Salvaging Truth from Ontological Scrap

Cornell, David Michael orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6980-8804 (2021) Salvaging Truth from Ontological Scrap. Philosophy . ISSN 0031-8191

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What should one do when one's philosophical conclusions run counter to common sense? Bow to the might of ordinary opinion or follow the indiscriminate force of philosophical reason, no matter where it leads? A few strategies have recently been proposed which suggest we needn't have to make this difficult choice at all. According to these views, we can accept the truths of common sense whilst simultaneously endorsing philosophical views with which they seem to conflict. We can, for instance, accept it as true that the Taj Mahal is in India, whilst also eliminating the Taj Mahal from our ontology. I argue that these strategies generate a new conflict with common sense and thus undercut one of the central motivations that drives them. I also argue for the stronger claim that these kinds of ‘truth-salvaging’ strategy are incapable in principle of reconciling theory with common sense. This does not mean that they must be abandoned, for there may be good independent reasons for endorsing them, but it does eliminate one of their most promising advantages. The upshot of the paper will be two-fold. First, one of the major motivations for endorsing these kinds of strategy will be severely undermined. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, it will mean that for those who think philosophy should be strictly constrained by common sense, all radical ontological views will effectively be off the table.

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