© 2010, Noah Sharpsteen


[From the introduction]

Analytic metaphysics has come under fire from many directions under the rubric of naturalism. The irrelevance of analytic metaphysics for exploring the nature of ultimate reality is already at the level of household slogans: purportedly all it does is rest on armchair analysis consisting of linguistic intuitions. Yet analytic metaphysics even during its heyday was less uniform than the current slogans indicate. If analysis is or was the basis for its epistemology, then practice of analytic metaphysics leaves open not just how the process of analysis occurs, but also the objects of analysis themselves.

In this paper, I will consider a couple well-known debates in analytic metaphysics and explicate some of the features of their epistemology. These include Alexius Meinong’s formulation of analysis and his conclusions concerning possible objects and subsistence as interpreted and supported by Roderick Chisholm in Being and Nonbeing; Russell’s reformulation of propositional structure and his use of definite descriptions as presented and discussed by W.V.O. Quine in On What There Is; and trope theory proposed by D.C. Williams in The Elements of Being in which he substitutes the analysis of propositions which contain terms that represent the constituents of concrete objects (labeled ‘abstract particulars’) and their relations in place of propositions which contain terms that represent ‘objects’ and their relations – an approach used by Meinong and Russell. I will argue that some of these examples show some common epistemological criterion such as systematic use of conceptual simplicity or epistemic immediacy as their slogans. Yet I still maintain that the object of analysis differs. They analyze different representational systems based on their ontological commitments – not just their linguistic ones. Thus I will maintain that, like Carnap, we cannot have a uniform epistemology for metaphysics; and we cannot have a principled analysis based epistemology for all represented metaphysics.

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