Words Without Objects: Semantics, Ontology, and Logic for Non-Singularity

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9780199281718: Words Without Objects: Semantics, Ontology, and Logic for Non-Singularity

An enjoyable polemic that grapples with some of the interesting and confusing issues of non-singularity, bringing semantic, ontic and logical considerations to bear on the puzzling phenomenon of non-singular nouns. . . . Words Without Objects is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in some of the philosophical considerations regarding the many and the much. . . . the book contains some very insightful and interesting arguments about a very difficult topic, and provides some delightful philosophical back-story. ( Adam Sennet, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews)

Laycock's discussion will be of great value for those studying the semantics of mass terms. ( Thomas J. McKay, Canadian Journal of Philosophy)

In this approachable, philosophically-oriented book, Laycock offers a 'descriptive metaphysics...of stuff or matter' and addresses 'the formal behaviour, including that under the quanitifiers, of a large and central set of non-count nouns... sometimes called mass nouns'... I wholeheartedly recommend this useful, stimulating and worthwhile book to anyone who wants to think about the topics it addresses. ( Stephen K. McLeod, Philosophical Books)

Laycock's recent monograph constitutes a welcome addition to on the mass/count distribution, especially since it marks the first published book-length examination of these issues by a philosopher... I very much hope that Laycock's monograph will inspire, as it should, a resurgence of interest in what is after all... a prime breeding ground for questions concerning meaning, truth, reference and quantification... Laycock's view is certainly sufficiently provocative and intriguing in its unfamiliarity to warrant examination in the future. ( Kathrin Koslicki, Australian Journal of Philosophy)

Vom Verlag:

A picture of the world as chiefly one of discrete objects, distributed in space and time, has sometimes seemed compelling. It is however one of two main targets of Henry Laycock's book; for it is seriously incomplete. The picture, he argues, leaves no space for stuff like air and water. With discrete objects, we may always ask 'how many?', but with stuff the question has to be 'how much?' Within philosophy, stuff of certain basic kinds is central to the ancient pre-Socratic world-view; but it also constitutes the field of modern chemistry and is a major factor in ecology.

Philosophers these days, in general, are unlikely to deny that stuff exists. But they are very likely to deny that it is ('ultimately') to be contrasted with things, and it is on this account that logic and semantics figure largely in the framework of the book. Elementary logic is a logic which takes values for its variables; and these values are precisely distinct individuals or things. Existence is then symbolized in just such terms; and this, it is proposed, creates a pressure for 'reducing' stuff to things. Non-singular expressions, which include words for stuff, 'mass' nouns, and also plural nouns, are 'explicated' as semantically singular.

Here then is the second target of the book. The posit that both mass and plural nouns name special categories of objects (set-theoretical 'collections' of objects in the one case, mereological 'parcels' or 'portions' of stuff in the other) represents, so Laycock urges, the imposition of an alien logic upon both the many and the much.

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