Against the notion of ontological primacy

Brink C. (2004)


Historically, it has often been maintained that some particular ontology is the right one. The hardcore nominalist, for example, would claim that the world is made up of individual objects and nothing else. Likewise, the realist would stake a claim for properties, and the factualists for facts, as the real building-blocks of the world. In a softer version, each of the three protagonists acknowledge that there may be other things in the world, but still maintain that their own favourite objects have ontological primacy - i.e. that these are the things that the world is in the first place made up of, and that such other objects as may exist can be reduced to them. In this paper I show that it is perfectly feasible that such reductionism may be circular. I provide an example of three ontologies, one nominalist, one realist and one factualist, such that, without any loss of generality, each can be translated into either of the others. The technical details have been published elsewhere. Here I will rely on metaphor, not mathematics.

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