Benjamin Marschall (University of Cambridge):
Readymades and Realism
The sentences we use to describe reality have structure: they consist of names, predicates, logical connectives, and the like. Are there worldly entities that mirror this linguistic structure? Philosophers are divided. Some - such as Nelson Goodman - reject this way of thinking about the language-world relationship as misguided. Others - notably Ted Sider - have embraced objective structure with open arms. This disagreement takes place at a dizzying height of abstraction. How can the matter be decided? Drawing on work by Jason Turner, I will reconstruct what I take to be the strongest argument in favour of objective structure: the argument from basic realism. It purports to establish that those who reject objective structure cannot explain how one can misdescribe the world at all. The argument would be compelling if successful, but I will show that it relies on a contentious metasemantic assumption: that the meaning of names, predicates, etc., is prior to the meaning of whole sentences. Enemies of objective structure should reject this assumption. I will argue that they can do so with the help of W. V. Quine's holism.