Paper Evaporism draft 19 3 02


Evaporism and particularist normativity

Matjaž Potrč, University of Ljubljana;


The Wittgensteinian feel for this area: The whole intricate ontological debate condensates into a bunch of descriptions. And then this descriptively loaded drop evaporates under the benign pressures of normativity. – Matjaž Potrč



The paper consists of two main parts and of a concluding section. The first part deals with questions of descriptive metaphysics and truth. The second part tries to determine the place for normativity, especially for particularist normativity in metaphysics, whose natural outcome is a new generic metaphysical position called evaporism. The concluding section highlights the importance of phenomenology for metaphysics.

            The section explaining descriptive metaphysics and truth argues in the following manner: Metaphysical debates involve interconnections between concepts, and so these debates belong to the descriptive metaphysics. If ontological vagueness is possible, then the mentioned concepts do not refer to vague entities. But statements concerning vague posits are still true, truth being conceived now as an indirect correspondence.

            Section about particularist normativity and evaporism sets the ground first: If the nature of metaphysical debates is descriptive, this invites normative terms. Metaphysics opts for general exceptionless projectible principles, which turn out to be inadequate. Particularist normativity is based in the intractable nature of debates concerning conceptual penumbral connections. Intractability is due to the actual nature of cognitive systems according to the model of dynamical cognition involving morphological content. Evaporism is the result of particularist normativity.

            The last section opts for an intertwining between metaphysics and phenomenology on the basis of descriptive metaphysical nature of debates in ontology.


Key words: Ontology, descriptive metaphysics, normativity, principles, particularism, truth, phenomenology.


The structure

I.Descriptive metaphysics and truth

1.Metaphysical debates involve interconnections between concepts.

2..:These debates belong to the descriptive metaphysics.

3.If ontological vagueness is impossible, then these concepts do not refer to vague entities.

4.Statements concerning vague posits are still true, truth being considered now as indirect correspondence.

II.Particularist normativity and evaporism

1.Setting the ground: If the nature of metaphysical debates is descriptive, this invites normative terms.

2.General exceptionless projectible principles for normativity in metaphysics cannot be followed.

3.Particularist normativity steams from intractable nature of debates concerning conceptual penumbral connections (dynamical cognition and morphological content).

4.Evaporism is a result of particularist normativity.

III.Metaphysics and phenomenology



Ontological debates – such as those featuring relations between the statue and the clay, between persons and their bodies, those concerning personal identity and identity through time – are properly viewed as debates in descriptive metaphysics and not as those concerning real metaphysics. The mentioned debates involve proper workings of interconnections among certain concepts, such as person, human body, identity, existence and non-existence. It would seem that these items concern vague entities. But this cannot be the case if ontological vagueness is impossible. Assuming this, numerous statements employing vague posits will still be true, truth for such statements being conceived as an indirect language-world correspondence.

Once descriptive metaphysical nature of debates in ontology gets acknowledged, their proper workings may be spelled out in normative terms. The explicit dynamics of metaphysical debates tends to promote exceptionless projectible general principles. But there is no need to settle in a tractable way the penumbral connections between concepts involved, if you look at them from the perspective of the nature of cognitive systems underlying this. Particularist treatment offers itself as appropriate for an account of debates in ontology. A new generic position that correctly applies to many of contemporary metaphysical debates profiles itself: evaporism.


I. Descriptive metaphysics and truth

Some ontological disputes are introduced first. These disputes do not proceed at the level of ultimate ontology. They rather involve concepts and interconnections between them. This establishes descriptive metaphysics as the domain we are dealing with. Concepts do not refer to vague entities if ontological vagueness is impossible. But statements about vague posits may still be true, given that truth is now construed as indirect correspondence.


Ontological disputes

Ontological disputes tend to involve your intuitions about relations between the statue and the clay, between persons and their bodies, those concerning personal identity and identity through time.

Let us suppose for a while that there exists a multiplicity of entities and that the ontologist is dealing with them. There is a chunk of matter on my piano. One description that I may give about the supposed entity is in terms of the material it involves, the clay. Another description of the entity involved is that it is a statue presenting Beethoven, which in counter distinction to the earlier specification applies to the entities’ form, if we use Aristotelian terms. A question to ask now is about identity of the involved matters, as we have characterized them. Is the clay identical to the statue?

There is another chunk of the matter that I observe. It is a body. But the description of the chunk of the matter as a body may perhaps be substituted by another description: there is a person here. Once a person is mentioned, we will tend to be attentive at other things than this was the occasion with the former case. We will be observing patterns of bodily behavior, concerning not just its spatio-temporal position, but also patterns involving this body’s acting as a person, with its various deeds and with the dynamics in several dimensions such as physical, inter-personal and aesthetic dimensions that in involves. Now you ask yourself whether the person is identical to her body.

