Friday, October 17, 2008

Schaffer on truthmakers and ontological commitment

In a few places, I've argued that Quine was wrong about ontological commitment. If you want to know what a sentence is ontologically committing to, look not to what the quantifier must range over, say I, but to what must exist to make it true.

Jonathan Schaffer replied in his 'Truthmaker Commitments'. He argues that the motivations for my view are bad ones and goes on to offer some objections to it. He does argue that truthmakers play a role though: but it's not in identifying the ontological commitments, but in identifying what is fundamental according to the theory.

I've just written my reply. I argue that the motivations are good ones, and I aim to counter the objections. I hope the view becomes a bit clearer in my responses to the objections - certainly, they forced me to say some things I hadn't said in the paper Schaffer is criticising. I end, though, by suggesting that it's not obvious there's a genuine dispute between me and Schaffer - that we just mean something different by 'ontological commitment'.

Comments, of course, would be welcome.
Update: the paper has been revised as of 18/10/08

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Blind refereeing - request for info

Here's something you don't learn in grad school - probably because it isn't an issue until after you've been publishing for a bit. When submitting a paper, you make it suitable for blind review. Usually, that's really easy: just delete self-references, your name, acknowledgements (well, the latter isn't always done - but I think it should be), etc. But what if you're responding to a paper that is itself responding to you? Do you still need to prepare it for blind review? That would be much more work and might significantly change the tone of the paper, because while you might say things like 'I was unclear: what I meant was . . .' or 'X has misunderstood me' or 'I would respond thus . . .', you would have to hedge everything: 'perhaps Cameron meant . . .', 'Cameron might respond', etc. I'd be interested to hear from people who have experience of writing such replies whether that's what they do or whether they ignore the request to prepare the paper for blind refereeing in such cases (or whether they do something else).