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Truth by AnalysisGames, Names, and Philosophy$
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Colin McGinn

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199856145

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199856145.001.0001

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The Possibility of Ontology

The Possibility of Ontology

Chapter:
(p.154) 11 The Possibility of Ontology
Source:
Truth by Analysis
Author(s):

Colin McGinn

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199856145.003.0011

The world—the sum total of what there is—contains things of many kinds: the “physical (tables and chairs, plants, animals, mountains, galaxies),” the “mental (beliefs and desires, sensations, perceptions, memories, images, emotions, language),” and the “abstract (numbers and geometrical figures, sets, properties, propositions, functions, moral and aesthetic values).” The ontological question is which of these is basic, and which real. Philosophers think that each item in the three groupings has something in common with the others. Each item can be analyzed, they suppose, either as physical or mental or abstract: this is what we see when we look into their metaphysical essence. The three ontological categories constitute the ultimate genus essence of things, of which each item on the list is a species. What is striking, however, is how difficult they have found it to define these traditional terms of art—that is, to say what the alleged common feature is. This chapter focuses on the significance of that difficulty.

Keywords:   philosophy, ontology, physical, mental, abstract

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