Another couple of examples concerns personal identity and identity through time. We ask ourselves whether a person is identical to her temporary stages. A child and a grown up person do not share much of the physical matter, given that the cells and the material from which they consists are repeatedly changed as we observe them through the passage of time. Almost complete substitution of the matter in a person’s body is not diminished in any way because of the gradual nature of this substitution.

The kinds of ontological disputes just mentioned deal with concepts such as person, human body, identity, existence and non-existence. Is a person identical to the human body? Does the person exist besides to the human body, or does it not exist at all? What is the nature of a person’s existence in the case this existence is granted? Is it a material existence? Is it a non-corporal existence? What kinds of existences are there besides to the straightforward existence? What is the status of possibilities and of other intensional creatures?

Ontological disputes deal with all of these things, and they trade on intuitions about the right position to defend in these matters, and on intuitions concerning counterexamples that may be produced in respect to the opposed positions.

If the mentioned debates involve intuitions about such items as: person, human body, identity, existence and non-existence, this does not straightforwardly imply that there exists a multiplicity of entities we have just referred to. First, the debate involves concepts and intuitions about connections between these concepts. It does not straightforwardly involve the supposed creatures in their ultimate ontological reality. A second, to some extent unrelated question, concerns the doubt about the ultimate existence of such entities. One way of thought is that each of the mentioned things does not really exist in the ultimate ontology. For, if these things had existed, they would be vague. But suppose now that there just isn’t any vagueness possible in the world. This thought will be explained to some further extent later on.


Ontological debates belong to the descriptive metaphysics and not to the real metaphysics

As one asks whether the clay is identical to the statue, there is the feeling that one is asking about the matters of ultimate or of the real ontology. But one is just asking about identity of descriptions involved. “Clay” is one description of the matter involved, and “statue” is another description of the matter involved. This shows that we are talking about relations between descriptions here that apply to a chunk of matter, and not about relations between entities. This is why the mentioned debates concern descriptive metaphysics, and not the real metaphysics. As we ask about the value of equation


            Clay = Statue


we are not talking about the relation between really and ultimately existing entities, but about the relation concerning concepts that apply to what we have called chunk of matter. The further thought is that doubt may be shed even over the existence of the “chunk of matter”. A chunk of matter seems to be a vague entity. But if the entity is vague, then it might be the case that it does not exist, if one holds the view that ontological vagueness is impossible. Whatever the matter, it is perhaps sufficient to point out right now how the debates in metaphysics do not concern ultimate reality but rather the conceptual framework involved into the description of the world.

            Another chunk of matter that we envisaged prompts the following question: What are the conditions for identity


            Body = Person?


Can one reduce to the other? May person be reduced to her body? There are powerful intuitions that this cannot be the case: You cannot reduce person to her body. But one may also try to argue in the opposed direction. The important thing for our discussion to notice here is that again, the dispute does not seem to deal with the ultimate entities, but with the relation between two descriptions involving the chunk of matter in question. So again this does not prove to be a debate concerning real entities of ultimate ontology. It is rather a dispute about the status of connections existing between descriptions of one supposedly existing entity. And this dispute turns out to involve the area of descriptive metaphysics.

            The question about personal identity and about the identity through time puts under our scrutiny the equation


            Person = Person’s temporary stages.


If we again take the chunk of matter under question as our starting point, we may recognize the dispute to be about two descriptions of this same chunk, once taken as the description involving a person, and once as the description of the person’s several temporary stages. We can conclude that the dispute does not concern the chunk of matter in question in any direct manner.

            It may thus be stressed again that the work of ontologist does not concern the language and mind independently existing reality in any direct manner. The ontologist’s work deals with and handles intuitions about the concepts involved into metaphysical discussion, such as concepts relating to person, human body, identity, existence and non-existence. It is actually a research in the penumbral connections between these concepts. There are intuitions about what is appropriate to think about a case under scrutiny. Counterexamples involving conceptual possibilities are produced, trading on relations between penumbral connections of the concepts involved. If penumbral connections that exist between concepts are important, then the way one understands the nature of conceptual vagueness becomes important as well.

            Anyway, if all this is true, then one can provisory conclude that the now mentioned disputes happen in the area of descriptive metaphysics and not in the area of the real metaphysics. Real metaphysics is supposed to deal with the ultimate reality that exists irrespective of the linguistic and conceptual schemas that are applied to it. Descriptive metaphysics is understood here as dealing with description of the world.[i]


Metaphysical debates involve interconnections between concepts

Let us take again the equation


            Clay = Statue.


