What Counts as a ‘Good’ Metaphysical Language?

In James Miller (ed.), The Language of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 102-118 (2021)
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The objectively best language is intended to refer to some metaphysically privileged language that ‘carves reality at its joints’ perfectly. That is, it is the kind of language that various ‘metaphysical deflationists’ have argued is impossible. One common line of argument amongst deflationists is that we have no means to compare languages that all express true facts about the world in such a way to decide which is ‘better’. For example, the language is physics is not objectively better than the language of economics, as each language has the semantic purpose of expressing some domain of truths about the world inexpressible in the other language, and therefore neither could be ‘objectively best’. In this paper, I argue that metaphysical deflationists have failed to recognise a distinction between fine- and coarse-grained semantic purposes of languages, and that a recognition of that distinction provides us grounds to compare languages to see which is objectively best. I argue that once we recognise the distinction between fine- and coarse-grained semantic purposes, then we can see that it is relative to the coarse-grained purpose that we must compare putative objectively best ontological languages.

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James (J.T.M.) Miller
Durham University


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