This is a dissertation in meta-ontology. In it, I attempt to develop some alternative rules to the standard Quinean meta-ontology. The alternative is intended to allow for a minimal ontology, while still maintaining fit with folk discourse. I hope that this dissertation will help to make such alternative rules precise, and understandable to Quineans, most of whom consider such talk to be “murky metaphysical waters”.
The new rules revolve around the relation of grounding. In Chapter 1, I discuss my understanding of grounding. The majority of attempts at articulating a theory of grounding have treated ‘grounds’ as univocal. There has been a recent attempt to argue that ‘grounds’ does not refer. I argue against both of these options, and defend a third: ‘grounds’ is univocal, and grounding is a genus.
In Chapter 2, I turn my attention to one species of grounding – truthmaking. I argue that the measure of ontological commitment is not what a theory says exists, but what a theory requires as truthmakers. A person is ontologically committed to the existence, in the fundamental sense of ‘existence’, of there being truthmakers for the sentences of her theory.
In Chapter 3, I turn my attention to the question of what sort of things these truthmakers are. Generally, truthmaker theorists have accepted truthmaker necessitarianism, which has led them to reify states of affairs, facts, or tropes. But these things are dubious posits. I want to retain truthmaking, but I give four arguments against truthmaker necessitarianism. This allows us to admit only substances into our ontology.
In Chapter 4, I discuss the language of the ontology room. The received view was that the language of the ontology room is English: words mean the same thing when doing ontology as they do at the fireworks show. I argue for an alternative: when we’re doing ontology, we’re not using ‘exists’ the same way others do, or the same way we do when we’re not doing ontology. I also say what ‘exists’ means inside the ontology room: it’s a restriction of the quantifier at the fireworks show.