If we concentrate and think from one direction, we envision clay. We contemplate the situation under the conceptual perspective that fits clay, and we imagine all the properties associated with this concept. We picture ourselves a kind of prototype for clay, with such associated concepts as is the color typical for clay, the viscosity and smell belonging to it, along with other relevant characteristics. Then we intuit the concept of a statue, with all the adjoined prototypical concepts that it involves, such as being a work of art or having a tendency to be one, representing something, displaying a certain surface color, along with the tendency of pushing the importance of the material used somehow in the background and stressing the importance of the form, together with the similarity that this form bears to the person depicted, Beethoven in our case. Now think about your prototypical Beethoven and all that your concept that is related to it involves: being romantic, having unruly hair, being proud and airing determinacy and decision, exercising authority in the area of classical music.

            Now you think about the equation again. Is statue reducible to the clay? In a way, it is. There is no other physical stuff found around here than the clay, except perhaps some color applied to the surface of the clay. The clay is elaborated appropriately, by being shaped and burned. But it is still clay and nothing else. On the other hand, you can think about the matter under discussion as about the statue. In this case then, you zoom away from the properties characteristic for clay, which are given to you as concepts involved into the prototype of clay. And you zoom onto the conceptual prototypical richness characteristic for the statue. The concepts of figure, of depiction, of resemblance come on the front stage in this case. Proceeding like that, you stress the feeling then how statue cannot be reduced to the clay. The properties that you envision just are not the properties that belong to the prototypical cluster of the concept clay. Clay as such does somehow come into the picture, of course, but there is no form involved into it that would be close to the resemblance to some figure, such as the figure of Beethoven.

            Your intuitions concerning the equation may be thus pulled in opposite directions, be it in direction of reducibility of the statue to the clay, or in an opposed manner, in direction of irreducibility. If you zoom in right now at the alternative of reducibility, you will stress the prototypical concepts related to the clay, and your intuition will follow in this direction. If, on the other hand, you zoom in at the properties of the concept statue, your overall intuitions will turn in another direction, and you will be more inclined towards nonreductionist interpretation.

            Anyway, you will deal with intuitions concerning concepts involved into the prototypes involving statue and clay. You will also try to deal further with those intuitions about concepts as you will try to think about counterexamples to the above equation: “If the statue is identical to the clay, then it might not be fabricated from some other kind of matter. But the statue representing Beethoven may be fabricated from other materials as well, such as plastics or lead. So the reduction cannot hold even for that reason.” – “But now, even if the statue could have been fabricated from some other stuff, this token is fabricated from clay. So it must be reducible to clay.” Your intuitions will zoom now at the prototypical concepts involved into the concept of the statue and then again into the concept of the clay, as you entertain these thoughts. You will try to explore the penumbral connections that exist between the two concepts. Your metaphysical work will concentrate on the relations between the concepts in question.

            Without any pretension for closing the subject matter, this was just an example of metaphysical discussions. It showed that metaphysical debates do indeed trade on relations between concepts.


Impossibility of ontological vagueness

As we tried to determine the practice of metaphysician, we discovered that his real domain of work concerns concepts and their connections. One concept, such as clay, may involve several other concepts that constitute its prototype. If two or more concepts are related, there may be a rich network of their constituent prototypical sub-concepts implicated. It will help to see these concepts as being vague, although the conclusion about vagueness of concepts does not follow from the fact of their richness.

            In order to see why concepts may be held to be vague, one has to look at the nature of vagueness first. One of the most known examples of vague predicates includes baldness. When exactly does a man start to be bald? How many hairs does he need to loose in order that the predicate appropriately applies to him? A man with 10.000 hairs appropriately placed at his scalp surely is not bald. Now, you take one hair away from his scalp. If he wasn’t bald with 10.000 hairs, now he isn’t bald with 9.999 hairs either. You continue to apply the same modus ponens reasoning at each step and it turns out that a man with 1 hair at his scalp cannot be bald either. And this just cannot be right, according to our everyday standards of baldness. Sorites paradox involves two kinds of norms: the individualistic norms that apply to the sequence of modus ponens supported steps. And the collectivistic norms, where you observe the whole sequence collectively, realizing that there are hairy men at the beginning, that there are bald men towards the end of the sequence, and that there is a gray area of indecision about where to apply the predicate somewhere in between these. The paradox of vagueness, the fact of boundarylessness[ii], is a result of coming together of two kinds of normativity, the individualistic and the collectivist ones.

            Everybody may not agree. But concepts at least can be vague. And if they are vague, then this is due to the application of two kinds of normativity to them: the individualistic and collectivistic ones. Individualistic normativity, for example, prescribes that each successor has to retain the same semantic value as its predecessor. If it is true that this one is a case of baldness, then his successor will present a case of baldness as well. Collectivist normativity prescribes that there has to exist difference between semantic valuations along the sequence of a vague predicate considered as a whole.

