Summer School

We’re delighted to announce that this year’s Hamburg Summer School will be taught by Amie Thomasson from the University of Miami.

The Summer School will take place between the 21st and 25th July 2014. For more information, please click here.

Given the remit of our project and her involvement in it, we’re particularly happy that the course will focus on Amie’s recent work defending the view that ontological questions are rather easier to answer than many philosophers have thought. Here’s Amie’s abstract for the course:

The Easy Approach to Ontology
In the decades following Quine, debates about existence have taken center stage in the metaphysics. But neo-Quinean ontology has reached a crisis point, given the endless proliferation of positions and lack of any clear idea of how to resolve debates. The most prominent challenge to mainstream ontological debates has come from the idea that disputants can be seen as using the quantifier with different meanings, leaving the dispute merely verbal. Nearly all of the work in defense of hard ontology has gone into arguing against quantifier variance.

In this course we will investigate and evaluate an entirely different challenge that hard ontology faces, which remains even if the threat of quantifier variance can be avoided. The challenge comes from the ‘easy approach to ontology’: the idea that many ontological questions can be answered by undertaking trivial inferences from uncontroversial premises, making prolonged disputes about the questions out of place. For example, it seems we can begin from the uncontroversial claim ‘grass is green’, and from there infer that grass has the property of greenness, and so that there are properties. Similar arguments have been undertaken for numbers, propositions, fictional characters, and ordinary objects. Such a view is arguably the heir to Carnap’s own position, and we will begin historically by tracing back the roots of this position to Carnap, and seeing how it survives the Quine-Carnap debate. We will go on to examine how to develop the easy approach to ontology, and to investigate its consequences: including both a first-order simple realism about the disputed entities and a form of meta-ontological deflationism that takes ontological disputes themselves to be misguided, since existence questions may be answered by straightforward conceptual and/or empirical work. We will also examine a range of objections that have been raised against the easy approach, including objections from fictionalism, from rejection of conceptual truths, and from accusations of ontological profligacy. Finally, we will look at attempts to avoid this threat and revive serious ontological debates by adopting a special language of Ontologese.

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