Requirements on reality

In Fabrice Correia Benjamin Schnieder (ed.), Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality. Cambridge University Press. pp. 165-185 (2012)
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There are advantages to thrift over honest toil. If we can make do without numbers we avoid challenging questions over the metaphysics and epistemology of such entities; and we have a good idea, I think, of what a nominalistic metaphysics should look like. But minimizing ontology brings its own problems; for it seems to lead to error theory— saying that large swathes of common-sense and best science are false. Should recherche philosophical arguments really convince us to give all this up? Such Moorean considerations are explicitly part of the motivation for the recent resurgence of structured metaphysics, which allow a minimal (perhaps nominalistic) fundamental ontology, while avoiding error-theory by adopting a permissive stance towards ontology that can be argued to be grounded in the fundamental. This paper evaluates the Moorean arguments, identifying key epistemological assumptions. On the assumption that Moorean arguments can be used to rule out error-theory, I examine deflationary ‘representationalist’ rivals to the structured metaphysics reaction. Quinean paraphrase, fictionalist claims about syntax and semantics are considered and criticized. In the final section, a ‘direct’ deflationary strategy is outlined and the theoretical obligations that it faces are articulated. The position advocated may have us talking a lot like a friend of structured metaphysics—but with a very different conception of what we’re up to.

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Robert Williams
University of Leeds


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