Neo-Quinean and neo-Aristotelian metaontology : on explanation, theory choice, and the viability of ontological inquiry

  • Micheal Vincent LACEY

Student thesis: PhD Thesis (Lingnan)


This thesis is an exercise in comparative metaontology. I am centrally concerned with how one might choose between competing metaontological theories. To make my project tractable, I compare two contemporary metaontological approaches dominant in the literature: neo-Quineanism (N-Q) and neo-Aristotelianism (N-A). Peter van Inwagen, a representative of N-Q, claims that ontological inquiry should be conducted in the quantifier-variable idiom of first-order predicate logic; to know what exists, or what a theory says exists, we read our commitments off the regimented sentences that we affirm as true. E.J. Lowe, a representative of N-A objects to N-Q and claims that ontology should be done directly; that it is a mostly a priori activity which is the indispensable intellectual foundation for all rational inquiry. Both metaontological accounts are questionable and there seems to be no decisive way to choose between them. I claim, however, that considerations concerning the explanatory nature of ontology is a key and under-studied factor with respect to ontological method, pointing a way to a possible candidate for metaontological theory choice. I conclude that van Inwagen’s N-Q metaontology is wanting in many respects and further, that he does not provide adequate reasons to dispense with explanation as a feature of ontological inquiry. While explanatory considerations are central to Lowe’s N-A metaontology, I claim that the best that can be hoped for with his particular approach is a form of explanatory antirealism.
Date of Award4 Feb 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Lingnan University
SupervisorDarrell Patrick ROWBOTTOM (Supervisor) & Daniel Graham MARSHALL (Co-supervisor)

Cite this