Theory and History of Ontology

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Kit Fine: annotated bibliography. Papers 1999-2011

Papers 1999-2011

  1. Fine, Kit. 1999. "Things and their Parts." Midwest Studies in Philosophy no. 23:61-74.

    "I wish to sketch a theory of the general nature of material things. It is a theory on which I have been working for some time; and what I present here is the merest sketch. Details are slid over, significant questions not raised, and controversial assumptions left undefended. But I hope, all the same, that enough is said to indicate the relevance of the theory to questions concerning the nature of material things and the plausibility of its answers.

    One way into the theory is through consideration of part-whole. Things have parts; and so we are led to consider how they are capable of having the parts that they do. What in their nature accounts for their division into parts? It has often been supposed that we may give an adequate answer to this question by conceiving of a material thing as the material content of a space-time region or as a successive stream of matter. But I believe that there are enormous difficulties with these positions and that, once they are taken into account, we are led to adopt a very different conception of a material thing and of its relationship to its parts.

    Central to the paper is a distinction between two different ways in which one thing can be part of another. It can, in the first place, be apart in a way that is relative to a time. It is in this way, for example, that a newly installed carburetor is now apart of my car, whereas earlier it was not, or that certain molecules are now parts of my body though later, through the exercise of natural bodily functions, they no longer will be.

    In the second place, one object can be a part of another in a way that is not relative to a time. For something that is a part in this way, it is not appropriate to ask when, or for how long, it is a part; it just is a part. It is in such a way that the pants and the jacket, for example, are parts of a suit or various atoms are parts of a water molecule, or two particular pints of milk are parts of a quart of milk, or various time-slices, if there are such things, are parts of a persisting individual." (p. 61)

  2. ———. 2000. "Semantics for the Logic of Essence." Journal of Philosophical Logic no. 29:543-584.

    "In a previous paper ' The Logic of Essence ’, I presented a system for the logic of essence. In this paper, I present a semantics for a variant of the system and prove it complete with respect to that semantics.


    The basic idea behind the semantics is that a statement should be taken to be true in virtue of the nature of certain objects if it is true in any world compatible with the nature of those objects. We shall make the simplifying assumption that each world is compatible with the nature of all and only those objects that it contains. Thus the condition for a statement to be true in virtue of the nature of certain objects is that it should be true in all those worlds that contain those objects. However, the presence of an object in a world is not taken to guarantee its existence but merely its possibility.

    Thus each world will be taken to embody its own ‘view’ of which objects are possible and which are not.


    The first two sections are devoted to the language of the logic (Section 1) and the system of proof (Section 2). The next section gives the semantics (Section 3). The remaining six sections develop the completeness proof. The first three (Sections 4–6) provide lemmas crucial to the construction of the canonical model. The next two sections (Sections 7, 8) show how to build up a ‘diagram’ of the model; and the last section (Section 9) shows how to obtain the model itself. The reader might find it helpful to have the previous paper ‘The Logic of Essence’ at hand (henceforth abbreviated to ‘LE’) and also to consult the papers ‘Essence and Modality’ and ‘Senses of Essence’ for further explanation of the notion of essence and for general philosophical motivation." (pp. 543-544)

  3. ———. 2000. "Neutral Relations." The Philosophical Review no. 109:1-33.

    "There is a standard view of relations, held by philosophers and logicians alike, according to which we may meaningfully talk of a relation holding of several objects in a given order. Thus it is supposed that we may meaningfully - indeed, correctly - talk of the relation loves holding of Anthony and Cleopatra or of the relation between holding of New York, Washington, and Boston. But innocuous as this view might appear to be, it cannot be accepted as applying to all relations whatever. For there is an important class of metaphysical and linguistic contexts which call for an alternative conception of relation, one for which the order of the relata plays no role and in which the application of the relation to its relata is achieved by other means.

    My argument for this conclusion will be roughly Hegelian in form (though not at all in content). I begin with a thesis, the standard view on relations, and consider various problems to which it gives rise (§ 1). After considering what is required of a solution to these problems (§ 2), I propose an antithesis, the positionalist view, according to which each relation is taken to be endowed with a given number of argument-places, or positions, in no specified order (§ 3). But this view is beset with certain ontological and substantive problems; and I conclude with a synthesis, the antipositionalist view, which combines the virtues of the two previous accounts (§ 4) and is seen to lead to a distinctive conception of relations (§ 5).

    I have largely confined my attention to metaphysical issues; and as a consequence, two important topics have not been pursued.

    One is the logic of complex neutral relations; and the other is the role of neutral relations in the interpretation of language (and in our mental representation of reality). However, I hope enough has been said on the metaphysics of the issue to make clear why these topics are of interest and how they might be developed." (pp. 1-2)

  4. ———. 2000. "A Counter-Exemple to Locke's Thesis." The Monist no. 83:357-361.

    "Locke's thesis states that no two things of the same sort can be in the same place at the same time. The thesis has recently received extensive discussion, with some philosophers attempting to find arguments in its favour and others attempting to provide counter-examples.(1) However, neither the arguments nor the counter-examples have been especially convincing;and it is my aim, in this short note, to present what I believe is a more convincing counter-example to the thesis." (p. 357)


    "Many philosophers have thought that no two things can necessarily always coincide even if they are not of the same sort. But if this second example is correct, it shows that things may necessarily coincide even when they are of the same sort. (2)" (p. 361)

    (1) The detractors include Hughes [97a, b, c], Shorter[77], and Simons ([85], [87], [97]).The defenders include Wiggins ([68], [75], [80]),Odergard [96] and also, of course, all those who hold that no two things can coincide,whether of the same sort or not.


    Hughes, C. [97a] "Same Kind Coincidents and the Ship of Theseus," Mind , vol. 106, 53-68.

    _ [97b] "An IncredibleCoincidence," Mind , vol. 106,769-72.

    Leibniz,G.W. [81] New Essays on Human Understanding (trans,and ed. Peter Remnant and Jonathon Bennett), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    Locke, J. [75] An Essay Concerning Human Understanding (ed. P.H. Nidditch), Oxford: Clarendon.

    Odergard,D. [96] "Coincidence Under a Sortal," Philosophical Review ,vol. 105, 145-72.

    Rea, M. [97] "Material Constitution: A Reader," Boston, MA: Rowman & Littlefield.

    Shorter, J.M. [77] "On Coinciding in Space and Time," Philosophy 52, 399-408.

    Simons,P. [85] "Coincidence of Things of a Kind," Mind 94, 70-75.

    _[87] Parts: A Study in Ontology , Oxford: Clarendon.

    _ [97] "On Being the Same Ship(s)? or Electron(s): Reply to Hughes," Mind 106, 761-68.

    Wiggins, D. [68] "On Being in the Same Place at the Same Time," Philosophical Review 77: 90-95, reprintedin Rea [97].

    _ [80] Sameness and Substance , Cambridge,MA: Harvard University Press.

  5. ———. 2001. "The Question of Realism." Philosopher's Imprint no. 1:1-30.

    Reprinted in Andrea Bottani, Massimiliano Carrara, Pierdaniele Giaretta (eds.) , Individuals, Essence and Identity. Themes of Analytic Metaphysics , Dordrecht: Kluwer 2002, pp. 3-48.

