Many of us find ‘Spartan’ ontologies attractive. Spartans reject the exotic entities countenanced by their rivals; they find barren landscapes appealing and pour scorn upon those who countenance numbers, composite objects and possibilia. But Spartan life is not easy. Common sense tells us that big things have smaller parts and that there are two prime numbers between four and eight. Spartans seem destined to clash with what we ordinarily think and say.

Spartan ontologies, then, are attractive only if the Spartan can ‘reconstruct’ the world of common sense and science. There are a variety of ways to understand what ‘reconstruction’ amounts to, but a historically popular option was to attempt to provide non-committal paraphrases of the ontologically problematic sentences. The problem is that the paraphraser is...

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