Variance thesis philosophy

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It would have been useful if Hirsch had more clearly separated the different theses he wants to defend. In the above passage, "Urmson's dictum" is to the effect that if two sentences are "equivalent" then "it is not the case that one will be nearer to reality than the other" Urmson , p. As stated, the dictum only says that if the content is the same then there is no difference in metaphysical goodness between the sentences.

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Hirsch adds to this an understanding of the equivalence in question according to which two sentences are equivalent in the relevant sense already if they are true with respect to the same possible worlds Introduction, p. There are also important qualifications when it comes to Hirsch's stance with respect to VD. First, explicitly skirting difficulties having to do with Burgean social externalism see, e.

When we take this into account, the VD-style claim Hirsch makes is not that the endurantist and the perdurantist have a verbal dispute in the sense characterized but rather the disjunctive claim that either they have a verbal dispute in that sense or, if they do not, that is for reasons having to do with social externalism.

It is only if we allow that a dispute can be verbal even if the words used mean the same things in the disputants' mouths that Hirsch's view can be described as one on which the ontological disputes in question are verbal. Second, more significantly, in a number of different places Hirsch makes clear that his claim that the dispute is verbal is supposed to apply when the dispute remains at the "all is said and done"-stage pp.

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That is to say, the claim is that if a dispute between a self-described endurantist and a self-described perdurantist remains at the "all is said and done"-stage, then it is verbal. One reason we may find the qualification significant is that it can be doubted that the debates actually prosecuted really would remain at the "all is said and done"-stage.

(PDF) Variance Theses in Ontology and Metaethics | Matti Eklund -

Even if the debates seem intractable and do not seem to be resolved any time soon, certainly not all is said and done. This doubt notwithstanding, it is of course a significant question whether an ontological debate that would persist even at the "all is said and done"-stage is thereby verbal. David Lewis , to whom Hirsch refers for having called attention to the "all is said and done"-stage, denies this; Hirsch affirms it.

Second, it also deserves emphasizing that there is an important argument that Hirsch puts forward in connection with the discussion of the claim that ontological disputes are verbal but which seems separable from any such claim. Consider then the following argument: 1 There is such a possible language as Shmenglish. See pp. It is natural to conjoin this argument with the claim that for other, non-commonsensical ontological positions there are possible languages wherein utterances made by those who defend those positions would come out true.

And it may further be that bracketing social externalism philosophers who defend such positions -- or at least sound like they do -- really speak such languages while ordinary English-speakers speak Shmenglish. If so, then ontological disputes are verbal. But whatever the fate of those claims, they are separable from the just stated argument for common sense ontology.

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Hirsch's argument for common sense ontology is somewhat similar in spirit to 'Moorean' arguments -- think here of the Moorean point that common sense beliefs are better justified than the premises of any skeptical argument against them -- rather generally. But rejecting skepticism about knowledge due to Moorean considerations is often accompanied by more detailed investigation of what it is about knowledge that allows us to have it despite the skeptical challenge.

Saying that the skeptic must be wrong is only the beginning. The task of properly explaining exactly how the skeptic goes wrong still remains. By contrast, Hirsch appears content to argue that the deviant ontologist is mistaken -- maybe in part because there are more deviant ontologists around than there are genuine epistemological skeptics. He does not devote much attention to the question of, so to speak, what it is about ordinary objects that allows them to exist despite the deviant ontologist's challenges.

He does say that in interpretation we should generally attach more weight to particular judgments than to general principles such as that no two objects can be in the same place at the same time, but that is about it. Another philosopher might be interested in going on: even given that such general principles are false, what is it about objects that allows them to coincide?

In some of his essays, Hirsch refers to Carnap as a precursor e. I have elsewhere given voice to doubts concerning the understanding of Carnap's position, by no means specific to Hirsch, that such claims presuppose.

See Eklund forthcoming. Even if I should be wrong about that, it remains that when it comes to philosophical attitude and motivation, Hirsch is much closer to British common sense and ordinary language philosophy than to Carnap. Throughout the book are sprinkled references to Moore, Austin, Wisdom, Urmson and the later Wittgenstein, and I think those references provide a better key to Hirsch's philosophical thinking.