    "My aim in this paper is to help lay the conceptual and methodological foundations for the study of realism. I come to two main conclusions: first, that there is a primitive metaphysical concept of reality, one that cannot be understood in fundamentally different terms; and second, that questions of what is real are to be settled upon the basis of considerations of ground . The two conclusions are somewhat in tension with one another, for the lack of a definition of the concept of reality would appear to stand in the way of developing a sound methodology for determining its application; and one of my main concerns has been to show how the tension between the two might be resolved.

    The paper is in two main parts. In the first, I point to the difficulties in making out a metaphysical conception of reality.

    I begin by distinguishing this conception from the ordinary conception of reality (§ 1) and then show how the two leading contenders for the metaphysical conception -- the factual and the irreducible-both appear to resist formulation in other terms. This leads to the quietist challenge, that questions of realism are either meaningless or pointless (§ 4); and the second part of the paper (§§ 5-10) is largely devoted to showing how this challenge might be met. I begin by introducing the notion of ground (§ 5) and then show how it can be used as a basis for resolving questions both of factuality (§§ 6-7) and of irreducibility (§§ 8-9). I conclude with some remarks on the essential unity of these two questions and of the means by which they are to be answered (§ 10)." (pp. 3-4)

  6. ———. 2002. "The Varieties of Necessity." In Conceivability and Possibility , edited by Gendler, Tamar Szabo and Hawthorne, John, 253-282. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Reprinted in: Modality and Tense. Philosophical Papers, as chapter 7, pp. 235-260.

    "Necessity abounds. There are the necessary truths of logic, mathematics and metaphysics, the necessary connections among events in the natural world, the necessary or unconditional principles of ethics, and many other forms of necessary truth or connection. But how much diversity is there to this abundance?

    Are all necessary truths and connections reducible to a single common form of necessity? And if not, then what are the different ways in which a truth might be necessary or a necessary connection might hold?

    It is the aim of this paper to show that diversity prevails.

    I shall argue that there are three main forms of necessity - the metaphysical, the natural and the normative - and that none of them is reducible to the others or to any other form of necessity. Thus what it is for a necessity or possibility of any of these forms to obtain does not consist in the obtaining of some other form or forms of necessity or possibility.

    Although the focus of the paper falls squarely within the philosophy of modality, some of my arguments may be of broader interest. For certain currently fashionable views on scientific essentialism and ethical naturalism entail the collapse of forms of necessity that I would wish to keep distinct. Thus I have found it essential to indicate what it is in these views that I take to be in error; and this has required consideration of questions from within the metaphysics of natural kinds and the epistemology of ethical belief." (p. 253)

  7. ———. 2003. "The Problem of Possibilia." In The Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics , edited by Loux, Michael J. and Zimmerman, Dean, 161-179. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Reprinted in: Modality and Tense. Philosophical Papers, as chapter 6, pp. 214-231.

    "Are there, in addition to the various actual objects that make up the world, various possible objects? Are there merely possible people, for example, or merely possible electrons, or even merely possible kinds?

    We certainly talk as if there were such things. Given a particular sperm and egg, I may wonder whether that particular child which would result from their union would have blue eyes.

    But if the sperm and egg are never in fact brought together, then there is no actual object that my thought is about.(1) Or again, in the semantics for modal logic we presuppose an ontology of possibilia twice over.(2) For first, we coutenance various possible worlds, in addition to the actual world; and second, each of these worlds is taken to be endowed with its own domain of objects. These will be the actual objects of the world in question, but they need not be actual simpliciter, i.e., actual objects of our world. What are we to make of such discourse? There are four options:

    (i) the discourse is taken to be unintelligible; (ii) it is taken to be intelligible but nonfactual, i.e. as not in the business of stating facts; (iii) it is taken to be factual but reducible to discourse involving no reference to possibilia; (iv) it is taken to be both factual and irreducible.(3) These options range from a fullblooded form of actualism at one extreme to a full-blooded form of possibilism at the other. The two intermediate positions are possibilist in that they accept the intelligibility of possibilist discourse but actualist in that they attempt to dispense with its prima facie commitment to possibilia. All four positions have found advocates in the literature. Quine, in his less irenic moments, favours option (i); Forbes ([85], p. 94) advocates option (ii), at least for certain parts of possibilist discourse; many philosophers, including Adams [74] and myself, opt for (iii); while Lewis [86] and Stalnaker [75] have endorsed versions of (iv), that differ in how full-blooded they take the possible objects to be.

    My focus in the present article is on the third option. I wish to see to what extent reference to possibilia might be understood in other terms. Can we regard talk of possibilia as a mere facon de parler, perhaps somewhat in the same manner as talk of the average man or of infinitesimals? (4) I shall not be concerned to argue directly against any of the other options.

    However, any argument for the viability of (iii) is indirectly an argument against the plausibility of these other options.

    For (iv), especially in its more extreme forms, offends against what Russell has called our 'robust sense of reality', (i) offends against our even more robust sense of what is intelligible, while (ii) offends against our somewhat less robust sense of what is factual. It is therefore preferable to go with the third option, if we possibly can." (pp. 161-162)

    (1) Cf Gupta ([80], 20, n.15.

    (2) See Kripke [63] for a standard exposition of the semantics.

    (3) See Fine [01] for a general discussion of what these various options amount to.

    (4) As should be clear from Fine [01], the viability of any reduction will also depend upon its success in accounting for our understanding of modal discourse and our knowledge of modal

    truth. See Peacocke [01] for a broader discussion along these lines.


    Fine K., [01] 'The Question of Realism', to appear in Imprint . [see Fine 2002]

    Gupta A., [80] ' The Logic of Common Nouns ', Yale University Press, 1980.

    Kripke S., [63] 'Semantical Considerations on Modal Logic', Acta Philosophica Fennic a 16, 83-94, reprinted in ' Reference and Modality ' (ed. L. Linsky), Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press, 1971.

    Peacocke C., [01] 'Principles for Possibilia', to appear. [ Noûs , vol. 36, 2002, pp. 486-508]

  8. ———. 2003. "The Role of Variables." Journal of Philosophy no. 50:605-631.

    Reprinted in the Philosopher's Annual 2003; revised in Joseph Almog, Paolo Leonardi (eds.), The Philosophy of David Kaplan, New York: Oxford University Press, 2009 pp. 109-133.

    "It is generally supposed - by logicians and philosophers alike - that we now possess a perfectly good understanding of how variables work in the symbolism of logic and mathematics.

    Once Gottlob Frege had provided a clear syntactic account of variables and once Alfred Tarski had supplemented this with a rigorous semantic account, it would appear that there was nothing more of any significance to be said. It seems to me, however, that this common view is mistaken. There are deep problems concerning the role of variables that have never been properly recognized, let alone solved, and once we attempt to solve them we see that they have profound implications not only for our understanding of variables but also for our understanding of other forms of expression and for the general nature of semantics.

    It is my aim here to say what these problems are and how they are to be solved, and to indicate the implications fo the rest of semantics. I begin with an antimony concerning the role of variables which I believe any satisfactory account of them should solve (section 1). I then argue that the three main semantical schemes currently on the market - the Tarskian, the instantial and the algebraic -- are unsuccessful in solving the puzzle (sections II-III) or in providing a satisfactory semantics for first-order logic (Sections IV-V). Finally, I offer an alternative scheme that it is capable of solving the antimony (section VI) and of providing a more satisfactory semantics for first-order logic (section VII). It is based upon a new approach to representational semantics, which I call semantic relationism ; and I conclude by discussing the implications of this approach for the semantics of names and belief-reports." (p. 605)

  9. ———. 2003. "The Non-Identity of a Material Thing and Its Matter." Mind no. 112:195-234.

