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Ideas of Amie L. Thomasson, by Text

[American, fl. 2009, Professor at the University of Miami.]

2007 Ordinary Objects
p.189 It is analytic that if simples are arranged chair-wise, then there is a chair
     Full Idea: Thomasson argues that the existence of ordinary objects follows analytically from the distribution of simples, assuming that there are any simples. It is an analytic truth that if there are simples arranged chair-wise, then there is a chair.
     From: report of Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007]) by Thomas Hofweber - Ontology and the Ambitions of Metaphysics 07.3
     A reaction: But how do you distinguish when simples are arranged nearly chair-wise from the point where they click into place as actually chair-wise? What is the criterion?
Intro p.3 A chief task of philosophy is making reflective sense of our common sense worldview
     Full Idea: Showing how, reflectively, we can make sense of our unreflective common sense worldview is arguably one of the chief tasks of philosophy.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], Intro)
     A reaction: Maybe. The obvious problem is that when you look at weird and remote cultures like the Aztecs, what counts as 'common sense' might be a bit different. She is talking of ordinary objects, though, where her point is reasonable.
Intro p.4 Ordinary objects are rejected, to avoid contradictions, or for greater economy in thought
     Full Idea: Objections to ordinary objects are the Causal Redundancy claim (objects lack causal powers), the Anti-Colocation view (statues and lumps overlap), Sorites arguments, a more economical ontology, or a more scientific ontology.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], Intro)
     A reaction: [my summary of two paragraphs] The chief exponents of these views are Van Inwagen and Merricks. Before you glibly accept ordinary objects, you must focus on producing a really strict ontology. These arguments all have real force.
01.2 p.16 Analytical entailments arise from combinations of meanings and inference rules
     Full Idea: 'Analytically entail' means entail in virtue of the meanings of the expressions involved and rules of inference. So 'Jones bought a house' analytically entails 'Jones bought a building'.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 01.2)
     A reaction: Quine wouldn't like this, but it sounds OK to me. Thomasson uses this as a key tool in her claim that common sense objects must exist.
02.3 p.38 How can causal theories of reference handle nonexistence claims?
     Full Idea: Pure causal theories of reference have problems in handling nonexistence claims
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 02.3)
     A reaction: This is a very sound reason for shifting from a direct causal baptism view to one in which the baptism takes place by a social consensus. So there is a consensus about 'unicorns', but obviously no baptism. See Evans's 'Madagascar' example.
02.3 p.38 Pure causal theories of reference have the 'qua problem', of what sort of things is being referred to
     Full Idea: Pure causal theories of reference face the 'qua problem' - that it may be radically indeterminate what the term refers to unless there is some very basic concept of what sort of thing is being referred to.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 02.3)
     A reaction: She cites Dummett and Wiggins on this. There is an obvious problem that when I say 'look at that!' there are all sorts of conventions at work if my reference is to succeed.
03 p.57 Identity claims between objects are only well-formed if the categories are specified
     Full Idea: Identity claims are only well-formed and truth-evaluable if the terms flanking the statement are associated with a certain category of entity each is to refer to, which disambiguates the reference and identity-criteria.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 03)
     A reaction: The first of her two criteria for identity. She is buying the full Wiggins package.
03 p.57 Identical entities must be of the same category, and meet the criteria for the category
     Full Idea: Identity claims are only true if the entities referred to are of the same category, and meet the criteria of identity appropriate for things of that category.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 03)
     A reaction: This may be a little too optimistic about having a set of clear-cut and reasonably objective categories to work with, but attempts at establishing metaphysical categories have not gone especially well.
03.2 p.62 Modal Conventionalism says modality is analytic, not intrinsic to the world, and linguistic
     Full Idea: Modal Conventionalism has at least three theses: 1) modal truths are either analytic truths, or combine analytic and empirical truths, 2) modal properties are not intrinsic features of the world, 3) modal propositions depend on linguistic conventions.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 03.2)
     A reaction: [She cites Alan Sidelle 1989 for this view] I disagree mainly with number 2), since I take dispositions to be key intrinsic features of nature, and I interpret dispositions as modal properties.
03.3 p.68 To individuate people we need conventions, but conventions are made up by people
     Full Idea: The conventionalist faces paradox if they hold that conventions are logically prior to people (since this plurality requires conventions of individuation), and people are logically prior to conventions (if they make up the conventions).
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 03.3)
     A reaction: [Sidelle is the spokesman for conventionalism] The best defence would be to deny the second part, and say that conventions emerge from whatever is there, but only conventions can individuate the bits of what is there.
