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International Journal for Ontology and Metaphysics

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Sider’s Third Realm

Jonah P. B. Goldwater
Published Online: 2014-02-01 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mp-2014-0007


Sider (2011; Writing the Book of the World. Oxford: Oxford University Press) argues it is not only predicates that carve reality at its joints, but expressions of any logical or grammatical category – including quantifiers, operators, and sentential connectives. Even so, he denies these expressions pick out entities in the world; instead, they only represent the world’s “structure”. I argue that this distinction is not viable, and that Sider’s ambitious programme requires an exotic ontology – and even a Fregean “third realm” – of logical entities.

Keywords: ontological commitment; joint-carving; logical realism; Sider


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About the article

Published Online: 2014-02-01

Published in Print: 2014-04-01

See e.g. Marek (2013) and Reicher (2012) for more detailed overviews of Meinong’s position.

As parenthetically indicated, a Meinongian might distinguish ontological from “subsistential” commitment, i.e. between commitment to existence as opposed to being. For now, though, I’ll use “ontological commitment” to indicate commitment to any kind of reality whatever.

Thus, certain traditional debates – such as nominalism vs realism about universals – can be recast in linguistic or quasi-linguistic terms: e.g. do predicate terms refer, as substantive terms do? Are predicates names for universals? (Of course, Quine answers in the negative.)

Examples of this sort of talk abound. For instance, Sider writes that “In the case of logic… it’s plausible to think that there are joints in nature” (p. 222, original emphasis).

This is so even on Sider’s own terms. For Sider claims that meta-metaphysics is “just more metaphysics” (p. 82), and, moreover, that “S(S)” is true – that is, that structure is itself structural (p. 137). And surely a dispute over this claim is a dispute as to whether there is structure.

I take this to comport with the anti-Quinean doctrine of “truthmaker commitments”: roughly, that one is ontologically committed to every entity needed to make a sentence true, not only what it quantifies over. See Armstrong (2004), Cameron (2008), and Schaffer (2008) for criticism.

More generally, Sider defends “purity” – the doctrine that fundamental facts are not contaminated by anything nonfundamental (see esp. §§7.2–7.3).

Frege (1893, xvii), translated by, and reprinted in, Beaney (1997, 204–05).

See Frege (1918) for his more robust defence of the third realm.

Moreover, in this case “Pegasus does not exist” would be false – for if “Pegasus” means the subjective idea of Pegasus, and that idea exists (whenever it is thought), then Pegasus does indeed exist – contra the original statement.

This is not to say, however, that they would be false: as these propositions would not be at all, they could not have (or bear) any truth-value whatever.

Though Sider also accepts sets (ibid); whether this is already Platonism I leave for another day.

See Plato’s Phaedrus, 265d–6a.

Citation Information: Metaphysica, ISSN (Online) 1874-6373, ISSN (Print) 1437-2053, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/mp-2014-0007.

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