    "Many philosophers have thought that a material thing is, or may be, one and the same as its matter - that a statue, for example, may be the same as the clay from which it is made or a river the same as the water which flows through it. There appears to be a powerful argument against such views, for the thing in each of these cases would appear to have properties not possessed by its matter.

    Thus the clay of a statue may exist even though the statue itself has ceased to exist and the river may be composed of different water at different times even though this cannot be true of the water that composes it at any given time. However, these philosophers have responded to this argument by claiming that the apparent difference in properties represents, not a difference in the objects themselves, but a difference in the descriptions under which they may be conceived. We may conceive of a given thing as a statue or some clay or as a river or a body of water, for example, and, depending upon how the object is conceived, we will say one thing about it rather than another.

    It is the aim of this paper to show that this counter-response cannot be sustained and that the original argument against identity should therefore be allowed to stand. This is no easy task since there would appear to be nothing in the immediate linguistic data to settle the question one way or the other.

    However, by working through the consequences of the counter-response for the rest of our language, I think it may be shown to be extremely implausible. The paper is in two main parts. The first (§§1-4) is largely concerned with setting up the problem. We characterize the different forms the identity theory can take (§1), explain how the argument in favor of non-identity might in principle break down (§2), present the most plausible versions of such arguments (§3), and then consider the most plausible counter-response to them (§4). The second part (§§5-8) embarks on a detailed investigation of the difficulties with the counter-response. It is shown to be unable to account for a wide variety of different linguistic data, that is loosely classified according as to how reference to a material thing might be achieved. Four main kinds of case will be considered: those in which a sort is explicitly invoked (§5); those in which it is implicitly invoked (§6); those in which the very notion of reference is itself used in securing reference(§7); and those in which there is reference to a plurality of things (§8)." (p. 195)

  10. ———. 2005. "Replies [to Comments on ‘Limits of Abstraction']." Philosophical Studies no. 122:367-395.

    Replies to critics about The Limits of Abstraction .

    "I am extremely grateful to the contributors for their careful, perceptive and sympathetic discussion of my book. For the most part, they have chosen not to criticize what I say but to see how the doctrines of the book might be developed or be used to throw light on other questions. A defense of the book is therefore out of place; and I can do no better than to continue the discussion of some of the questions that they raise. There is perhaps only one point on which there is a substantive disagreement; and this concerns the status of second-order logic. Weir takes it to be epistemologically problematic; I do not. This issue was not discussed in the book, and I have here attempted to explain the grounds upon which I think its epistemic innocence might be defended." (p. 367)

  11. ———. 2005. "Précis [of " The Limits of Abstraction" ]." Philosophical Studies no. 122:305-313.

    Symposium on Kit' Fine's book The Limits of Abstraction.

    " Before dealing with the contributors’ comments, I would like to provide a selective summary of the book. I will focus on two main themes: the development of a general theory of abstraction; and the critique of Hume’s principle as a form of definition. There are several other topics from the book that I would have liked to have covered. They include the question of the identity of abstracts and the viability of the context principle, on the philosophical side (§1.5, §§11.3-5) and the analysis of invariance and the proofs of categoricity, on the technical side (§§6,7). But in the interests of brevity, I have had to exclude them.

    The general idea of abstraction is one that has been discussed by philosophers throughout the ages but it was Frege who first showed how the idea could be put on a rigorous footing. For Frege, the idea of abstraction had two main components. The first related to the items upon which the abstraction was to be performed. These were to be taken to be related by an equivalence relation, i.e. by a relation that was reflexive, symmetric and transitive. As examples, we have the relation of parallelism on lines or the relation of equinumerosity on concepts. The second component related to the abstracts themselves. These were to be obtained from the items by means of a suitable operation of abstraction - the operation of forming directions in the case of parallel lines and of forming numbers in the case of equinumerous concepts. These two components, the equivalence relation and the operation of abstraction, were then to be connected by a principle relating the identity of the abstracts to the equivalence of the items from which they were formed." (p. 305)

  12. ———. 2005. "Class and Membership." Journal of Philosophy no. 102:547-572.

    Abstract: "I wish to describe a construction that is capable of yielding a new solution to the set-theoretic paradoxes. Perhaps what is most dis- tinctive about the construction is the reversal in the roles of the predicate of membership and the ontology of sets. On the usual conception of the cumulative hierarchy of Zermelo-Fraenkel set theory (ZF), we think of the membership predicate as given and of the ontology of sets or classes as something to be made out. Thus given an understanding ofmembership, we successively carve out the ontology of sets by using the membership predicate to specify which further sets should be added to those that are already taken to exist. Under the present approach, by contrast, we think of the ontology of classes as given and of the membership predicate as something to be made out. Thus given an understanding of the ontology of classes, we successively carve out extensions of the membership predicate by using conditions on the domain of classes to specify which further membership relationships should obtain. What unfolds is not the ontology of sets or classes but the meaning of membership. This “Copernican revolution” in our conception of class membership, once properly implemented, is capable of yielding a theory of classes that is just as natural as the standard theory of ZF and yet far more powerful in the strength of its principles and the scope of its applications."

  13. ———. 2005. "Our Knowledge of Mathematical Objects." In Oxford Studies in Epistemology. Vol. 1 , edited by Gendler, Tamar Szabo and Hawthorne, John, 89-110. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    "I have recently been attempting to provide a new approach to the philosophy of mathematics, which I call ‘proceduralism’ or ‘procedural postulationism’.(1) It shares with traditional forms of postulationism, advocated by Hilbert (1930) and Poincaré (1952), the belief that the existence of mathematical objects and the truth of mathematical propositions are to be seen as the product of postulation. But it takes a very different view of what postulation is. For it takes the postulates from which mathematics is derived to be imperatival, rather than indicative, in form; what are postulated are not propositions true in a given mathematical domain, but procedures for the construction of that domain.

    This difference over the status of the posulates has enormous repercussions for the development and significance of such a view. The philosophy of mathematics is faced with certain fundamental problems.

    How are we capable of acquiring an understanding of mathematical terms? How do we secure reference to mathematical objects? What is the nature of these objects? Do they exist independently of us or are they somehow the products of our minds? What accounts for the possibility of applying mathematics to the real world? And how are we able of acquire knowledge of mathematical truths? The procedural form of postulationism, in contrast to the propositional form, is capable of providing plausible answers to each of these questions. By going procedural, we convert a view that is beset with pitfalls to one that is worthy of serious consideration.

    In what follows I shall focus on the last question concerning our knowledge of mathematics (although this will inevitably involve the other questions). I do this not because this question is the most interesting or even because it provides the most convincing illustration

    of the value of our approach, but because it helps to bring out what is most distinctive—and also most problematic—about the approach. If one can go along with what it recommends in this particular case, then one is well on the way to accepting the view in its entirety.

