Critical Notice of John Heil, From an Ontological Point of View [Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2003]

Varzi, Achille C.

This book has three messages to offer. The first is metaphilosophical, and is clearly stated at the beginning: honest philosophy requires “what the Australians call ontological seriousness”. The second is methodological: the idea that the character of reality can be ‘read off’ our linguistic representations of it—or our suitably regimented linguistic representations—is both wrong and pernicious. Among other things, it is responsible for the pervasive tendency to posit different levels of being, which in turn generates a myriad of philosophical puzzles that on closer look are just “puzzles of our own making”. Finally, the third message is strictly philosophical and involves a detailed articulation and defence of Heil’s own serious, one-level ontology, the central ingredients of which are properties, understood as ways particular objects are, and objects, understood as things that are various ways. Heil argues that this view fits well with what we have learned or might learn from the empirical sciences as well as with ordinary canons of plausibility. He then proceeds to apply the view to a number of topics that feature prominently in current philosophical literature, such as identity, colour, intentionality, and consciousness.



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December 3, 2014