            Taking all this into account, it is not hard to see that the phenomenon of vagueness neatly fits into the area of concepts proper to language and thought, but that it just cannot fit to the realm of the mind and language independent world. Why? Vagueness was just now shortly explained as coming together of incompatible normative standards. But it just does not make sense to claim that there exist incompatible normative standards in the mind and language independent world.

            And here is an additional argument for the impossibility of ontological vagueness, again in its short form. Suppose that there are vague objects. One of them is the mountain Šmarna gora. Now you fix needles into the hill, starting with the geographical top of the hill. The first one of these needles certainly is on the mountain. The next needle, just 1 cm away from the fist one, is also on the mountain, if the modus ponens sorites individualistic reasoning is applied as the basis of our judgment. Now you repeat the procedure, until you reach an area that clearly finds itself in the valley. The needle pinned into the ground down there is still on the top of the mountain, because it is a successor (although a distant successor) of the needle on the top of the mountain – by individualistic standards. And the mentioned needle certainly is also not at the top of the mountain, according to the collectivist standards closer to estimations of common sense. So this needle is both at the top of the mountain and it is not at the top of the mountain. So the supposition of the existence of Šmarna gora has leaded us to embrace a contradiction. So Šmarna gora does not exist. So vagueness is impossible in the mind and language independent world. So this world has to be non-vague, in counter distinction to the concepts involved into the description of this world, which may be vague.


If ontological vagueness is impossible, then concepts do not refer to vague entities

So let us suppose that we have vague concepts and thoughts, but that there is no vagueness in the mind and language independent world. One of the functions of concepts and of the linguistic expressions related to them is the referential function. But how can concepts and linguistic expressions refer to the world if they are vague but the world just isn’t vague? One of the answers why those vague concepts and expressions cannot refer to vague entities in the world is simply that this is because there do not and cannot exist any vague entities in the world. But does this mean that there does not exist the world either? This does not seem to be acceptable though. The proposal is to affirm the existence of the world, but not to affirm the existence of any vague entities existing in this world. But then, what is it that concepts are referring at? If they refer, they must refer to the world, and not to any of these entities.


Statements concerning vague posits are still true, truth being conceived now as indirect correspondence

Is it simply not true if we claim that there is this statue there, and that again there is a person here? Let us suppose that there is just the world here, ultimately. If we accept this now, we may go on and affirm that ultimately there isn’t any statue or person there. So we may paraphrase the situation where we would normally say that there are a statue and a person around as: “The world is such that it regionishly locally behaves in a statue-ishly and peron-ishly manner.” In this way we do away with the supposition of the existence of entities that were imposed on the situation by language and thought. Our analysis used adverbial means in order to reveal that there are no such entities around as we originally presumed at the time we followed just the immediate suggestion of our wording.

            Ontological commitment of our talk and thought turned out to be to the world. But it was not the commitment to the existence of the world in an ultimate manner. Rather it was commitment to the existence of the world in a regional way.

            Statements that we use may still be true, or they may be false as for that matter, thus they may still have a semantic value. But they are not true in any direct manner. They are true, in a way, concerning the state of the world: how the world is. But they are not true in respect to the world in any direct manner – only indirectly so.  So these statements may correspond to the world. But their correspondence will be of an indirect nature.

            In order to convey the idea of indirect correspondence, one may mention the kind of entities that are usually not taken care of by extensionalist approaches. One can mention symphonies and institutional entities. Although one cannot refer to a symphony in any direct manner, because it is not a spatio-temporal entity, one can certainly affirm truths concerning it, such as “Yesterday’s performance of Beethoven’s 5th symphony was excellent”. In this way, one certainly refers to something that happens in the world, although there is no entity corresponding directly in a spatio-temporal way to what is mentioned by the expression “symphony”. Similarly it goes for institutional entities such as universities. In a way, these are spatio-temporally located, but in a scattered manner, and they involve a lot of dimensions, such as departments and other features that cannot be reduced to just the spatio-temporal underlying stuff. Nevertheless one can perfectly well measure the discourse involving universities with semantic requirements for truth and falsity.

            One has to realize the importance and the ubiquitous nature of truth as indirect correspondence. We are not just talking about intensionality here, because intensionality is not committed to the usual extensional brand of truth conditions. Truth as indirect correspondence accepts truth conditions for statements, but in an indirect manner.[iii]


II. Particularist normativity and evaporism

Truth construed along the guidelines of indirect correspondence seems to be close to descriptive metaphysics, anyway much closer than it is to the real metaphysics. In the area of real metaphysics you talk about things directly, in a straightforward manner. If truth is construed as indirect correspondence, the stress is rather on description. And now, description is compatible with normativity. Metaphysical normativity uses general exceptionless projectible principles. These prove to be incompatible with intractable nature of penumbral connections between concepts, and with the dynamical cognition underlying them. Evaporism turns out to be the result of particularist normativity.