    As with the ‘big three’ traditional approaches to the philosophy of mathematics—logicism, formalism, and intuitionism—the present approach rests upon a certain technical program within the foundation of mathematics. It attempts to derive the whole of mathematics—or a significant part thereof—within the limitations imposed by its underlying philosophy. Since the viability of the underlying philosophical view largely depends upon the possibility of carrying out such a program, it will be helpful to give a sketch—if only in the barest form—of what the program is and of how it is to be executed. I hope elsewhere to provide a much more extensive development of the view in both its philosophical and technical aspects." (pp. 90-90)

    (1) First broached in Fine (2002: 36, 56, 100).


    Hilbert, D. (1930) Grundlagen der Geometrie , 7th edn. (Leipzig: Open Court Press).

    Poincaré, H. (1952) Science and Method (New York: Dover).

  14. ———. 2005. "Reference, Essence, and Identity." In Modality and Tense. Philosophical Papers , 19-39. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Previously unpublished and written up in the spring of 1984 as a talk for the conference ‘Themes from Kaplan’.

    Chris Peacocke was the commentator.

    "There are three main concerns within current thinking on modality. One relates to the problem of essentialism, of making sense of de re modal discourse. Another relates to the problem of transworld identification, of individuating objects across possible worlds. The third relates to the problem of direct reference, of whether any terms can refer to their bearers independently of how they are described.

    It has commonly been supposed that these various problems are connected and that a solution to the one will push us in a certain direction in regard to another. But I shall argue that, once the problems are properly understood, it will be seen that they are quite distinct and that the supposed connections among them are illusory." (p. 19)

  15. ———. 2005. "Necessity and Non-existence." In Modality and Tense. Philosophical Papers , 321-354. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Previously unpublished.

    "Is it possible for Socrates to be a man and yet not exist? This is the kind of question that is likely to strike someone from outside philosophy as preposterous and that may not be taken seriously even by philosophers themselves. But I believe that the answer to this question has profound implications for our understanding of the concepts of existence, identity, and modality and for how these concepts connect to one another and to the world.

    It is my central contention that, just as there is a distinction between tensed and tenseless sentences, so there is a distinction between worldly and unworldly sentences, between sentences that depend for their truth upon the worldly circumstances and those that do not. It is in terms of such a distinction that we should assess the possibility that Socrates might be a man and yet not exist, since his non-existence will be a matter of the circumstances while his being a man will not. But once the distinction is drawn, it will be seen to have consequences for a wide range of further questions. It will lead us to distinguish, within the realm of what are normally regarded as necessary truths, between the necessary truths proper, those that hold whatever the circumstances, and the transcendent truths, those that hold regardless of the circumstances. It will also lead us to make an analogous distinction, within the realm of what are normally regarded as necessary existents, between the necessary existents proper, those that exist whatever the circumstances, and the transcendent objects, those that exist regardless of the circumstances. Thus some objects will not properly be in the world just as it has been supposed that some objects are not properly in time. Finally, it will be suggested that the identity of an object—what it is—is not, at bottom, a worldly matter; essence will precede existence in the sense that the identity of an object may be fixed by its unworldly features even before any questionof its existence or other worldly features is considered." (p. 321)

  16. ———. 2006. "The Reality of Tense." Synthese no. 150:399-414.

    Expanded version in: Modality and Tense. Philosophical Papers, as chapter 8, pp. 261-320.

    "Is reality somehow tensed? Or is tense a feature of how we represent reality and not properly a feature of reality itself? Although this question is often raised, it is very hard to say what it comes to. For both sides to the debate can agree to certain tensed claims. They can agree that I am sitting right now, for example, or that Queen Ann is dead. So in a clear and obvious sense there are tensed facts. And so how can it sensibly be denied that reality is tensed?

    My own view is that the question can only be made clear by drawing a distinction between how things are ( mere reality) and how things are in reality ( metaphysical reality). Thus what the antirealist about tense wishes to dispute is not how things are, which should be common ground between him and his opponent, but how things are in reality. Of course, he will say, Queen Ann is dead but this representation of the facts is not faithful to how things are in reality; and this is so, not because of the reference to Queen Ann or to her being dead, but because of the tense. In a faithful representation of how things are in reality, there will be nothing that corresponds to our use of tense. (1)"

    (1) The more formal minded reader may suppose that there is a sentential operator 'in reality,_' by means of which the various realist claims are to be made (Fine 2000). I should add that this paper is a summary of views which are elaborated at much greater length in Fine (2005). In the interests of brevity, I have made no attempt to engage with the extensive literature on the topic.


    Fine. K.: 2000, 'The Question of Reality', Philosophers Imprint 1 (1).

  17. ———. 2006. "Modal Logic and Its Application." EOLSS Survey of Mathematical Logic :1-25.

    Summary; "Modal logic is a broad and rapidly expanding area of logic with applications to such diverse areas as computer science, linguistics and philosophy. It deals with the logical behavior of such modal locutions as ‘must’ and ‘might’, ‘was’ and ‘will’, ‘ought’, and ‘may’. It specifies formal languages within which such locutions may be encoded, it lays down axioms and rules by which the locutions are governed, it sets up an interpretation for the resulting symbolism, and it proves various general results concerning the system and its interpretation."

  18. ———. 2006. "Arguing for Non-Identity: A Response to King and Frances." Mind no. 115:1059-1082.

    "Jeffrey King and Bryan Frances are both critical of my paper, 'The Nonidentity of a Thing and its Matter' (Fine 2003), though in rather different ways. King engages in carpet bombing; his aim is to destroy every argument in sight, even to the extent of showing that the linguistic data cited by the paper favours the monist rather than the pluralist. Frances, by contrast, engages in strategic warfare; by 'taking out' certain key arguments, he attempts to demolish the paper as a whole.

    I remain unmoved -- and, I hope, unscathed -- by their attacks.

    King's carpet bombing may cause a great deal of collateral damage but not to its intended target; and Frances's strategic bombing may hit its target but without inflicting much harm. Still, their papers raise many interesting issues not discussed -- or, at least, not properly discussed -- in my original paper; and I am grateful to them for providing me with the opportunity to take these issues into account.

    My response will be in three main parts: I begin by outlining the central line of argument of my original paper (Sect. 1); I then discuss King's criticisms of the paper (Sects 2, 3, 4); and finally I turn to Frances's criticisms (Sect. 5). I have tried to make my response reasonably self-contained and to bring out the independent significance of the issues under discussion but it would be helpful, all the same, if the reader had all three papers at hand." (p. 187)

    Fine, K. 2003: 'The Non-identity of a Material Thing and its Matter' Mind 112, pp. 195-234.

    Frances, Bryan 2006: 'The New Leibniz's Law Arguments for Pluralism' Mind 115, pp. 1007-1022.

    King, Jeffrey C. 2006: 'Semantics for Monists'. Mind 115, pp. 1023-1058.

  19. ———. 2006. "In Defence of Three-Dimensionalism." Journal of Philosophy no. 103:699-714.

    Reprinted in: Robin Le Poidevin (ed.), Being: Developments in Contemporary Metaphysics , Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008, pp. 1-16.

    "Let us use the term 'present' in such a way that a material thing can be said to be present both in space and in time. Thus on this usage we can say that the desk in front of me is present at any moment at which it exists and also that it is present at any position within its spatial location at that moment. We might similarly talk of presence throughout a period of time or a region of space and of the presence of other categories of objects, such as states or events.

