January 11, 2008

Ontology Western Style

This is a live post from the Arizona Ontology Conference, hosted by the department of philosophy at the University of Arizona and organized by Laurie Paul and her assistant Sara Bernstein. Thomas Hofweber is currently defending his "Ambitious Yet Modest Metaphysics", which attempts to explain how to do ontology without deferring completely and reverently to the sciences and without embracing the special technical notions from metaphysics.

Earlier in the conference. Brian Weatherson offered a view prescribing that we not explain causative relations (e.g., those expressed by 'opened', 'killed', 'broke', 'saved', etc.) in terms of causation but rather explain causation in terms of such causative relations. The disjunctive account says that c causes e iff either (1) e counterfactually depends on c or (2) an agent of c stands in a causative relation to an e state. There was much discussion about how to demarcate the class of causatives, including persuasive commentary from Elizabeth Barnes.

Hilary Greaves gave us an education in physics while defending a paper that she co-authored with Frank Arntzenius. The paper explores some of Richard Feynman's ideas in the context of a recent debate about time reversal in classical electromagnetism.

Andy Egan argued that disputes about taste hang on self-attributions of dispositional properties. The function of disagreements about taste is to get one's interlocutor to self-attribute such properties. The thesis was to explain why disputes about taste are defective (when they are defective) in terms of this key role played by taste claims.

The after dinner talk last night was given by Robin Jeshion She argued that, in the context of naive realism, descriptivism can't work since it does such a lousy job at capturing spatial representational content.

More to come, including pictorial evidence of the festivities.

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