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It is commonplace for philosophers to ask whether a phenomenon of one kind is fundamental. Related questions are whether it is grounded in, or metaphysically dependent upon, or is less basic than a phenomenon of some other kind. Such claims raise a number of deep, unresolved philosophical questions in their own right. How are these notions of fundamentality related? What theoretical pursuits require them, and how can we come to know truths couched in terms of them? How do they relate to notions of mereology, modality, explanation, reduction, realization, substance, truthmaking, essence, provability, and causation? How is discourse about fundamentality to be regimented, and can well-behaved and interesting logical and semantic frameworks for this discourse be developed? What are the ontological commitments of this discourse? Must reality contain a sparsely populated ‘fundamental level’ of entities or facts? And how fundamental are these notions of fundamentality themselves?

Key works Notions of fundamentality have been discussed in philosophy since its inception, and can be found discussed at length by Aristotle, Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Bolzano, Husserl, Armstrong, Lewis, and Kim among many others. Interest in these notions has intensified during the first two decades of the 21st century largely (but not solely) due to the influence of Fine 1995, 2001, and 2012; Correia 2005; Schaffer 2003, 2009, and 2010; Rosen 2010; Sider 2009 and 2011; and Wilson forthcoming
Introductions For excellent introductions to recent work on metaphysical grounding see Clark & Liggins 2012Correia & Schnieder 2012, and Trogdon 2013; for recent work on dependence in metaphysics see Correia 2008 and Koslicki 2013
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  1. Paul Audi (2012). Grounding: Toward a Theory of the In-Virtue-of Relation. Journal of Philosophy 109 (12):685-711.
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  2. Andrew M. Bailey (2011). The Incompatibility of Composition as Identity, Priority Pluralism, and Irreflexive Grounding1. Analytic Philosophy 52 (3):171-174.
    Some have it that wholes are, somehow, identical to their parts. This doctrine is as alluring as it is puzzling. But in this paper, I show that the doctrine is inconsistent with two widely accepted theses. Something has to go.
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  3. Stephen Barker, Expressivism About Truth-Making.
    My goal is to illuminate truth-making by way of illuminating the relation of making. My strategy is not to ask what making is, in the hope of a metaphysical theory about is nature. It's rather to look first to the language of making. The metaphor behind making refers to agency. It would be absurd to suggest that claims about making are claims about agency. It is not absurd, however, to propose that the concept of making somehow emerges from some feature (...)
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  4. Elizabeth Barnes (2012). Emergence and Fundamentality. Mind 121 (484):873-901.
    In this paper, I argue for a new way of characterizing ontological emergence. I appeal to recent discussions in meta-ontology regarding fundamentality and dependence, and show how emergence can be simply and straightforwardly characterized using these notions. I then argue that many of the standard problems for emergence do not apply to this account: given a clearly specified meta-ontological background, emergence becomes much easier to explicate. If my arguments are successful, they show both a helpful way of thinking about emergence (...)
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  5. Sam Baron (2014). The Priority of the Now. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly:0-0.
    This paper motivates and develops a new theory of time: priority presentism. Priority presentism is the view according to which (i) only present entities exist fundamentally and (ii) past and future entities exist, but they are grounded in the present. The articulation of priority presentism is an exercise in applied grounding: it draws on concepts from the recent literature on ontological dependence and applies those concepts in a new way, to the philosophy of time. The result, as I will argue, (...)
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  6. Sam Baron, Kristie Miller & James Norton (2014). Groundless Truth. Inquiry 57 (2):175-195.
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  7. Karen Bennett (2011). By Our Bootstraps. Philosophical Perspectives 25 (1):27-41.
    Recently much has been made of the grounding relation, and of the idea that it is intimately tied to fundamentality. If A grounds B, then A is more fundamental than B (though not vice versa ), and A is ungrounded if and only if it is fundamental full stop—absolutely fundamental. But here is a puzzle: is grounding itself absolutely fundamental?
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  8. Jiri Benovsky (2013). Primitiveness, Metaontology, and Explanatory Power. Dialogue 52 (2):341-358.
    Metaphysical theories heavily rely on the use of primitives to which they typically appeal. I will start by examining and evaluating some traditional well-known theories and I will discuss the role of primitives in metaphysical theories in general. I will then turn to a discussion of claims of between theories that, I think, depend on equivalences of primitives, and I will explore the nature of primitives. I will then claim that almost all explanatory power of metaphysical theories comes from their (...)