    Some philosophers, the "three-dimensionalists," have thought that there is a distinctive way in which material things are present in time as opposed to space. They have thought that a thing is somehow "stretched out" through its location at a given time though not through the period of during which it exists and that it is somehow present in its entirety at any moment at which it exists though not at any position at which it is located. Other philosophers, the "four dimensionalists," have denied that this was so; they have thought that a material thing is as equally "stretched out" in time as it is in space and that there is no special way in which it is entirely present at a moment rather than at a position.

    We might use the term 'existence' for the way in which 3D-ers have thought that a thing is present in time and 'extension' or 'location' for the way in which 4D-ers have thought that a thing is present in space. The 3D-ers have then held that things exist in time but are extended in space while the 4D-ers hold that things are extended both in space and in time. (1)" (p. 699)

    (1) My terms 'presence', 'existence', and 'extension' (deriving from my paper, "Compounds and Aggregates," Nous, xxviii, 2 (1994): 137-58) correspond to the more familiar terminology of 'persistence', 'endurance', and 'perdurance'. I prefer my own terminology since it is somewhat more general, allowing one to talk of existence or extension at a moment when one cannot very well talk of endurance or perdurance at a moment and allowing one to talk of existence or extension in space when one cannot very well talk of endurance or perdurance in space.

  20. ———. 2006. "Relatively Unrestricted Quantification." In Absolute Generality , edited by Rayo, Agustin and Uzquiano, Gabriel, 20-44. New York: Oxford University Press.

    "There are four broad grounds upon which the intelligibility of quantification over absolutely everything has been questioned-one based upon the existence of semantic indeterminacy, another on the relativity of ontology to a conceptual scheme, a third upon the necessity of sortal restriction, and the last upon the possibility of indefinite extendibility. The argument from semantic indeterminacy derives from general philosophical considerations concerning our understanding of language. For the Skolem-Lowenheim Theorem appears to show that an understanding of quantification over absolutely everything (assuming a suitably infinite domain) is semantically indistinguishable from the understanding of quantification over something less than absolutely everything; the same first-order sentences are true and even the same first-order conditions will be satisfied by objects from the narrower domain. From this it is then argued that the two kinds of understanding are indistinguishable tout court and that nothing could count as having the one kind of understanding as opposed to the other.

    The second two arguments reject the bare idea of an object as unintelligible, one taking it to require supplementation by reference to a conceptual scheme and the other taking it to require supplementation by reference to a sort. Thus we cannot properly make sense of quantification over mere objects, but only over objects of such and such a conceptual scheme or of such and such a sort. The final argument, from indefinite extendibility, rejects the idea of a completed totality. For if we take ourselves to be quantifying over all objects, or even over all sets, then the reasoning of Russell's paradox can be exploited to demonstrate the possibility of quantifying over a more inclusive domain. The intelligibility of absolutely unrestricted quantification, which should be free from such incompleteness, must therefore be rejected.

    The ways in which these arguments attempt to the undermine the intelligibility of absolutely unrestricted quantification are very different; and each calls for extensive discussion in its own right. However, my primary concern in the present paper is with the issue of indefinite extendibility; and I shall only touch upon the other arguments in so far as they bear upon this particular issue. I myself am not persuaded by the other arguments and I suspect that, at the end of day, it is only the final argument that will be seen to carry any real force. If there is a case to be made against absolutely unrestricted quantification, then it will rest here, upon logical considerations of extendibility, rather than upon the nature of understanding or the metaphysics of identity." (pp. 20-21)

  21. ———. 2007. "Response to Correia." Dialectica.International Journal of Philosophy no. 61:85-88.

    "Correia’s paper contains two highly novel and interesting suggestions. The first is to generalize the Priorian perspective so that all that is required for there to be a fact about an object is that there be something that is the object though not necessarily something that exists. The second, building on the first, is to see essence as a form of Priorian implication. There is no doubt that these suggestions help to illuminate the concept of essence, in regard to both its Priorian underpinnings and its connection with modality. But I do not think that they are in tension with the central claims of ‘ Essence and Modality ' and nor do I think that they should lead usto suppose that essentialist statements might be formulated more directly in terms of an ‘arrow’ rather than a ‘box’." (p. 88)

  22. ———. 2007. "Response to Garcia-Carpintero." Dialectica.International Journal of Philosophy no. 61:191-194.

    "I attempted to argue for a supervaluational account of vagueness in an early paper, ‘Vagueness, Truth and Logic’ (VT&L) and Manuel García-Carpintero is concerned, in his rich and wide-ranging paper, to defend such an account against two objections from M. Andjelkovic and T. Williamson, ‘Truth, Falsity and Borderline Cases’, Philosophical Topics 28, 2000, pp. 211–244. I no longer hold a supervaluational view but am inclined to agree with García-Carpintero that the objections are not successful, though not quite for the reasons that he gives." (p. 191)

  23. ———. 2007. "Response to Horwich." Dialectica.International Journal of Philosophy no. 61:17-23.

    "In a sustained series of articles and books, Horwich has attempted to deflate the pretensions of philosophy by showing how many of its problems are not problems at all and how many of its ‘theories’ are explanations of phenomena standing in no need of explanation and, in keeping with this general line of thought, he is concerned, in the present highly interesting and provocative paper, to show how even the modest aims of ' The Question of Realism ' go too far in attempting to breathe some life into realist disputes. He is concerned to argue, in particular, that two of the principles that are meant to belong to the common ground between the realist and the antirealist might plausibly be questioned and that the strategy of the paper therefore fails (p. 11)." (p. 17)

  24. ———. 2007. "Response to Koslicki." Dialectica.International Journal of Philosophy no. 61:161-166.

    "Koslicki’s paper is an extraordinarily perceptive and comprehensive discussion of my published work on the nature of material things. Although she is sympathetic to my criticisms of the standard mereological approaches to this topic, she is not so happy with my positive views. She has three main objections in all, which shesummarizes as follows:

    Fine’s theory gives rise, first, to a proliferation of primitive sui generis relations of parthood and composition, whose characteristics must be imposed on them stipulatively by means of distinct systems of postulates, tailored to the different domains of objects. Secondly, we noted that, given its ‘superabundance’ of objects, Fine’s theory is committed to its very own population of ‘monsters’. Thirdly, once rigid embodiments are abandoned, the explicitly mereological aspect of Fine’s hylomorphic theory is preserved only at the cost of abandoning the Weak Supplementation Principle. This, in turn, along with the other formal properties of Fine’s system, makes us wonder why one should consider the primitive sui generis operations introduced by Fine’s theory to be genuinely mereological at all (pp. 157–158).

    Let me briefly consider the first and third of these objections but devote most of my attention to the second." (p. 161)

  25. ———. 2007. "Response to MacBride." Dialectica.International Journal of Philosophy no. 61:57-62.

    "Fraser MacBride’s paper is a deep and searching treatment of the topic of neutral relations. He very clearly explains the motivation for wanting a theory of neutral relations, providing much more than my own paper by way of philosophical and historical context, and he subjects the available theories to a number of interesting and difficult challenges. Although he is critical of my own antipositional line, he shows a keen appreciation of the problems it was meant to solve and of the considerations that led me to adopt it.

    I should like to take up two main issues from his paper – one concerning the question of symmetric relations and of whether the positionalist can provide an adequate account of them and the other concerning the question of ‘solitary’ relational states and of whether the anti-positional can provide an adequate account of how their relata are related." (p. 58)

  26. ———. 2007. "Response to Weir." Dialectica.International Journal of Philosophy no. 61:117-125.

