Dale Jacquette
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 365
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    In the first part of the book, Dale Jacquette explores questions of pure philosophical ontology: what is meant by the concept of being, why does something exist rather than nothing, and why there is only one logically contingent actual world. The author argues that logic provides the only possible answers to these fundamental problems of pure ontology. In the second part of the book Jacquette examines issues of applied scientific ontology and provides a critical survey of some of the most influential traditional ontologies, such as the distinction between appearance and reality and the categories of substance and transcendence. The ontology of physical entities - space, time, matter, and causation - are examined as well as the ontology of abstract entities - sets, numbers, properties, relations, and propositions. The special problems posed by the subjectivity of mind and of God are also explored. The book concludes with a chapter on the ontology of culture, language, and art.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8267-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
    Dale Jacquette
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Introduction: Being as such
    (pp. 1-10)

    The concept of being is so fundamental to philosophy that we usually take the idea of existence for granted rather than try to analyse its meaning. Philosophical confusions nevertheless lie in wait for thinkers in any branch of philosophy who have not first clarified what it means for something to exist. When the dust settles in these most basic of reflections in pure philosophical ontology, it appears that the definition of existence is transparently simple, although its implications are easily misinterpreted.

    What exists? This is what we really want to know: whether and in what sense spatiotemporal physical entities, numbers...

  6. I Pure philosophical ontology
    • 1 What it is to be (on Heidegger)
      (pp. 12-41)

      What is it for something to be? It is for that thing to have being, to exist, to be present, real, actual, manifest. If true at all, these equations are either trivial or viciously circular, and hence not much help in understanding the concept of being. They are trivially true if they merely pair together synonyms without explaining the concept of what it means to exist. They are circular if to be in the ontic or actualexistence senseis not definable independently of whatever it means to actually “be” in thepredication sense— to actually be red, for example,...

    • 2 Combinatorial ontology
      (pp. 42-88)

      The idea of making logic the basis of ontology is not new. This chapter develops a particular choice of logical foundations for a combinatorial pure philosophical ontology.¹ The answer to the question of being that the theory makes possible depends on the totality of logically possible combinations of predications involving all logically possible combinations of logical objects with all logically possible properties. Combinatorial ontology explains what it means for something to exist, why there is something rather than nothing, and why the actual world is uniquely existent and logically contingent. It further requires and provides a rationale for revising the...

    • 3 Why there is something rather than nothing
      (pp. 89-108)

      What, if anything, can be built on the bare assumption that in logic properties are considered in logically possible combinations with objects? Properly interpreted, we can, for starters, derive from the assumption an explanation in pure philosophical ontology of why there exists something rather than nothing. To the extent that the explanation is successful it reflects positively on the analysis of being as maximal consistency.

      The historical honour of having first raised the question “why is there something rather than nothing?” is usually attributed to G. W Leibniz, in his 1697 essay, “On the Ultimate Origination of Things”.¹ Leibniz’s theophilosophical...

    • 4 Why there is only one logically contingent actual world
      (pp. 109-133)

      It is reassuring to know, in the progress we have made so far, that there must exist something rather than nothing. The two outstanding problems left to be solved in pure philosophical ontology, concerning the uniqueness and logical contingency of the actual world, must also be addressed before we can be said to have satisfactorily answered the question of being.

      If we try to answer the question why there exists something rather than nothing combinatorially, by arguing that an actual world must exist, then we leave open at least temporarily the question whether only one actual world exists. We do...

    • 5 Concepts of existence in philosophical logic and the analysis of being qua being
      (pp. 134-154)

      What can logic teach us about ontology? Symbolic logic in and of itself is not that philosophically interesting, but reveals something important when, appropriately interpreted, it serves to explain why there is something rather than nothing. Logic embodies a set of concepts and philosophical commitments about what it means for something to exist that can be recovered from the expressive capabilities of logic in the predication of properties to objects.

      We have argued that logic supports a non-circular a priori answer to the question of being, of why there is something rather than nothing, and why there exists exactly one...

  7. II Applied ontology and the metaphysics of science
    • 6 Ontological commitment (on Quine)
      (pp. 156-181)

      To be ontologically committed is to accept the existence of an entity or type or kind or category of entities. As individual thinkers we make ontological commitments to the things we believe exist, while theories in the abstract are ontologically committed to whatever entities would need to exist in order for the theories to be true.

