Words without Objects


  • Henry Laycock Queen's University




Resolution of the problem of mass nouns depends on an expansion of our semantic/ontological taxonomy. Semantically, mass nouns are neither singular nor plural; they apply to neither just one object, nor to many objects, at a time. But their deepest kinship links them to the plural. A plural phrase — 'the cats in
Kingston' — does not denote a single plural thing, but merely many distinct things. Just so, 'the water In the lake' does not denote a single aggregate — it is not ONE, but rather MUCH. The world is not the totality of singular objects, plural objects, and mass objects; for there are no plural or mass objects. It is
the totality of single objects and (just) stuff.

Author Biography

Henry Laycock, Queen's University

Henry Laycock sometimes teaches courses on Aristotle, Marx, the philosophy of language and metaphysics. He is preoccupied with issues at the intersection of semantics and metaphysics. His current research is focused on the nature of non-singularity and the semantics of non-count nouns, in relationship to the notion of an 'ideal language' or 'canonical notation'. He was a Visting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge and is a Life Member of that College. He is the author of Words Without Objects (Oxford, 2006). He has delivered talks in Austria, Brazil, the Czech Republic, Iceland, India, Turkey, and the United Kingdom, as well as across North America. His articles have appeared in Synthese, Philosophy, Principia, the Philosophical Review, Dialogue, the Canadian Journal of Philosophy, the Journal of Ethics and the Stanford (online) Encyclopedia of Philosophy.