Geach and Ascriptivism: Beside the Point / Getting off the Inwagen: A Critique of Quinean Metaontology

Volume 4.6 of the Journal for the History of Analytical Philosophy (JHAP) has now been published.

The essays published in this volume were selected as the co-recipients of the 2014 JHAP Essay Prize.

The first paper is “Geach and Ascriptivism: Beside the Point”, by Luís Duarte d’Almeida. Here is an abstract:

This paper discusses the first incarnation of what came to be known as the “Frege-Geach” point. The point was made by Peter Geach in his 1960 essay “Ascriptivism”, and developed in “Assertion”, a 1965 piece. Geach’s articles launch a wholesale attack on theories of non-descriptive performances advanced by “some Oxford philosophers” whom he accuses of ignoring “the distinction between calling a thing ‘P’ and predicating ‘P’ of a thing”. One view that Geach specifically targets is H. L. A. Hart’s claim (in the 1949 essay “The Ascription of Responsibility and Rights”) that sentences of the form “X φ-ed” are not primarily descriptive but ascriptive of responsibility for actions. Hart explicitly accepted Geach’s criticism, and disowned his essay. I argue that he was wrong to do so. Perhaps the essay was worth retracting, but not because of Geach’s objections. I begin by restating and refining Geach’s arguments, in order to bring out the flaw he claimed to have detected in the “pattern of philosophising” that he took Hart’s essay to exemplify. I go on to argue that Geach’s original point poses no obstacle either to non-descriptivism in general, or to Hart’s sui generis non-descriptivist claim in particular.

The second is “Getting off the Inwagen: A Critique of Quinean Metaontology”, by Karl Egerton. Abstract:

Much contemporary ontological inquiry takes place within the so-called ‘Quinean tradition’ but, given that some aspects of Quine’s project have been widely abandoned even by those who consider themselves Quineans, it is unclear what this amounts to. Fortunately recent work in metaontology has produced two relevant results here: a clearer characterisation of the metaontology uniting the aforementioned Quineans, most notably undertaken by Peter van Inwagen, and a raft of criticisms of that metaontology. In this paper I critique van Inwagen’s Quinean metaontology, finding that certain challenges, supplemented by pressure to reflect more closely Quine’s work, should drive Quineans to adopt a stronger metaontology incorporating more of Quine’s radical views. I conclude that while van Inwagen’s Quineanism is problematic there are prospects for a viable, more wholeheartedly Quinean, metaontology.

JHAP is available at https://jhaponline.org. Submissions welcome.

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