The Many and the One, Ch. 5 & Ch. 6

I confess that I have never been able to work up much enthusiasm for mereology. And Florio and Linnebo’s Chapter 5, in which they compare ‘Plurals and Mereology’, doesn’t come near to persuading me that there is anything of very serious interest here for logicians. I’m therefore quite cheerfully going to allow myself to ignore it here. So let’s move on to Chapter 6, ‘Plurals and Second-Order Logic’. The broad topic  is a familiar one ever since Boolos’s classic papers of — ye gods! — almost forty years ago: though oddly enough F&L do not directly discuss Boolos’s arguments here.

In §6.1, F&L give a sketchy account of second-order logic, and then highlight its monadic fragment. Note, they officially treat the second-order quantifiers as ranging over Fregean concepts. And they perhaps really should have said more about this — for can the intended reader be relied on to have a secure grasp on Frege’s notion? Indeed, what is a Fregean concept?

The following point seems relevant to F&L’s project. According to Michael Dummett’s classic discussion (in his Frege, Philosophy of Language, Ch. 7), Fregean concepts are extensional items: while (for type reasons) we shouldn’t say that co-extensive concepts are identical, the relation which is analogous to identity is indeed being coextensive. So the concept expressions ‘… is a creature with a heart’ and ‘… is a creature with a kidney’ have the same Fregean concept as Bedeutung. I take it that Dummett’s account is still a standard one (the standard one?). For example, Michael Potter in his very lucid Introduction to the Cambridge Companion to Frege — while noting Frege’s reluctance to talk of identity in this context — writes (without further comment)

Concepts, for Frege, are extensional, so that, for instance, the predicates ‘x is a round square’ and ‘x is a golden mountain’ refer to the same concept (namely the empty one).

But now compare F&L. They write

Two coextensive concepts might be discerned by modal properties. Assume, for example, that being a creature with a heart and being a creature with a kidney are coextensive. Even so, these two [sic] concepts can be discerned by a modal property such as possibly being instantiated by something that lacks a heart.

Which seems to suggest that, contra Dummett and Potter’s Frege, co-extensive predicates can have distinct concepts as Bedeutungen. That’s why I really do want more elaboration from F&L of their story about the Fregean concepts which, according to them, are to feature in an account of the semantics of second-order quantification.

§6.2 describes how theories of plural logic and monadic second order logic can be interpreted in each other. And, analogously to §4.3, a question then arises: can we eliminate pluralities in favour of concepts, or vice versa?

So §6.3 discusses the possibility of using second-order language to eliminate first-order plural terms, as once suggested by Dummett. As F&L note, this suggestion has already come in for a lot of criticism in the literature; but they argue that there is some wriggle room for defenders of (something like) Dummett’s line to avoid the arguments of e.g. Oliver and Smiley and others. I’m not really convinced. For example, F&L suggest that a manoeuvre invoking events proposed by Higginbotham and Schein will help the cause — simply ignoring the extended critique of that manoeuvre already in Oliver and Smiley’s Plural Logic.  In the end, though, F&L think that there is a more compelling argument against the elimination of pluralities in favour of concepts on the basis of their respective modal behaviour (but note, F&L are here seemingly relying  on their departure from the standard Dummettian construal of Fregean concepts — or if not, we need to hear more).

§6.4 then looks at the possibility of an elimination going the other way, reducing second-order logic to a logic of plurality. But so far we have only been offered a way of interpreting  monadic second order logic using plurals; the obvious first question is — how can we interpret full second-order logic with polyadic predicates, quantifying over polyadic concepts? Perhaps we can do the trick if we help ourselves to a pairing function for the first-order domain (so, for example, dyadic relations get traded in for monadic properties of pairs). F&L raise this familiar idea: but suggest — again very briefly — that there is another modal objection: “while a plurality of ordered pairs can model the extension of a dyadic relation, it cannot in general represent all of its intensional features.” Tell us more! We also get a promissory note forward to discussion of a different objection to eliminating second-order logic.

