How does causation enter the picture? Belief is a state shaped by the world, a state that seeks to fit the world; desire is a state that shapes the world, that seeks to make the world fit it. Both metaphors are compelling and are loaded with causality. We often use ‘reference’ for the relation between thought and world. We often use ‘content’ for how things have to be for, for example, a belief with that content to be true and a desire with that content satisfied. In these terms, the tradition of seeking to understand aboutness in causal terms is the tradition of seeking causal accounts of reference and content.
Dean W. Zimmerman
Dualism and materialism are competing answers to the question each of us may ask with the words ‘What am I?’ (spoken in a metaphysical tone of voice, with emphasis on the word ‘am’). The following (admittedly somewhat stipulative) working definition of ‘dualism’ will suffice for present purposes: the doctrine that no human being is an object composed entirely of the kinds of physical stuff that make up rocks and trees and the bodies of animals, but that each of us is, instead, something quite different—a substance that has sensory experiences, thoughts, and emotions, but shares almost nothing in common (except, perhaps, spatial location) with the physical objects that surround us or with their fundamental constituents (electrons, quarks, and so on). By ‘materialism’, the article means the doctrine that each human being is an object all of whose parts are, ultimately, made of the same kinds of physical substances as rocks and trees and the bodies of animals.
Metaontologyis the study of ontology, asking what exactly it is that so-called ontologists are doing when they do ontology. Contemporary debates harken back to one between Quine and Carnap; this article begins by surveying their debate and outlining how various contemporary authors line up with the positions they staked out. The remainder of the article focuses on a contemporary, neo-Carnapian metaontological position inspired by considerations frommetasemantics, or the study of how words get their meanings. The contemporary position insists that any decent theory of how words get their meanings will have the result that many contemporary ontological debates are, in some important sense, without substance. After outlining the position, the article considers several ways a contemporary ontologist might resist this neo-Carnapian position.
Jeffrey C. King
Propositions have been long thought by many philosophers to play a number of important roles. These include being the information conveyed by an utterance of a sentence, being the primary bearers of truth and falsity, being the possessors of modal properties like being possible and necessary, and being the things we assume, believe, and doubt. This article canvases significant attempts by philosophers to say what sorts of things propositions are. First, the classical views of propositions advanced by Gottlob Frege and Bertrand Russell are considered. Second, the view of propositions as sets of possible worlds is discussed. Next, views of propositions arising out of work on direct reference are discussed. The article closes with a discussion of more recent views of propositions.
This article attempts to move the heart of any reader whose initial inclination is to share Bradley's evaluation of the subject of modality. It may be too much to hope that such readers will be wholly won over to this article's opinion on this matter, namely, that philosophy departments of a broadly analytical stripe — or at least their graduate schools — would do well to post an inscription resembling that said to have greeted those at the gates of Plato's Academy: ‘Let no one who is ignorant of modal logic enter here.’ Although one might expect the philosophical interest of modal logic to lie mainly in the area of modal predicate logic, what follows mostly concerns propositional modal logic, which will already provide ample food for thought — even though many issues of interest will for that reason not get discussed.
This article explains the conception of causation as a natural relation in more detail. It outlines some of the features of our use of the causal concept that do not fit with the idea of causation as a natural relation between events. It then outlines the correct explanation of these features, replacing the metaphysical conception of causation with a conception of causation in terms of a contrastive difference-making relation, where the contrasts are determined contextually on the basis of what are often normative considerations.
Thomas M. Crisp
Presentism, roughly, is the thesis that only the present is real. The opposite view is eternalism or four-dimensionalism, the thesis that reality consists of past, present, and future entities. After spelling out the presentist's thesis more carefully, something can be said about why one might think it true. This article develops four prominent objections to presentism and says something about how the presentist might reply to each. There are no knock-down arguments for presentism, like most other substantive theses in philosophy, it cannot be established conclusively. It is, however, a natural position to take given certain metaphysical and linguistic commitments.
This article questions whether, once the conception of metaphysics as grounded in the philosophy of language has been jettisoned, Dummett's arguments against semantic realism can retain any relevance to the realist/antirealist debate. By focussing on realism about the external world as an example, it reaches the conclusion that even without Dummett's conception of philosophy as grounded in the theory of meaning, his arguments against semantic realism do retain a limited but nevertheless genuine significance for the metaphysical debate. It emerges, though, that a certain key assumption, connecting the notions of linguistic understanding and knowledge, and necessary if Dummett's arguments are to have even this limited significance, is both underexplained and underdefended. The article concludes with some brief remarks on the cogency of the manifestation argument against semantic realism.
The function of certain expressions in the language is to refer to things, and expressions refer to things in virtue of their meaning. This is so obvious that it almost defies explanation or supporting argument. What we learn when we learn the meaning of the expression is precisely that it is used to talk about a certain thing. And if two expressions like the ‘Morning Star’ and the ‘Mont Blanc’ refer to different things, this must be in virtue of the difference in their meanings. Of course, there are names like ‘Pegasus’ which do not refer to anything, but this is also a consequence of their meaning; compare ‘Pegasus’ and ‘Bucephalus’.
D. H. Mellor
Many scientists, and some philosophers, still accept the canard that there is no such thing as progress in philosophy. There is no better way to scotch this canard than to see how far the philosophy of time has come in the last hundred years. The advance started with two developments at the start of the last century, one in physics and one in metaphysics, Einstein's 1905 special theory of relativity, and McTaggart's A- and B-series theory of time and change. They revealed unexpected problems with two basic assumptions about time: that it is independent of space, and that it flows. These revelations, and later work in other areas of physics and philosophy, have greatly changed our ideas about time, and still inform the best work on its philosophy.
This chapter discusses modal logic: the logic of possibility and necessity. After a brief review of modal logic in the second section, the third section presents basic results of propositional tense logic. The fourth section develops a system of quantified tense logic. With these technical preliminaries out of the way, the fifth section explains why tense logic ultimately fails as a linguistic theory of verb tense. The sixth section presents the main objection to tense primitivism: that tense logic has insufficient expressive resources to serve as a metaphysical theory of time. The seventh section argues that the tense primitivist can overcome these problems by treating times as maximally consistent sets of sentences. The eighth section discusses a key difference between time and modality: the lack of a temporal analogue of actualism.
This article is not intended as a general introduction to the philosophy of vagueness, much of which falls within the philosophy of language and epistemology rather than metaphysics. Instead, the aim is to elucidate the metaphysical significance of some subtle issues in the logic of vagueness. A common proposal is to adjust logic to vagueness by smoothing out the classical dichotomy of truth and falsity into a continuum of degrees of truth. According to supervaluationism, a vague language admits a range of different classical assignments of referents to terms and truth-values to sentences.