    "In a recent paper, ‘Our Knowledge of Mathematical Objects’ (KMO), I have outlined a new approach to the foundations of mathematics. I call it ‘procedural postulationism’ and it is based upon the idea that one may lay down procedures for the expansion of a given domain. The ontology of mathematics is taken to result from the execution of such procedures; and our knowledge of mathematics is to be attained by seeing what would true upon their execution.

    Weir has raised some sharp and significant objections to this approach – one concerning the constraints by which postulation is governed, another concerning the ontological neutrality of second-order logic, upon which my approach is based, and a third concerned with my realist construal of the expanded domains.

    Let me deal with each in turn." (p. 117)

  27. ———. 2008. "Coincidence and Form." Aristotelian Society.Supplementary Volume no. 82:101-118.

    Paper read at the Kit Fine Day: Ontology Talks, February 11, 2008, Paris.

    Abstract. "How can a statue and a piece of alloy be coincident at any time at which they exist and yet differ in their modal properties? I argue that this question demands an answer and that the only plausible answer is one that posits a difference in the form of the two objects."

    "Many philosophers are pluralists about material things. They believe that distinct material things may coincide at a time, i.e. that they may occupy the very same spatial region and be constituted by the very same matter at that time. A familiar example is that of an alloy statue and the piece of alloy from which it is made. They are clearly coincident, and they would also appear to be distinct, given that the piece of alloy may exist before the statue is created or after it has been destroyed.

    A number of these philosophers also believe that two distinct material things may coincide in a world, i.e. that they may exist at the same times in the world and coincide at each time at which they exist." (p. 101)


    "The account of an object as a given rigid or variable embodiment may be regarded as a fundamental account of what the object is, one that itself stands in need of no further explanation. We may therefore claim, with some plausibility, to have traced the various features and differences of such objects to their source." (p. 116)

  28. ———. 2008. "The Impossibility of Vagueness." Philosophical Perspectives no. 22:111-136.

    "I wish to present a proof that vagueness is impossible. Of course, vagueness is possible; and so there must be something wrong with the proof. But it is far from clear where the error lies and, indeed, all of the assumptions upon which the proof depends are ones that have commonly been accepted. This suggests that we may have to radically alter our current conception of vagueness if we are to make proper sense of what it is.

    The present investigation was largely motivated by an interest in what one might call the ‘global’ aspect of vagueness. We may distinguish between the indeterminacy of a predicate in its application to a single case (the local aspect) and in its application to a range of cases (the global aspect). In the first case, it is indeterminate how a predicate, such as a bald, applies in a given case; and, in the second case, it is indeterminate how a predicate applies across a range of cases.

    Given such a distinction, the question arises as to whether one might understand the indeterminacy of a predicate in its application to a range of cases in terms of its indeterminacy in application to a single case; and considered from this point of view, the result can be seen to show that there is no reasonable way in which this might be done." (p. 111)


    "I begin by giving an informal presentation of the result and its proof and I then consider the various responses that might be made to the alleged impossibility. Most of these are found wanting; and my own view, which I hint at rather than argue for, is that it is only by giving up on the notion of singlecase indeterminacy, as it is usually conceived, and by modifying the principles of classical logic that one can evade the result and thereby account for the possibility of vagueness. There are two appendices, one providing a formal presentation and proof of the impossibility theorem and the other giving a counter-example to the theorem under a certain relaxation of its assumptions. The mathematics is not difficult but those solely interested in the philosophical implications of the results should be able to get by without it.

    The general line of argument goes back to Wright [1987] and further discussion and developments are to be found in Sainsbury [1990, 1991], Wright [1992], Heck [1993], Edgington [1993], Gomez Torrente [1997, 2002], Graff-Fara [2002, 2004], and Williamson [1997, 2002]. It would be a nice question to discuss how these various arguments relate to one another and to the argument in this paper. I shall not go into this question, but let me observe that my own approach is in a number of ways more general. It relies, for the most part, on weaker assumptions concerning the underlying logic and the logic of definitely and on weaker constraints concerning the behavior of vague terms; and it also provides a more flexible framework within which to develop arguments of this sort." (p. 112)


    Edgington D., [1993] ‘Wright and Sainsbury on Higher-order Vagueness’, Analysis 53.4, 193–200.

    Gomez-Torrente M., [1997] ‘Two Problems for an Epistemicist View of Vagueness’, Philosophical Issues 8, 237–45.

    Gomez-Torrente M., [2002] ‘Vagueness and Margin for Error Principles’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64.1, 107–125.

    Graff-Fara D., [2002] ‘An Anti-Epistemicist Consequence of Margin for Error Semantics for Knowledge’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64.1, 127–142.

    Graff-Fara D., [2004] ‘Gap Principles, Penumbral Consequence, and Infinitely Higher-Order Vagueness’, in Liars and Heaps (ed. J. C. Beall), Oxford University Press, 195–222.

    Heck R., [1993] ‘A Note on the Logic of (Higher-Order) Vagueness’, Analysis 53.4, 201–8.

    Sainsbury M., [1991] ‘Is There Higher-Order Vagueness?’, Philosophical Quarterly , 41.163, 167–82.

    Williamson T., [1994] Vagueness , London: Routledge-Kegan.

    Williamson T., [1997] ‘Replies to Commentators’, Philosophical Issues 8, 255–65.

    Williamson T., [2002] ‘Epistemic Modals: Comments on Gomez-Torrente and Gradd’, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 64.1, 143–50.

    Wright C., [1992] ‘Is Higher-Order Vagueness Coherent’, Analysis 52.3: 129–3.

  29. ———. 2009. "The Question of Ontology." In Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology , edited by Chalmers, David J., Manley, David and Wassermann, Ryan, 157-177. New York: Oxford University Press.

    "There are a number of difficulties with the standard quantificational view. They are for the most part familiar but it will be worth spelling them out, if only to make clear how far removed our understanding of the ontological question is from our understanding of their quantificational counterparts. Philosophers may have learned to live with the disconnect between the two, but their tolerance of the situation should not lull us into thinking that it is tolerable." (p. 138)

    "This account of our method for settling ontological dispute requires that we have a grasp not only of an absolute conception of reality, of there being nothing more than ..., but also of a relative conception, of there being nothing more to ... than ... , since it is through our assessment of the relative claims that we attempt to adjudicate the plausibility of the absolute claims. Many philosophers seem to have supposed that our having a good working grasp of such notions depends upon our being able to define them in other terms, so that questions of metaphysics or ontology thereby become questions of semantics or epistemology or total science. I consider this to be a serious methodological error: upon careful reflection we can see that our intuitive grasp of these notions is a sufficient guide in itself to their proper employment; and the attempt to define these notions in other terms has served merely to distort our understanding of the metaphysical questions and of the methods by which they are to be resolved." (p. 176)

  30. ———. 2010. "Towards a Theory of Part." Journal of Philosophy no. 107:559-589.

    Paper read at the Kit Fine Day: Ontology Talks, Paris, February 11, 2008.

