Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Joshua Spencer

Committee Members

Michael Liston, Robert Schwartz


meta-ontology, ontology, paraphrase


In hopes of prompting a meta-ontological debate among eliminativist, Quinean ontologists, this paper shows that Trenton Merricks and Peter van Inwagen’s disagreement about the philosophy of language implies a meta-ontological disagreement. I first show that, according to van Inwagen’s philosophy of language, only artificial-language sentences assert positive existence propositions. I then use my analysis of van Inwagen’s philosophy of language to define the concept of apparent ontological commitment that he presents without a definition in his essay “Alston on ontological commitment.” I then present a previously unrecognized meta-ontological disagreement between Merricks and van Inwagen. I conclude with a discussion of the significance of this disagreement: multiple conceptions of being are equally legitimate interpretations of Quine’s meta-ontology, and so there is no settled, single Quinean meta-ontology.

Included in

Linguistics Commons