The Substance of Ontological Disputes

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Virginia Tech

There is a large philosophical literature focused on what sorts of things can be said to exist. This field is called ontology. Ontological disputes have sometimes been accused of being merely verbal disputes: that they are concerned only with language and not with facts. Some think that if this accusation is correct, philosophers should give up doing ontology. However, whether the accusation is correct and whether it is so serious depends on what is meant by verbal dispute. Eli Hirsch in particular has argued that ontological disputes are merely verbal in one specific sense. In this paper, I first argue that his accusation fails to show that ontological disputes are not substantive. Even if we admit that ontological disputes are verbal in Hirsch's sense, they may still be substantive in a variety of other senses. Second, I argue that even though ontological disputes are substantive, the reason for this will not support stronger claims about the nature and role of ontological disputes.

metametaphysics, ontology, verbal disputes, ontological realism