Opening Remarks for Analytic’s discussion of “Edges, Entities, and Existence”

Carolyn Ray




In my dissertation on identity (, I respond to a slew of puzzles, some of which are based jointly on (1) a vague awareness that concepts are artificial and mind-dependent, and (2) either a commitment to realism with regard to universals, or a commitment to nominalism, whether these commitments are stated explicitly or not.  In my response, I hint at a theory of entities with which Tom Radcliffe took issue. He was especially disturbed by my analysis of fictional objects, because I said that words like 'unicorn' and 'god' fail to refer.  The result was collaborative work on the concepts EDGE and ENTITY.  Tom's original critique is now online at


Our aim in the paper was to move inductively, through a series of examples (also not discussed during the seminar presentation), from the position of the received Objectivist view to a fully developed, consistent conceptualist view of entities. This probably had the unfortunate side effect of leading readers to think that we believed the received view and then went on to contradict ourselves.


One bit of phrasing that Peter Voss recently pointed out as misleading is that we seem to use the word 'metaphysical' as equivalent 'mind-independent' in some cases, but we also use the word as equivalent to 'real'.  This is a mistake, and one that we will correct. We will probably just do away with the word 'metaphysical' altogether, and just talk about mind-dependent things as opposed to mind-independent things.  Hope that helps to clear up at least a little bit of confusion.


Tom and I think that the paper needs a lot of work.  We're certainly not done as far as characterizing knowledge and truth go; we're not done with our definitions. It really is a work in progress, and we welcome the opportunity to make more progress with your feedback.


Here are all the questions and topics that were originally proposed for discussion during the opening of our presentation at the TOC seminar. I typed them as they were asked, and I think they were also written on the blackboard. I thought that many of them were very interesting, and others just needed to be addressed as FAQ's, but _some_how we just didn't get to most of them, or when we did get to them they were dealt with in a weirdly unhelpful way. Tom and I would find it helpful to any or all of these questions addressed here. Forgive the slightly incoherent form of some of these questions: I had to type fast, and I'm not sure in some cases what the questionners were getting at--but that's part of what would have made it interesting to address these. If you can make anything of them, or if they stimulate your neural processors in any way, all the better; let us know!


1.  Psychological ontology:  What does knowledge consist of on this account? What is the metaphysical status of knowledge?


2.  Locke:  What happens to 'idea' on this reinterpretation?


3.  The concept ENTITY:  If entitiy is not what Rand says it is, is there still a need for such a concept?


4.  This appears to be a utilitarian/coherence theory of truth. (Peirce) Rand isn't clear about hers.  What theory of truth is applied? 


5.  Discontinuity:  What's under the edges?


6.  Instrumentalism: Is this instrumentalism with regard to scientific theories?  Some theory gives good predictions, even though you don't buy into the theory.  Instrumentalism is realism with regard to theory interpretation. 


7.  Is discovering an entity really just an attitude?


8.  Selective function vs creative function of attention. Kelley


9.  Why is Rand's robust ontology so bad? Illustrate the contradictions and crazy consequences.


10. Naive view: What do we do with that?


11. Issues of perception.



Note to facilitate the discussion:  I always use all capital letters when I'm talking about the concept itself, and single quotes when I am talking about the word itself; and when I'm just using the word, I don't do anything to it.  (I use double quotation marks for scare quotes, or when I am quoting someone.)




ENTITY           refers to the concept

'entity'    refers to the word; I also use single quotes for sentences




entity            refers to the entity itself




"entity"    refers to someone else's use  (eg: Rand's "entities" are mind-independent.)


This convention may be unfamiliar to some of you, but I suggest that we try to use it, if only in discussions here, to avoid confusion.  My reading in identity theory made the confusions in the literature excruciatingly clear--it was so bad that half the time I couldn't tell what people were talking about, and given the conclusions they came to I suspect that they couldn't tell either. I've seen people use underlining too, or asterisks, or do nothing and hope that readers get it from context (e.g., "But if edge refers to something in the mind, then how can edges be metaphysically real?  When I say edge I mean the word, not the concept. You seem to be talking about the universal edge.")  Since I've got a convention that I use (I got it from David Kelley's logic text), and there may be quotes from the dissertation or from our paper, we may as well use that one.  If we stick to the above convention, then we won't waste time and patience on straw man arguments or on asking each other what was meant. Hope this relieves more burdens than it creates.