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LINGUISTIX&LOGIK, Tony Marmo's blog
Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds


By Richard Vallée

Negative properties, like not flying, are controversial. I introduce negative properties, and offer semantic arguments against the inclusion of such properties in ontology. I distinguish predicate negation and sentential negation, and examine the syntactic and semantic behaviour of predicate negation. I contend that predicate negation is identical with sentential negation. If it is not, then we lose a lot of intuitive inferences found in natural languages and make no clear metaphysical gain. Other arguments based on Ockham's razor are offered. Finally, I address the problem raised by words like ‘immortal'. These words apparently express negative properties. My views have interesting consequences on the ontological scope of these words.

Key-words: Metaphysics. Properties. Negation. Semantics. Logic.

Published in Manuscrito Volume 27, #2, 2004

Posted by Tony Marmo at 17:12 BST
Updated: Wednesday, 21 March 2007 17:30 BST
Saturday, 11 November 2006

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds

Essence and Modality

By Edward N. Zalta

Recently, K. Fine raised counterexamples to the the traditional definition of essential property in terms of modality. On the traditional definition, ‘property F is essential to object x' is defined in terms of the modal claim ‘necessarily, if x exists, then x is F'. The definiens, it is argued, is not a sufficient condition for the definiendum. One counterexample, which assumes modal set theory, is that (a) necessarily, if Socrates exists, then he has the property being a member of {Socrates}, but (b) the property being a member of {Socrates} is not essential to Socrates. Another counterexample (which assumes the existence of an object not identical to Socrates (e.g., the Eiffel Tower). Fine suggests that (a) necessarily, if Socrates exists, then he has the property of being distinct from the Eiffel Tower, but (b) the property being distinct from the Eiffel Tower is not essential to Socrates, since "nothing in Socrates' nature connects him in any special way to the Eiffel Tower".

In this paper, I analyze the relationship between essence and modality and reconsider the above counterexamples in light of the logic and theory of abstract objects. This axiomatic theory offers a foundational metaphysics and yields a clear analysis of the nature of abstract objects in general and mathematical objects such as {Socrates}. The theory is consistent with our intuitions about what ordinary objects there are, and the underlying logic offers a new understanding of the properties essential to ordinary objects. The analysis of mathematical and other abstract objects offers a more refined view of their essential properties than that offered by modal set theory.

In the paper,, the claim ‘x has F necessarily' becomes ambiguous in its application to abstract objects. In the case of ordinary objects, the definition of ‘F is essential to x' be reconstructed in several ways. The conclusion is that the traditional definition of essential property for abstract objects in terms of modal notions is not correct, but not because of Fine's first counterexample. Moreover, in the case of ordinary objects, the relationship between essential properties and modality, once properly understood, can handle the second counterexample.

Published in Mind, Volume 115/Issue 459 (July 2006): 659-693


Posted by Tony Marmo at 03:01 GMT
Thursday, 25 May 2006

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds

Eventism and Pointism

By Zdzislaw Augustynek

The domain of contemporary physics consists of two different classes of objects:
a) physical objects ? point events (shortly ? events), elementary particles (and their aggregates), and fields;
b) spatio-temporal objects ? space-time points (shortly ? points), moments, space points, and their corresponding sets: space-time, time and physical space.

If objects of some kind (physical or spatio-temporal) are treated as individuals, i.e. nonsets, then it is possible to define the remaining kinds of objects from both above-mentioned classes. In this way one can construct two alternative monistic ontologies of physics: eventism founded on events, and pointism founded on points. It is also possible to establish a dualistic ontology of physics, based both on events and points treated as individuals.
In this paper these three ontologies are presented with particular emphasis on some extreme versions of monistic ontologies. I shall compare them considering both their respective advantages and difficulties and trying to justify my own choice of eventistic ontology.

Source: Logic and Logical Philosophy, No. 1, 1993, pp. 169

Posted by Tony Marmo at 17:19 BST
Updated: Thursday, 25 May 2006 17:22 BST
Friday, 26 August 2005

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds
The paper below is interesting though, it has no abstract (that I could find) and was not signed by anyone. I presumed that the owner of the site is the one who wrote it, hence put his name on it. Please, correct me if my guess was wrong.


By B. Sidney Smith

Once intuitions are acknowledged as having evidential weight, there is hope of showing that universals exist and settling their modal status. Some philosophers take a direct approach. For example, from the intuition that humility is a virtue (Armstrong 1978), or the intuition that some things have a property in common (Lewis 1983), these philosophers infer directly that universals exist. But sophisticated nominalists are unimpressed, for this direct approach disregards coherent nonrealist interpretations of the language used to report these intuitions. For example, mathematical sentences with apparent commitment to abstract entities have been interpreted as disguised intensional-operator or adverbial sentences having no such commitment. So-called modal interpretations of mathematics fall into this family. Fictionalism inspires another kind of nonrealist approach. On this approach, an atomic sentence (e.g., ‘Apollo is a Greek god’) can be taken as true even though a singular term occurring within it is genuinely vacuous and has no ontological commitment. What makes the sentence true is that it is suitably “backed by” the beliefs and/or discourse of the speakers. Then, of course, there are non-objectual treatments of quantifiers, notably, various substitutional treatments (pronominal, proverbal, prosentential). If any such variety of nonrealist interpretation is acceptable, then intuitions reported within the associated idioms would lose their apparent ontological commitment to universals.
The prospect of such nonrealist interpretations have rendered the direct intuitive arguments for mathematical objects unpersuasive. If this is so in philosophy of mathematics, surely analogous non-realist moves could be made in metaphysics against universals. In view of this, I believe that the most promising way to establish the existence and modal status of universals is by means of a modal argument which focuses on the behavior of intensional abstracts—’that’-clauses and gerunds—in modal contexts. (For now I will assume that Meinongianism is mistaken; I will return to that topic in the final section.)

