Paper Assignment 2

PHIL 2580 Metaphysics

Paper Assignment 2


Due November 20 11:59pm

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Please write a paper on one of the following topics. Whichever option you choose, you must extract, explain, and evaluate two arguments. The first argument should be from the author(s). The second should be from you—your reply to the author. Your paper should include an overall evaluation: Is your objection sound? Why or why not?

Your paper must contain:

·         Your name. Seriously.

·         An introduction that tells the reader what you plan to do in your paper.

·         A prose summary in your own words of the argument concerning the argument you plan to discuss. Your goal here should be to teach the reader how the argument goes. If you need to tell a little story in order to set up the argument, this is the place to do it. It’s preferable to not just repeat an example the author uses, but it is permissible to do so, as long as you do so in your own words.

·         A more formal presentation of the argument you plan to discuss, presented in numbered premise-conclusion form. The argument must be deductively valid. It often helps to include the “highlights” of the argument rather than every single move. You can argue for the premises in your defence.

·         A premise-by-premise explanation and defence of the argument. Explain any technical terms and provide support for each premise. (Recall that what needs explaining depends on your audience. You should take your audience to be an intelligent, interested individual that is not in our class. Don’t assume I’m your audience.) Do not “tell me in other words” what the premise says. Do give me the best reasons you can think of for supposing the premise is correct, whether you think it is or not. Your defence of each premise should be your best answer the question Why think this premise is true? It is very important that you explicitly explain and defend each premise in the argument. The best way to defend a conditional premise is to explicitly assume the antecedent and argue, on the basis of that assumption, that the consequent is true as well. If the author gives explicit support for a premise, you should paraphrase the author’s defence and cite the author.

·         A criticism of some premise in the presented argument, explained informally in prose. The criticism should be the best one you can think of. I’m not looking for what others have said here. I’m interested in what you think the best criticism is, whether or not you think the first argument is sound.

·         A more formal presentation of your criticism, presented in numbered premise-conclusion form. The argument must be deductively valid. Its conclusion must be the negation of some premise in the first argument.

·         An explanation and defence of the premises in your criticism. Same points that apply to explanation and defence of the first argument apply here as well.

·         An overall evaluation: Is your criticism of the original argument sound?

·         Citations where appropriate (parenthetical or in footnotes), and a list of references at the end of the paper in APA format. (You do not need to refer to any paper other than the ones excerpted below, though you may if it is appropriate.)

·         Don’t use more space than necessary. Brevity is valued. Shorter papers are ceteris paribus preferable to longer papers. Avoid wordiness. Don’t explain the same point in five ways.



Option 1:Jackson on Nominalist Paraphrases of Property-talk

A feature of many versions of Nominalism is the claim that all statements putatively about universals can be translated as statements about particulars. This is certainly possible in some cases, for instance, ‘Wisdom was a characteristic of Plato’ is equivalent to ‘Plato was wise’. I will argue that it is not, however, always possible; in particular, that it is not possible for ‘Red is a colour’ and ‘Red resembles pink more than blue’ . . .

Red is, let us suppose, the most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes; then the most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes is a colour. This cannot be nominalistically translated as ‘Everything with the most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes is coloured’. (I leave aside the question of what further translation the nominalist might attempt to eliminate ‘the most conspicuous property . . .’). Because the most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes might have been their smell while it remained true that all tomatoes were coloured (though not so conspicuously); then ‘Everything with the most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes is coloured’ would be true together with the falsity of ‘The most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes is a colour’. And, of course, it would be wrong to offer ‘Necessarily, everything with the most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes is coloured’ as the translation of ‘The most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes is a colour’. The former is false, there is no necessity about it: the most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes might well have been, as we have just noted, their smell, and some things with that smell might have been transparent, so that some things with the most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes might not have been coloured. On the other hand ‘The most conspicuous property of ripe tomatoes is a colour’ is true.

It seems then that—though some criticisms in the literature of particularist translations of ‘Red is a colour’ and ‘Red resembles pink more than blue’ and the like may not be decisive—there are decisive criticisms of these translations available to the realist. (Jackson 1977: 427-429.)

Jackson, Frank. 1977. “Statements about Universals.” Mind 86(343): 427-429.


Option 2: Frege on Mill on What Numbers Are

At first, indeed, (Mill) seems to mean to base the science, like Leibniz, on definitions,[1] since he defines the individual numbers in the same way as Leibniz; but this spark of sound sense is no sooner lit than it is extinguished, thanks to his preconception that all knowledge is empirical. He informs us, in fact,[2] that these definitions are not definitions in the logical sense; not only do they fix the meaning of a term, but they also assert along with it an observed matter of fact. But what in the world can be the observed fact, or the physical fact (to use another of Mill’s expressions), which is asserted in the definition of the number 777,864? Of all the whole wealth of physical facts in his apocalypse, Mill names for us only a solitary one, the one which he holds is asserted in the definition of the number 3. It consists, according to him, in this, that collections of objects exist, which while they impress upon the senses thus, \, may be separated into two parts, thus, (.. .). What a mercy, then, that not everything in the world is nailed down; for if it were, we should not be able to bring off this separation, and 2+1 would not be 3! What a pity that Mill did not also illustrate the physical facts underlying the numbers 0 and 1!

