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Mathematics and Reality$
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Mary Leng

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199280797

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199280797.001.0001

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Naturalized Ontology

Naturalized Ontology

(p.133) 6 Naturalized Ontology
Mathematics and Reality

Mary Leng (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the question of how we are to uncover our ontological commitments, on the assumption that even our best scientific theories may include hypotheses adopted for reasons other than their literal truth. Stephen Yablo's use of Kendall L. Walton's notion of the metaphorical content of theoretical hypotheses, adopted as part of a prop oriented make‐believe, is presented as an account of the way that theoretical hypotheses can be descriptively valuable even if not literally true. The question of how to distinguish the metaphorical from the literal amongst our theoretical assumptions is considered, and Yablo's own scepticism about the possibility of drawing such a distinction is rejected as depending on an overly hermeneutic understanding of the requirements of naturalism. An alternative explanatory characterization of the project allows for the possibility of uncovering, through our reflective understanding of our scientific theories, genuine ontological commitments from amongst our various theoretical hypotheses.

Keywords:   metaphor, literal, make‐believe, prop‐oriented, Stephen Yablo, Kendall L. Walton, ontological scepticism, reflective understanding

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