Research Programs: Fellowships for University Teachers

Period of Performance

8/1/2013 - 7/31/2014

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

The Descent of Metaphysics

FAIN: FA-57443-13

Amie L. Thomasson
Trustees of Dartmouth College (Coral Gables, FL 33146-2919)

I propose to complete work on a book, The Descent of Metaphysics. The book investigates the methods and knowledge claims of metaphysics, that central branch of philosophy. Metaphysicians purport to tell us what exists--but it seems the sciences give a better method of answering existence questions. They also aim to tell us about the modal features of things of various types, but it is notoriously difficult to say how modal knowledge is possible at all. In this book I develop the first book-length development and defense of a deflationary approach to metaphysical questions--including existence questions and modal questions. I argue that the view developed enables us to answer existence questions straightforwardly and to demystify modal knowledge. On the view defended, the metaphysician’s central contribution is a form of conceptual work, not a pseudo-science. As a result, the methods of metaphysics are clarified, and metaphysics is located squarely among the humanistic disciplines.

Media Coverage

Publication: Times Literary Supplement
Date: 7/19/2016

Associated Products

Ontology made Easy (Book)
Title: Ontology made Easy
Author: Amie L. Thomasson
Abstract: In the decades following Quine, debates about existence have taken center stage in the metaphysics. But neo-Quinean ontology has reached a crisis point, given the endless proliferation of positions and lack of any clear idea of how to resolve debates. The most prominent challenge to mainstream ontological debates has come from the idea that disputants can be seen as using the quantifier with different meanings, leaving the dispute merely verbal. Nearly all of the work in defense of hard ontology has gone into arguing against quantifier variance. This volume argues that hard ontology faces an entirely different challenge, which remains even if the threat of quantifier variance can be avoided. The challenge comes from the ‘easy approach to ontology’: a view that is arguably the heir to Carnap’s own position. The idea of the easy approach is that many ontological questions can be answered by undertaking trivial inferences from uncontroversial premises, making prolonged disputes about the questions out of place. This book aims to develop the easy approach to ontology, showing how it leads to both a first-order simple realism about the disputed entities and a form of meta-ontological deflationism that takes ontological disputes themselves to be misguided, since existence questions may be answered by straightforward conceptual and/or empirical work. It also aims to defend the easy approach against a range of arguments wielded against it and to show it to be a viable and attractive alternative to the quagmire of hard ontology.
Year: 2015
Primary URL: http://
Primary URL Description: Oxford University Press Website
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: Author's website
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 978-0-19-93851
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes