PHIL Seminar: “Should Ontology be Explanatory?”, Amie L. Thomasson, 4:30PM March 11 (EN)

Title: Should Ontology be Explanatory?

Speaker: Amie L. Thomasson (Dartmouth, Philosophy)

Date: Thursday, March 11, 2021
Time: 1630-1830 (GMT+3)

This is an online seminar. To request the event link, please send a message to the department.

Since Quine, it has been common to hold that the goal of ontology is to determine what entities we should or must ‘posit’ as part of a best total explanatory theory. Accordingly, whether putative entities such as meanings, properties, or numbers contribute explanatory power is often taken as a central criterion for whether we should accept that they exist. I will argue that this is a mistake. The explanatory power criterion arises from failing to understand the diverse functions that different areas of discourse can serve. A deeper understanding of the way these forms of discourse enter language, and of the functional roles they play, makes clear why we should reject the explanatory power criterion, and reject the explanatory conception of ontology. I will close with some remarks about how we should rethink our approach to existence questions—and, more deeply, how we should re-focus our philosophical efforts.

About the speaker:
Amie Thomasson is Daniel P. Stone Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy at Dartmouth University. She works in the areas of metaphysics, philosophical methodology and metaontology, philosophy of art, philosophy of social and cultural objects, philosophy of mind and phenomenology. She is the author of four books: Norms and Necessity (Oxford University Press, 2020), Ontology made Easy (Oxford University Press, 2015), Ordinary Objects (Oxford University Press, 2007), and Fiction and Metaphysics (Cambridge University Press, 1999). She also co-edited  a collection of essays, Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind (Oxford University Press, 2005). ​She has published in journals such as Journal of Philosophy, Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Philosophy and Phenomenological, Research, and Philosophical Studies.