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  9. Jiri Benovsky (2012). Aesthetic Supervenience Vs. Aesthetic Grounding. Estetika 49 (2):166–178.
    The claim that the having of aesthetic properties supervenes on the having of non-aesthetic properties has been widely discussed and, in various ways, defended. In this paper, I will show that even if it is sometimes true that a supervenience relation holds between aesthetic properties and the 'subvenient' non-aesthetic ones, it is not the interesting relation in the neighbourhood. As we shall see, a richer, asymmetric and irreflexive relation is required, and I shall defend the claim that the more-and-more-popular relation (...)
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  10. Selim Berker (forthcoming). Does Evolutionary Psychology Show That Normativity Is Mind-Dependent? In Justin D'Arms & Daniel Jacobson (eds.), Moral Psychology and Human Agency: Essays on the New Science of Ethics.
    Suppose we grant that evolutionary forces have had a profound effect on the contours of our normative judgments and intuitions. Can we conclude anything from this about the correct metaethical theory? I argue that, for the most part, we cannot. Focusing my attention on Sharon Street’s justly famous argument that the evolutionary origins of our normative judgments and intuitions cause insuperable epistemological difficulties for a metaethical view she calls "normative realism," I argue that there are two largely independent lines of (...)
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  11. Sara Bernstein (forthcoming). Two Problems for Proportionality About Omissions. Dialectica 70 (1).
    The problem of profligate omissions is as follows: suppose that the gardener promises to water your plant while you are out of town, the gardener fails to water it, and the plant dies. Intuitively, the gardener's failing to water the plant is a cause of the plant's death. But the Queen of England also failed to water the plant, and the counterfactual "Had the Queen of England not failed to water the plant, the plant would not have died" is true. (...)
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  12. Ricki Bliss (2014). Viciousness and Circles of Ground. Metaphilosophy 45 (2):245-256.
    Metaphysicians of a certain stripe are almost unanimously of the view that grounding is necessarily irreflexive, asymmetric, transitive, and well-founded. They deny the possibility of circles of ground and, therewith, the possibility of species of metaphysical coherentism. But what's so bad about circles of ground? One problem for coherentism might be that it ushers in anti-foundationalism: grounding loops give rise to infinite regresses. And this is bad because infinite grounding regresses are vicious. This article argues that circles of ground do (...)
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  13. Ricki Leigh Bliss (2013). Viciousness and the Structure of Reality. Philosophical Studies 166 (2):399-418.
    Given the centrality of arguments from vicious infinite regress to our philosophical reasoning, it is little wonder that they should also appear on the catalogue of arguments offered in defense of theses that pertain to the fundamental structure of reality. In particular, the metaphysical foundationalist will argue that, on pain of vicious infinite regress, there must be something fundamental. But why think that infinite regresses of grounds are vicious? I explore existing proposed accounts of viciousness cast in terms of contradictions, (...)
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  14. Katherine Brading & Alexander Skiles (2012). Underdetermination as a Path to Structural Realism. In Elaine Landry & Dean Rickles (eds.), Structural Realism: Structure, Object, and Causality. Springer.
  15. Robin Brown & James Ladyman (2009). Physicalism, Supervenience and the Fundamental Level. Philosophical Quarterly 59 (234):20-38.
    We provide a formulation of physicalism, and show that this is to be favoured over alternative formulations. Much of the literature on physicalism assumes without argument that there is a fundamental level to reality, and we show that a consideration of the levels problem and its implications for physicalism tells in favour of the form of physicalism proposed here. Its hey elements are, fast, that the empirical and substantive part of physicalism amounts to a prediction that physics will not posit (...)
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  16. Claudio Calosi (2013). Quantum Mechanics and Priority Monism. Synthese:1-14.
    The paper address the question of whether quantum mechanics (QM) favors Priority Monism, the view according to which the Universe is the only fundamental object. It develops formal frameworks to frame rigorously the question of fundamental mereology and its answers, namely (Priority) Pluralism and Monism. It then reconstructs the quantum mechanical argument in favor of the latter and provides a detailed and thorough criticism of it that sheds furthermore new light on the relation between parthood, composition and fundamentality in QM.
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  17. Ross P. Cameron (2010). From Humean Truthmaker Theory to Priority Monism. Noûs 44 (1):178 - 198.
