Friday, November 16, 2018

Ways of being and quantifying

Pluralists about ways of being say that there are multiple ways to be (e.g., substance and accident, divine being and finite being, the ten categories, or maybe even some indefinitely extendible list) and there is no such thing as being apart from being according to one of the ways of being. Each way of being comes with its own quantifiers, and there is no overarching quantifier.

A part of the theory is that everything that exists exists in a way of being. But it seems we cannot state this in the theory, because the "everything" seems to be a quantifier transcending the quantifiers over the particular ways of being. (Merricks, for instance, makes this criticism.)

I think there is a simple solution. The pluralist can concede that there are overarching unrestricted quantifiers ∀ and ∃, but they are not fundamental. They are, instead, defined in terms of more fundamental way-of-being-restricted quantifiers in the system:

  1. xF(x) if and only if ∀BWoBbbxF(x)

  2. xF(x) if and only if ∃BWoBbbxF(x).

The idea here is that for each way of being b, there are ∀b and ∃b quantifiers. But, the pluralist can say, one of the ways of being is being a way of being (BWoB). So, to use Merricks’ example, to say that there are no unicorns at all, one can just say that no way of being b is such that a unicorn b-exists.

Note that being a way of a being is itself a way of being, and hence BWoB itself BWoB-exists.

The claim that everything that exists exists in a way of being can now be put as follows:

  1. x(x = x → ∃BWoBbby(x = y)).

Of course, (3) will be a theorem of the appropriate ways-of-being logic if we expand out "∀x" in accordance with (1). So (3) may seem trivial. But the objection of triviality seems exactly parallel to worrying that it is trivial on the JTB+ account of knowledge that if you know something, you believe it. Whether we have triviality depends on whether the account of generic existence or knowledge, respectively, is stipulative or meant to be a genuine account of a pre-theoretic notion. And nothing constrains the pluralist to making (1) and (2) be merely stipulative.

Suppose, however, your motivations for pluralism are theological: you don’t want to say that God and humans exist in the same way. You might then have the following further theological thought: Let G be a fundamental way of being that God is in. Then by transcendence, G has to be a category that is special to God, having only God in it. Moreover, by simplicity, G has to be God. Thus, the only way of being that God can be in is God. But this means there cannot be a fundamental category of ways of being that includes divine and non-divine ways of being.

However, note that even apart from theological considerations, the BWoB-quantifiers need not be fundamental. For instance, perhaps, among the ways of being there might be being an abstract object, and one could hold that ways of being are abstract objects. If so, then ∀BWoBbG(b) could be defined as ∀BAb(WoB(b)→G(b)), where BA is being abstract and WoB(x) says that x is a way of being.

Coming back to the theological considerations, one could suppose there is a fundamental category of being a finite way of being (BFWoB) and a fundamental category of being a divine way of being (BDWoB). By simplicity, BDWoB=God. And then we could define:

  1. BWoBbF(b) if and only if ∀BDWoBbF(b) and ∀BFWoBbF(b).

  2. BWoBbF(b) if and only if ∃BDWoBbF(b) or ∃BFWoBbF(b).

Note that we can rewrite ∀BDWoBbF(b) and ∃BDWoBbF(b) as just F(God).

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