Eve Kitsik's PhD defence on June 12th
On Tuesday June 12th at 16:15 in room Jakobi 2-336 Eve Kitsik will defend her PhD thesis titled "Revisionary Ontology: Improving Concepts to Improve Beliefs". It was supervised by professor Daniel Cohnitz (University of Utrecht) and it is reviewed by professor Matti Eklund (Univeristy of Uppsala) and associate professor Tuomas Tahko (University of Helsinki).
Revisionary ontologists (such as Peter van Inwagen, Trenton Merricks, and Peter Unger) appear to defend views that contradict ordinary beliefs about what there is – for example, they appear to argue that there are no chairs and tables. In the thesis, I ask how we should interpret such revisionary ontology: what are revisionary ontologists really doing? I defend a “theoretical metalinguistic view”, according to which revisionary ontologists improve ordinary concepts to improve our beliefs. In contrast with “practical metalinguistic views”, according to my view, revisionary ontologists still investigate what the world is really like. However, this issue – what the world is really like – is investigated by discussing which concepts are the best for describing the world, i.e. which concepts reflect the objective structure of the world or “carve at the joints”. The idea of ontology as the search for the joint-carving conceptual scheme draws on Theodore Sider. The original contribution of the thesis consists primarily in the following.
(1) I defend the theoretical metalingusitic view in a systematic manner, appealing to clearly defined and motivated adequacy conditions and considering how well the theoretical metalinguistic view meets these adequacy conditions, compared to the alternative accounts.
(2) I provide a novel account of the epistemic significance of revisionary ontology, given the theoretical metalinguistic view: revisionary ontology can improve our theoretical beliefs (as opposed to our practical beliefs), by improving the concepts used to form those beliefs. Theoretical beliefs are formed for the sake of intrinsically valuable epistemic excellence and practical beliefs are formed to serve the belief-bearers’ and/or other people’s non-epistemic interests.
(3) I show how this conception of revisionary ontology illuminates the relationship between feminist metaphysics of gender and mainstream metaphysics. I defend the view that what is sometimes called “feminist metaphysics of gender” (for example, as practiced by Sally Haslanger and Asta Svensdóttir) aims to improve concepts in order to improve practical beliefs. This is a contribution to the emerging debate on the relationship between feminist and mainstream metaphysics.