Theory and History of Ontology

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  • "History Logic" and "Bibliographia" are my other websites. "Table of Contents" gives the list of the pages, for other indexes see the "Sitemap". "Modern Ontologists" contains a table with links to the pages on the most important philosophers of the 19th and 20th centuries who have written on ontology. The "Search" function can be used to find a particular author or subject.


Living Ontologists - A Bibliographical Guide: C - I

These pages will give some essential bibliographical information about some of the most important living ontologists; only a few titles will be cited for every author.

  • Keith Campbell
  • Roberto Casati
  • Arindam Chakrabarti
  • Arkadiusz Chrudzimski
  • Nino Cocchiarella
  • Jan Dejnožka
  • George Englebretsen
  • Kit Fine
  • Jorge J. E. Gracia
  • Horace Romano (Rom) Harré
  • John Heil
  • Jaakko Hintikka
  • Herbert Hochberg
  • Joshua Hoffman
  • Thomas Hofweber
  • Peter van Inwagen

Keith Campbell

  1. Campbell, Keith. 1965. "Family Resemblance Predicates." American Philosophical Quarterly no. 2:238-244.

  2. ———. 1965. "Definitions of Entailment." Australasian Journal of Philosophy no. 43:353-359.

    "The article sets out five definitions of entailment, (Moore, Duncan-Jones, Strawson, von Wright, and Geach). It shows the equivalence of the more important of these, and argues that as direct definitions they involve circularity in application. Recursive versions of the definitions also fail unless they involve the concept of conjunctive-contradiction (the sort of contradictoriness a conjunction can have in view of the relations between the conjuncts), and the concept of conjunctive-contradiction is too close to the concept of entailment to be illuminating in a definition."

  3. ———. 1972. "Primary and Secondary Qualities." Canadian Journal of Philosophy no. 2:219-232.

    "The paper distinguishes between epistemic and ontic divisions of qualities into primary and secondary. It identifies two functions which ontic division has been called upon to fulfill - setting the limits on what a realist philosophy of science must achieve, and providing a means of judging between rival realist philosophies of science. It argues for an interaction pattern criterion of primacy, and concludes that while this enables the first function to be achieved, no primary/secondary distinction can fulfill the second."

  4. ———. 1976. Metaphysics. An Introduction. Encino: Dickenson Publisher.

    Contents: Preface III-IV; Part I. Metaphysics. Its program and problems; 1. A sketch of the background 1; 2. Metaphysics in recent years 13; Part II. One branch of cosmology. The philosophy of matter; 3. The framework of concrete particularism 25; 4. Classical atomism 44; 5. Primary and secondary qualities 59; 6. Alternative particularist systems 75; 7. Atomism and modern physics 95; Part II. A first survey of ontology; 8. The task of ontology 107; 9. Quine's canonical notation 125; 10. Regimentation or paraphrase 137; Constructions which have no paraphrase 162; 12. Ontic commitment and reduction to a minimum domain 174; 13. Events and sets 194; 14. Universals and tropes 206; Glossary 220, Bibliography 235 Index 243.

  5. ———. 1981. "The Metaphysic of Abstract Particulars." In Midwest Studies in Philosophy. Volume Vi. The Foundations of Analytic Philosophy, edited by French, Peter, Uehling, Jr.Theodore E. and Wettstein, Howard, 477-488. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

    "This paper argues that instances or cases of properties (abstract particulars) can be individuals in their own right, and that to take them as the basic category of entities leads to attractive analyses of causation, perception, and evaluation. A first philosophy based on abstract particulars can give an elegant account of concrete individuals, and can make some progress with the classic problem of universals. The role of space in this metaphysic is discussed, a philosophy of change sketched out, and the system recommended on the ground of its affinity with contemporary cosmology."

  6. ———. 1983. "Abstract Particulars and the Philosophy of Mind." Australasian Journal of Philosophy no. 61:129-141.

