Ontology Made Easy

Ontology Made Easy

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In the decades following Quine, debates about existence have taken center stage in the metaphysics. But neo-Quinean ontology has reached a crisis point, given the endless proliferation of positions and lack of any clear idea of how to resolve debates. The most prominent challenge to mainstream ontological debates has come from the idea that disputants can be seen as using the quantifier with different meanings, leaving the dispute merely verbal. Nearly all of the
work in defense of hard ontology has gone into arguing against quantifier variance.

This volume argues that hard ontology faces an entirely different challenge, which remains even if the threat of quantifier variance can be avoided. The challenge comes from the 'easy approach to ontology': a view that is arguably the heir to Carnap's own position. The idea of the easy approach is that many ontological questions can be answered by undertaking trivial inferences from uncontroversial premises, making prolonged disputes about the questions out of place. This book aims to develop
the easy approach to ontology, showing how it leads to both a first-order simple realism about the disputed entities and a form of meta-ontological deflationism that takes ontological disputes themselves to be misguided, since existence questions may be answered by straightforward conceptual and/or
empirical work. It also aims to defend the easy approach against a range of arguments wielded against it and to show it to be a viable and attractive alternative to the quagmire of hard ontology.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 360 pages
  • 148 x 214 x 30mm | 494g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • 0199385114
  • 9780199385119
  • 1,099,020

Table of contents

Introduction: The Forgotten Easy Approach ; 1. The historical back story ; 2. The rise of neo-Quineanism ; 3. The easy approach to ontology: a preliminary sketch ; 4. The plan of this book ; Part 1: Developing Easy Ontology ; 1) Whatever Happened to Carnapian Deflationism? ; 1. Carnap's approach to existence questions ; 2. Quine and the ascendency of ontology ; 3. Putnam takes deflationism on an unfortunate turn ; 4. 'Exists' as a formal notion: a brief history ; 5. Is Carnap committed to quantifier variance? ; 6. Conclusion ; 2) The Unbearable Lightness of Existence ; 1. A core rule of use for 'exists' ; 2. What are application conditions? ; 3. Do application conditions for 'K' include that Ks exist? ; 4. Answering existence questions easily ; 5. Against substantive criteria of existence ; 6. Lines of reply ; 3) Easy Ontology and its Consequences ; 1. Using trivial inferences to answer existence questions ; 2. Three forms of easy ontology ; 3. First result: simple realism ; 4. Second result: Meta-ontological deflationism ; 4) Other ways of being Suspicious ; 1. Denying that ontological disputes are genuine disputes ; 2. Denying that we can know the answers ; 3. Denying that there are answers to know ; 4. Understanding hard ontology ; 5) Fictionalism versus Deflationism ; 1. Motives for fictionalism ; 2. The fictionalist's case against easy arguments ; 3. A problem for the fictionalist's analogy ; 4. How the fictionalist incurs a debt ; 5. A reply for the fictionalist ; 6. The deflationary alternative ; 7. Conclusion ; Part II: Defending Easy Ontology ; 6) "Easy arguments give us problematic ontological commitments" ; 1. Unwanted ontological commitments? ; 2. Why easy arguments require no magic ; 3. Do we get the objects we wanted? ; 4. Conclusion ; 7) "Easy arguments rely on the questionable idea of conceptual truths" ; 1. Why easy ontology needs conceptual truths ; 2. Williamson's attack on epistemic analyticity ; 3. How easy inferences survive ; 4. Caveats and conclusions ; 8) "Easy arguments rely on principles that keep bad company" ; 1. The bad company challenge for the easy approach ; 2. Avoiding bad company ; 3. The limited impact of bad company objections ; 9) "The conclusions of easy arguments don't answer ontological questions" ; 1. Hofweber's solution to the puzzle about ontology ; 2. Focus and ontology ; 3. Ways to read the quantifier ; 10) "Hard ontological questions can be revived in Ontologese" ; 1. Existence questions in Ontologese ; 2. Just more metaphysics? ; 3. Avoiding the joint-carving quantifier ; 4. Problematizing the joint-carving quantifier ; Conclusion: The Importance of Not Being Earnest ; 1. The empirical, conceptual, and pragmatic case for deflationism ; 2. Metaphysics in a new key?
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Review quote

Ontology Made Easy is an original and thought-provoking book, which will probably appeal to all those philosophers who, like the author of these lines, for a long time have been looking for a more modest and fruitful way of doing analytic ontology. * Luc Schneider (Saarland University), Dialectica * The book's chief virtue lies in how methodically and artfully it collates and re-evaluates the criticisms that have kept easy approaches to ontology at bay for the past fifty years. Thomasson ingeniously defends the view against a variety of challenges, including the charge that the approach is implicitly circular in its reasoning and the accusation that easy approaches to ontology render the question of what exists implausibly dependent on human activity. * Tom Graham, The Times Literary Supplement * Ontology Made Easy has many virtues. It is thoroughly conversant with the best and most influential current work in ontology, and Thomasson situates her positions and arguments within cutting-edge work very well. Thomassonas writing is admirably clear and uncluttered. And her arguments and positions are consistently very sensible: Thomasson consistently avoids overly subtle technical distinctions or recondite formalism, whenever a more natural and
intuitive way of expressing a point is available. So, if you wonder whether "Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology" could withstand the scrutiny of modern-day metaphysicians, you should read Thomassonas book. * Greg Frost-Arnold, Metascience * This important book offers an interpretation and defence of the neo-Carnapian deflationist view of ontology - a view which, as Thomasson persuasively argues, has been widely misunderstood. It fills a significant gap in the literature, and does so with Thomasson's characteristic thoroughness, insight and clarity. * Huw Price, Bertrand Russell Professor of Philosophy, Cambridge * Amie Thomasson's book, Ontology Made Easy, is a beautifully written defense of one of the most influential and most often discussed positions in contemporary metaphysics-her own deflationary take on existence propositions. This book also casts a new light on the debate between Quine and Carnap, a debate that has informed much of contemporary metaphysics, and defends her minimalist view against objections. It will be widely discussed in the years to come. * Comments from the selection committee chair of the APA's 2017 Sanders Book Prize *
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About Amie Thomasson

Amie Thomasson is Professor of Philosophy and Cooper Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Miami. She is the author of Ordinary Objects and Fiction and Metaphysics, and co-editor (with David W. Smith) of Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind. In addition, she has published more than 50 book chapters and articles on topics in metaphysics, metaontology, fiction, philosophy of mind and phenomenology, the
philosophy of art, and social ontology.
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