There’s a short summary §6.5. But, to my mind, this is again a somewhat disappointing chapter. As it happens, my inclinations are with F&L’s conclusion that both plural logic and second order logic can earn their keep (without one being reduced to the other). But I do rather doubt that anyone who already  takes a different line will find themselves compelled to change their minds by the arguments so far outlined here.

I planned to continue the series after a break, but for some reason never did!

The Many and the One, Ch. 4

In the next part of their book, ‘Comparisons’, F&L discuss ‘Plurals and Set Theory’ (Chapter 4). ‘Plurals and Mereology’ (Chapter 5), and ‘Plurals and Second-order Logic’ (Chapter 6).

Here, in bald outline, is what happens in Chapter 4.  §4.1 describes a ‘simple set theory’ framed in a two-sorted first-order language, with small-x quantifiers running over a domain of individuals and big-X quantifiers running over sets of those individuals. The two sorts are linked by an axiom scheme of set comprehension, (S-Comp): ∃Xx(xX ↔ φ(x)). §4.2 notes that the mutual interpretability of this theory with a certain simple plural logic. (We can’t simply replace big-X set variables by double-x plural variables, at least given the usual assumption that there is an empty set in the range of big-X variables but not an empty plurality in the range of double-x plural variables. But working around that wrinkle involves only minor tinkering.) §4.3 then asks whether this mutual interpretability means we should eliminate plurals in favour of sets or alternatively eliminate sets in favour of plurals. §4.4 suggests that we need plurals in elucidating the very notion of a set (so don’t eliminate plurals): the root idea is that “For every plurality of objects xx from [a given domain], we postulate their set {xx},” where postulation seems to be tantamount to defining into existence. We are promised more about definitions of this kind in Chapter 12.

§4.5 then notes that mathematical uses of sets crucially involve not just sets of individuals (numbers, perhaps) but sets of sets, sets of sets of sets. etc.; and, for a start, it is very unclear that these can be eliminated in favour of pluralities of pluralities. §4.6 then says more about the iterative conception of set, and §4.7 gives the axioms of ZFC. §4.8 jumps on to wonder whether we can use plurals in explicating the notion of proper classes. The chapter ends with §4.9 which raises a problem:

We have described two very attractive applications of plural logic: as a way of giving an account of sets, and as a way of obtaining proper classes “for free”. Regrettably, it looks like the two applications are incompatible. The first application suggests that any plurality forms a set. Consider any objects xx. Presumably, these are what Gödel calls “well-defined objects”. If so, it is permissible to apply the “set of” operation to xx, which yields the corresponding set {xx}. The second application, however, requires that there be pluralities corresponding to proper classes, which by definition are collections too big to form sets.

F&L again promise to return to deal with this apparent tension in their Chapter 12.

Does the chapter work? Well, although I said in my first post on the book that I wouldn’t fuss too much about this sort of thing, it is pretty difficult to know quite at whom this chapter is aimed. For example, §4.6 very briskly outlines the iterative conception of set, helping itself along the way to the idea that we take unions at levels indexed by limit ordinals (where ordinals are unexplained). But I wonder who is supposed to (a) already be familiar with the notion of a limit ordinal in §4.6, but (b) still need to have the axioms of ZFC given again in §4.7? And won’t the reader who actually needs §4.7 then need more explanation of the role of proper classes in set theory (and the difference between their appearance as virtual classes in e.g. Kunen, versus a more substantive appearance in NBG)?

And to go back to the beginning of the chapter, I would guess that someone with enough logical education to know about limit ordinals would also know enough to want to ask more about the principle S-Comp: does the comprehension principle apply to predicates φ(x) which themselves involve bound set variables? or involve free set variables as parameters? or neither? We are not told, and there is no hint that the issue might matter. There is also no hint at all that the kind of “simple set theory” with two sorts of quantifier might actually be of real interest, e.g. in reverse mathematics when considering subsystems of second-order arithmetic. This lack of development is typical and disappointing.

