Committee ChairLavine, Shaughan
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractFollowing Quine, some philosophers argue that insofar as we accept our best scientific theories as true, we are committed to the existence of the things these theories say 'there are'. And, we determine what things our theories say 'there are' by looking to the objects required to satisfy the existentially quantified sentences of these theories. In other words, existential quantification is the mark of ontological commitment.In my dissertation, I examine this relationship between quantification and ontology. Building on work from Peter Geach and Van McGee, I develop an account of quantification, what I call "unrestricted substitutional quantification". I argue that this is not only the appropriate understanding of the quantifiers, but it also allows for a robust science of ontology. With this understanding of the quantifiers, I consider the role they play in determining our ontological commitments by examining the paradigm example of this role--the Quine-Putnam Indispensability Argument.My analysis of the Quine-Putnam Indispensability Argument focuses on two central points. First, I argue that standard formulations of the argument include an unnecessary premise. Eliminating this superfluous premise significantly strengthens the argument as it has drawn a great deal of criticism. Second, the resulting argument serves as a blueprint for Quinean appeals to existential quantification in determining our ontological commitments. As a result, the argument helps clarify a necessary condition on such appeals. We are only committed to the objects required to satisfy existentially quantified sentences in formalizations of our accepted theories provided they occur in appropriate formalizations of the theories. Hence, appealing to existential quantification to determine ontological commitments requires an account of 'appropriateness' for formalizations. I conclude by offering such an account by drawing on work from Hartry Field, Mark Colyvan, and other areas of study (e.g., Kantian Ethics) where a similar problem of occurs.