Setting the ground: If the nature of metaphysical debates is descriptive, this invites normative terms

The usual belief is that the debates in metaphysics concern ultimate reality. There cannot be any normativity involved into the ultimate reality. But it goes otherwise for the discussions in which you take part. The reality of these is discursive and it certainly involves normativity. Once we engage in discursive practices, there are several strands of normativity involved. Immediately and automatically there appear normative standards that govern our discussion: what can be said in the situation and what should better not be said, how the wording has to be chosen, what is the appropriate referential frame to engage in. These normative standards are complex and they exercise their overall presence without that we would be most of the time aware about their existence at all.

            Now we found out that ontology as practiced does not proceed at the level of ultimate reality. Ontologists are not engaged in the real metaphysics, but in the descriptive metaphysics. If this is the case, then the discourse involving matters ontological is in the foreground, and not the area of ontology as it may exist outside of this discourse. But then it will be quite natural to see this ontological discourse governed by normative constraints.

            There are two generic possibilities about the dynamics involving normative standards. These may be either high standards in the sense that they would put demanding requirements on the discourse in question. Or they may be rather lower and closer to earth and closer to usual practices staying standards. It will be argued that proclaimed standards of the ontological discourse tend to be high. But this form of normativity is contrary both to the practice of ontological discourse as it is actually proceeding, and to the nature of cognitive systems underlying the ontological discourse in question.


Explicit endorsing of exceptionless projectible general principles as applying to ontological disputes

Ontological disputes belong to the area of descriptive metaphysics. Accordingly, they involve the discourse of metaphysics, and they do not involve the mind and language independently existing world in any direct manner. Ontological positions are in the offing, and the choice seems quite democratic as far as the space of logical possibilities is concerned. Your heart may choose between nominalism and realism, between anti-realism and between several other positions for different areas. But once the choice is made, pressure is put on the ontological positions to embrace principles of the following sort:


“For all the relevant cases, accept substance-accidence distinction as an explanatory principle”.


“For all the relevant cases, accept tropes as an explanatory principle”.


Relevant cases may include particulars that can be understood as spatio-temporal chunks of matter or as middle-sized dry goods. You can notice that the first mentioned principle offers different and opposed interpretative proposals as compared to the second principle. According to the first principle, a body will be interpreted by application of the substance-accidence distinction. Whereas according to the second principle, the same body will be interpreted as consisting of tropes, that is of spatio-temporally instantiated properties. In this case, the nature of the proposed principles will pull interpretation in opposed directions, involving the intuitions proper to the prototypes of concepts “substance-accidence” pair and intuitions proper to the prototypes of “trope”, as applied to the body under question. Principles thus introduce interpretation constraints that may pull intuitions linked to the concepts involved into the opposite directions.

            The important thing though is that the principles underlying metaphysical discourse are spelled out as general principles. Given the relevant domain, such as the domain of middle-sized dry goods, they are supposed to hold for this domain in a general manner. Although you may be either a fan of tropes or of substance-accidence explanatory principle for the area in question, you can endorse just one of the choices[iv], and then the principle chosen by you will hold for the area in a general way.

            The general form of the principle stated will further be in value for the area under question in an exceptionless manner. This means that for all the cases of middle sized dry goods, in the example above, you will have to apply the substance-accidence distinction, even if these would be counterintuitive cases as far as your position is concerned. Even and especially, you will be obliged to spend your time with the limit cases of the sort just mentioned, as these will be important for the defense of and for making plausible your position. The exceptionless nature of the principles involved is actually a consequence of generality of these principles.

            The general exceptionless principles also allow for projectibility, which is built into them by being general and exceptionless. If you buy the general principle concerning tropes, you will have to reason in the following way: “If this chunk of matter is an assemblage of tropes, then another similar chunk of matter will be assemblage of tropes as well.” More generally: tropes will provide patterns that allow projectibility to the whole range of further cases, that is to all the cases belonging to the domain. Projectibility will be inductively grounded, to extend from some of the cases to the whole range of the cases covering the domain. One natural role for projectibility is epistemic: this will be especially of use for people that are not acquainted with the principle but should adopt it, either through teaching or in some other manner.