As it happens, I am in sympathy with F&L’s overall line that (i) plural logic is repectable and can earn its keep in certain important contexts, and (ii) set theory is just fine in its place too! But I can’t see that this arm-waving chapter really advances the case for either limb (and I could nag away more at some of the details). In so far as there are hints of novel argumentative moves, the work of elaborating them is left for much later. So I did find the level of discussion in this chapter frustratingly rather superficial: hopefully, F&L do better when they return to cash out those promissory notes.

To be continued.

The Many and the One, Ch. 3/ii

In Chapter 3, recall, Florio and Linnebo are discussing various familiar arguments against singularism, aiming to show that “the prospects for regimentation singularism are not nearly as bleak as many philosophers make them out to be”.

Now, it has always struck me that the most pressing challenge to singularism is actually that the story seems to fall apart when it moves from programmatic generalities and gets down to particulars. If the plan is, for example, to substitute a plural term referring to some Xs by a singular term referring to the set of those Xs, then how does work out in practice? How do we substitute for the associated predicate to preserve truth-values (without burying a plural in the new predicate)? Is the same treatment to apply to a plural term when it takes a distributive and collective predicate? The anti-singularist’s contention is that trying to substitute for plural terms ends up with (at best) ad hoc, piecemeal, treatments, and the resulting mess smacks of a degenerating programme (as Oliver and Smiley remark, having noted that e.g. Gerald Massey ends up giving four different treatments for four kinds of collective predicate, “where will it end?”). Now, this line of anti-singularist criticism might be more or less compelling: but in the nature of the case, that can’t be settled by a single counter-jab at one example. The devil will be in all the details — which is why I found F&L’s very brief treatment of what they call substitution arguments quite unsatisfactory.

But now let’s move on to consider another familiar anti-singularist line of argument that goes back to Boolos in his justly famous paper ‘To Be is to Be a Value of a Variable’. Here’s an edited version:

There are certain sentences that cannot be analyzed as expressing statements about sets in the manner suggested [i.e. replacing plural forms by talk about sets], e.g., “There are some sets that are self-identical, and every set that is not a member of itself is one of them.” That sentence says something trivially true; but the sentence “There is a set of sets that are self-identical, and every set that is not a member of itself is a member of this set,” which is supposed to make its meaning explicit, says something false.

F&L consider this sort of challenge to singularism in their §3.4.

One point to make (as F&L note) is that the argument here generalizes. Suppose we replace plural talk about some Xs with singular talk (not about the set of those objects) but by singular reference to some other kind of proxy object; and we correspondingly replace talk about some object o being one of the Xs by talk of o standing in the relation R to that proxy. Then it is easy to see that R can’t be universally reflexive if it is to do the intended work. So there will be some proxy objects such that any of the proxies which are not R to themselves is one of them. But this truth supposedly goes over to the claim that there is a proxy which is R to just those proxies which are not R to themselves. And it is a simple logical theorem that there can be no such thing.

But a second point worth making (which F&L don’t note) is that the quantificational structure of the Boolos sentence isn’t essential to the argument. Revert for ease of exposition to taking a singular term which refers to a set as the preferred substitution for a plural term, with membership as the R relation. Then consider the simple truth ‘{Jack, Jill} is one of the sets which are not members of themselves’. Supposedly, this is to be singularized as ‘{Jack, Jill} is a member of the set of sets which are not members of themselves’. Trouble!

OK. So how do F&L propose to blunt the force of this line of argument? They have two shots. First,

The paradox of plurality relies on the assumption that talk of proxies is available in [the language we are trying to regiment]. The lesson is that, if [the language to be regimented] can talk not only about pluralities but also about their proxies, then the regimentation validates unintended interactions of the sort just seen. To block the paradox, we would therefore have to prevent such problematic interactions. One possibility … is to refrain from making a fixed choice of proxies to be used in the analysis of all object languages. Instead, the singularist can let her choice of proxies depend on the particular object language she is asked to regiment. All she needs to do is to choose new proxies, not talked about by the given object language. In this way, the problematic interactions are avoided.

