In the decades following Quine, debates about existence have taken center stage in metaphysics. But neo-Quinean ontology has reached a crisis point, given the endless proliferation of positions and lack of any clear idea of how to resolve debates. The most prominent challenge to mainstream ontological debates has come from the idea that disputants can be seen as using the quantifier with different meanings, leaving the dispute merely verbal. Nearly all of the work in defense of hard ontology has gone into arguing against quantifier variance. This volume argues that hard ontology faces an entirely different challenge, which remains even if the threat of quantifier variance can be avoided. The challenge comes from the ‘easy approach to ontology’: the idea that many ontological questions can be answered by undertaking trivial inferences from uncontroversial premises, making prolonged disputes about the questions out of place. Such a view is arguably the heir to Carnap’s own position. This book aims to develop the easy approach to ontology, showing how it leads to both a first-order simple realism about the disputed entities and a form of metaontological deflationism that takes ontological disputes themselves to be misguided, since existence questions may be answered by straightforward conceptual and/or empirical work. It also aims to defend the easy approach against a range of objections and to show it to be a viable and attractive alternative to hard ontology.
Comment: Perfect for an advanced undergraduate or masters course in ontology, metaphysics, or metametaphysics. The introduction and chapters in Part I would be particularly useful as introductions to meta-ontological deflationism.