Logic & Philosophy of Science Colloquium

Charles Parsons

Harvard University, UCLA

"The Problem of Absolute Universality"


Quantifiers in natural language and in logic may be restricted or unrestricted. In the latter case, reflection can introduce an implicit restriction at the metalevel. But it seems that some generalizations are absolutely unrestricted, their scope is "absolutely everything".

Whether we can take such generalizations at face value has been a matter of debate. I argue that it implies metaphysical realism in Hilary Putnam's sense. I lay out the logical difficulties coming from familiar paradoxes that the idea of such quantification gives rise to. I conclude that one should not take absolute quantification as just a special case of ordinary quantification and attempt to say what sense generalizations have that seem to require being understood in that way.

Friday, June 3, 2005
SST 777
3 pm

Refreshments will be served