But hold on. I thought the the singularist was trying to give a regimented story about our language, using some suitably disciplined fragment of our language with enough singular terms but without the contended plurals? The proposal now seems to be that we escape paradox by introducing proxy terms new to our language, which we don’t already understand. Really? Usually singularists talk of sets, or mereological wholes, or aggregates, or whatever — but now, to avoid paradox, the idea is that we mustn’t talk of them but some new proxies, as yet undreamt of. It is difficult to see this as rescuing singularism as opposed to mystifying it.

F&L’s second shot is more interesting, and suggests instead that we discern “a variation in the range of the quantifiers involved in the paradoxical reasoning.” Thus, in the Boolos sentence “There is a set of sets that are self-identical, and every set that is not a member of itself is a member of this set” the proposal is that we take the ‘there is’ quantifier to range wider than the embedded ‘every set’ quantifier, and this will get us off the hook. On the face of it, however, this seems entirely ad hoc. Still, this sort of domain expansion is often put on the table when considering puzzles about absolute generality, and F&L announce they are going to return to discuss such issues in their Chapter 11. Fine. But so far, we have no hint about how the story is going to go.

And, more immediately, how do considerations about domain expansion engage with the not-overtly-quantified version of the Boolosian challenge that involves only a plural definite description. F&L just don’t say. They are, indeed, so far remarkably silent about plural terms and plural reference which, you might have supposed, would need to be a central topic in any discussion of plural logic.

We’ll have to wait to see what, if anything, F&L have to say later about e.g. plural descriptions. But for the moment, I think most readers will judge that the singularist’s prospects of escaping Boolos’s type of Russell-style paradox still look pretty bleak!

To be continued.

The Many and the One, Ch. 3/i

In Chapter 3, ‘The Refutation of Singularism?’, Florio and Linnebo get down to critical work. As the chapter’s title suggests, the topic is going to be various arguments that have been offered against singularist attempts to render plural discourse in the framework of standard logic. Can we really regiment sentences involving what appear to be plural terms denoting many things at once by using singular terms denoting just one thing — a set, or perhaps a mereological sum? F&L aim to show that “regimentation singularism is a more serious rival to regimentation pluralism than the [recent] literature suggests.”

What is the standard for assessing such formal regimentations? For F&L, as they say in §3.1, the key question is whether or not “singularist regimentations mischaracterize logical relations in the object language or mischaracterize the truth values of some sentences.” But that, presumably, can’t be quite the whole story. If, for example, the purported singularist regimentations turn out to be an unprincipled piecemeal jumble, with apparently logically similar sentences involving plural terms having to be regimented ad hoc, in significantly different ways, in order to preserve the singularist doctrine case by case, that will surely be a serious strike in favour of taking plurals at face value. Or so discutants in this debate have assumed, and F&L don’t give any reason for objecting.

An aside: Not that it matters, but F&L also claim in passing that

Regimentation can also serve the purpose of representing ontological commitments. The ontological commitments of statements of the object language are not always fully transparent. The translation might help clarify them. Following Donald Davidson, one might for instance regard certain kinds of predication as implicitly committed to events. As a result, one might be interested in a regimentation that, by quantifying explicitly over events, brings these commitments to light.

But careful! For Davidson, it is because we (supposedly) need to discern quantificational structure in regimenting action sentences to reflect their inferential properties that we need to recognize an ontology of events for the quantifiers to range over. So while, as F&L say, we want formal regimentation to track already acknowledged informal logical relations, with questions of ontological commitment (at least for a Quinean like Davidson) it goes the other way around — it only makes sense to read off ontological commitments after we have our regimentations (since “to be is to be the value of a variable”).

