Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Klassische Deutsche Philosophie

Metametaphysics –
On the Sense and Non-sense of Ontological Disputes



"What exists?" ― the core question of ontology ― is not only one of the oldest questions of philosophy but has also enjoyed renewed popularity in recent decades in analytic philosophy. But do disputes on whether there are numbers or whether there are macroscopic objects like tables make any sense at all?

The view that paradigmatic metaphysical disputes in the end don't make any sense was defended by Rudolf Carnap more than 60 years ago in his seminal paper, "Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology," but went unheeded among metaphysicians because of its controversial philosophical and methodological presuppositions. Carnap's suspicion, however, was never entirely removed and it can be encountered in different varieties in the last ten years with increasing frequency: Aren't there, at most, merely trivial answers to ontological questions and aren't those questions therefore of no interest? Aren't philosophers discussing ontological questions just talking past each other? And are there objectively true and objectively false answer to ontological questions at all?

In this project the question of the sense and non-sense of ontological disputes is raised anew and examined against the background of current works in philosophy of language and philosophical methodology. The first sub-project explores the intuition that the answers to ontological questions are perfectly obvious and therefore trivial. The second sub-project examines whether there are objectively true or objectively false answers such questions. The third sub-project investigates whether the concept of metaphysical explanation or grounding can help address deflationary worries. 


Sub-project 1: Trivial existence proofs (Tobias Rosefeldt)

Sub-project 2 (PhD position): Tasty Contextualism. A Superiority Approach to the Phenomenon of Faultless Disagreement (Julia Zakkou)

Sub-project 3 (PhD position): Metaphysical Explanation (Catharine Diehl)


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