A Slice of Ontology

Basic info for my department’s second annual philosophy conference is online. The topic is “The Ontology of Ordinary Objects.”

an extraordinary object

Here’s the idea behind the topic. There’s long been a dispute – going back to Aristotle versus his Presocratic and Platonic predecessors – as to whether ordinary objects such as tables and terriers are full realities in their own right or are instead mere constructs out of something more basic and less familiar: atomic triangles, sense-data, property clusters, four-dimensional time-slices, etc.

Most members of the Auburn department are firmly on the side of the ordinary objects – even if this image, the official icon of the conference, might suggest otherwise.

In related news (related to the topic of the conference, albeit not especially to the conference itself), check out Rupert Read’s Wittgensteinian critique of four-dimensional time-slices. (In order to understand his opening analogy, non-Brits may need to examine this photograph.)


11 Responses to A Slice of Ontology

  1. Nathan Byrd February 6, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    I’ve been curious about van Inwagen’s ideas, but I don’t know if he’s taken very seriously in this area:



    • Roderick February 6, 2010 at 11:24 pm #

      Van Inwagen takes an ordinary Aristotelean attitude toward living organisms, but a radically eliminative attitude toward all other objects above the level of particle physics. Seems a bit Brahean.

  2. MBH February 6, 2010 at 4:23 pm #

    The Read piece is beautiful.

    The data from contemporary physics can be seen as proof.

    Check this out.

    • Roderick February 6, 2010 at 11:27 pm #

      How do you see the physics article as relating to the Read piece? I see the physics article as being about how time and space interact, and the Read article as about whether time and space are alike.

      • MBH February 7, 2010 at 1:03 am #

        Horava: “I’m going back to Newton’s idea that time and space are not equivalent…”

        That sounds like an appeal to alikeness/difference.

      • MBH February 7, 2010 at 1:25 am #

        More of my ruminations on time here.

      • MBH February 7, 2010 at 10:41 am #

        Has anyone ever conducted an empirical study to measure things like blood flow, heart rate, brain activity, energy generation, etc. in persons who are thinking vs. persons who believe they’re thinking, but aren’t? (I’m probably falling into the latter category on this issue… but I do recognize a certain shift in perspective when I recognize that what I believe is a thought is not.)

        I mean, do we know — physiologically — what happens when a person has the “I can go on” sensation when figuring a series? vs. What happens when they can’t? More technically, what happens in the body when a person shifts an analytic a priori judgment into a synthetic a priori judgment? And just as interesting, what happens when a person tries but cannot make that shift?

        If there hasn’t been this kind of study, can we please do it?

  3. Richard Garner February 7, 2010 at 8:54 am #

    I had a teaching placement with Rupert Read, teaching “The Philosophy of Social Sciences.” He also ran as a green in the recent Norwich North by-election against the second ever Libertarian Party UK candidate, and the youngest ever PPC. The LPUK did very badly then!

  4. MBH February 7, 2010 at 11:59 pm #

    Kinda random: quibble alert. I just read Read’s What ‘There Can Be No Such Thing As Meaning Anything By Any Word’ Could Possibly Mean.

    I’m sold.

    Out of curiosity: why do you list Kripke as an influence. Does that mean you embrace meaning-nihilism or meaning-skepticism? It just doesn’t seem to fit. Then again, I’m only familiar with Kripke’s philosophy of language. What am I missing?

    • Roderick February 8, 2010 at 12:30 am #

      It’s his work on reference and modality in Naming and Necessity, not the Wittgenstein-on-rule-following stuff (which I think is confused), that influenced me.


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