fuzzy boundary between breathing/not breathing and eating/not eating and 'at all' acts as emphasis---meaning not even the tiniest bit. Likewise, entering and leaving existence are processes in time with no sharp dividing lines. So we can attach some significance to 'at all', but I doubt it's the one intended here.

Peter,

I suppose the presentist could say this: You exist today, you existed yesterday. The identity relation holds because relations can hold between existents and nonexistents.

The question for you Londoners is whether you can attach any definite non-tautological meaning to the proposition that only what is temporally present exists.

For the anti-presentist, what no longer exists has not been utterly annihilated by the passage of time. For the presentist, it has been.

Peter >> Does the presentist maintain that Yesterday-Me went out of existence and Today-Me came into being instead?

I discussed the ‘Yesterday-me’ and ‘today-me’ thing here http://ocham.blogspot.com/2010/08/bikes-now-and-then.html . Do we express the identity that way? Or do we say something like ‘yesterday I was at home’ and ‘today I was at work’ – understanding that these imply ‘for some x, x was at home and now x is at work’? Then we aren’t committed to the absurdity of a relation between a non-existent and existent thing.
Bill >> I suppose the presentist could say this: You exist today, you existed yesterday. The identity relation holds because relations can hold between existents and nonexistents.
How? Given that the relation is one of identity, how can an existing thing be identical with a non-existent thing? If the identity between x and y is true, then for some x, for some y etcetera. There must be an x, there must be a y. And so there is: the x was (past tense) at home, the y is (present tense) at work. As soon as we try to construct a ‘yesterday me’, which exists simpliciter but not ut nunc, we are in the world of the ‘queer entity’. To explain the change of time, we have to suppose that ‘yesterday me’ has ceased to exist in the qualified sense, but not simpliciter. The Ockhamist simply points this out that this convoluted language, with apparent commitment to weird things, expresses no more than a much simpler and natural sentence, with no commitment to weirdness. In this case, a combination of semantics with a dash of common-sense.

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