            Just to repeat it in order to make it clearer: The general principles in question are not limited to the cases of substance-accidence and tropes. They apply to most and probably to all of the basic ontological positions, such as mereology or part-whole relation that may be again interpreted in various manners. The first decision for the ontologist will be to endorse mereological principles, in exclusion of competing ones. The next decision along the path of the decision tree will be to choose mereological essentialism in some domain, and not some other explanatory principle for this domain. So, according to various parameters in question, there will be a plurality of coexisting principles, each of them sticking to generality, exceptionlessness and to projectibility.

            Besides to all that was mentioned, one may also ask the question why there is this general form of principles. The answer is that such a form may be required in order that the tractability would be secured. If there is a general principle of the mentioned sort, the hope is that it may be unambiguously decided for each particular case in the domain (for each particular token of middle sized dry goods) whether it is a member.

Such exceptionless projectible general principles that are endorsed by the explicit requirements of ontological discourse pose a heavy burden on the explanatory tasks to be delivered by ontologists. This will be the topics to be shortly tackled now.


General exceptionless projectible principles for normativity in metaphysics are wrong

There are two sorts of reasons that make us realize inappropriateness of exceptionless projectible general principles as the basis for ontological discourse. The first reason relates to the world and the second reason relates to the nature of the cognitive system that underlies the ontological discourse. In each case, the reasoning will be that the domain under question is too rich to be codified by the use of exceptionless general principles.

            Look at the world around you. Even if you find yourself in a comparatively static environment, you will have to admit that there is a lot of change going on all of the time. There is constant change of the intensity of light breaking in through the window of your room. There is a diversity of auditory patterns around you. The abundance of middle-sized dry goods in your environment is most probably immense: various books, a PC, a table, their parts, a number of other things that you sometimes have difficulty to categorize. There are software programs sitting in your PC, some of which you use right now and some of which you don’t. You turn on your CD player and listen to a recording of Beethoven’s 5th symphony. Now if ontology is about matters in the world, this short cogitation will persuade you that it will be difficult to cash in all this richness by general principles proposing tractable procedures of ontological identification. But ontology is not a direct part and parcel of the world, as we have discovered: it is a matter of a descriptive undertaking and of a special form of discourse.

            So the next step will be in the direction of seeing what undergirds such discourse. Is compatibility with tractability to be expected in this area? The area in question is our cognition. For discourse and its normative constraints depend on the nature of cognition involved. For a long time, cognition was supposed to have architecture that conforms to tractable procedures and to exceptionless principles. One may mention just the example of the classical model of mind entitled language of thought, which proposes to construe mental content in the form of propositions, over which there succeeds computation according to exceptionless principles. Now this is just one between the range of models that conform to the requirements of tractability and following of general principles, also general exceptionless principles in the area of ontological discourse. But it has been suggested (Horgan and Tienson, 1996) that such models do not really conform to the nature of the actual human cognition and that a quite different model should be proposed to fit the intractable nature of human cognition, a view with the name of dynamical cognition. Dynamical cognition does not conform to the tractable guidelines either during the description of the cognitive at the higher intentional level or at the middle level of system’s description, where transitions are guided by forces from the nontractable cognitive background. Now if this is an appropriate description of the cognitive system’s architecture, then the chances are scarce that the normativity coming along with the general exceptionless ontological principles will fit the actual normativity used in practice by the people practicing ontology.

            But this means in short that neither the rich nature of the mind independently existing world, nor the rich nature of the cognition backing up the discourse of ontology are appropriate to fit exceptionless general ontological principles that are explicitly put as guidelines for ontological inquiry by the descriptive metaphysicians. Just to repeat it: Why are these principles wrong? Because they impose tractability and projectibility on the whole of the world. But the world is much richer than it would have to be in order to conform to these principles. Now suppose that these are the principles that do not deal with the world, but with concepts and their penumbral connections. In this case, tractability and projectibility cannot be right about the cognitive system supporting this activity. They cannot be right in respect to the richness and intractable, non-projectible multi dimensional structure of the cognitive system shaped along the principles in value for dynamical cognition, containing lots of morphological content, the morphological background that regulates normativity of such systems.


Particularist normativity steams from intractable nature of debates concerning conceptual penumbral connections (Morphological content and dynamical cognition)

There are several kinds of normativity. Some norms are quite requiring, such as these that lead the explicitly underwritten exceptionless principles proposed by the descriptive ontologists. But there are also kinds of normativity that refuse to subscribe either to projectible patterns or to tractable principles, and that may still adopt some structure. This path is proposed by particularist normativity. Particularism developed in the area of metaethics. Monists think that just one main principle, such as utility, should determine the applicability of moral terms. Ethical pluralists found out that there may be several moral principles between which one has to decide in order to act appropriately. This put the highlight on contextually determined and rich situations in which moral decisions are usually made. But pluralists continue to stick to the normative authority of the general, proper to each between the plurality of principles that get partially silenced in contextual situations. Particularist bites the bullet though and claims that there is no authority of the general to be relied upon as the basis of our moral actions.

