The Possibility of Ontology

Colin McGinn

in Truth by Analysis

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780199856145
Published online January 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199919567 | DOI:
The Possibility of Ontology

Show Summary Details


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

Chapter.  7033 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.