SOPhiA 2021

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

On the Relevance of Ontological Categories
(Metaphysics and Ontology, )

A Ontological categories are a staple of metaphysics and, to be more specific, of ontology. And yet, in spite of their timeworn position in philosophy, their precise relevance is elusive. Why do we, in truth, philosophise about ontological categories? Most recently, John Heil (2012) and Stephen French (2018) have suggested that one important theoretical role that ontological categories play is of an explanatory nature. That is, to a first approximation, ontological categories are necessary for the truth and intelligibility of scientific explanation. If there were no ontological categories, we would be, in other words, hard pressed to be able to scientifically explain anything. But it seems that this proposal suffers from at least one difficulty. Namely, it seems difficult to identify which ontological category could function as necessary for the truth and intelligibility of scientific explanation. Heil would like to insist that all entities that assume the role of the explanantia in scientific explanations belong to the category of substance, whereas French would maintain instead that all such entities belong to the category of structure. But why should it be one over the other? I will argue that the problem with identifying which ontological category is necessary for scientific explanation is a problem that is endemic to the way we develop ontologies. As Charles B. Martin insisted, ontologies are package deals. They are delicate exercises in checks and balances, give-and-take, where we wrestle with adequate explanations of the world, while being constrained by the requirement to remain faithful to the way the universe is. This suggests that in itself it is not problematic that the same entity can be categorised into different ontological categories, as long as we have the means to decide between the ontologies to which these ontological categories belong to.

Chair: Nikolai Shurakov
Time: 11:20-11:50, 10 September 2021 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.003
Remark: (Online Talk)

Alexander Michael Witkamp 
(KU Leuven, )



Testability and Meaning deco