Jody Azzouni: Ontology without Borders | Who Shaves the Barber? #50

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Jody Azzouni

An old problem: I say, “Santa Claus is fat”. I am saying something true about Santa Claus. But (content warning) Santa Claus doesn’t exist. So what is it that I am correctly saying is fat? And what – if not its ostensive subject – makes the sentence true?

This problem is at the center of ontology. The most influential approach in the 20th century was offered by W. V. O. Quine, who argued that we’re committedto the existence of any object that we must quantify over in order to state the truths of physics in first-order logic. At first, this seems rather arbitrary. Why first-order logic? What makes quantifiers so special? Why physics? And what does what we’re “committed to” tell us about what actually exists? For roughly the first half of this interview, philosopher Jody Azzouni unpacks the thinking behind Quine’s famous criterion. In the second half, he expounds his own view: he rejects Quine’s criterion, and so sees no problem with referring to that which doesn’t exist. This leaves Azzouni open to embrace a radical nominalism, in which almost none of the objects we typically think of as existing really do. This is because, as Azzouni explains, “ontological borders” are projected. There is nothing “out there” that separates one object from another. The fact that our language is built around distinct objects tells us plenty about our psychology, but nothing about the world itself, which comes with “features” but not individual objects.…

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Michael Hicks: What Is Thought? | Who Shaves the Barber? #48

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What is a thought? There are two ways to approach the problem, says philosopher Michael Hicks. One is as a question about introspective experience. The other – favored by Hicks – is as asking about the nature of interpersonal understanding. We do understand each other; and this is what constitutes the existence of thoughts. With this approach established, Hicks explains to what extent it does or doesn’t imply an “external” view of mind. We also compare this conception of thought to Gottlob Frege’s, and discuss whether it involves a commitment to a “third realm” of abstract objects.

Next week: Michael Hicks: Fiction-Directed Thought

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Video

Topics discussed

0:20 – Introduction to Michael Hicks
2:42 – What are thoughts?
14:15 – Internal or extended thinking
23:46 – Meta-ontology
35:03 – Frege and abstract objects

Sources

Michael Hicks (homepage)
The Thought” (Gottlob Frege)
The Extended Mind” (Andy Clark, David Chalmers)…

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Kit Fine: Metaphysical Ground | Who Shaves the Barber? #46

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Some things are true in virtue of other things. For example, the fact that it is either raining or snowing today is true in virtue of the fact that it is raining today (if, indeed, it is). Or consider another example, put in different terms: the fact that my cat Irene exists is sufficient to account for the fact that at least one cat exists. We might then ask: what is this being in virtue of, or accounting for?

Philosophers call this metaphysical ground. Thus, the existence of my cat Irene grounds the fact that at least one cat exists. But how does this grounding relation work? How is it related to logical entailment? To cause? To essence? Is it possible for there to be partial grounding? Can a fact ground itself? If not, does a vicious regress emerge? What is the role of ground in metaphysics? In this interview, metaphysician Kit Fine covers these questions and more before zeroing in on a logical puzzle of ground, related to the paradoxes of self-reference such as the Liar.

Next week: Left Market Anarchism

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Video

Special thanks to Jackie Blum for the podcast art, and The Tin Box for the theme music.
Click here for the full list of episodes!

Topics discussed

0:20 – Intro to Kit Fine
2:50 – Vagueness
6:44 – What is ground?
10:40 – Realism
16:15 – Two notions of necessary ground
19:10 – Relevance and ground
24:35 – Ground and philosophy, cause and science
28:00 – Ground and ontological reduction
35:18 – Regress, circularity, and weak ground
44:55 – Types of ground and the “source” of logic
52:50 – Ground of ground
1:03:02 – Essence and ground
1:09:10 – A puzzle of ground

Sources

Kit Fine (homepage)
Vagueness, truth, and logic” (Kit Fine)
A Guide to Ground” (Kit Fine)
Some Puzzles of Ground” (Kit Fine)…

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