Logicism, Ontology, and the Epistemology of Second-Order Logic

In Ivette Fred-Rivera & Jessica Leach (eds.), Being Necessary: Themes of Ontology and Modality from the Work of Bob Hale. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 140-169 (2018)
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In two recent papers, Bob Hale has attempted to free second-order logic of the 'staggering existential assumptions' with which Quine famously attempted to saddle it. I argue, first, that the ontological issue is at best secondary: the crucial issue about second-order logic, at least for a neo-logicist, is epistemological. I then argue that neither Crispin Wright's attempt to characterize a `neutralist' conception of quantification that is wholly independent of existential commitment, nor Hale's attempt to characterize the second-order domain in terms of definability, can serve a neo-logicist's purposes. The problem, in both cases, is similar: neither Wright nor Hale is sufficiently sensitive to the demands that impredicativity imposes. Finally, I defend my own earlier attempt to finesse this issue, in "A Logic for Frege's Theorem", from Hale's criticisms.
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