    "This paper takes up the ontological proposal of D. C. Williams, that the basic elements consist in cases, or examples, of kinds. Such elements, called "tropes", are abstract in that they do not exhaust the reality where they exist (as concrete particulars do), and they are particular in having a reality restricted to a single space-time location (unlike universals). The system of tropes is applied to three important issues in the functionalist philosophy of mind; the question of type-type vs token-token identification, the problem of the existence of qualia and the issue of reductive vs eliminative materialism. The paper argues that token-token identification must give way to a realization relation between specific types. It agrees with Jackson that qualia cannot be dissolved away into function, as Lycan attempts, nor into opaquely grasped constitution, as urged by the Churchlands, but that this result is not embarrassing on a trope philosophy. Finally, it argues that the reduction/elimination controversy is untroublesome from the trope perspective."

  7. ———. 1990. Abstract Particulars. Oxford: Blackwell.

    Contents: Preface XI-XII; 1. A one-category ontology 1; 2. The Problem of Universals 27; 3. Some general objections to Trope theory 53; 4. The pattern of the properties 81; 5. Relations, causation, space-time and compresence 97; 6. Fields: dealing with the boundary problem 135; 7. The human and social worlds 157; Notes 175; References 181; Index 185.

    "Many philosophers have held, explicitly or implicitly, that any comprehensive survey of the world's constituents would include the cases of qualities and relations that occur at particular places and times as the qualities and relations of particular objects. It is not so common to affirm that such cases are themselves particulars in their own right, rather than deriving their particularity from their association with a substance, but this was G. F. Stout's distinctive claim (Stout, 1905).

    D. C. Williams took another step: these cases, or tropes as he called them, not only form a distinct and independent category of existent, they are the very alphabet of being, the simple, basic, primal items from which all else is built or otherwise derives (Williams, 1966). In presenting his view, Williams acknowledged that it 'calls for completion in a dozen directions at once'. This work is my attempt to press ahead towards that completion. The great, liberating insight which Stout and Williams offer us is this: properties can be particulars, so the denial of universals need not be the denial of properties. In other words, Particularism (which is economical, plausible and appealing) does not have to take the form of Nominalism (which is economical, but neither plausible nor appealing).

    While the principal inspiration for this book is Williams' work, I have also gained a great deal from discussions with David Armstrong, who remains a Realist about Universals, but whose successive publications in this area provide sympathetic treatments of the trope or abstract particularist view (Armstrong, 1978, 1989).

    Another colleague, John Bacon, has pursued the trope idea in a more formal way (Bacon, 1988, 1989), while David Lewis treats it as a serious option for dealing with certain intractable problems facing Realism over universals (Lewis, 1983, 1986). Wilfrid Sellars recognized tropes by another name, although not, I think, as the sole fundamental category.

    Frank Ramsey counselled that when a philosophical dispute presents itself as an irresolvable oscillation between two alternatives, the likelihood is that both alternatives are false and share a common false presupposition. It is my contention that Realism and Nominalism in the problem of universals exhibit precisely this pattern, their common, false presupposition being that any quality or relation must be a universal.

    This book explores the implications of this position. It also argues for theses about relations (Foundationism) and basic physical properties (field theory), which are particularly congenial to a trope philosophy, but are in large measure independent of it. They have merits irrespective of the truth about properties in general." (From the Preface)

    The manifest world is a world of things rather than fields. It is dominated by concrete, medium-sized specimens of dry goods, limited to small parts of space and time, distinct from one another, highly complex. It is there familiar objects, such as toothbrushes and loaves of bread, which make life liveable. Their salients is responsible for substance ontologies, and for the natural impulse to take as the paradigms of tropes characteristics which seems to be confined to a specific local existence.

    The world of fields dethrones such tropes, of course. But it cannot simply dismiss them. They must be given their due; they are not illusions, and they are not fabrications; they are well-founded appearances (at least), and must be treated as such. So, if they are not to be accorded straightforward reality, we must be able to explain, on the basis of what truly is, why the manifest world seems to be as it is.


    The co-location of a complex concrete object's properties is a supervenient fact. It arises from the location, i.e. the specific coincidence with a region of space-time, of a region of relatively high value of several field quantities.

    That there are such complex objects, which entourage a substance philosophy of many independent bodies, I take to be entirely contingent. Indeed, Big-Bang speculation takes us back to a time when space-time and all its fields yielded just an almost smooth, hot putty. That, nowadays, there seem to be no charged objects without mass (i.e. no zones of high charge intensity but low matter intensity) is a contingent matter of how the fields are causally coupled. It is patterns of causal linkage like that which give rise to bodies with the complex, localized, physics and chemistry which make up the familiar material and living realms.

