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Are all primitives created equal?

Miller, J. T. M. (2018) 'Are all primitives created equal?', Southern journal of philosophy., 56 (2). pp. 273-292.


Primitives are both important and unavoidable, and which set of primitives we endorse will greatly shape our theories and how those theories provide solutions to the problems that we take to be important. After introducing the notion of a primitive posit, I discuss the different kinds of primitives that we might posit. Following Cowling (2013), I distinguish between ontological and ideological primitives, and, following Benovsky (2013), between functional and content views of primitives. I then propose that these two distinctions cut across each other leading to four types of primitive posits. I then argue that theoretical virtues should be taken to be metatheoretical ideological primitives. I close with some reflections on the global nature of comparing sets of primitives.

Item Type:Article
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Publisher statement:This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Miller, J. T. M. (2018). Are All Primitives Created Equal? The Southern Journal of Philosophy 56(2): 273-292 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.
Date accepted:No date available
Date deposited:30 July 2020
Date of first online publication:05 June 2018
Date first made open access:30 July 2020

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