Indeterminacy and Formal Concepts View Homepage


Ontology type: schema:MonetaryGrant     


Grant Info

YEARS

2014-2017

FUNDING AMOUNT

320510 CHF

ABSTRACT

Concepts such as conjunction, disjunction, negation, identity, existence, all, entailment, necessity, possibility, contingency, essentiality, parthood, dependence, grounding, fact, structure, number are essential components of philosophical theories, definitions and analyses. Following Husserl's terminology, one may call the family of concepts that they belong to formal concepts. A standard assumption among analytic philosophers is that these concepts are precise and free of indeterminacy. It is so well-entrenched that it is often presupposed but not made explicit or outright presented as an obvious truth. Lewis for example considers the question of whether the truth-functional connectives, “the words for identity and difference, and for the partial identity of overlap”, and “the idioms of quantification, so long as they are unrestricted” can be indeterminate to be purely rhetorical. (See Lewis 1986, p. 212.) There are however a select few dissenters who have argued that particular formal concepts are affected by indeterminacy. (See Russell 1923, Field 1994.) Furthermore, the emerging literature on metaphysical indeterminacy prominently features a family of theories which allow for cases of indeterminate existence or identity. (See Barnes 2009, Barnes 2013, Williams 2008, Williams & Barnes 2011.) The proposed research project will be the first systematic investigation of the question of whether formal concepts are susceptible to indeterminacy. This is a question of fundamental importance to analytic philosophy, since a positive answer would pose a significant threat to its methodological foundations. The research project will be subdivided into three parts. The first part systematically clarifies the different kinds of indeterminacy relevant to the project (part A). The second part is dedicated to the investigation of arguments for the claim that formal concepts are precise (part B). In the third part of the project, existing arguments for the indeterminacy of particular formal concepts will be discussed and evaluated (part C). Since formal concepts constitute the structural basis for philosophical theories, the outcomes of the project should be of significant interest to any philosopher interested in foundational and methodological questions about philosophy itself. Since philosophy is not the only discipline which crucially relies on formal concepts, the questions pursued within the project will also be relevant to researchers in other disciplines, such as computer science, mathematics and linguistics, who are interested in fundamental methodological questions. Apart from these contributions to the meta-theory of philosophy and the formal sciences, the project also promises to make substantial contributions to the philosophical discussions about indeterminacy, the philosophy of logic and metaphysics. BibliographyBarnes, Elizabeth (2009). Indeterminacy, identity and counterparts: Evans reconsidered. Synthese 168 (1):81-96.Barnes, Elizabeth (2013). Metaphysically indeterminate existence. Philosophical Studies 166 (3):495-510.Field, Hartry (1994). Are Our Logical and Mathematical Concepts Highly Indeterminate? Midwest Studies in Philosophy 19 (1):391-429.Lewis, David K. (1986). On the Plurality of Worlds. Blackwell Publishers.Russell, Bertrand (1923). Vagueness. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 1 (2):84-92.Williams, Robert (2008). Multiple Actualities and Ontically Vague Identity. Philosophical Quarterly 58 (230):134-154.Williams, J. Robert G. & Barnes, Elizabeth (2011). A Theory of Metaphysical Indeterminacy. In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics volume 6. Oxford University Press. More... »

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http://p3.snf.ch/project-156554

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