    "My aim in this paper is to outline a general framework for dealing with questions of partwhole. Familiar as this topic may be, my treatment of it is very different from more conventional approaches. For instead of dealing with the single notion of mereological part or sum, I have attempted to provide a comprehensive and unified account of the different ways in which one object can be a part of another. Thus mereology, as it is usually conceived, becomes a small branch of a much larger subject. (1)

    My discussion has been intentionally restricted in a number of ways. In the first place, my principal concern has been with the notion of absolute rather than relative part. We may talk of one object being a part of another relative to a time or circumstances (as when we say that the tire was once a part of the car or that or that the execution of Marie Antoinette was as a matter of contingent fact a part of the French Revolution) or in a way that is not relative to a time or the circumstances (as when we say that this pint of milk is a part of the quart or that the letter ‘c’ is part of the word ‘cat’). Many philosophers have supposed that the two notions are broadly analogous and that what goes for one will tend to go for the other. (2) I believe this view to be mistaken and a source of endless error. But it is not my aim to discuss either the notion of relative part or its connection with the absolute notion. (3)

    In the second place, I have focused on the ‘pure’ theory of part-whole rather than its application to our actual ontology. Once given a theory of part-whole, there arises the question of how it applies to the objects with which we are already familiar. This question becomes especially delicate and intricate on my own approach since, although we may recognize that such and such a familiar object is a part or whole, it may not be clear, according to the theory, what kind of whole or part it is. But despite the considerable interest of this question, my focus has been on the abstract development of the theory itself and not on its application to ontology.

    Finally, I have only provided the merest sketch of the framework (on which I hope say more elsewhere). Many points are not developed and some not even stated. I have, in particular, said relatively little about the technical foundations of the subject, which are mathematically quite distinctive, or about some of the broader philosophical issues to which they give rise. I have given a rough map of the terrain rather than a guided tour, but I hope I have done enough to bring out the interest of the approach and to make clear how a more systematic and philosophically informed account might proceed." (pp. 559-560)

    (1) The material outlined in this paper has been developed over a period of thirty years. It was most recently presented in a seminar at Princeton in 2000; and I am grateful to Cian Dorr, Michael Fara, Gail Harman, Mark Johnston, David Lewis and Gideon Rosen for their comments.

    I am also grateful for some comments I received from Ted Sider and two anonymous referees for the journal; and I owe a special debt of thanks to Achille Varzi for his encouragement.

    (2) As in T. Sider, Four Dimensionalism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2001), for example.

    (3) The matter is briefly discussed in K. Fine, Things and Their Parts, Midwest Studies in Philosophy XXIII (1999), 61-74.

  31. ———. 2010. "Some Puzzles of Ground." Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic no. 51:97-118.

    "In recent years there has been a growing interest in the concept of ground—of one thing holding in virtue of another, and, in developing an account of ground, a number of philosophers have laid down principles which they regard as unquestionably true of the concept. (1) The purpose of this note is to show that these principles are in conflict with seemingly impeccable principles of logic. Thus a choice must be made; either one or more of the metaphysical principles or one or more of the logical principles should be given up.

    Some philosophers—and especially those already unsympathetic to ground—may think that the conflict reveals some underlying defect in the concept. For if acceptance of the concept of ground has such untoward consequences, then this can only be because the concept was no good in the first place. My own view—which I suggest toward the end of the paper—is quite different. It is not that considerations of ground should be ignored or even that the principles of ground should be given up in the light of their conflict with the principles of logic. Rather we need to achieve some kind of reflective equilibrium between the two sets of principles, one that does justice both to our logical intuitions and to our need for some account of their ground. Thus the conflict, far from serving to undermine the concept of ground, serves to show how important it is to arriving at a satisfactory view of what in logic, as in other areas of thought, can properly be taken to hold.

    The puzzle to which the conflict of principles gives rise bears some resemblance to the paradoxes of self-reference. It is not itself a paradox of self-reference: the puzzle, on the one side, makes no direct use of self-reference; the paradox, on the other side, makes no direct appeal to the notion of ground. But considerations of ground are often used to motivate certain solutions to the paradoxes, and the puzzle makes clear the reasoning behind these considerations and brings out the critical role played by the notion of ground. (2)" (pp. 97-98)

    (1) They include Audi [1], Batchelor [2], Correia [3], Correia [4], Rosen [10], Schneider [11], and Schneider [12].

    (2) I especially have in mind the kind of solution to the semantic paradoxes to be found in Kripke [8].


    [1] Audi, P., “Grounding,” forthcoming, 2010. [Paul R. Audi, 'Grounding: Toward a Theory of the In-Virtue-Of Relation', The Journal of Philosophy 109, 2012, pp. 685-711.]

    [2] Batchelor, R., “Grounds and consequences,” Grazer Philosophische Studien , vol. 80 (2010), pp. 65–77.

    [3] Correia, F., Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions , Philosophia Verlag GmbH, München, 2005.

    [4] Correia, F., “Grounding and truth-functions,” forthcoming in Logique et Analyse [211 (2010), 251–279]

    [8] Kripke, S., “Outline of a theory of truth,” Journal of Philosophy , vol. 72 (1975), pp. 690–71.

    [10] Rosen, G., “Metaphysical dependence: Grounding and reduction,” pp. 109–36 in Modality: Metaphysics, Logic and Epistemology , edited by B. Hale and A. Hoffman, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2010.

    [11] Schneider, B., “Truth-functionality,” Review of Symbolic Logic , vol. 1 (2008), pp. 64–72.

    [12] Schneider, B., “A logic of ‘because’,” in progress, 2010.

  32. ———. 2010. "Semantic Necessity." In Modality: Metaphysics, Logic, and Epistemology , edited by Hale, Bob and Hoffmann, Aviv, 65-80. New York: Oxford University Press.

    "In the recent monograph ‘Semantic Relationism’, I made use of a certain notion of what was semantically necessary, or required, in arguing that it might be a semantic requirement that two names were coreferential even though there were no intrinsic semantic features of the names in virtue of which this was so. In the present paper, I wish to consider the bearing of the notion on the nature and content of semantic enquiry. I shall argue that a semantics for a given language is most perspicuously taken to be a body of semantic requirements and that the notion of a semantic requirement should itself be employed in articulating the content of those requirements. There are two main alternatives to this conception to be found in the literature. According to one, a semantics for a given language is taken to be an assignment of semantic values to its expressions; and according to the other, a semantics for a given language is taken to be a theory of truth for that language. I attempt to show how these alternatives do not provide us with the most perspicuous way of representing the semantic facts and that it is only in terms of our conception that one can properly appreciate what these facts are.

    The importance of the notion of metaphysical necessity for metaphysics has long been appreciated, in regard to both explicating the nature of the subject and articulating the content of its claims. If the argument of this paper is correct, then it will help to show that the notion of semantic necessity has a similar and equally important role to play in understanding the nature and content of semantics." (p. 65)

  33. ———. 2010. "Comments on Scott Soames’ ‘Coordination Problems’." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research no. 81:475-484.

    "A major theme of ‘Semantic Relationism’ was that many of the familiar worries over the substitutivity of names in belief contexts may be resolved by going relational. But Soames, in his interesting and actionpacked paper, has argued that even if the more familiar worries are removed there are variants of them that will remain." (p. 475)


    "So we see that the relationist does have a response to the worry that Soames raises. However, the way relationism comes in is not through embedding the speaker’s report in a larger context of belief attributions, as Soames had supposed, but through seeing the speaker’s report and the agent’s belief as forming a single context, in which relationships of coordination relevant to the truth of the report may then be discerned."(p. 476)

  34. ———. 2010. "Reply to Lawlor's 'Varieties of Coreference'." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research no. 81:496-501.

