Philosophical Studies 149 (1):73-97 (2010)
AbstractConsider the kinds of macroscopic concrete objects that common sense and the sciences allege to exist: tables, raindrops, tectonic plates, galaxies, and the rest. Are there any such things? Opinions differ. Ontological liberals say they do; ontological radicals say they don't. Liberalism seems favored by its plausible acquiescence to the dictates of common sense abetted by science; radicalism by its ontological parsimony. Priority theorists claim we can have the virtues of both views. They hold that tables, raindrops, etc., exist, but they aren't fundamental. The ontological liberal's ontology provides the correct inventory of existent individuals. The ontological radical's more restricted ontology provides the correct inventory of fundamental individuals. The priority theorist claims that the derivative individuals are "no addition in being" to the fundamental ones, so we can have our cake and eat it too. It would be nice if priority theorists were right. In this paper I argue, with regret, that they are not. One upshot is that the sort of explanations which underwrite the priority theorist's distinction between fundamental and derivative individuals do not mitigate our ontological commitments. Another is that we still have to choose between the charms of liberalism and radicalism
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