Do tables really exist?
While debate over such a seemingly trivial question may initially sound ridiculous, the existence of “ordinary objects” is a controversial question in contemporary metaphysics. Events, numbers, properties, and “mereological sums” are among other contested “objects”. Indeed, ontology today is a bit of a quagmire of proposed objects and criteria for existence.
One of the major voices in this field is that of philosopher Amie Thomasson, who claims that ontology can actually be quite simple. In this interview, Prof. Thomasson walks us through the recent history of ontology – from Carnap to Quine to the contemporary arena – and offers a diagnosis of how things got so muddled. She then offers her alternative, which she calls “easy ontology”. According to her view, since we know that “I have two apples” is true (assuming it is), then it follows that the number of apples is two, and so that there is a number two, and therefore that at least one number exists. In this part 1, Thomasson draws out both the history of these debates and her own approach. In the second half, she’ll defend it against common objections.
Next week: Amie Thomasson: Objections to Easy Ontology
Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
0:10 – Introduction to Amie Thomasson
2:43 – What is ontology?
4:21 – Arguments against tables and chairs
8:30 – Quine and the neo-Quinean approach
22:13 – Carnap on internal versus external questions (use v. mention)
33:39 – Criteria for existence
36:07 – Easy ontology
Ontology Made Easy by Amie Thomasson
Ordinary Objects by Amie Thomasson
“Metaphysical Disputes and Metalinguistic Negotiations” by Amie Thomasson
“On What There Is” by W.V.O. Quine
“Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology” by Rudolf Carnap
“Do Tables and Chairs Really Exist? Controversy over Ordinary Objects” by Amie Thomasson (video lecture)