Practice, Types and Pragmatic Ontology Open Access

Reuben Sass (Summer 2018)

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Contemporary ontology typically involves arguments about which philosophical theories are more parsimonious or more relevant for particular philosophical questions.  What is left out of such discussion is the role of social practices and norms in determining not merely our commitments to the existence particular things, but also our definition of such basic ontological concepts as types and identity criteria.  This thesis focuses on the importance to ontology of social norms and practices.  I draw on Brandom’s inferentialism (1994), phenomenology, and Peircean pragmatism, though my arguments do not straightforwardly reproduce the arguments of these philosophical programs.  The thesis likewise reflects a pragmatic reading of Quine insofar as I argue that the content of ontology should be based on whichever ontological commitments yield better results for practices of empirical research. The first chapter of the thesis argues, against Quine, that the context for determining the identity criteria for types should extend into social practices beyond the sciences, including more everyday practices.  The aim of the first chapter is to articulate a criterion for determining which social practice is most relevant for defining the identity criterion for a particular type.  The second chapter explores how the very concept of a type can be defined through inferences licensed by the norms of research practices, and how types can be distinguished from each other through different inferential goals.  This normative conception of a type aims to rescue the very concept of types from common counterexamples and charges of triviality, while also offering a story about how particular types can be constructed.  The final chapter explores how the normative conception of a type can explain progress in research practices, in addition to further discussion of the relevance of identity criteria to social practices.  As a whole, the thesis aims to show that questions of social practices and norms can result in a philosophical ontology that is more informative, accounting more thoroughly for both the construction and definition of basic philosophical concepts.  Such informativeness may lead to an ontology which is more relevant to a broad variety of practices of research and investigation into the world.   

Table of Contents

General Introduction: pp.2-9

Chapter 1: A Criterion for Better Identifying Object Types in an Ontology of Social Practices: pp. 9-25

Chapter 2: Constructing a Normative Conception of Types: pp.26-63

Chapter 3: The Concept of Progress in Research and the Relevance of Types to Practices: pp.63-91

Conclusion: pp.91-93

Bibliography: pp. 93-95

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