Rethinking Metaphysics - Redirecting Metaphysics
Amie Thomasson (Dartmouth College)

May 4, 2022, 6:15pm - 8:15pm
Institute for Philosophy, University of Bern

Room 120
Hochschulstrassse 4
Bern 3012


  • Swiss Academy of Humanities and Social Sciences


University of Bern

Topic areas


This is part 3 of a series of three lectures


Rather than starting from a functional monist assumption, and engaging directly in metaphysical questions about the things referred to, I will argue, we should step back and first ask first why we have the relevant terms in our vocabulary, what functions they serve, and how they come to enter language. For understanding the diversity of linguistic functions, and the different ways in which terms can enter language, can lead us to reassess the legitimacy and relevance of the criteria and demands commonly imposed in metaphysics.

It can also lead us to a more transparent and useful approach to work in metaphysics. Rather than thinking of metaphysics as quasi-scientific explanatory work, or as deep world description, I will argue that we should reconceive it as capable of doing important descriptive and normative conceptual work: work in both a broad form of conceptual analysis and in conceptual engineering. Redirecting the work of metaphysics in this way requires an understanding of linguistic functions. So in closing I will suggest a new way to develop and make good on the idea that language has many functions, discussing how we may identify these diverse functions, and what difference doing so will make to our philosophical work.

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