03.4 p.68 Maybe analytic truths do not require truth-makers, as they place no demands on the world
     Full Idea: It is a venerable view that analytic claims do not require truth-makers, as they place no demands on the world, but this claim has often been challenged.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 03.4)
     A reaction: She offers two challenges (bottom p.68), but I would have thought that the best response is that the meanings of the words themselves constitute truthmakers - perhaps via the essence of each word, as Fine suggests.
03.5 p.71 Wherever an object exists, there are intrinsic properties instantiating every modal profile
     Full Idea: In a 'modally plenitudinous' ontology, wherever there is an object at all, there are objects with intrinsic modal properties instantiating every consistent modal profile.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 03.5)
     A reaction: [She cites K.Bennett, Hawley, Rea, Sidelle] I love this. At last a label for the view I have been espousing. I am a Modal Plenitudinist. I must get a badge made.
04.3 p.80 If the statue and the lump are two objects, they require separate properties, so we could add their masses
     Full Idea: An objection to the idea that statues are not identical to material lumps of stuff is the proliferation of instances of properties shared by those objects. If the mass of the statue is 500kg, and the mass of the lump is 500kg, do we have 1000kg?
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 04.3)
     A reaction: [compressed; she cites Rea 1997 and Zimmerman 1995] To wriggle out of this we would have to understand 'object' rather differently, so that an independent mass is not intrinsic to it. I leave this as an exercise for the reader.
04.4 p.81 Given the similarity of statue and lump, what could possibly ground their modal properties?
     Full Idea: The 'grounding problem' is that given all that the statue and the lump have in common, what could possibly ground their different modal properties?
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 04.4)
     A reaction: Their modal properties are, of course, different, because only one of them could survive squashing. Thomasson suggests their difference of sort, but I'm not sure what that means, separately from what they actually are.
09 p.152 Ordinary objects may be not indispensable, but they are nearly unavoidable
     Full Idea: I do not argue that ordinary objects are indispensable, but rather that they are (nearly) unavoidable.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 09)
     A reaction: Disappointing, given the blurb and title of the book, but put in those terms it will be hard to disagree. Clearly ordinary objects figure in the most useful way for us to talk. I wonder whether we have a clear ontology of 'simples' in which they vanish.
09.3 p.157 Eliminativists haven't found existence conditions for chairs, beyond those of the word 'chair'
     Full Idea: The eliminativist cannot claim to have 'discovered' some real existence conditions for chairs beyond those entailed by the semantic rules associated with ordinary use of the word 'chair'.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 09.3)
     A reaction: It is difficult to understand atoms arranged 'chairwise' or 'baseballwise' if you don't already know what a chair or a baseball are.
09.3 p.159 The simple existence conditions for objects are established by our practices, and are met
     Full Idea: The existence conditions for ordinary objects are established by our practices, and they are quite minimal, so it is rather obvious that they are fulfilled, and so there are such things.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 09.3)
     A reaction: This is one of her main arguments. The same argument would have worked for witches or ghosts in certain cultures.
09.4 p.162 Analyticity is revealed through redundancy, as in 'He bought a house and a building'
     Full Idea: The analytic interrelations among elements of language become evident through redundancy. It is redundant to utter 'He bought a house and a building', since buying a house analytically entails that he bought a building.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 09.4)
     A reaction: This appears to concern necessary class membership. It is only linguistically redundant if the class membership is obvious. Houses are familiar, uranium samples are not.
09.4 p.167 Theories do not avoid commitment to entities by avoiding certain terms or concepts
     Full Idea: A theory does not avoid commitment to any entities by avoiding use of certain terms or concepts.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 09.4)
     A reaction: This is a salutary warning to those who apply the notion of ontological commitment rather naively.
10 p.177 Rival ontological claims can both be true, if there are analytic relationships between them
     Full Idea: Where there are analytic interrelations among our claims, distinct ontological claims may be true without rivalry, redundancy, or reduction.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 10)
     A reaction: Thus we might, I suppose, that it is analytically necessary that a lump of clay has a shape, and that a statue be made of something. Interesting.
11.2 p.193 Existence might require playing a role in explanation, or in a causal story, or being composed in some way
     Full Idea: A higher standard for saying that entities exist might require that they play an essential role in explanation, or must figure in any complete causal story, or exist according to some uniform and nonarbitrary principle of composition.
     From: Amie L. Thomasson (Ordinary Objects [2007], 11.2)
     A reaction: I am struck by the first of these three. If I am defending the notion that essence depends on Aristotle's account of explanation, then if we add that existence also depends on explanation, we get a criterion for the existence of essences. Yay.