In §3,2, F&L move on to consider one class of anti-singularist consideration, what they call ‘substitution arguments’. Or rather they briefly consider one such argument, from a 2005 paper by Byeong-Uk Yi. A strange choice, by my lights, since the locus classicus for the presentation of such arguments is of course a 2001 paper by Oliver and Smiley, and then again in their 2013/2016 book Plural Logic. Their Chapter 3, ‘Changing the Subject’, in particular, is a tour-de-force relentlessly deploying such arguments. (F&L wrongly say that “changing the subject” is “[O&S’s] name for singularist attempts to eliminate plurals”. Not so. It is their punning name for one singularist strategy, the one which takes a plural-subject/predicate sentence and tries to regiment it as a singular-subject/predicate sentence. O&S’s following chapter discusses another, different, singularist strategy).

OK. Here’s a very quick reminder of the relevant sections of Plural Logic. In their §3.2, O&S argue for a uniform treatment of plural subjects, whether they are combined with a distributive or collective predicate. Thus, we shouldn’t (as Frege seems committed to do) carve ‘Tim and Alex met in the pub and had a pint’ into two sentences ‘Tim and Alex met in the pub’ [collective predicate, subject referring to some singular thing, the set {Tim, Alex} or mereological whole Tim + Alex] and ‘Tim and Alex had a pint’ [distributive predicate, so this turn is to be carved into the conjunction of ‘Tim had a pint’ and ‘Alex had a pint’]. O&S give two compelling arguments for uniformity. In §3.3, they then argue against a naive version of “changing the subject” where we regiment a plural-subject/predicate sentence by changing to a singular subject (substitute singular for plural) while leaving the predicate unchanged. They give elaborated versions of the familar sort of Boolos objection to doing that: it may be true that the cheerios were tasty, but it seems haywire to say the set of cheeries was tasty, etc., etc.

So in §3.4, O&S discuss the strategy of changing the subject and the predicate in a way that preserves coherence and truth-values. And the first point they press is that initial attempts to do this just move the plural from subject to predicate — for example if we want to regiment the plural subject term in ‘Russell and Whitehead wrote Principia’ by using a singular subject term for a set, we could render that sentence by ‘{Russell, Whitehead} is such-that-its-members-wrote-Principia’. But there are two problems with this sort of regimentation. (1) There are uniformity worries: take the sentence ‘Russell and Whitehead wrote Principia, Wittgenstein didn’t’ (the property denied of Wittgenstein here is surely not the same property of being such that its members etc. etc.). And crucially (2) a singularist will need to get rid of the plural term buried in the complex predicate. And so O&S consider various strategies for various cases. They make some headway in giving more-or-less contorted singular renditions of a number of plural sentences; but they sum up as follows:

The most striking feature of the analyses is their diversity. Although there is a uniform first stage [along the lines of the Russell and Whitehead example] the further analysis required in order to eliminate the residual plurals varies widely from case to case. It appears that we are condemned to a piecemeal and promissory approach, hoping rather than knowing that a suitable analysis can be found for any plural sentence. Such untidiness is unattractive, to say the least.

I think we are supposed to read ‘unattractive’ as indeed a radical understatement!

Now back to Florio and Linnebo. As I said, they consider just one observation by Yi, namely that there are contexts where we can’t intersubstitute ‘Russell and Whitehead’ and ‘{Russell, Whitehead}’ salva veritate (without changing the predicate). And F&L in effect note that changing the predicate in an appropriate way will rescue the day for Yi’s particular examples — though they cheerfully allow different changes in a couple of different contexts. But how piecemeal do they want to be? What about Oliver and Smiley’s further examples? F&L just don’t say.

Snap verdict: F&L’s two page jab gives no good reason to dissent from O&S’s extended trenchant arguments against singularism based on substitution considerations, broadly understood.

To be continued.

The Many and the One, Ch. 2

Chapter 2, ‘Taking Plurals at Face Value’, continues at an introductory level.

