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Pluralism and Realism


Two kinds of pluralism have recently come to the attention of metaphysicians. Ontological pluralism is the thesis that there are multiple ways in which things can exist; meanwhile, alethic pluralism is the thesis that the nature of truth varies from discourse to discourse. Though it has since taken on a life of its own, alethic pluralism originated with the efforts of Crispin Wright, who advances what he terms a minimalist conception of truth and truth-aptness. Wright’s purpose in developing a minimalist and thereby pluralist account of truth was to clarify the distinction between realist and antirealist commitments with regard to a given discourse. The purpose of the dissertation is, first, to articulate the usefulness of alethic pluralism in distinguishing between realism and antirealism concerning some subject matter and, second, to extend Wright’s minimalist approach further to encompass the notion of existence, so that ontological pluralism likewise becomes a means of casting ontological disputes as instances of realist-antirealist contention.

Chapter One serves primarily as a review of predominant trends in the realism literature in Anglophone philosophy over the past half-century. The aim of the chapter is to clarify the idea of mind-independence or objectivity, which I take to be essential for the idea of realism as a metaphysical thesis.

In Chapter Two I explain Wright’s minimalist conception of truth and use it as a model for the development of a corresponding minimalist conception of existence. I propose that the concept of existence is bound up with the concept of domain of discourse, along with the closely related concepts of quantification and predication. Then the specifically metaphysical question is whether items found in the domain of a given discourse have further realism-relevant features.

Finally, Chapter Three deals with the question of the unification of the two pluralisms, as I’ve articulated them, into one coherent metaphysical position. A theory of facts, which is again inspired by Wright’s minimalist methodology but also borrows from the work of Kit Fine, fulfills this task.

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