M.L.E. Speaker Series: "Expressive Power Arguments in Metaphysics"

Fri, Nov 8, 2019, 4:30 pm to 6:00 pm
201 Marx Hall

Abstract: Here’s a common situation. There are two theories where, intuitively speaking, one’s ontology is a proper subset of the other. Call them SMALL and BIG. Often, in these cases, proponents of BIG will argue against SMALL using an “expressive power argument”. Roughly, the argument says that there is a class C of sentences we systematically use to communicate, and that SMALL lacks the resources to explain how our systematic communication with these sentences is possible. This claim is often underwritten by a fancy argument that there is no way of paraphrasing the sentences in C into claims the proponent of SMALL think can be true. In this paper I examine this style of argument by considering expressive power arguments for necessitism, the view that, necessarily, everything necessarily is something. I argue that the best response to these arguments involves a holistic way of accounting for systematic communication, and then extend the lessons learned to other ontological debates.