Ontological disagreements, reference, and charity: A challenge for Hirsch's deflationism

Theoria (forthcoming)
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Abstract
Eli Hirsch argues that certain ontological disputes involve a conflict between “equivalent” languages, and that the principle of charity compels each disputant to interpret the other as speaking truly in their own language. For Hirsch, a language’s semantics maps sentences (in context) onto sets of possible worlds but assigns no role to reference. I argue that this method leads to an overly uncharitable portrayal of the disputes at issue – whereby ontologists who speak “equivalent” languages can only argue about syntax. Lack of charity stems from the fact that this portrayal likely fails to uphold the self-conception of the disputants – and particularly what I will call “the weak self-conception”. As a result, Hirsch’s deflationism falls victim of the same principle of charity that informs it.
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Archival date: 2022-06-20
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