Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Quine and Vague Existence: New Draft

I've posted a new draft of my paper on Vague Existence and Ontological Commitment. I got loads of feedback on this, but I've tried to keep it short and sweet ... still, if anyone thinks there's something crucial missing I'd be interested to hear!

Update: a few typos and other sillinesses now corrected!


Brit Brogaard said...

Hi Carrie. That's a really interesting paper! I think I would go for either option B or option C. Let's formalize a bit.

Let Bp mean that an agent who is familiar with all our theories would believe p (i.e., she has correctly memorized all our theories and their implications)
Let Dp mean that it is determinate whether p

'We are committed to p' can then be represented as Bp

The following principle represents the move from (2) to (3)
B(not-D(ExFx)) ---> not-B(ExFx)

But that's pretty concincing. If an ideal agent will believe it is not determinate whether there are Fs, then it is not the case that an ideal agent will believe that there are Fs. So, C won't work.

What about (B):

We need the following direction (let T mean: our theories say that:

not-B(ExFx) ---> not-T(ExFx)

But that's not convincing. If it is not the case that an ideal agent will believe that there are Fs, then our theories do not say that there are Fs.

I fear, however, that utilizing 'ideal' makes the refutation of (B) trivial.

Carrie Jenkins said...

Hi Brit,

Thanks for this! I'm not quite sure I've followed what you say about option B at the end. Are you in favour of it? The last of your displayed conditionals looked OK to me; why do you find it unconvincing?

Brit Brogaard said...

Hi Carrie. Sorry, it was getting really late when I wrote the comment. Half asleep I smuggled in an extra negation I think.

Let me try again. Option (B) is to reject

"One is committed to Fs iff there are Fs among the range of the quantifiers appearing in one's best theory."

In symbols (from above):

B(ExFx) <---> T(ExFx)

This says that an ideal agent will believe that there are Fs iff our best theories say that there are Fs.

I guess you're right, we can hardly reject this if x is an ideal agent iff x has correctly memorized all theories and their implications, and (we can add)x believes what our best theories say.

So your argument/puzzle emerges as stronger than ever in my mind. I do not find any of the options out attractive. Your puzzle is particularly interesting because, as you point out, it seems to arise even if the indeterminacy in question is epistemic.

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