Naming, Necessity, and Natural Kinds by Stephen P. Schwartz

By Stephen P. Schwartz

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2. Let me turn now from these general remarks about ontology to some more specific questions about the normative domain. 19 The things that can be reasons are not a special kind of entity but ordinary facts, in many cases facts about the natural world. 20 The distinctive aspect of normative truths is not the things that are reasons but the normative relations, such as being a reason for something, or being a sufficient or conclusive reason. What is special about normative claims is thus not a matter of ontology in Quine’s sense (the things quantified over), but rather of what Quine called “ideology” (the predicates employed).

We might, for example, have a first-order theory of witches and spirits. That is, we might have established criteria for deciding whether someone is or is not a witch, and whether or not a ghost is present. But such conclusions entail claims about events in the physical world and their causes: about what causes, or can cause, cows to stop giving milk, and people to become sick and die. 5 To put the same point more generally: there can be meaningful “external” questions about the adequacy of the reasoning in a domain, and about the truth of statements, including existential statements, that these modes of reasoning support.

Even pure statements in one domain can entail or presuppose claims in some other domain, and when this happens these claims need to be reconciled, and some of them modified or given up. We might, for example, have a first-order theory of witches and spirits. That is, we might have established criteria for deciding whether someone is or is not a witch, and whether or not a ghost is present. But such conclusions entail claims about events in the physical world and their causes: about what causes, or can cause, cows to stop giving milk, and people to become sick and die.

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