Partial Interpretation, Meaning Variance, and Incommensurability

It is appropriate and telling that Hirsch approvingly quotes Wittgenstein's remark about language gone on holiday p. I think it is possible to read Hirsch's essays and come away with the sense that the discussions are narrow: that they have no significance for other issues besides the defense of common sense ontology in the case of middle-sized physical objects via some metaontological considerations. Such an assessment would however be mistaken. First, the specific claims Hirsch makes have consequences outside of ontology. Second, Hirsch's argumentative strategy ought to be applicable in other cases as well.

I will elaborate on these points in turn. First, Hirsch rejects the "referential correspondence theory", according to which "in any possible language the truth of a statement depends on the referential relations between its non-logical words and objects that exist in the world" p. The reason he does so is related to the phenomenon of seeping through, mentioned earlier on. Take someone who speaks a mereological nihilist language, where nihilism is the view that there are no mereologically complex objects, and where in speaking of the language as 'nihilist' I am using the kind of shorthand I mentioned earlier.

In her language, sentences like "there are no tables" etc. She still can and should agree that our sentences "there are no tables" and "t is brown", where 't' names a given brown table, come out true, but she cannot say "this sentence's truth depends on a referential relation between 't' and its referent", for she must say "there is no referent of 't'". She must, in her language, say concerning "t is brown" of our language, "this sentence does not have name-predicate structure".

I think many theorists would be open to the possibility of there being possible languages fundamentally different in structure from those we are familiar with. But by Hirsch's lights already some apparently fairly superficial differences -- those of having different views, when all is said and done, on quantified sentences -- have fundamental repercussions when it comes to what to say about the structure of the language.

In some of the essays pp. Of course, insofar as Hirsch's metaontological views are in conflict with entrenched views on foundational issues concerning meaning, one possible reaction, whether in the end justified or not, is that it is Hirsch's metaontological views that should be rejected. Turn now to the possibility that Hirsch's argumentative strategy may be applicable outside ontology.

I think it is plain that his points concerning verbal disputes and common sense ontology should be. After all, he trades on the idea that apparent disagreements over what are regarded as a priori necessities should be regarded as verbal, and many philosophical disagreements are of that general kind. But let me here restrict my remarks to a case Hirsch himself discusses: ethics.

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He thinks the argumentative strategy would not work there. Discussing Peter Singer's radical recommendations regarding what one should sacrifice for strangers and the possibility of replying to Singer by appeal to an argument parallel to that which Hirsch gives in the case of ontology, he says:.

Probably improved simulations will crack this before too long. The story is laden with irony: inflation was invented to help explain why the universe looks uniform, but taking it seriously leads you to eternal inflation , in which space on extremely large unobservable scales is highly non-uniform — the multiverse.

The mechanism underlying eternal inflation is just the same quantum fluctuations that give rise to the density fluctuations observed in large-scale structure and the microwave background. String theorists were only forced to take all these compactifications seriously by the intervention of a surprising experimental result: the acceleration of the universe, which implied that there was no magic formula that set the vacuum energy exactly to zero.


Combining the string theory landscape with eternal inflation gives life to the multiverse, which among other things offers an anthropic solution to the cosmological constant problem. A big problem with Boltzmann brains. Help, philosophers! Linde thinks that the multiverse shows tendencies, although not cut-or-dried predictions. It prefers a cosmological constant to quintessence, and increases the probability that axions rather than WIMPs are the dark matter. Findings to the contrary would be blows to the multiverse idea.

Most strongly, without extreme fine-tuning, the multiverse would not be able to simultaneously explain large tensor modes in the CMB and low-energy supersymmetry. The multiverse is not a theory — need some specific underlying dynamics e. The cosmological constant problem why is the vacuum energy so small? String theory is unique at a deep-down level, but features jillions of possible compactifications down to four dimensions, each with different low-energy parameters.

Challenges to making predictions: landscape statistics how many of each kind of vacua? Each is hard! For the cosmological constant, the distribution of values within the string landscape is actually relatively understandable: there is basically a uniform distribution of possible vacuum energies between minus the Planck scale and plus the Planck scale. Make the right vacua via eternal inflation, which populates the landscape.