Dividing Reality
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Dividing Reality

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Description

Why does our language divide up reality one way rather than another? On what rational basis does our language contain certain kinds of general words rather than others? Hirsch shows that a language can be constructed which describes reality in ways we would find absurdly irrational, for example by classifying normally disparate items under the same general term. The apparent irrationality of the new language does not depend on its impoverished fact-stating power, as this may be equivalent to the fact-stating power of ordinary language; the problem then is to explain exactly what is wrong with it. Various options are explored and criticized, such as the hypothesis that language must reflect an underlying objective distinction between 'natural' kinds; that there are pragmatic reasons for the way language functions as it does; and that, as a matter of 'metaphysical necessity,' strange ways of dividing up reality are constructions out of ordinary ways. Having demonstrated that this newly identified problem is in fact a serious one which cannot be easily solved or brushed aside, Hirsch offers his own suggestions for a possible solution.show more

Product details

  • Hardback | 262 pages
  • 162.1 x 237.7 x 21.8mm | 603.29g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • New.
  • line figures
  • 0195057546
  • 9780195057546

Back cover copy

The central question in this book is why it seems reasonable for the words of our language to divide up the world in one way rather than another, or what the rational basis is for our language to contain certain kinds of general words rather than others. Terming this query the division problem, Dividing Reality aims to bring it into sharp focus, to distinguish it from various related problems, and to consider the best prospects for solving it. In exploring various possible responses to the division problem, Eli Hirsch examines a series of "division principles" which purport to express rational constraints on how our words ought to classify and individuate. The ensuing discussion deals with a wide range of metaphysical and epistemological topics, including projectibility and similarity, alternative analyses of natural properties and things, the inscrutability of reference, and the relevance of such pragmatic notions as salience and economy. The final chapters of the book develop what Hirsch contends is the most promising response to the division problem: a theory in which constraints on classification and individuation are seen to derive from the necessary structure of "fine-grained" propositions and the necessary dependence of some concepts on others. Formulating in clear terms a fundamental problem which has not been properly isolated or seriously addressed previously, this book is of key interest to metaphysicians, philosophers of language, and cognitive psychologists.show more

Review quote

Important and challenging, and covers much territory.... Hirsch leads us through the heart of metaphysics, [leaving] his special mark on all the topics he touches. I'd put it on the Metaphysician's Must Read list. * Philosophy and Phenomenological Research *show more

Rating details

4 ratings
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