            Ontological descriptive discourse explicitly requires tractable principles. But actually this discourse engages into conceptual penumbral connections related to the disputes it is interested in. Now as the mentioned conceptual penumbral connections engage the cognitive system, the question arises what kind of normativity would be appropriate for the subject matter of the ontological normative discourse. We may propose particularist normativity to do the job. Dynamical cognition does not buy any tractable general principles; rather it accentuates richness. Now such intractable richness may be accommodated by particularist normativity, which will put the particular case more closely under consideration, without that the projectibility would be embraced and thus the authority of a general pattern. The matter under consideration concerns concepts, and concepts get realized in the cognitive system, according to the hypothesis of dynamical cognition, by a rich cognitive intractable background where cognitive forces lead to realization of total cognitive states at the mathematical middle level of cognitive system’s description. Such a model is appropriate for working of our concepts and it is appropriate for the area that is engaged into following the intuitions about conceptual connections. And if we ask which kind of normativity fits to such a model the answer is that this will be particularist normativity, because it has a tendency to accommodate intractable spaces.

            From a pragmatist perspective, there is no tractable settling of penumbral connections between concepts involved into metaphysical discussion, such as person, human body, identity, existence and non-existence. Research into penumbral connections concerning these concepts invites a particularist perspective. The idea is that there will be this entity recognized there. But it will not be recognized as an ultimate reality. It will just be[v] there, in its non-projectible singularity. This position can be the result of intractable conceptual forces crystallizing themselves as singularities. And these may be then applied to the more adequate ontological interpretation of the world.


A new generic position applying to metaphysical debates: evaporism

First, we have identified the debates in ontology as pertaining to the area of descriptive metaphysics and not to the area of the real metaphysics. Thus, these debates concern ontological discourse and not in any direct manner a mind and language independent world. Then, we have distinguished between the explicit endorsing of exceptionless normative principles by these ontological practices, in contradiction with the intractable nature of the cognitive system underlying the intuitions at work concerning penumbral conceptual connections. The recognition of particularist normativity, we have hypothesized, may bring ontology closer to an appropriate interpretation of the mind independent world. The job of the ontologist first needs to bracket the false presupposition how it directly deals with the mind and language independent world. Then, the presupposition should be put into question according to which ontological discourse is appropriately guided by general tractable principles. The world and the stiff discourse about the world evaporate now. But we come back to the richness of the world by endorsing particularist normativity. The world is just one and it is singular in its richness. A new position is emerging here, with the name of evaporism.

            Here is one example how one may start to differentiate evaporism as a new position from other ontological approaches. Somebody may acknowledge the absence of ontological vagueness. But the range of examples they consider may still stay too narrow.[vi] They would not consider symphonies and similar kinds of entities that may lead us into the direction of indirect correspondence and further into the direction of evaporism. Just as an example: although supervaluationists or Lewis acknowledges the position about there being no ontological vagueness, they do not accept position involving indirect correspondence. But their view may turn out to be inconsistent. Evaporist to the contrary accepts both the absence of ontological vagueness and truth as indirect correpondence.

Ontological theories abound with intuitive tendencies that are in tension with one another. Accommodation of some of these tendencies and rejection of others often happens without that a satisfactory explanation would be offered why the rejected ones are false. They also tend to incorporate theoretical claims that are themselves theoretically implausible. Evaporism has a possibility to change the approach to this, by shedding different lights on the area in its entirety. It is important to realize the close vicinity of evaporism and particularist normativity. This all requires further elaboration.


III. Metaphysics and phenomenology

The evaporist project is not even sketched appropriately though if one leaves out the topics of phenomenology. Phenomenology mentioned here is to be understood as qualitative or what it’s like experience. Now, it seems a very peculiar claim to affirm the vicinity of qualitative experiences to the metaphysical undertaking. Especially, it seems to be in tension with overall requirements of clear distinction to be made between ontological and psychological matters, of the following sort: “If there is a cow in the city, this is a fact about the world and about what is there in the world. But it is another matter to argue about somebody’s knowledge that there is a cow in the city. This last thing is an epistemic matter, which does not have anything to do with ontology.”[vii] As natural as this position may seem, it actually harbors a wrong presupposition about the ontological practice.

            How can anybody claim something like that? The answer is that the main wrong presupposition of the above arguing concerns the belief that the ontology or metaphysics concerns directly things happening in the mind and language independent world. We have dismantled this false belief by claiming that the work of metaphysician happens in the area of the descriptive, that it concerns discourse and intuitions about conceptual penumbral connections. If this is right, however, the ontology as practiced turns out to be a parcel of the working of our cognitive systems. But if this is the case, the intentional thoughts implied into ontological work are not just psychological – they are also qualitative. So, phenomenology, after all, really turns out to be constitutively involved into metaphysics.

