Presenter: Dr Toby Meadows (UQ)

In the last few years a new literature has grown up around assessing whether certain disputes are merely verbal. The basic idea is to capture what is going on when people argue past each other and to show that in some cases they aren't really arguing at all. This is part of a relatively new area of metaphysics somewhat pretentiously known as metametaphysics.

In this paper, I want to draw on some tools and examples from mathematical logic in the attempt to develop a more fine-grained map of the landscape in which these disputes take place. However, I would like to stress that the paper is intended for a general audience, so when technicalities emerge I'll try to draw a helpful picture rather than scribbling up a mess of hieroglyphics. The output of the paper will be more in the line of a series of observations and an advertisement for a particular methodology than a sustained and focused argument.

I'll start the paper with a simple example and a little history. Then we'll generalize the approach to deeper and more troubling examples. At this point, logic will make its entrance allowing us to observe - quite precisely - some interesting variations on the theme. The paper will close with some features of the approach that bother me. This will allow me to then illustrate the essential role of philosophical interpretation in these matters and suggest a necessary condition for the meaningfulness of quibbles about semantics.


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