    I argue that the truthmaker theorist should be a priority monist if she wants to avoid commitment to mysterious necessary connections. In section 1 I briefly discuss the ontological options available to the truthmaker theorist. In section 2 I develop the argument against truthmaker theory from the Humean denial of necessary connections. In section 3 I offer an account of when necessary connections are objectionable. In section 4 I use this criterion to narrow down the options from section 1. In (...)
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  18. Ross P. Cameron (2008). Turtles All the Way Down: Regress, Priority and Fundamentality. Philosophical Quarterly 58 (230):1-14.
    I address an intuition commonly endorsed by metaphysicians, that there must be a fundamental layer of reality, i.e., that chains of ontological dependence must terminate: there cannot be turtles all the way down. I discuss applications of this intuition with reference to Bradley’s regress, composition, realism about the mental and the cosmological argument. I discuss some arguments for the intui- tion, but argue that they are unconvincing. I conclude by making some suggestions for how the intuition should be argued for, (...)
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  19. Gang Chen (2009). Hierarchy, Form, and Reality. Frontiers of Philosophy in China 4 (3):437-453.
    Scientific progress in the 20th century has shown that the structure of the world is hierarchical. A philosophical analysis of the hierarchy will bear obvious significance for metaphysics and philosophy in general. Jonathan Schaffer’s paper, “Is There a Fundamental Level?”, provides a systematic review of the works in the field, the difficulties for various versions of fundamentalism, and the prospect for the third option, i.e., to treat each level as ontologically equal. The purpose of this paper is to provide an (...)
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  20. Michael J. Clark & David Liggins (2012). Recent Work on Grounding. Analysis 72 (4):812-823.
    There is currently an explosion of interest in grounding. In this article we provide an overview of the debate so far. We begin by introducing the concept of grounding, before discussing several kinds of scepticism about the topic. We then identify a range of central questions in the theory of grounding and discuss competing answers to them that have emerged in the debate. We close by raising some questions that have been relatively neglected but which warrant further attention.
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  21. Fabrice Correia, From Grounding to Truth-Making: Some Thoughts. Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Kevin Mulligan.
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  22. Fabrice Correia (2008). Ontological Dependence. Philosophy Compass 3 (5):1013-1032.
    'Ontological dependence' is a term of philosophical jargon which stands for a rich family of properties and relations, often taken to be among the most fundamental ontological properties and relations. Notions of ontological dependence are usually thought of as 'carving reality at its ontological joints', and as marking certain forms of ontological 'non-self-sufficiency'. The use of notions of dependence goes back as far as Aristotle's characterization of substances, and these notions are still widely used to characterize other concepts and to (...)
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  23. Fabrice Correia (2005). Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions. Philosophia Verlag.
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  24. Fabrice Correia & Benjamin Schnieder (eds.) (2012). Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality. Cambridge University Press.
    Some of the most eminent and enduring philosophical questions concern matters of priority: what is prior to what? What 'grounds' what? Is, for instance, matter prior to mind? Recently, a vivid debate has arisen about how such questions have to be understood. Can the relevant notion or notions of priority be spelled out? And how do they relate to other metaphysical notions, such as modality, truth-making or essence? This volume of new essays, by leading figures in contemporary metaphysics, is the (...)
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  25. Sam Cowling (2014). Instantiation as Location. Philosophical Studies 167 (3):667-682.
    Many familiar forms of property realism identify properties with sui generis ontological categories like universals or tropes and posit a fundamental instantiation relation that unifies objects with their properties. In this paper, I develop and defend locationism, which identifies properties with locations and holds that the occupation relation that unifies objects with their locations also unifies objects with their properties. Along with the theoretical parsimony that locationism enjoys, I argue that locationism resolves a puzzle for actualists regarding the ontological status (...)
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  26. Shamik Dasgupta (2009). Individuals: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 145 (1):35 - 67.
    We naturally think of the material world as being populated by a large number of individuals . These are things, such as my laptop and the particles that compose it, that we describe as being propertied and related in various ways when we describe the material world around us. In this paper I argue that, fundamentally speaking at least, there are no such things as material individuals. I then propose and defend an individual-less view of the material world I call (...)
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  27. Louis deRosset (2013). Grounding Explanations. Philosophers' Imprint 13 (7).
    A compelling idea holds that reality has a layered structure. We often disagree about what inhabits the bottom layer (or even if there is one), but we agree that higher up we find chemical, biological, geological, psychological, sociological, economic, /etc./, entities: molecules, human beings, diamonds, mental states, cities, interest rates, and so on. How is this intuitive talk of a layered structure of entities to be understood? Traditionally, philosophers have proposed to understand layered structure in terms of either reduction or (...)
