Neo-Quinean and neo-Aristotelian metaontology : on explanation, theory choice, and the viability of ontological inquiry
Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Prof. ROWBOTTOM Darrell Patrick
Prof. MARSHALL Daniel Graham
This thesis is an exercise in comparative metaontology. I am centrally concerned with how one might choose between competing metaontological theories. To make my project tractable, I compare two contemporary metaontological approaches dominant in the literature: neo-Quineanism (N-Q) and neo-Aristotelianism (N-A). Peter van Inwagen, a representative of N-Q, claims that ontological inquiry should be conducted in the quantifier-variable idiom of first-order predicate logic; to know what exists, or what a theory says exists, we read our commitments off the regimented sentences that we affirm as true. E.J. Lowe, a representative of N-A objects to N-Q and claims that ontology should be done directly; that it is a mostly a priori activity which is the indispensable intellectual foundation for all rational inquiry. Both metaontological accounts are questionable and there seems to be no decisive way to choose between them. I claim, however, that considerations concerning the explanatory nature of ontology is a key and under-studied factor with respect to ontological method, pointing a way to a possible candidate for metaontological theory choice. I conclude that van Inwagen’s N-Q metaontology is wanting in many respects and further, that he does not provide adequate reasons to dispense with explanation as a feature of ontological inquiry. While explanatory considerations are central to Lowe’s N-A metaontology, I claim that the best that can be hoped for with his particular approach is a form of explanatory antirealism.
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Lacey, M. V. (2021). Neo-Quinean and neo-Aristotelian metaontology: On explanation, theory choice, and the viability of ontological inquiry (Doctor's thesis, Lingnan University, Hong Kong). Retrieved from https://commons.ln.edu.hk/otd/133/