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Second-Order Nominalism

ERI 149
Wednesday 7 March 2018 (15:15-17:00)

Philosophy PGR seminar series 2017/18

  • Speaker: Benjie Kilcran
  • Title: Second-Order Nominalism

The Philosophy department's PGR seminar is an opportunity for postgraduate research students at Birmingham to present the material they are working on to the department's staff and other students. The seminar meets roughly on fortnightly Wednesdays from 15:15 to 17:00 in the ERI. All welcome!


Realism is the view that properties exist. Nominalism is the view that they do not. In this talk I will consider what I will call the 'Second-Order Argument' for realism. The argument (§1) is that the existence of properties follows straightforwardly from uncontroversial predicational truths by the rule for second-order existential generalisation. In §2 I go on to outline a neutralist account of quantification that threatens to undermine this argument. On this neutralist account, the ontological commitments of second-order quantification cannot exceed those of predication. So accepting second-order quantification only commits us to the existence of properties if predication already does. Accordingly, after outlining this neutralist account, I (very) briefly sketch a nominalist friendly account of predication. In §3, I go on to examine worries about the intelligibility of the picture of second-order quantification that emerges from this account, and argue that these worries can be overcome. Thus, I conclude that moving to a second-order setting does not, by itself, resolve the debate in favour of the Realist as the Second-Order Argument promises.

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