    The ontological reality underlying substance thinking is the compresence of tropes one with another. A substance, traditionally concerned, was a complete, even if finite and local, and self-subsistent or independent entity. What the field view endorses is the completeness; it repudiates the self-subsistent independence. For tables or apples consist in dependent quasi-parts of real tropes. A genuine substance is a total set of coincident tropes, and on the field view, each of these tropes is a field. Since they are all coextensive with space-time, they all coincide with one another always and everywhere.

    Thus if we wish to continue with the concept of substance in our metaphysics, we would reach Spinoza's conclusion, that there is just one genuine substance, the cosmos itself, with the fields as its modes.

    Our ordinary causal judgements, judgements about particular changes brought about, or particular states maintained, in the familiar world, are expressed in terms of quasi-tropes. For example, the gas flame boiled the kettle. Such judgements are true or false depending on whether the underlying causal relations within and among fields would in fact give rise to just such a quasi-trope sequence. They differ from mere sequence judgements, such as: first the gas lit, then the television programme carne to an end, which have no deep order of connections to sustain them.

    The stuffs the world is made of - gold, copper and tin, for example - are local, derivative, peculiar combinations in the strengths of the underlying fields. To put it more familiarly, different kinds of stuff occur where there are different patterns of electrons and nucleons. Our interest in such chemical substances is in the ways the constituent quasi-tropes resemble and differ from others in other places. We are not intent on singling out bounded individuals, and any occurrence of the appropriate quasi-trope complex is as important as any other. Nevertheless, very much as bodies do, the chemical elements exist in bounded samples. They are spread through the world like a shifting archipelago. They are natural] kinds, even if not ultimate natural kinds. And specimens of them, local chunks of the archipelago, are one sort of familiar object in the manifest world.

    It is a wise philosophy that can arrange to avoid answering such questions as: at what point, exactly, in converting a metal into a plasma, has the metal ceased to exist? Or: are two isotopes of an element two different stuffs really, or not? Although categorizations like metal/plasma or element/isotope are not arbitrary, there is an element of human purpose and of salience for humans in these and many other or our everyday, technological and even scientific distinctions. On the field version or the trope theory, what such categorizations yield is not the deep fully objective real tropes, but a world of appearances. Where categorization is well done, the appearances are well-founded and the quasi-tropes deserve their place in our cosmology. They constitute the manifest world." pp. 153-155.

Roberto Casati

  1. Casati, Roberto. 2003. The Shadow Club. New York: Knopf.

  2. Casati, Roberto, and Varzi, Achille. 1995. Holes and Other Superficialities. Cambridge: MIT University Press.

  3. ———. 1999. Parts and Places. Structures in Spatial Representation. Cabridge: The MIT Press.

Arindam Chakrabarti

  1. Chakrabarti, Arindam. 1997. Denying Existence. The Logic, Epistemology, and Pragmatics of Negative Existentials and Fictional Discourse. Dordrecht: Kluwe.

  2. ———. 2006. Universals, Concepts and Qualities. New Essays on the Meaning of Predicates. Aldershot: Ashgate.

Arkadiusz Chrudzimski

  1. Chrudzimski, Arkadiusz. 1999. Die Erkenntnistheorie Von Roman Ingarden. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

  2. ———. 1999. "Are Meaning in the Head? Ingarden's Theory of Meaning." Journal of the British Society for Phenomenology no. 30:306-326.

  3. ———. 2003. "Quine, Meinong Und Aristoteles: Zwei Dimensionen Der Ontologischen Verpflichtung." Metaphysica.International Journal for Ontology and Metaphysics no. 4:39-68.

    "Quine claimed that to be is to be a value of a bound variable. In the paper we assume that this claim contains an important philosophical insight and investigate its background. It is argued that there are two dimensions involved in Quine's slogan: (i) the distinction between existing and non-existing objects and (ii) the question of the systematic ambiguity of being that can be traced back to Aristotle. At the first sight it is tempting to construe Quine's criterion according to the first dimension. In this light it appears as an anti-Meinongian device and the Russellian roots of Quine's philosophy make this interpretation prima facie plausible. However, it is argued that it is the anti-Aristotelian line which is dominant in Quine's philosophy, and which is ontologically much more interesting."

