Quantification and ontological commitment

In Anna Sofia Maurin & Anthony Fisher (eds.), Routledge Handbook on Properties. London: Routledge (2024)
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This chapter discusses ontological commitment to properties, understood as ontological correlates of predicates. We examine the issue in four metaontological settings, beginning with an influential Quinean paradigm on which ontology concerns what there is. We argue that this naturally but not inevitably avoids ontological commitment to properties. Our remaining three settings correspond to the most prominent departures from the Quinean paradigm. Firstly, we enrich the Quinean paradigm with a primitive, non-quantificational notion of existence. Ontology then concerns what exists. We argue that this strengthens the Quinean case against ontological commitment to properties while also newly distinguishing between stronger and weaker forms of nominalism. Secondly, we enrich the Quinean paradigm with the ideology of fundamentality. Ontology then centrally concerns what’s fundamental. We argue that this leaves ontological commitment to properties wide open although Bradleyan regress threatens. Thirdly, we enrich the Quinean paradigm with primitive higher-order quantifiers. Ontology then expands to concern what there higher-order is and what there first-order is. We argue that this naturally but not inevitably incurs ontological commitment to properties.

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Nicholas K. Jones
University of Oxford


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