      The first task of applied ontology is to establish adequatecriteria of ontological commitment.Without these we will not be able to certify a preferred existence domain, as an applied ontology must, because we will not be able to distinguish one existence domain from...

    • 7 Appearance, reality, substance, transcendence
      (pp. 182-192)

      We now consider the first of a series of ontological commitments in four traditional subscategories of applied scientific ontology. Shall we follow the lead of other ontologists by distinguishing betweenappearanceandrealityin a strong metaphysical sense? What shall we say about the ontology oísubstance?Is there an argument to be made for thetranscendenceof a certain part of the preferred existence domain that is, in some sense, above and beyond, or in any case outside, the actual world? What light does the combinatorial analysis of being as maximal consistency shed on any of these time-honoured distinctions...

    • 8 Physical entities: space, time, matter and causation, physical states of affairs and events, natural laws
      (pp. 193-205)

      The category of physical entities is usually supposed to be the least metaphysically problematic in applied ontology. The question for a preferred existence domain is not whether physical entities exist. Their existence can be assumed as established by combinatorial pure philosophical ontology, on the assumption that there are non-actual logical possibilities, and hence distinct logically possible worlds, that all states of affairs logically must either be spatiotemporal or non-spatiotemporal, and that only physical or spatiotemporal entities can distinguish one logically possible world from another.

      The existence of physical entities is further confirmed by empirical experience of the actual world in...

    • 9 Abstract entities, particular and universal: numbers, sets, properties, qualities, relations, propositions and possibilities, logical, mathematical and metaphysical laws
      (pp. 206-232)

      More ink has been spilled on the question of the existence of abstract entities than on any other topic in ontology. Do universals exist? What about sets and numbers, properties, qualities, relations, propositions and laws? What light can we shed on these controversies from the standpoint of a combinatorial analysis of being?

      We have already touched on several categories of abstract entities. Looking forward to what might be said or what others have said about non-spatiotemporal particulars and universals, we have provisionally considered the possibility of their existence. We must now put our cards on the table and examine whether...

    • 10 Subjectivity of mind in the world of objective physical facts
      (pp. 233-252)

      The occurrence of thought raises difficult issues in applied ontology. The mind-body problem challenges our understanding of how thought relates to the established existence subdomains of physical and abstract entities.

      What is a thought and what is the mind? If the mind and its contents are simply physical entities, if thoughts are simply physical events in the brain and nervous system of a living organism, then the ontic status of the mind can be classified without further ado as a special type of physical entity among others in the universe. The distinction between internal thought and the external world in...

    • 11 God, a divine supernatural mind?
      (pp. 253-264)

      An enquiry in applied scientific ontology into the existence or nonexistence of God is not guaranteed to agree with the attitudes of religious faith. We want to know whether God is an individual divine entity, or a host thereof if there are many gods, just as we want to know whether there are numbers, sets or universals. The difference is, among other things, that God is a person, or the gods are supposed to be persons, or at least personifications of natural forces, whereas numbers and everything else in the existence domain other than minds is assumed to be impersonal,...

    • 12 Ontology of culture: language, art and artefacts
      (pp. 265-274)

      We turn finally to the topic of cultural entities. The world contains not only natural objects like rocks and plants, but objects that would not exist as complexes or in the exact form with the particular properties they have were it not for human intervention. There are artefacts, products of human thought that are touched and transformed in various ways by human hands. The list of such things includes expressions of thought in language and art, and all the results of human invention, manufacture and technology.

      It may be significant, in this study of combinatorial ontology, an expressly anti-Heideggerean anti-existentialist...

  8. Conclusion: scientific-philosophical ontology
    (pp. 275-280)

    The problem of ontology is to understand the concept of being, of what it means for something to exist. Ontology investigates the fact, nature and modal status of being, in the course of which it proposes a preferred ontology that is supposed to include all and only existent things. To be successful, ontology must combine a correct pure philosophical ontology with a correct applied scientific ontology, grafting an appropriate preferred existence domain onto a satisfactory analysis of the concept of being.

    The proposed theoretical domain must correspond exactly with the extant domain of actually existent entities and states of affairs...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 281-308)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 309-328)
  11. Index
    (pp. 329-348)