  4. ———. 2004. Die Ontologie Franz Brentanos. Dordrecht: Kluwer.

Jan Dejnožka

  1. Dejnozka, Jan. 1996. The Ontology of the Analytic Tradition and Its Origins. Realism and Identity in Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Quine. Lanham: Littlefiels Adams Books.

    Paperback edition reprinted with corrections, 2002; reprinted with further corrections, 2003.

    "While many books discuss the individual achievements of Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Quine, few books consider how the thought of all four thinkers bears on the fundamental questions of twentieth century philosophy. This book is about existence-identity connections in Frege, Russell, Wittgenstein, and Quine. The thesis of the book is that there is a general form of ontology, modified realism, which these great analysts share not only with each other, but with most great philosophers in the Western tradition. Modified realism is the view that in some sense there are both real identities and conceptual (or linguistic) identities. In more familiar language, it is the view that there are both real distinctions and distinctions in reason (or in language). Thus in modified realism, there are some real beings which can serve as a basis for accommodating possibly huge amounts of conceptual or linguistic relativity, or objectual identities' 'shifting' as sortal concepts or sortal terms 'shift.' Therefore, on the fundamental level of ontology, the linguistic turn was not a radical break from traditional substance theory. Dejnozka also holds that the conflict in all four analysts between private language arguments (which imply various kinds of realism) and conceptual "shifting" (which suggests conceptual relativism) is best resolved by, and is in fact implicitly resolved by, their respective kinds of modified realism. Frege and Russell, not Wittgenstein and Quine, emerge as the true analytic progenitors of 'no entity without identity,' offering between them at least twenty-nine private language arguments and fifty-eight 'no entity without identity' theories."

  2. ———. 1999. Bertrand Russell on Modality and Logical Relevance. Aldershot: Ashgate.

  3. ———. 2012. The Concept of Relevance and the Logic Diagram Tradition. Ann Arbor: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.

Jorge J. E. Gracia

  1. Gracia, Jorge J.E. 1984. Introduction to the Problem of Individuation in the Early Middle Ages. München: Philosophia Verlag.

  2. ———. 1988. Individuality. An Essay on the Foundations of Metaphysics. Albany: State University of New York Press.

  3. ———. 1992. "The Transcendentals in the Middle Ages: An Introduction." Topoi.An International Journal of Philosophy no. 11:113-120.

  4. ———. 1993. "Hispanic Philosophy: Its Beginning and Golden Age." Review of Metaphysics no. 46:475-502.

  5. ———. 1999. Metaphysics and Its Task. The Search for the Categorial Foundation of Knowledge. Albany: State University of New York Press,.

Studies on His Work

  1. Delfino, Robert A., ed. 2006. What Are We to Understand Gracia to Mean? Realist Challenges to Metaphysical Neutralism. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Horace Romano (Rom) Harré

  1. Harré, Rom. 1961. Theories and Things. London: Sheed and Ward.

  2. ———. 1986. Varieties of Realism. A Rationale for the Natural Sciences. Oxford: Blackwell.

  3. ———. 1988. "Realism and Ontology." Philosophia Naturalis no. 25:386-398.

  4. ———. 1994. Realism Rescued: How Scientific Progress Is Possible. london: Duckworth.

    With Jerrold L. Aronson and Eileen Cornell Way

  5. ———. 2000. One Thousand Years of Philosophy. From Ramanuja to Wittgenstein. Oxford: Blackwell.

  6. ———. 2002. Cognitive Science: A Philosophical Introduction. London: SAGE Publishers.

  7. Harré, Rom, and Krausz, Michael. 1996. Varieties of Relativism. Oxford: Blackwell.

Studies on His Work

  1. Bhaskar, Roy, ed. 1990. Harré and His Critics. Essays in Honour of Rom Harré with His Commentary on Them. Oxford: Blackwell.

