Inscrutability and ontological commitment

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9 Scopus citations


There are two doctrines for which Quine is particularly well known: the doctrine of ontological commitment and the inscrutability thesis-the thesis that reference and quantification are inscrutable. At first glance, the two doctrines are squarely at odds. If there is no fact of the matter as to what our expressions refer to, then it would appear that no determinate commitments can be read off of our best theories. We argue here that the appearance of a clash between the two doctrines is illusory. The reason that there is no real conflict is not simply that in determining our theories' ontological commitments we naturally rely on our home language but also (and more importantly) that ontological commitment is not intimately tied to objectual quantification and a reference-first approach to language. Or so we will argue. We conclude with a new inscrutability argument which rests on the observation that the notion of objectual quantification, when properly cashed out, deflates.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)21-42
Number of pages22
JournalPhilosophical Studies
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Inscrutability
  • Objectual quantification
  • Ontological commitment
  • Quine
  • Rational requirement
  • Substitutional quantification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Philosophy


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