Physical-object ontology, verbal disputes, and common sense

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (1):67–97 (2005)
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Two main claims are defended in this paper: first, that typical disputes in the literature about the ontology of physical objects are merely verbal; second, that the proper way to resolve these disputes is by appealing to common sense or ordinary language. A verbal dispute is characterized not in terms of private idiolects, but in terms of different linguistic communities representing different positions. If we imagine a community that makes Chisholm's mereological essentialist assertions, and another community that makes Lewis's four-dimensionalist assertions, the members of each community speak the truth in their respective languages. This follows from an application of the principle of interpretive charity to the two communities.

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Eli Hirsch
Brandeis University


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