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Thomasson, Amie, and . Answerable and Unanswerable Questions

2009, In MetaMetaphysics, eds. David Chalmers, Ryan Wasserman, and David Manley. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 444-471.

Summary: Thomasson argues that merely verbal disputes arise in metaphysics when ontologists misuse the words ‘thing’ and ‘object’. Application conditions fix the conditions under which a claim can be applied or refused, but some ontological disputes involve using the terms ‘thing’ and ‘object’ in such a way that they lack application conditions. When this happens there is no way to determine the truth values of the claims being made.

Comment: This would be useful in a course on metaphysics, ontology or metametaphysics. It gives an interesting and plausible articulation of the idea that some metaphysical disputes are illegitimate in some sense (an intution that some students share). This isn't an easy paper, but it is clearly written and suitable for advanced undergraduates or graduates.