ELIMINATIVISM, FICTIONALISM, AND EXPRESSIVISM. The possibility of a negative metaphysical verdict about a discourse D

Duration: 2020-2023
Code: PID2019-106420GA-I00

Principal Investigators
Pablo Rychter and Víctor Verdejo

A Negative Metaphysical Verdict (NMV) about a discourse D is the view that the world as it is in itself, independently of us, does not contain the facts or properties presupposed in D. A NMV about D faces objections that question, not just its truth, but the possibility of coherently defending it. In this project, we attempt to investigate a series of discourses of special philosophical significance (such as the ones about states of affairs, material objects, mental and representational states, or evaluative judgments) in order to determine whether a NMV can coherently be defended with respect to them.

More precisely, this project will focus on three negationist strategies to account for the possibility of defending a NMV about D. They are negationist in that they are committed to denying the truth of D statements. Negationist strategies can then be classified into those which do not consider D to have any positive status (eliminativism) and those which deny the truth of D statements but still accept that they have some positive status (fictionalism, expressivism). Negationist strategies so understood are set against derivationist strategies, namely, those that accept the truth of D statements but deny that they describe fundamental facts. Our general aim will be to explore to what extent negationist strategies succeed in dealing with a series of central problems identified in previous research of the group. To this purpose, we will also assess derivationist strategies in order to determine if, in some cases, they are preferable in light of such problems.

The problems against which we wish to assess the viability of defending a NMV about D are: (1) the problem of content identification (PCI) i.e. the problem of specifying the content of D without invoking facts and properties of D; (2) the problem of truth approximation (PTA) i.e. the problem of explaining the difference between merely false statements of D and false statements of D that in some sense get closer to truth; (3) the problem of truth distance (PTD) i.e. the problem of explaining why those statements of D with a positive status are not simply true. The strategies under focus fare differently with regard to these problems. On the one hand, eliminativists face serious difficulties regarding PCI but can tackle PTA and PTD relatively straightforwardly. On the other hand, fictionalists and expressivists have powerful logic-semantic resources to deal with PCI and PTA, but run into trouble when trying to solve PTD.