Abstracts of the Phlox Graduate Workshop

Penelope Mackie (Nottingham): Can Metaphysical Modality be based on Essence?

Kit Fine, followed by E. J. Lowe, has proposed that all metaphysical modality has its source in the essences or natures of things, where the notion of a thing’s essence or nature can be understood in terms of (a broadly Aristotelian notion of) real definition. This appears to require that the relevant conception of real definition can itself be isolated without appeal to metaphysical modality. I argue that this requirement cannot be met. I then consider the implications of my argument for the relation between essence and metaphysical modality.

Sebastian Krebs (Bamberg): Identity and Individuation in Saul Kripke’s Naming and Necessity

In my talk, I want to give an overview of the essentialistic ideas Kripke hints at in Naming and Necessity. I especially focus on the question whether Kripke provides something like a principium individuationis, i.e. whether the essential properties of an object can be used to identitfy an object across time and possible worlds.

Insa Lawler (Duisburg-Essen): Non-Declarative Sentences in Intensional Semantics – Re-Evaluating the Lewisian Solution

Intensional semanticists claim that the literal meaning of sentences is reducible to their truth conditions determined relative to a possible world or context. This seems plausible regarding declarative sentences (“I called you”). However, this claim seems crucially limited. Sentences in other grammatical moods seem to lack truth conditions, e.g., imperative (“Call me!”) and interrogative sentences (“Who called me?”). Intensional semanticists have two options: (i) They could use intensional semantics for declaratives, and provide new semantics for interrogatives and imperatives. (ii) They could integrate non-declarative sentences into their semantics. (i) does not seem attractive. Take “The cat is on the mat” and “Is the cat on the mat?”. All words used in these sentences are intuitively equivalent in meaning. To ensure this across different frameworks is, at least, difficult. Moreover, there are so-called mixed-mood sentences (e. g., “If you put me on the mat, then where do you put the cat?”) in which different kinds of sentences are combined. In order to analyze these, one needs a common framework. In his seminal paper “General Semantics” (1970), David Lewis suggests a realization of (ii). He claims that non-declaratives have truth conditions, since they are syntactic variants of certain explicit performative sentences. For instance, the sentence “Are you late?” is semantically equivalent to its syntactic variant “I ask you whether you are late”. One crucial similarity of these sentences is that both are standardly used to ask the addressee whether she is late. Although a unified semantics for all kinds of sentences seems attractive, Lewis’ proposal has been widely rejected. However, my evaluation of the arguments shows that they are not conclusive. Some of them arise from a too simplified interpretation of his proposal, some rely on disputable premises, and some can be rebutted. My findings warrant a serious reappraisal of Lewis’ proposal.

Katsuhito Nakasone (Osaka): Two-Dimensional Semantics and Direct Reference

The aim of this presentation is to investigate a criticism directed against epistemic two-dimensionalism by direct reference theory and to propose a treatment of direct reference in terms of epistemic two-dimensionalism. The presentation proceeds as follows: First, I explain several theses related to epistemic two-dimensionalism, and provide a sketch of what is meant by “epistemic two-dimensional semantics”. Second, I introduce the argument that epistemic two-dimensional semantics cannot deal with direct referential expressions. Third, I evaluate this argument, showing that to handle the difficulties for direct reference pointed out by George Bealer, a semantic explanation of direct reference needs to be more deflationary than direct reference theorists intended. If this approach is correct, then a semantic treatment of direct reference in the deflationary sense can be accommodated within epistemic two-dimensional semantics. In conclusion, I suggest that epistemic two-dimensional semantics faces no obstacles to implementing a semantic treatment of names, whether Millian, Fregean, or otherwise. Hence, epistemic two-dimensionalism can be robustly defended.

