Esa Diaz-Leon (University of Manitoba, University of Barcelona)
In Defence of Conceptual Ethics: Amelioration and Metaphysical Deflationism

Sally Haslanger has distinguished between descriptive projects and ameliorative projects in philosophy. The main idea is this: philosophers engaged in a descriptive project aim to reveal the operative concept, that is, the objective type that our usage of a certain term tracks (if any), whereas philosophers engaged in an ameliorative project aim to reveal the target concept, that is, the concept that we should be using, given our purposes and goals in that inquiry. The questions pertaining to ameliorative projects are the following: what is the point of having this concept? Which concept would serve these purposes best?
In her (2000) paper, Haslanger offered a social constructivist analysis of gender and race, and argued that those analyses are not intended to capture our ordinary concepts of gender and race, but her aim was rather to figure out the target concepts, that is, the concepts of gender and race that would be most useful in order to achieve social justice. However, in more recent work (2005, 2006), she has argued that her social constructivist accounts of gender and race could also be seen as trying to capture the operative concept that we actually associate with our terms ‘gender’ and ‘race’.
This important distinction gives rise to the following question: should philosophers of gender and race engage in the descriptive project, or in the ameliorative project? It could be argued that these are two independent projects and that they are both useful. But if they are both useful, we can still ask: useful for what purposes, and under what conditions? In this paper I would like to discuss this important question. In particular, I want to examine the nature and the prospects of both the descriptive and the ameliorative project regarding the metaphysics of gender and race.


Catharine Diehl (Humboldt Universität zu Berlin)
Is the Book of the World Written in Predicate Functorese?

In this talk, I will consider recent arguments by Shamik Dasgupta (2009) and Jeffrey Ketland (ms.) that, fundamentally, there are no concrete individuals. Dasgupta introduces a principle—which I shall call No Danglers—that states that, ceteris paribus, we should reject the existence of putative physical features that cannot make any difference to the statements of our best physical theory. He argues that this principle is basic to our reasoning in physics: for instance, we conclude that absolute velocity does not exist, because facts about absolute velocity—facts about velocities over and above the relative velocities of particles—can make no difference within Newtonian Gravitation Theory. According to Dasgupta, this principle also shows us that the existence of individuals is irrelevant. This provides a reason to reject the existence of fundamental individuals. Furthermore, Dasgupta claims that commitment to fundamental individuals confers no theoretical advantages and concludes that we should prefer a theory that lacks them. He suggest that we adopt a language, predicate functorese, that is free from such ontological commitments. Unlike Dasgupta’s explicitly abductive argument, Ketland’s case against fundamental individuals is based on a conflict with two attractive principles: (1) that permutations of individuals in a representation of a world yield another representation of a world and (2) that qualitatively indiscernible worlds are identical.
Ketland argues that these two principles are supported by our best physics—in particular, from our ways of counting possibilities in statistical quantum mechanics. They are, however, incompatible with at least a natural formulation of a commitment to individuals, Ketland’s Unique Structure Principle. I will argue that neither Dasgupta’s nor Ketland’s argument tells against an ontology of individuals; instead, the arguments point to conclusions regarding haecceities and naming. In particular, the No Dangler principle tells against a commitment to what I call which-are-which facts, over and above qualitative facts, about primitive individuals. In other words, it is an argument against haeceitistic facts. Indeed, Ketland’s argument employs an anti-haeceitist principle. We can thus see Dasgupta’s principle as providing additional support for Ketland’s anti-haeccceitistic premise. This then leaves us with the options of rejecting his permutation principle or his unique structure principle. I will agree that Ketland is right to reject the Unique Structure Principle, but I will argue that there’s another way to reject this principle. We do not have to give up primitive individuals but instead a certain view of naming.


Dan Korman (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Quantifying in the Dark

Metaphysicians frequently claim to be speaking a specialized “language of the ontology room”, in which ‘there is’ and ‘exists’ don’t have their usual meanings. I will argue that they face a dilemma: either they do or don’t take themselves to be stipulatively introducing a brand new use for these terms. If they do, then we have no ways of assessing the claims being made in this new language. If they don’t, then the burden is on them to present some psychological or linguistic evidence for this multiplicity of senses – a burden which few have made any serious attempt to discharge.


David Plunkett (Dartmouth College)
Robust Normativity and The Metaphysics of Law: Situating the Positivist/Antipositivist Dispute

In recent years, a number of philosophers of law have characterized the legal positivism and legal antipositivism as competing views about the ultimate grounds of legal facts (facts about what the law is in a given jurisdiction, at a given time). Roughly, the thought is this: legal antipositivism is the thesis that legal facts are ultimately grounded in both social facts and moral facts, whereas legal positivism is the thesis that it is social facts alone. In the first part of this paper, I make some proposals about how to best sharpen this distinction to make it more philosophically precise and useful. This discussion leads to a reformulation of the above definitions of legal positivism and legal antipositivism. One of the key ideas is that we should broaden our focus from moral facts to robustly normative facts. The theses of positivism and antipositivism (as I formulate them here) concern one important metaphysical issue about the relationship between robust normativity and the law. But there are many other important metaphysical issues as well, including some that are arguably more important than this one. Many of these issues do not receive the explicit attention they deserve in the contemporary discussion, given the dominance of the positivist/antipositivist way of framing the field. In the second part of the paper, I briefly explore three of these other issues; ones that also involve the issue of what role (if any) robustly normative facts have in our best constitutive accounts of legal facts. The first issue concerns what I call second-order explanation; the second issue concerns real definition, and the third issue concerns essence. Thinking about these issues, I argue, helps us better situate the positivist/antipositivist dispute, helps us better understand the space of positions in legal philosophy, and helps us better evaluate views in the field. Moreover, I argue it can also help us better diagnose points of agreement and disagreement in legal philosophy and avoid merely verbal disputes.


Naomi Thompson (University of Leeds)
Irrealism About Grounding

Grounding talk has become increasingly familiar in contemporary philosophical discussion. Most discussants of grounding think that grounding talk is useful,  intelligible, and accurately describes metaphysical reality. Call them realists about grounding. Some dissenters reject grounding talk on the grounds that it is unintelligible, or unmotivated. They would prefer to eliminate grounding talk from philosophy, so we can call them eliminitivists about grounding. This paper outlines a new position in the debate about grounding, defending that view that grounding talk is (or at least can be) intelligible and useful. Grounding talk does not, however, provide a literal and veridical description of mind-independent metaphysical reality. This (non-eliminative) irrealism about grounding treads a path between realism and eliminativism.


Tobias Wilsch (University of Uppsala)
Generic Laws

It is commonly assumed that causal and metaphysical explanations are associated with distinct modal forces: a complete causal explanans necessitates the associated explanandum with natural necessity, and a metaphysical explanans necessitates the associated explanandum with metaphysical necessity. I develop a competing view on which these two kinds of explanationare are instead associated with the same modal force. I will then offer an argument in favor of this view, conditional on the rejection of so-called ‘regularity theories’ of the laws of nature.


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