Croatian Journal of Philosophy

Volume 3, Issue 2, 2003

Roberta de Monticelli
Pages 171-186

On Ontology
a Dialogue between a Linguistic Philosopher, a Naturalist and a Phenomenologist

This paper compares two basic approaches to “ontology”. One originated within the analytic tradition, and it encompasses two diverging streams, philosophy of language and (contemporary) philosophy of mind which lead to “reduced ontology” and “neo-Aristotelian ontology”, respectively. The other approach is “phenomenological ontology” (more precisely, the Husserlian, not the Heideggerian version). Ontology as a theory of reference (“reduced” ontology, or ontology dependent on semantics) is presented and justified on the basis of some classical thesis of traditional philosophy of language (from Frege to Quine). “Reduced ontology” is shown to be identifiable with one level of the traditional, Aristotelian ontology, which corresponds to one ofthe four “senses of Being” listed in Aristotle’s Metaphysics: “being” as “being true”. This identification is justified on the basis of Brentano’s “rules for translation” of the Aristotelian table of judgements in terms of (positive and negative) existential judgments such as are easily translatable into sentences of first order predicate logic. The second part of the paper is concerned with “neo-Aristotelian ontology”, i.e. with naturalism and physicalism as the main ontological options underlying most of the contemporary discussion in philosophy of mind. The qualification of such options as “neo-Aristotelian” is justified; the relationships between “neo-Aristotelian” and “reduced” ontology are discussed. The third part presents the basic claim of “phenomenological ontology”: the claim that a logical theory of existence and being does capture a sense of “existing” and “being” which, even if not itself the basic one, is grounded in the basic one. An attempt is done at further clarifying this “more basic” sense of “being”. An argument making use of this supposedly “more basic” sense is advanced in favour of “phenomenological ontology”.