Modality and anti-metaphysics

McLeod, Stephen K. (1997) Modality and anti-metaphysics. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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My principal aims are: to defend metaphysics, chiefly against the logical positivists; to defend objective non-logical modality against empiricist views which hold that the very notion is unintelligible and which reject the view that there is ontologically grounded modality. (As an adjunct, I defend a conception of the tasks of ontology against the objectual conception adopted in some contemporary discussions.) Chapter 1 concerns philosophies which have been thought to seek the elimination of metaphysics. I argue that the common view that Hume considered all metaphysics meaningless and sought its elimination is the misguided result of the positivist appropriation of Hume. I suggest that Carnap's revisionary view of meaning, in accordance with his notion of logical syntax, poses no serious threat to metaphysics. In Chapter 2, informed by developments in contemporary anti-realism (with which I am not allied), I set out my argument so that the initial issue is not that of realism/anti-realism about modality, but that of primitivism/anti-primitivism. I argue that modal discourse is primitive: i.e., neither eliminable nor reducible to non-modal discourse. I endorse a strict distinction between eliminativism and reductionism. After McGinn, I outline epistemological motivations behind such anti-realist positions. In order to assuage these I provide some modal epistemology. I adopt a broadly Kripkean account of de re modal knowledge while disputing the famous Kripkean tenet that there are necessary truths typically discoverable a posteriori. I take it, after Wiggins, that it rests upon a misconception about the form of essentialistic attributions. I illustrate the distinction between necessary truths and true statements of de re necessity using the necessity of identity as a key example. I try to improve on the epistemology offered by Kripke and largely subscribed to by McGinn. In Chapter 3 I illustrate how modal projectivism is ill-placed to account for de re modality. I expand upon the distinction between logical and metaphysical modality. Having distinguished, under Hacking's influence, between de re and de dicto modality, I argue for realism about a class of de re modality on the basis of work done by Wiggins. I charge that anti-realist conceptualism about modality and essence results in an untenable and epistemologically barren metaphysic. In addition, when the conceptualist realist dialectic developed by Wiggins is duly recognized, anti-realist conceptualism fails to get off the ground. That dialectic is ignored by Sidelle, yet it undercuts his attack on real essentialism. In Chapter 4 I expand upon the de relde dicto distinction. I discuss the conceptions of the modality involved in the notion of verifiability in principle which can be extracted from the works of the logical positivists themselves. I claim that the logical positivists conflated logical possibility and substantive possibility despite their predominant intention to characterize verifiability in terms of logical possibility of verification. I argue, further to the discussion of modal epistemology in Chapter 2, that the classification of cognitively meaningful statements as either analytic or empirical is inadequate. I defend the allocation of de dicto status to constructions employing the logical modalities. I discuss the issue in relation to some revisionary accounts of logical possibility offered under the influence of essentialist thought. I reject these, seeking to maintain the distinction between logical and metaphysical modalities. My views are influenced by the writings of McFetridge and Wiggins. I conclude with a brief comment on empiricism and essentialism in relation to the conflation of logical possibility and substantive possibility de re. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Philosophy, metaphysics.
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities
Supervisor's Name: Telfer, Ms. Elizabeth
Date of Award: 1997
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1997-71600
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 10 May 2019 14:09
Last Modified: 07 Sep 2022 13:33
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.71600

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