    "The focus of Krista Lawlor’s challenging paper [*] is on cases of confused reference. By way of illustration, she asks us to suppose that ‘Wally says of Udo, “ He needs a haircut” , and Zach, thinking to agree, but looking at another person, says, ‘he sure does” (p. 4). Zach is confused, since he takes the person he is looking at to be the same as the person Wally was referring to. This might not be a semantic confusion, which is what I think Lawlor is after, but a straight confusion over the facts.

    For Zach’s primary intention may be to refer to the same person as Wally or, alternatively, to the person he is looking at and he may mistakenly believe that these two people are the same. But let us suppose that Zach means to use use ‘he’ indifferently as a pronoun anaphoric on Wally’s original use of ‘he’ and as a pronoun that is deictic on the person he is looking at. We would then have a case of confused reference of the kind Lawlor has in mind." (p. 496)

    [* Krista Lawlor, "Varieties of Coreference", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81, 2010, pp. 485-495.]

  35. ———. 2010. "Comments on Paul Hovda’s ‘Semantics as Information About Semantics Values’." Philosophy and Phenomenological Research no. 81:511-518.

    "In SR [ Semantic Relationism ] (7-9), I posed the ‘antimony of the variable’. How can the pair of variables x, y have a different semantic role from the pair x, x when x has the same semantic role as y? In attempting to solve this antimony, I suggested that we appeal to the idea of the values that are taken, not merely by a single variable, but by a sequence of variables (SR, 23-4).

    The semantic role of the two pairs of variables can then be distinguished, since the first pair will take a distinct pair of objects from the domain as values (assuming that the domain contains at least two objects) while the second pair will not.

    Hovda’s makes a marvelous alternative suggestion. [*] ‘The basic idea’, he writes (pp. 4-5) ‘is that a variable can refer to anything and must refer to exactly one thing.’ The more usual idea is that a variable actually takes all of the objects in the domain as values (or ‘referents’). My own relational account of variables is an instance of this approach, but with the modification that variables can now take their values simultaneously and not merely singly." (p. 511)

    [* Paul Hovda "Semantics as Information About Semantics Values", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81, 2010, pp. 485-495.]

  36. ———. 2011. "Aristotle's Megarian Manoeuvres." Mind no. 120:993-1034.

    Abstract: "Towards the end of Theta 4 of the Metaphysics , Aristotle appears to endorse the obviously invalid modal principle that the truth of A will entail the truth of B if the possibility of A entails the possibility of B. I attempt to show how Aristotle’s endorsement of the principle can be seen to arise from his accepting a non-standard interpretation of the modal operators and I indicate how the principle and its interpretation are of independent interest, quite apart from their role in understanding Aristotle."

    "I begin by considering the different ways in which Aristotle’s two principles might be formalized within the framework of propositional modal logic (Sect. 1). I then consider the deductive and semantic consequences of the different ways in which these principles might be formalized, using the apparatus of contemporary modal logic (Sect. 2). It is shown that the difficulties confronting Aristotle are even greater than might have been thought, since the second principle leads to ‘modal collapse’, the collapse of possibility to actuality, which is something that Aristotle had previously argued explicitly against.

    Three recent attempts to get Aristotle ‘off the hook’ — those of Brennan (1994), Makin (1999 and 2006), and Nortmann (2006) — are considered and found wanting (Sect. 3). I then propose an alternative solution, which rests upon distinguishing between a world as the locus and as the witness of possibilities (Sect. 4). Once the semantics for Aristotle’s use of the modalities is understood in this way, it becomes perfectly explicable why he would have wanted to endorse the converse principle and how he can avoid modal collapse. I defend this interpretation of Aristotle against some objections and try to indicate why it is of independent interest (Sect. 5). I conclude with an attempt to vindicate Aristotle’s argument for the first principle (Sect. 6)." (pp. 994-995)


    Brennan, Theodore 1994: ‘Two Modal Theses in the Second Half of Metaphysics Theta.4’. Phronesis , 39, pp. 160–73.

    Makin, Stephen 1999: ‘Aristotle’s Two Modal Theses Again’. Phronesis , 44, pp. 114–125.

    —— 2006: Aristotle: Metaphysics Theta , tr. and ed. Stephen Makin. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Nortmann, Ulrich 2006: ‘Against Appearances True: On a Controversial Modal Theorem in Metaphysics Theta 4’. Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung , 60, pp. 380–93.

  37. ———. 2011. "An Abstract Characterization of the Determinate/Determinable Distinction." Philosophical Perspectives no. 25:161-187.

    "My aim in this paper is to provide an account of what it is for the world to have a determinate/determinable structure. Patches have colors, people have heights, particles have mass. These are all instances of the determinate/determinable structure, with a given state of the world consisting in something’s possessing a determinate (be it a given color or height or mass) from within a given determinable (color, height or mass). But what is it for the world as a whole to possess such a structure?

    In the Tractatus , Wittgenstein took the atomic propositions, by which the world is to be described, to be completely independent of one another. But he later revised his view (Wittgenstein [1929]) and allowed that the atomic propositions might exhibit the kind of dependence that is characteristic of the way in which different determinants of a given determinable are exclusive of one another. Our question might therefore be put in the form: how in the most abstract terms should we conceive of the post-Tractarian world?" (p. 161)


    Wittgenstein L., [1929] ‘Some Remarks on Logical Form’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society , supplementary volume 9, 162-71.

  38. ———. 2011. "The Silence of the Lambdas." The Philosophers's Magazine no. 55:19-27.

    James Garvey interview Kit Fine.

    "We come finally to Fine’s influential views on vagueness and the so-called “sorites” paradox.

    The name comes from the Greek word for heap, “soros”. Eubulides, an ancient Greek philosopher with a thing for paradoxes, asked, roughly, when do you go from a few grains of wheat to a heap? One grain doesn’t count, neither do two or three or four, but keep adding grains and, eventually, you’d say that you do have a heap. The trouble is that for a range of borderline cases, we don’t know what to do with the predicate “is a heap”. There are a number of instances in which “This is a heap” is neither true nor false, but how could that be? When I ask Fine about his views on vagueness, he thinks for a very long minute, noticeably brightening as he does so, and finally tells me he’s found an entirely new way to think about vague predicates.

    “I can briefly outline my new view, which is very radical.” He goes on, half smiling, “If I’m right almost everyone else is wrong.” I lean in.

    “Predicates can be vague. Take a predicate like bald. It’s vague. Perhaps one way of expressing that is that the predicate is not completely determined in its application. Many people have thought that the phenomenon of vagueness is to be understood though borderline cases: what it is for a predicate to be vague is for there to be borderline cases. My view is that this approach to the problem of vagueness is fundamentally misguided. There is no intelligible notion of borderline case which is relevant to the phenomenon of vagueness. We have to achieve an understanding of vagueness in some other way.


    The new thought is that that’s a mistake, that the indeterminacy cannot be localised in that way.

    We cannot point our finger at any one case.

    “It means everyone else has been wrong. It leads to a very different conception of vagueness, the logic of vagueness, how you handle various problems. It leads to a completely new logic. It’s something I’ve been thinking about.” (p. 27)