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One concerns the general issue of reduction, although in a number of cases possible worlds, personal identity, free will , both sides favor reduction of some sort, but the terms differ. Some of the essays have nice explicit discussion of issues involved with taking terms as primitive, such as Joseph Melia on modality and Markosian. Another theme, similar but slightly at cross-currents, might be called 'the question of deflation'. In most of these disputes, at least one party is maintaining that there is 'less than meets the eye' to the phenomenon in question.

Sometimes this takes the form of reduction -- but there are others.

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One form is Eliminativism, as in Cian Dorr's rejection of properties and other abstract objects. Sometimes deflation requires a certain kind of reduction. Compatibilism arguably deflates our prereflective thoughts about freedom, while incompatibilism, while it can also be reductive, does not maybe it inflates it -- certainly realism about possible worlds, while reductive, is not de flationary! Another sort of deflation occurs at a more theoretical level -- Markosian's 'brutal composition' view seems to me?! These contrasts and others can be useful in thinking about 'philosophical architecture', and the book provides much to work with here.

As I say, most of the essays aren't aimed at providing powerful new arguments or defenses.

However, some of them do attempt to break new ground. I'll conclude by mentioning a few of them here, with no prejudice at all intended towards the other essays, all of which make some interesting moves that are worthy of comment or query, but which are too numerous to all receive such treatment here.

Cian Dorr's contribution, "There are No Abstract Objects," really is a legitimate journal article -- and rather more difficult than the other pieces. But it will, I think, generate discussion of a new style of nominalism.

Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics

While others -- including Chris Swoyer in his defense of abstract entities -- often focus on the epistemic problems postulation of such entities raises, Dorr does not see the epistemic problems as any worse than the metaphysical ones. He offers the distinction between 'fundamental' and 'superficial' ways of talking, and suggests that most of the reasons people commit themselves to abstract objects come from taking superficial uses too seriously.

Dorr clearly thinks this distinction is important across metaphysics, and it is reminiscent of Chisholm's distinction between 'loose and popular' and 'strict and philosophical' speech, or Van Inwagen's talk 'in the philosophy room' and outside of it. One of Dorr's most important arguments here occurs in a footnote note 2 , where he points out that the argument 'Either there is no planet or there is a planet; therefore, either the number of planets is zero or the number of planets is at least one' is as valid as other arguments with conclusions that seem to involve existential quantification over or direct reference to numbers and other abstract objects -- but surely, a valid argument with an analytic premise cannot establish any ontological conclusions.

So if the argument is valid, the conclusion must be rather weaker than it seems -- rather than an ontological commitment to numbers, it is just a 'pleonastic' transformation allowed by the language. Another innovation Dorr offers comes in his paraphrases of seemingly committed abstract object talk -- a notorious problem.

ISBN 13: 9781405112291

Dorr suggests that in general, we can prefix the problem claims with 'If there were numbers, properties , and the material world were still as it is, then P'. Here, he borrows from Yablo. I must confess to not really understanding this -- not because the antecedent is, on the view in question, necessarily false, but because on the view, it is, I think, conceptually confused -- but if it is ok, it obviously generalizes. Dorr argues that we don't need abstract objects for explanatory purposes either in science or philosophy, but I wonder whether he doesn't make things a bit easier on himself by choosing numbers.

I would think it easier to argue that science doesn't need numbers, than that it is not committed, say, to the property of having negative charge.