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Hardcover | $32.00 Text | £22.95 | ISBN: 9780262050753 | 224 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | February 2004
Paperback | $18.00 Short | £12.95 | ISBN: 9780262550628 | 224 pp. | 5.375 x 8 in | August 2005

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Essential Info

Real Natures and Familiar Objects


In Real Natures and Familiar Objects Crawford Elder defends, with qualifications, the ontology of common sense. He argues that we exist—that no gloss is necessary for the statement "human beings exist" to show that it is true of the world as it really is—and that we are surrounded by many of the medium-sized objects in which common sense believes. He argues further that these familiar medium-sized objects not only exist, but have essential properties, which we are often able to determine by observation. The starting point of his argument is that ontology should operate under empirical load—that is, it should give special weight to the objects and properties that we treat as real in our best predictions and explanations of what happens in the world. Elder calls this presumption "mildly controversial" because it entails that arguments are needed for certain widely assumed positions such as "mereological universalism" (according to which the sum of randomly assembled objects constitutes an object in its own right).

Elder begins by defending realism about essentialness (arguing that nature's objects have essential properties whose status as essential is mind-independent). He then defends this view of familiar objects against causal exclusion arguments and worries about vagueness. Finally, he argues that many of the objects in which common sense believes really exist, including artifacts and biological devices shaped by natural selection, and that we too exist, as products of natural selection.

About the Author

Crawford L. Elder is Head of the Philosophy Department and Professor of Philosophy at the University of Connecticut.


"...deserves a close reading for the subtle arguments designed to rehabilitate the macrophysical domain, particularly his arguments concerning macrophysical causation.", Muhammad Ali Khalidi, Mind

"Elder has undertaken a worthwhile project...a challenging, difficult, and rewarding tour through contemporary philosophical metaphysics.", Stephen P. Schwartz, American Journal of Psychology


"This book will be essential reading for philosophers who address questions concerning the nature of folk objects, the basis for modal claims and our knowledge of such properties, causation, vagueness, and much else."
—William R. Carter, Professor of Philosophy, North Carolina State University

"In his absorbing Real Natures and Familiar Objects, Crawford Elder advances the metaphysical debate over the existence of commonsense objects and the objects, laws, and properties posited by the special sciences. Elder writes clearly and non-technically; his approach is utterly sensible, and his conclusions will be embraced by philosophers and non-philosophers who feel the pull of a robust 'realist' picture of the world and our place in it."
—John Heil, Davidson College and Monash University

"Elder defends the much maligned 'ordinary objects' of common sense with rigor and detail against such opponents as reductionists and soriteans. His closing description of the ground floor of ontology would apply to the book itself—'splendidly, marvelously rich.'"
—Richard Grandy, Department of Philosophy, Rice University