            You may ask yourself if there would be anybody to hold such a strange view: that metaphysics and phenomenology go hand in hand. First you seem to blank out. But after a while you realize that intertwining of metaphysics and phenomenology was the domain of Brentano and of his school. Contrary to Aristotle, Brentano required Cartesian kind of evidence to be integrated into research of ontological categories.[viii] But evidence should be understood as qualitative experience that is a precondition for each intentional act to happen. It is intrinsic to it and not just accompanying. So the area of metaphysics also has phenomenology intrinsically built into it.

A historical proof that bringing together of metaphysics and of phenomenology is possible is thus offered by Brentano’s Cartesian underpinning of metaphysics. Metaphysics and phenomenology come together. In order to investigate ontology, one starts with psychology. The reason? The investigation in ontology is by its nature conceptual or descriptive, and as such it is intertwined with phenomenology as its precondition. “Die sich durchwohnende Teile vom intentionalen Korrelatenpaar”, says Brentano. A natural way to interpret this is that there is an insight here: the world may exist independently of language and thought, but metaphysical investigation is in the area of conceptual categorization. Therefore it is undergird by phenomenology. This all is compatible with brain in a vat scenarios. But more, the usual practice of metaphysics is brain in a vat compatible as well. This seems to push the impact of evaporism even further.

You may believe now that Brentanian bringing together of metaphysics and of phenomenology is something exceptional. But it isn’t. First, there is all this large Brentanian school. All people did not follow the intrinsic nature of phenomenology for metaphysical investigation though. Husserl’s idealizing of phenomenology may serve as an example. But much more important, Brentano only made explicit what later began to be obscured in ontology, particularly in analytic philosophy, with its misplaced belief that ontology is working in the area of real metaphysics, as it really worked in the area of descriptive metaphysics. The reasons are interesting why analytic metaphysicians do not recognize phenomenology as intrinsic to descriptive metaphysics enterprise, why they do not even recognize this being a descriptive metaphysics in the first place, but act as if they would deal with the ultimate ontology.

It should be glanced here quickly at another possible and misguided presupposition: that embracing evaporist approach determining descriptive metaphysics and therewith conceptual nature of the enterprise commits you to anti-realism. To see that this presupposition is misguided you look at the common sense compatible position, asserting both the existence of a mind independent non-vague world, and vagueness of mind and language related posits that get acknowledged to exist in the world by our cognitive system. Vagueness of conceptually induced posits does not imply that one rejects the mind and language independent existence of the world. Just to the contrary, this is compatible with common sense position according to which there exists mind independent world, but our concepts applied to this world turn out to be vague.

There are not just concepts involved into the evaporistic enterprise. There are judgments. Once one recognizes this role of judgments though, it is natural to also recognize phenomenological experiences as being intrinsic into them.





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[i] Strawson dealt with the descriptive as opposed to the revisionary metaphysics. Revisionary metaphysics tries to change the conceptual scheme, whereas the first one just describes the world, using the good old conceptual scheme. From our perspective, both horns of this alternative form part and parcel of the ultimate descriptive effort.

[ii] In the previous sentence we presupposed that we have put 10.000 men in a row, with ever descending number of hairs.

 Boundarylessness characterizes different forms of transvaluationist kinds of vagueness. Epistemicist as the only concurrent to transvaluationism allows for the existence of a border, but her boundarylessness is epistemic: according to her, one is in principle unable to know the location of the boundary, although there is always a precise boundary to be found in the world. Transvaluationists merrily embrace boundarylessness, whereas epistemicists do this in a somehow mediate way.

[iii] Nevertheless there might be some vicinity between truth as indirect correspondence and between intensional approaches (Sylvan). Opposed to the strictly extensionalist manners to proceed, intensional approaches would much more willingly buy institutional entities and other Quinean creature of darkness: possibilities and the related stuff.

[iv] Even if choice combines several cords, it will ultimately count as one decision.

[v] Heidegger says somewhere that a rose is there without ever asking about “why” it is there. So particularism opts for ontological Gelassenheit.

[vi] Lewis “Many but almost one”.

[vii]According to Fodor and Rey concepts determine nonvague domains, whereas our epistemic or psychological approach to the concepts is vague. One has the job to explain now how it is possible that psychological or epistemic questions are vague, and that they also determine precise domains in the world.

[viii] It is still an unsettled matter whether Aristotle’s categories determine ultimate entities in the world or if they are rather to be treated as creatures of language and thought.