Romy Jaster (Berlin): A New Account of Agents’ Abilities

The literature on abilities is dominated by two strands of views. According to the conditional analysis, to have an ability to Φ is, roughly, for it to be true that the agent would Φ if she intended to. According to possibilism, to have an ability to Φ is for it to be possible, in some properly restricted sense, for the agent to Φ. My aim in the talk is twofold: In the first part, I shall briefly show up some structural shortcomings of both views. This will set the stage for the second part, in which I present my own account of abilities – the success view of ability. As we shall see, the success view combines the best of two worlds: it retains the appeal of both the conditional analysis and possibilism, while avoiding the problems.

Arash Behboodi (Paris): Existence, Common Sense and Interpretation

The main claim of this talk is that the decision on disagreements around non-existent objects cannot be settled by the mere recourse to neither interpretive methods such as charity principles nor common sense. Indeed, the final decision about disagreements in sciences has been achieved for the sake of implicit or explicit semantical rules within those theories. I argue that disagreements around non-existent objects lack a determinate semantical rules which means that their semantical rules vary from one debate to another. However this indeterminacy is not essential to the talk and can be circumvented by the proper reflection of the conceptual scheme itself, after which it can be decided whether a particular dispute is verbal or not.

Pablo Carnino (Geneva): Against the Superinternality of Grounding

The purpose of this paper is to provide an argument against the view called ‘superinternality of grounding’. The argument draws on two important formal features of grounding: transitivity and a special version of the thesis called grounding necessitarianism. The two features in question seem to be accepted by a vast majority of grounding theorists. As I will argue, these features together with the superinternality of grounding have unpalatable implications regarding the metaphysics of modality. In particular, they commit us to the grounding of many modal truths in ordinary contingent facts. After explicating why this is too big a bullet to swallow I will conclude that grounding is not superinternal.

Suki Finn (York): Metametaphysics at the Limits of Thought

In this paper I discuss the paradox of self-reference and how it arises for global scale metametaphysical positions such as Carnap’s quietism from his paper ‘Empiricism, Semantics and Ontology’. In presenting the problem for Carnap I follow Priest in his formalisation of self-referential paradoxes exhibiting contradictions at the limits of thought, using his Cognition and Inclosure Schemas, as described in his book, Beyond the Limits of Thought. I argue that a common subject of such self-referential paradoxes are meta-theories with global scope, as the ‘meta’ approach aims to transcend the scope of that which it is theorizing about, whilst the ‘global’ nature will place itself back within the scope of that which it is theorizing about, which together result in the theory referring to itself whilst refuting itself. These two opposing situations are what Priest calls Transcendence and Closure, which produce a contradiction. I will demonstrate how this comes about using Carnap’s quietism as an example, showing how applying the theory to itself results in a dilemma, both horns of which result in a contradiction. Carnap is therefore shown to suffer self-referential problems typical of theories that aim to draw a limit to thought. I conclude that any global meta-theory will face such problems, leading to contradictory realms.

Laurenz Hudetz (Salzburg): Ontological Aspects of Theory Reduction

Reductions between theories play important roles both in the sciences and in philosophy. In particular, reductions sometimes play an ontological role: it is a widespread view that some, but not all, theory reductions are in a certain sense ontologically significant (call them ‘ontological reductions’). Claims about ontological reductions are often used as premises in arguments for or against certain ontological views (e.g. in the philosophy of mathematics, philosophy of mind, philosophy of space and time). In order to evaluate the strength of such arguments, the notion of ontological reduction needs to be sufficiently clear and unambiguous. However, there is no consensus about how exactly the notion of ontological reduction should be explicated. The problem of explicating this notion comprises two main questions: (Q1) What exactly is a reduction between theories? (Q2) Under which conditions is a reduction between theories ontologically significant? My talk examines answers to these questions. First, I introduce the most important definitions of ‘reduction’ that have been proposed as answers to Q1 up to now. I show how they are related to each other and argue that relative interpretability (or a generalisation thereof) is the most viable reduction concept. Second, I discuss Quine-style answers to Q2, i.e. explications of the notion of ontological reduction that rely on the concept of proxy-function. I argue that Quinean accounts of ontological reduction — including those based on relative interpretability — face serious problems. Finally, I highlight possible alternatives to these accounts.

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