Much Ado About the Many


  • Jonathan Mai Goethe University Frankfurt am Main



English distinguishes between singular quantifiers like "a donkey" and plural quantifiers like "some donkeys". Pluralists hold that plural quantifiers range in an unusual, irreducibly plural, way over common objects, namely individuals from first-order domains and not over set-like objects. The favoured framework of pluralism is plural first-order logic, PFO, an interpreted first-order language that is capable of expressing plural quantification. Pluralists argue for their position by claiming that the standard formal theory based on PFO is both ontologically neutral and really logic. These properties are supposed to yield many important applications concerning second-order logic and set theory that alternative theories supposedly cannot deliver. I will show that there are serious reasons for rejecting at least the claim of ontological innocence. Doubt about innocence arises on account of the fact that, when properly spelled out, the PFO-semantics for plural quantifiers is committed to set-like objects. The correctness of my worries presupposes the principle that for every plurality there is a coextensive set. Pluralists might reply that this principle leads straight to paradox. However, as I will argue, the true culprit of the paradox is the assumption that every definite condition determines a plurality.


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