Quantification and Metaphysical Discourse

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Abstract

It is common in metaphysical discourse to make claims like “Everything is self-identical” in which “everything” is intended to range over everything. This sort of “unrestricted” generality appears central to metaphysical discourse. But there is debate whether such generality, which appears to involve quantification over an all-inclusive domain, is even meaningful. To address this concern, Shaughan Lavine and Vann McGee supply competing accounts of the generality expressed by this use of “everything.” I argue that, from the perspective of the metaphysician, neither of their proposals is entirely suitable. But their central insights, as well as their shortcomings, suggest an account which is suitable for metaphysical discourse, what I call “genuinely unrestricted quantification.” For while genuinely unrestricted quantification does not directly supply an account of the metaphysician's “everything,” it disentangles what are properly metaphysical issues from issues concerning how we ought to understand the quantifiers. It makes clear that whether the metaphysician's “everything” is meaningful cannot simply be resolved by supplying an appropriate account of our understanding of quantification. It depends on addressing certain substantive ontological questions.

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