Oddly, Florio and Linnebo give almost no examples of the full range of plural expressions which they think a formal logic of plurals might aim to regiment (compare, for example, the rich diet of examples given by Oliver and Smiley in §1.2 of their Plural Logic, ‘Plurals in Mathematics and Logic’). Rather F&L start by immediately sketching three singularist strategies for eliminating plurals, starting the with familiar option of trading in a plural term denoting many things for a singular term denoting the set of those things.

They will be returning to discuss these singularist strategies in detail later. But for now, in their §2.2, F&L introduce the rival idea that “plurals deserve to be understood in their own terms by allowing the use of plural expressions in our regimenting language”. §2.3 then announces “the” language of plural logic. But that’s evidently something of a misnomer. It is a plural formal language, but — for a start — it lacks any function expressions (and recall how central it is O&S’s project to have a workable theory account of function expressions which take plural arguments).

F&L leave it open whether one should “require a rigid distinction between the types of argument place of predicates. An argument place that is open to a singular argument could be reserved exclusively for such arguments. A similar restriction could be imposed on argument places open to plural arguments.” But why should we want such selection restrictions? O&S remark very early on (their p. 2) that — bastard cases aside — “every simple English predicate that can take singular terms as arguments can take plural ones as well.” Are they wrong? And if not, why should we want a formal language to behave differently?

F&L seem think that not having selection restrictions would depart from normal logical practice. They write

In the philosophical and logical tradition, it is widely assumed that if an expression can be replaced by another expression salva congruitate in one context, then it can be so replaced in all contexts. This assumption of “strict typing” is true of the language of first-order logic, as well as of standard presentations of second-order logic.

But that’s not quite accurate. For example, in a standard syntax of the kind F&L seem to assume for singular first-order logic, a name can be substituted salva congruitate for a variable when that variable is free, but not when it is quantified. (As it happens, I think this is a strike against allowing free variables! — but F&L aren’t in a position to say that.) Any anyway, there is a problem about such selection restrictions once we add descriptions and functional terms, or so Oliver and Smiley argue (Plural Logic, p. 218). If we allow ostensibly plural descriptions and multi-valued functions (and it would be odd if a plural logic didn’t) it won’t in general be decidable which resulting terms are indeed singular arguments and which are plural; so having singular/plural selection restrictions on argument places will make well-formedness undecidable. (If F&L don’t like that argument and/or have a different account of ‘singular’  vs ‘plural argument’, which they haven’t previously defined, then they need to tell us.)

Moving on, §2.4 presents what F&L call “The traditional theory of plural logic”. I’m not sure O&S, for example, would be too happy about that label for a rather diminished theory (still lacking function terms, for a start), but let that pass. This “traditional” theory is what you get by adding rules for the plural quantifiers which parallel the rules for the singular quantifiers, plus three other principles of which the important one for now is the unrestricted Comprehension principle: ∃xφ(x) → ∃xx∀x(x ≺ xx ↔ φ(x)) (if there are some φs, then there are some things such that an object is one of them iff it is φ).

Evidently unrestricted Comprehension gives us some big pluralities! Take φ(x) to be the predicate x = x, and we get that there are some things (i.e. all objects whatsover) such that any object at all is one of them. F&L flag up that there may be trouble waiting here, “because there is no properly circumscribed lot of ‘all objects whatsoever’.” Indeed! This is going to be a theme they return to.

§2.5 and §2.6 note that plural logic has been supposed to have considerable philosophical significance. On the one hand, it arguably is still pure logic and ontologically innocent: “plural variables do not range over a special domain but range in a special, plural way over the usual, first-order domain.”
And pressing this idea, perhaps (for example) we can sidestep some familiar issues if “quantification over proper classes might be eliminated in favor of plural quantification over sets”. On the other hand, a plural logic is expressively richer than standard first-order logic which only has singular quantification — it enables us, for example, to formulate categorical theories without non-standard interpretations. F&L signal scepticism, however, about these sorts of claims; again, we’ll hear more.

