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  1. Metaphysics and the Representational Fallacy (Routledge by Heather Dyke PDF
  2. Metaphysics and the Representational Fallacy - CRC Press Book
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Many of my critical remarks concern specific features of Dyke's discussion, and do not tell directly against Dyke's general outlook. Setting worries about how Dyke puts things on the side, her discussion certainly suggests a coherent and potentially interesting view: The claim thus stated is neutral on whether in a case like this we should say that Fs exist or not. Arguably one can go either way on that question, and still have an interesting view. But since this view isn't kept sharply in focus, the discussion isn't as helpful regarding how it should be assessed as one might want.

Lastly, let me turn to some general concerns. Dyke is concerned with the idea that we can read off the structure of reality from the structure of language. But what exactly is it supposed to mean that we can do so? Hardly anyone thinks that every linguistic expression refers, so that facts contain elements corresponding to every constituent of a sentence. The view under attack must rather be thought of as involving the more restricted claim that reality contains elements corresponding to specific bits of language, such as names, predicates and sentences; e.


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Already this view is sophisticated enough that it doesn't involve any straightforward reading off the structure of reality from the structure of language. Of course, the friend of the view under discussion draws conclusions regarding what exists from what sentences are true. But is she any different, in this respect, from someone who refuses to draw these ontological conclusions from "a is F" but draws these ontological conclusions from the truth of "a exists" and "the property of being F exists"?

If she is different, what exactly makes her so?

Metaphysics and the Representational Fallacy (Routledge by Heather Dyke PDF

Both theorists just described draw ontological conclusions from what sentences are true: Why, exactly, should we take the difference to be such that while the former theorist takes an objectionably linguistic approach to ontology, the latter theorist does not? Now, Dyke herself doesn't only want to make a case for the Overlooked Strategy: The sentence is true because this object is a particular way.

One may think that at least if Dyke's preferred metaphysics is true there cannot be a privileged description of reality, for any language must employ an apparatus of predication; there can be no language with only names. I think, however, that there are several reasons to be doubtful of this. Consider the sort of language Wilfrid Sellars discussed in "Naming and Saying" Someone who believes only in particulars might take such a Sellarsian language to be more ontologically perspicuous. For all Dyke argues, the structure of the a sentences of Sellars' language corresponds to the structure of the corresponding bit of reality.

But then the friend of Dyke's preferred metaphysics can subscribe to SLT anyway.

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There is a true description of the kind she mentions: Someone might protest that surely Dyke must mean to speak of descriptions in natural language. But prominent targets of hers, including Quine, would want to leave natural language behind. The problems I have brought up in the last few paragraphs serve to illustrate a worry one might have regarding Dyke's characterization of the "representational fallacy". She describes this "fallacy" as the "general strategy" of, as she puts it, "reading metaphysics off language". But what is reading metaphysics off language supposed to be? Surely not drawing metaphysical conclusions simply based on what linguistic resources we happen to have.

That would be silly.

Metaphysics and the Representational Fallacy - CRC Press Book

We have the word "unicorn" but there are no unicorns. More plausibly, "reading metaphysics off language" is a matter of drawing metaphysical conclusions from premises about what sentences are true. But what could be the matter with that? Of course, some metaphysicians might misunderstand their language and draw the wrong conclusions.

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But much linguistic philosophy has been devoted precisely to preventing mistakes of this kind witness, e. And surely it cannot be the case that we can never draw metaphysical conclusions from premises about what sentences are true. Can I not from the truth of "In the metaphysically relevant sense, Fs exist" draw the conclusion that in the metaphysically relevant sense, Fs exist?

To briefly sum up: Dyke's negative aim is to combat what she calls the representational fallacy, often in the specific guise of SLT; her positive aim is to make a case for the Overlooked Strategy. But SLT is an ill-chosen target for a number of reasons; it is unclear what the representational fallacy -- the supposedly fallacious strategy of reading metaphysics off language -- amounts to; and the supposed advantages of the Overlooked Strategy are had by strategies well-represented in the literature.


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  4. When she tries to be more careful, she discusses what she calls SLT, the "strong linguistic thesis", according to which there is a privileged true description of reality, the sentences of which a stand in a one-one correspondence with facts in the world, and b are structurally isomorphic to the facts with which they correspond. For Instructors Request Inspection Copy. This book is an investigation into metaphysics: Dyke argues that metaphysics should take itself to be concerned with investigating the fundamental nature of reality, and suggests that the ontological significance of language has been grossly exaggerated in the pursuit of that aim.

    A New Metaphysical Strategy: The Overlooked Strategy in Practice: Some Further Applications of the Overlooked Strategy. She is the editor of Time and Ethics: Essays at the Intersection Dordrecht: Kluwer Academic Publishers, and author of several journal articles on metaphysics and the philosophy of time. We provide complimentary e-inspection copies of primary textbooks to instructors considering our books for course adoption. Write a customer review.

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