  2. Derksen, Anthony A., ed. 1994. The Scientific Realism of Rom Harré. Tilburg: Tilburg University Press.

    Contents: Anthony C. Derksen: Introduction 1; Rom Harré: Three versions of realism 5; Anthony C. Derksen: Harré and his version of scientific realism 23; Peter Lipton: Truth, existence, and the best explanation 89; Herman de Regt: The sad but true story of entity realism 113; Jerrold L. Aronson: Conditionals, visualization, and virtual worlds 147; Notes on the contributors 177.

John Heil

  1. Heil, John. 2003. From an Ontological Point of View. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Jaakko Hintikka

  1. Hintikka, Jaakko. 1981. "Semantics: A Revolt against Frege." In Contemporary Philosophy. A New Survey. Volume I: Philosophy of Language, edited by Fløistad, Guttorm, 57-82. The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff.

  2. ———. 1996. "Contemporary Philosophy and the Problem of Truth." Acta Philosophica Fennica no. 61:23-39.

    Reprinted in: Leila Haaparanta and Ilkka Niiniluoto (eds.) - Analytic philosophy in Finland - Amsterdam. Rodopi, 2003, pp. 89-106.

  3. ———. 1996. The Principles of Mathematics Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  4. ———. 1997. Lingua Universalis Vs. Calculus Ratiocinator. An Ultimate Presupposition of Twentieth-Century Philosophy. Dordecht: Kluwer.

Herbert Hochberg

  1. Hochberg, Herbert. 1978. Thought, Fact, and Reference. The Origins and Ontology of Logical Atomism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  2. ———. 1984. Logic, Ontology, and Language. Essays on Truth and Reality. München: Philosophia Verlag.

  3. ———. 1986. "Existence, Non-Existence, and Predication." Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 25/26:235-268.

    "Two connected themes have been at the core of the old perplexity regarding thinking and speaking about non-existent objects. One involves a question of reference. Can we refer to non-existent objects without, thereby, recognizing, in some sense, non-existent entities as objects of reference? The other involves a question about existence. Is existence a property representable by a predicate in a logically adequate symbolism? It is argued (1) that existence is not to be construed as an attribute represented by a predicate, (2) that non-naming names introduce problems, not solutions to problems, (3) that purported properties such as self-identical are specious, and (4) that the Russell property is also seen to be specious by our consideration of predication."

  4. ———. 1988. "A Refutation of Moderate Nominalism." Australasian Journal of Philosophy no. 66:188-207.

  5. ———. 1991. The Positivist and the Ontologist. Bergmann, Carnap and Logical Realism. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

  6. ———. 2000. "Facts, Truths and the Ontology of Logical Realism." Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 58/59:23-92.

    "The paper sets out a version of a correspondence theory of truth that deals with a number of problems such theories traditionally face problems associated with the names of Bradley, Meinong, Camap, Russell, Wittgenstein and Moore and that arise in connection with attempts to analyze facts of various logical forms. The line of argument employs a somewhat novel application of Russell's theory of definite descriptions. In developing a form of "logical realism" the paper takes up various ontological issues regarding classes, causal laws, modality, predication, negation and relations. It does so in connection with critical discussions of alternative views recently proposed by Armstrong, Bergmann, Lewis and Putnam."

  7. ———. 2002. "From Logic to Ontology: Some Problems of Predication, Negation and Possibility." In A Companion to Philosophical Logic, edited by Jacquette, Dale, 281-292. Malden: Blackwell.

