Friday, August 5, 2016

New Paper: Logicism, Ontology, and the Epistemology of Second-Order Logic

Forthcoming in Ivette Fred and Jessica Leech, eds, Being Necessary: Themes of Ontology and Modality from the Work of Bob Hale (Oxford: Oxford University Press)
In two recent papers, Bob Hale has attempted to free second-order logic of the 'staggering existential assumptions' with which Quine famously attempted to saddle it. I argue, first, that the ontological issue is at best secondary: the crucial issue about second-order logic, at least for a neo-logicist, is epistemological. I then argue that neither Crispin Wright's attempt to characterize a `neutralist' conception of quantification that is wholly independent of existential commitment, nor Hale's attempt to characterize the second-order domain in terms of definability, can serve a neo-logicist's purposes. The problem, in both cases, is similar: neither Wright nor Hale is sufficiently sensitive to the demands that impredicativity imposes. Finally, I defend my own earlier attempt to finesse this issue, in "A Logic for Frege's Theorem", from Hale's criticisms.

For the most part, the paper is not terribly technical, but there are some (what I think are) interesting applications of technical work on models of second-order arithmetic toward the end of section 3.

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