The chapter finishes with §2.7, promisingly titled ‘Our methodology’. One of the complaints (fairly or unfairly) about O&S’s book has been the lack of a clear and explicit methodology: what exactly are the rules of their regimentation game, which pushes them towards what some find to be a rather baroque story?  Why insist (as they do) that our regimented language tracks ordinary language in allowing empty names while e.g. cheerfully going along with the material conditional with all its known shortcomings? (What exactly are the principles on which conventionally tidying the conditional is allowed, but not tidying away the empty names?) Disappointingly, despite its title, F&L’s very short section doesn’t do any  better than O&S. “We aim to provide a representation of plural discourse that captures the logical features that are important in the given context of investigation.” Well, yes. But really, that settles nothing until the “context of investigation” is articulated.

To be continued.

The Many and the One, Ch. 1

This series of notes turned out to cover over the first half of the book, but there may be just enough interest here to link to them.

As Louis MacNiece wrote, “World is crazier and more of it than we think, Incorrigbly plural.” Evidently, then, we need a plural logic! Or so say quite a few. And enough has been written on the topic for it to be time to pause to take stock.

I have just now started reading Salvatore Florio and Øystein Linnebo’s The One and The Many: A Philosophical Study of Plural Logic, newly published by OUP with an open access arrangement which means that a PDF is free to download here. The book aims to take stock and explore the broader significance of plural logic for philosophy, logic, and linguistics. What can plural logic do for us? Are the bold claims made on its behalf correct?

I’ll say straight away that Florio and Linnebo write very lucidly in an attractively readable style. Though it is not entirely clear, perhaps, who the intended reader is. The opening pages seem addressed to a pretty naive reader who e.g. may not even have heard of Cantor’s Theorem (p. 3); yet pretty soon the reader is presumed e.g. to understand talk of defining logical notions in terms of isomorphism invariance (p. 22). Again, if the reader really was new to the topic and had never seen before one of the now standard core logical languages for plural logic and its associated core deductive system, the initial brisk outline presentation (pp. 15-20) might perhaps be rather too brisk. But I’ll try not to nag you much about this sort of thing. Whatever F&L’s intentions, I’ll take the likely actual reader of their book to be someone who has some logical background and in particular has a modicum of prior acquaintance with plural logic and some of the debates about it; and then their brisk early remarks can serve perfectly well as reminders getting us back the swing of thinking about the topic.

So let’s dive in. In the short Chapter 1, ‘Introduction’, F&L highlight three questions which are going to run through their discussion:

  1. Should the plural resources of English and other natural languages be taken at face value or be eliminated in favor of the singular?
  2. What is the relation between the plural and the singular? When do many objects correspond to a single, complex “one” and what light does such a correspondence shed on the complex “ones”?
  3. What are the philosophical and other consequences of taking plurals at face value?

Not, I think, that we are supposed to take these as sharply determinate questions at this stage: take them as pointers to clusters of issues for discussion. F&L also give early spoilers, indicating some lines they are going to take.

In response to (1) they announce they are pluralists, resisting the wholesale elimination of plurals (while, they say, wanting to resist some of the usual arguments against singularism). On (2) they say — surely rightly — that the question is going to entangle us tricky issues in metaphysics, semantics, and the philosophy of mathematics. We can’t, as it were, argue for a particular line on plural logic in isolation; rather we going to have to “chose between various “package deals” that include not only a plural logic but also commitments far beyond”. On (3) F&L trail their view that many of the claims that have been made for plural logic — such as that it “helps us eschew problematic ontological commitments, thus greatly aiding metaphysics and the philosophy of mathematics” — are, in their words, severely exaggerated. Leaving aside the ‘severely’, I’ll probably find myself endorsing a verdict that some of the claims that have been made for plural logic are somewhat overblown. But I’ll be interested to see to see how the detailed arguments pan out.

To be continued.

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