“This proposition being granted,” Mill goes on, “we term all such parcels Threes.” From this we can see that it is really incorrect to speak of three strokes when the clock strikes three, or to call sweet, sour and bitter three sensations of taste, and equally unwarrantable is the expression “three methods of solving an equation.” For none of these is a parcel which ever impresses our senses thus, \. (Frege 1980: 9-10.)

Frege, Gottlob. 1980. The Foundations of Arithmetic. (Trans: J. L. Austin.) Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press.


Option 3: Frege on Mill on Numbers

To the question: What is it that the number belongs to as a property? Mill[3] replies as follows: the name of a number connotes, “of course, some property belonging to the agglomeration of things which we call by the name, and that property is the characteristic manner in which the agglomeration is made up of, and may be separated into, parts.”

Here the definite article in the phrase “the characteristic manner” is a mistake right away; for there are very various manners in which an agglomeration can be separated into parts, and we cannot say that one alone would be characteristic. For example, a bundle of straw can be separated into parts by cutting all the straws in half, or by splitting it up into single straws, or by dividing it into two bundles. Further, is a heap of a hundred grains of sand made up of parts in exactly the same way as a bundle of 100 straws? And yet we have the same number. The number word ‘one’, again, in the expression ‘one straw’ signally fails to do justice to the way in which the straw is made up of cells or molecules. Still more difficulty is presented by the number 0. Besides, need the straws form any sort of bundle at all in order to be numbered? Must we literally hold a rally of all the blind in Germany before we can attach any sense to the expression ‘the number of blind in Germany’? Do such things really exist as agglomerations of proofs of a theorem, or agglomerations of events? And yet these too can be numbered. Nor does it make any difference whether events occur together or thousands of years apart. (Frege 1980: 29-30.)


Option 4: Kaplan, Salmon, and the Modal Existence Requirement

Meinong (1904) is famous—infamous, even—for claiming that an object’s having properties (Sosein) is independent of its being or existing (Sein): that is, an object can have properties even if it does not exist. A modal version of Meinong’s claim entails

(M) For some object x, some property F, and some possible world w, x has F in w and x does not exist in w.

(M) entails the falsehood of the Modal Existence Requirement (which says for any object x, any property F, and any possible world w, if x has F in w, then x exists in w). But you don’t have to be a crazy Meinongian to reject the Modal Existence Requirement. Indeed, non-Meinongians have presented arguments against it. First, David Kaplan (1973: 503-505) and Nathan Salmon (1981: 36-40) argue that the truth of claims like

(A) Meinong has the property being admired in 2013, and Meinong does not exist in 2013.

entails the falsehood of the Temporal Existence Requirement: namely,

(T) For any object x, any property F, and any time t, if x has F at t, then x exists at t.

Since the Temporal Existence Requirement is analogous to the Modal Existence Requirement, that the Temporal Existence Requirement is false suggests that the Modal Existence Requirement is false, too. (Caplan 2007: 335-336. Edited by Chris Tillman.)


Option 5: Kaplan, Fine, and the Modal Existence Requirement

Second, Kaplan (1989: 498) and Kit Fine (1985: 163-168) argue that the truth of claims like

(E) For some possible world w, Meinong has the property not existing in w, and Meinong does not exist in w.

entails the falsehood of the Modal Existence Requirement. (Caplan 2007: 336. Edited by Chris Tillman.)

Caplan, Ben. 2007. “A New Defence of the Modal Existence Requirement.” Synthese 154(2): 335-343.

Fine, Kit. 1985. “Plantinga on the Reduction of Possibilist Discourse.” In J. E. Tomberlin and P. van Inwagen (eds.), Alvin Plantinga, Profiles 5. Reidel, Dortrecht, pp. 145-186.

Kaplan, David. 1973. “Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice.” In J. Hintikka, J. Moravcsik, and P. Suppes (eds.), Approaches to Natural Language: Proceedings of the 1970 Stanford Workshop on Grammar and Semantics, Synthese Library 49. Reidel, Dortrecht, pp. 490-518.

Kaplan, David. 1989. “Demonstratives: An Essay on the Semantics, Logic, Metaphysics, and Epistemology of Demonstratives and Other Indexicals.” In J. Almog, J. Pery, and H. Wettstein (eds.), Themes from Kaplan. Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 481-563.

Salmon, Nathan. 1981. Reference and Essence. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


Option 6: Lewis on Properties and Propositions

David Lewis (1986) maintains that one of the major virtues of his view of possible worlds is that it permits a reductive account of properties and propositions. On Lewis’s view, properties are sets of possible individuals: the property of being blue is, on Lewis’s view, the set of actual and merely possible blue things. Also, on Lewis’s view, propositions are sets of possible worlds: the proposition that snow is white is, on Lewis’s view, the set of possible worlds in which snow is white. Critically evaluate your own argument against Lewis’s view of properties or propositions.

Lewis, David. 1986. On the Plurality of Worlds. Oxford: Blackwell.

[1] System of Logic, Bk. III, cap. xxiv, ò 5 (German translation by J. Schiel).

[2] Op. cit., Bk. II, cap. vi, ò 2.

[3] Op. cit., Bk. III, cap. xxiv, ò 5.