    "2. Designation and Existence

    Carnap ( Introduction to semantics, 1942: 24, 50-2) considered the issues of truth and reference in terms of the semantics of 'designation'. Consider (1) 'a' designates Theaetetus: (2) 'F' designates the property of flying; (3) 'Fa' designates the state of affairs that Theaetetus is flying. Carnap took (1)-(3) as semantical 'rules' for a schema. With designates as a semantical relation, (3) is true even if 'Fa' is false. (1)-(3), as semantical rules, do not express matters of fact. That such rules are rules of a particular schema is a matter of fact. The same sort of distinction applies to ordinary language variants of (1)-(3) - 'Theaetetus' designates Theaetetus, etc. Considered as statements about the usage of terms, they express matters of fact, but, properly understood, they are semantic rules. Taking the signs as interpreted signs - symbols, in the sense of Wittgenstein's Tractarian distinction between a sign and a symbol, there is, in a clear sense, an internal or logical relation involved in such rules. (1)-(3) express formal or logical truths, since the symbols, not signs, would not be the symbols they are without representing what they represent. This incorporates a 'direct reference' account of proper names and the direct representation of properties and relations by primitive predicates. This was involved in Russell's notion of a "logically proper name" or label that functioned like a demonstrative, as opposed to a definite description that 'denoted' indirectly, via the predicates in the descriptive phrase. In the last decades of the century, with the decline of interest in and knowledge of the work of major early twentieth-century figures, petty debates have erupted about priority. One of the most absurd concerns whether Barcan or Kripke originated Russell's account, which was set out in the first decade of the century and adopted by many since. The absurdity has been compounded by the misleading linking of Russell with Frege in what some speak of as the 'Frege-Russell' account of proper names, which ignores Russell's attack on Frege's account in the classic "On Denoting" (1905; Hochberg Russell's attack on Frege's theory of meaning (*),1984). The direct reference account was ontologically significant for Russell and others who took the primitive nonlogical constants (logically proper names and predicates), representing particulars and properties (relations) respectively, to provide the ontological commitments of the schema (**). This contrasted with Quine's taking quantification as the key to ontological commitment - "to be is to be the value of a variable" - which allows a schema limited to first order logic to contain primitive predicates while avoiding properties, by fiat. That fits Quine's replacing proper names by definite descriptions, involving either primitive or defined predicates. For one only then makes ontological claims by means of variables and quantifiers, and predicates retain ontological innocence (Quine, 1939, 1953). If primitive predicates involve ontological commitments, as in Carnap's (2), attempting to eliminate all directly referring signs via descriptions faces an obvious vicious regress, aside from employing an ad hoc and arbitrary criterion.

    Wittgenstein simply ignored the problem about (3) by giving (1) and (2) the role of (3), as Russell was to do in the 1920s under his influence. This was covered over by his speaking of the 'possibilities' of combination being 'internal' or 'essential' properties of the 'objects' that were combined. Carnap's (3), which articulates Moore's view, makes explicit reference to a possible fact or situation. Russell had suggested using his theory of descriptions to avoid reference to possible facts, as well as to nonexistent objects (Russell 1905)." pp. 284-285.

    (*) in: H. Hochberg, Logic, ontology and language, pp. 60-85 (original work published in 1976).

    (**) G. Bergmann, Undefined descriptive predicates - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 8, 1947, pp. 55-82.

  8. ———. 2003. Introducing Analytic Philosophy: Its Sense and Its Nonsense, 1879-2002. Frankfurt a.M.: Hänsel-Hohenhausen.

  9. ———. 2004. "Russell and Ramsey on Distinguishing between Universals and Particulars." Grazer Philosophische Studien no. 67:195-207.

Joshua Hoffman

  1. Hoffman, Joshua. 1994. Substance among Other Categories. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    With Gary Rosenkrantz

  2. ———. 1997. Substance: Its Nature and Existence. New York: Routledge.

    With Gary Rosenkrantz

Thomas Hofweber

  1. Hofweber, Thomas. 1999. Ontology and Objectivity, Stanford University.

    Available at UMI Dissertation Express. Order number: 9943667.

  2. ———. 2000. Empty Names, Fiction, and the Puzzles of Non-Existence. Stanford: CSLI Publications.

  3. ———. 2005. "A Puzzle About Ontology." Noûs no. 39:256-283.

  4. ———. 2006. "Inexpressible Properties and Propositions." In Oxford Studies in Metaphysics - Vol. 2, edited by Zimmerman, Dean, 155-206. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Peter van Inwagen

  1. Inwagen, Peter van. 1987. "When Are Objects Parts?" Philosophical Perspectives no. 1:21-47.

  2. ———. 1996. "Why Is There Anything at All?" Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society no. 70:95-110.

  3. ———. 1998. "Meta-Ontology." Erkenntnis no. 48:233-250.

  4. ———. 2001. Ontology, Identity, and Modality. Essays in Metaphysics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.