following with our e-reading group on MetaMetaphysics, here I have a couple of comments/questions about Bennett’s paper. The first is about verbal-non verbal disputes and the second about how to extend the framework to the 4D-3D debate, which was the original concern of this e-reading group.
1) In section 5, Bennett decides to focus in this question: “what makes a dispute count as ‘merely verbal’? We must have a criterion at hand in order to decide whether or not the disputes about composition and constitution are verbal disputes”. She then criticizes a proposal by Hirsch (condition H), which is presented as an allegedly sufficient condition for something being a verbal dispute. She first shows that H is not really sufficient. Rather, it is Ha (which invokes the notion of analyticity) which does capture the notion of a verbal dispute. Second, she argues that Ha does is not satisfied by the disputes over composition and colocation.
I agree with all this. I think it is clear that the participants in the ontological debates do not take the linking conditionals (if there are simples arranged tablewise in front of us, then there is a table in front of us) as analytic. To simply assume that they do is to misunderstand the debate. (I’ve seen people doing this!).You can give an argument to the effect that they are wrong, i.e. to the effect that despite the appearances, they are committed to the principles being analytic. But for what I understand, Hirsch does not offer such an argument.
Now my worry is this: whereas it is clear that the “believer” and the “multi-thinger” (and for that matter, the 4D) do not claim that their linking conditionals are analytic, I wonder whether it is best for them to assume that some conditionals are in fact analytic. In other words, I wonder which of the following two is better as a response to the charge that their debates are merely verbal:
“Our dispute is not merely verbal. It is unlike the debate about whether there is a martini on the table, which is merely verbal”.
“Our dispute is not merely verbal, because there are not merely verbal debates. The dispute about the martini is not merely verbal either, it is substantive. It is not true that the participants in the martini debate ‘agree about all the facts’. There is on fact about which they disagree, namely whether a martini is (or is not) a beverage made of gin or vodka and dry vermouth. This is not, or not only, a fact about English but also about martinis.”
Do you think that this second response is too confused, or somehow obviously wrong, or unnecessary? (Bennett’s view seems to be that the first response is the appropriate, and that the martini case and the sceptic vs. phenomnalist case are cases of merely verbal and not substantial disputes.) I am not sure of what the consequences of the second response are, but I think it could amount to an alternative view about what these debates are. Someone who gives this response is not a semanticist. But he could be misdiagnosed as a semanticist because he is likely to look into ordinary English for the answer to the question whether there is a martini over the table, i.e. he will look into how we use the word “martini” (and our best beliefs about martinies) and try to determine on that basis whether the existential question is true or not.
2) I have been thinking about how Bennett`s ideas could apply to the 3D/4D debate. I think this debate is different from her two running examples in some important respects. First, notice that in the 3D/4D debate the “high ontologist” side is occupied by the 4D and the “low ontologist” side is occupied by the 3D. (The 3D thinks that there are chairs, and the 4D thinks that there temporal parts of chairs in addition to chairs). This makes for the following superficial difference: in the two cases considered by Bennett, it is the high ontologist side wich, for right or wrong, is generally thought to be closer to common sense and therefore it is the low ontologist side which is generally charged with the burden of proof (at least this is clearly the case in the composition case). For right or wrong, this is the other way around in the 3D/4D debate. On the other hand, in the 3D/4D debate, it does not seem that the high ontologist attempts to downplay the significance of their extra entities. (I do not remember seeing an argument for the idea that temporal parts are “easier to come by” than the endurantist think they are). Quite on the contrary, the 4D sometimes up-play the significance of their extra entities (see for instance Sider´s remarks about temporal parts not being merely “ersatz parts” in p 61 of his book). And it is hard to identify any attempt to up-play expressive power in the 3D side, except maybe for the move of taking “bent” and “straight” to express relations to times rather than monadic properties. Despite these differences, it does seem that the debate is “difference-minimizing” in the sense that “each side will try to play down their differences from the opponent. Everyone wants to minimize the gap in order to ensure that their view does not sound crazy, and that they too get the advantages of the other side”. What do you think? I guess at least Dan thinks it is difference-minimizing....