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 BST
Updated: Friday, 26 August 2005 02:13 BST
Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds
A paper by Allan Hazlett that I find intriguing:

Two Arguments in Defence of Impossible Worlds

I give two reasons to adopt etsatz impossible worlds as useful members of our ontology. The first is that such worlds are useful for accounting for truth in impossible fictions (including fictions that present themselves as fictional). The second is that such worlds are useful for accounting for the truth and falsity of safety and sensitivity conditionals, which we want an account of to explain our knowledge of mathematics and other necessary truths. Along the way I discuss a few bad reasons people have offered for believing in impossible worlds, and conclude with some remarks to dispell the worry that believing in impossible worlds will lead one to reject classical logic.

A brief comment on a part of the issues involved in the discussion of the paper above:

In talking about many worlds, one may start out with a number of concepts or definitions that will be used to make the propositions to be considered. In my mind, there are two ways to understand what the initial concepts or definitions are.

The first way is that those concepts or definitions constitute a kind of basic vocabulary. In this case, what one does by making a list of concepts or defintions is just to limit or circumscribe language. And it is just the language used, not the worlds that one talks about.

Alternatively, one may understand a defintion or a concept as a logic proposition; and as such it is true or false in a certain world or sets of worlds. Thus, if one limits the scope of his/her inquiry, considering only the worlds where the proposition one calls 'concept C' is true, of course, one get worlds out of that domain. But that does not make the worlds out of one's domain impossible.

Nevertheless, I of course agree with Allan when he claims that the idea of impossible worlds is usefull. Its utility is not in question for me, what is in question is how one can demonstrate such notion.

See also a paper of related interest by Edwin D. Mares.

Posted by Tony Marmo at 14:46 GMT
Updated: Tuesday, 22 March 2005 14:50 GMT
Wednesday, 9 March 2005

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds

Who's Afraid of Impossible Worlds?

By Edwin D. Mares

A theory of ersatz impossible worlds is developed to deal with the problem of counterpossible conditionals. Using only tools standardly in the toolbox of possible worlds theorists, it is shown that we can construct a model for counterpossibles. This model is a natural extension of Lewis's semantics for counterfactuals, but instead of using classical logic as its base, it uses the logic LP.

Source: Notre Dame J. Formal Logic ?38 (1997), no. 4, 516?526

Posted by Tony Marmo at 00:01 GMT
Friday, 8 October 2004

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds

Classes, Worlds and Hypergunk

by Daniel Nolan
Source: Online Papers in Philosophy

Many people have wanted to construe possible worlds as set-theoretic objects of one sort or another. A common feature of many of these theories is that they imply that no world contains more than a set of possible objects nor more than a set of properties possessed by those objects. A.P. Hazen has defended this consequence as being positively desirable, relying on a principle about what sorts of cases we should be able to have "genuine modal intuitions" about, and an argument that any such case can be represented set-theoretically. This paper produces a specification of a certain sort of unlimited divisibility which meets Hazen's strictures about what we may expect to have represented by a possible world, is independently plausible as a metaphysical possibility, and, if accepted as a genuine metaphysical possibility, demonstrates that many theories of possible worlds as set-theoretic objects are inadequate.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 16:51 BST
Tuesday, 5 October 2004

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds

Modal Realism and Metaphysical Nihilism

Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra

In this paper I argue that Modal Realism, the thesis that there exist non-actual possible individuals and worlds, can be made compatible with Metaphysical Nihilism, the thesis that it is possible that nothing concrete exists. Modal Realism as developed by Lewis rules out the possibility of a world where nothing concrete exists and so conflicts with Metaphysical Nihilism. In the paper I argue that Modal Realism can be modified so as to be compatible with Metaphysical Nihilism. Such a modification makes Modal Realism neither incur further theoretical costs nor lose its theoretical benefits. Thus such a modification constitutes an improvement of Modal Realism.


[See other works by Roriguez-Pereyra]

Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Tuesday, 5 October 2004 09:30 BST

Topic: Ontology&possible worlds

Individuating Worlds in Extreme Modal

Dean Rickles

According to Lewis' brand of extreme modal realism [genuine realism], possible worlds are fusions of worldmates, and worldmates are those individuals that are spatiotemporally related. One cause of concern for Lewis is the explication of spatiotemporal relatedness, for there are clearly many types of spatiotemporal relations. In this paper I spell out this problem in some detail and attempt to go some way towards a resolution that favours Lewis' account.


Posted by Tony Marmo at 01:01 BST
Updated: Monday, 4 October 2004 09:44 BST

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