From an Ontological Point of View

From an Ontological Point of View

From an Ontological Point of View

From an Ontological Point of View

Synopsis

From an Ontological Point of View is a highly original and accessible exploration of fundamental questions about what there is. John Heil discusses such issues as whether the world includes levels of reality; the nature of objects and properties; the demands of realism; what makes things true; qualities, powers, and the relation these bear to one another. He advances an account of the fundamental constituents of the world around us, and applies this account to problems that have plagued recent work in the philosophy of mind and metaphysics (color, intentionality, and the nature of consciousness).

Excerpt

Philosophy today is often described as a profession. Philosophers have specialized interests and address one another in specialized journals. On the whole, what we do in philosophy is of little interest to anyone without a Ph.D. in the subject. Indeed, subdisciplines within philosophy are often intellectually isolated from one another. The same could be said for most academic specialities. Historians, literary theorists, anthropologists, and musicologists pursue topics the significance of which would elude outsiders. What distinguishes philosophy is the extent to which philosophical problems are anchored directly in concerns of non-philosophers. Philosophical questions arise in every domain of human endeavour. The issues have a kind of universality that resists their being turned over to specialists who could be expected to announce results after conducting the appropriate investigations.

The professionalization of philosophy, together with a depressed academic job market, has led to the interesting idea that success in philosophy should be measured by appropriate professional standards. In practice, this has too often meant that cleverness and technical savvy trump depth. Positions and ideas are dismissed or left unconsidered because they are not comme il faut. Journals are filled with papers exhibiting an impressive level of professional competence, but little in the way of insight, originality, or abiding interest. Non-mainstream, even wildly non-mainstream, conclusions are allowed, even encouraged, provided they come with appropriate technical credentials.

I am speaking here of broad trends. Many philosophers have resisted the tides of fashion and continue to produce interesting and important work. My impression is that a disproportionate number of these philosophers are, by birth, training, or philosophical inclination, Australian. The present book was written during a memorable year as a visitor in the Monash University Department of Philosophy, surrounded by philosophers exemplifying the paradigmatic Australian trait: ontological seriousness. You are ontologically serious if you are guided by the thought that the ontological implications of philosophical claims are paramount. The attitude most naturally expresses itself in

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