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  28. Louis deRosset (2013). What is Weak Ground? Essays in Philosophy 14 (1):2.
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  29. Louis deRosset (2010). Getting Priority Straight. Philosophical Studies 149 (1):73 - 97.
    Consider the kinds of macroscopic concrete objects that common sense and the sciences allege to exist: tables, raindrops, tectonic plates, galaxies, and the rest. Are there any such things? Opinions differ. Ontological liberals say they do; ontological radicals say they don't. Liberalism seems favored by its plausible acquiescence to the dictates of common sense abetted by science; radicalism by its ontological parsimony. Priority theorists claim we can have the virtues of both views. They hold that tables, raindrops, etc., exist, but (...)
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  30. Cian Dorr (2013). Reading Writing the Book of the World. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (3):717-724.
    This paper is a response to Theodore Sider's book, Writing the Book of the World. It raises some puzzles about Sider's favoured methodology for finding out about naturalness (or 'structure').
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  31. Kit Fine (2013). Fundamental Truth and Fundamental Terms. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (3):725-732.
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  32. Kit Fine (2012). The Pure Logic of Ground. Review of Symbolic Logic 5 (1):1-25.
    I lay down a system of structural rules for various notions of ground and establish soundness and completeness.
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  33. Kit Fine (2012). Guide to Ground. In Fabrice Correia & Benjamin Schnieder (eds.), Metaphysical Grounding. Cambridge University Press. 37--80.
    A number of philosophers have recently become receptive to the idea that, in addition to scientific or causal explanation, there may be a distinctive kind of metaphysical explanation, in which explanans and explanandum are connected, not through some sort of causal mechanism, but through some constitutive form of determination. I myself have long been sympathetic to this idea of constitutive determination or ‘ontological ground’; and it is the aim of the present paper to help put the idea on a firmer (...)
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  34. Kit Fine (2001). The Question of Realism. Philosophers' Imprint 1 (2):1-30.
    This paper distinguishes two kinds of realist issue -- the issue of whether the propositions of a given domain are factual and the issue of whether they are fundamental. It criticizes previous accounts of what these issues come to and suggests that they are to be understood in terms of a basic metaphysical concept of reality. This leaves open the question of how such issues are to be resolved; and it is argued that this may be done through consideration of (...)
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  35. Kit Fine (1995). Ontological Dependence. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 95:269 - 290.
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  36. Kit Fine (1991). The Study of Ontology. Noûs 25 (3):263-294.
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  37. Akiko Frischhut & Alexander Skiles (2013). Time, Modality, and the Unbearable Lightness of Being. Thought 2 (1):264-273.
    We develop a theory about the metaphysics of time and modality that combines the conceptual resources devised in recent sympathetic work on ontological pluralism (the thesis that there are fundamentally distinct kinds of being) with the thought that what is past, future, and merely possible is less real than what is present and actual (albeit real enough to serve as truthmakers for statements about the past, future, and merely possible). However, we also show that despite being a coherent, distinctive, and (...)
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  38. Ghislain Guigon (2011). Spinoza on Composition and Priority. In Philip Goff (ed.), Spinoza on Monism. Palgrave Macmillan.
    This article has two goals: a historical and a speculative one. The historical goal is to offer a coherent account of Spinoza’s view on mereological composition. The speculative goal is to show that Spinoza’s substance monism is distinct from versions of monism that are currently defended in metaphysics and that it deserves the attention of contemporary metaphysicians. Regarding the second goal, two versions of monism are currently defended and discussed in contemporary metaphysics: existence monism according to which there actually exists (...)
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  39. Chris Heathwood (2012). Could Morality Have a Source? Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 6 (2):1-19.
    It is a common idea that morality, or moral truths, if there are any, must have some sort of source, or grounding. It has also been claimed that constructivist theories in metaethics have an advantage over realist theories in that the former but not the latter can provide such a grounding. This paper has two goals. First, it attempts to show that constructivism does not in fact provide a complete grounding for morality, and so is on a par with realism (...)
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  40. John Heil (2003). Levels of Reality. Ratio 16 (3):205–221.
    Philosophers and non-philosophers have been attracted to the idea that the world incorporates levels of being: higher-level items – ordinary objects, artifacts, human beings – depend on, but are not in any sense reducible to, items at lower levels. I argue that the motivation for levels stems from an implicit acceptance of a Picture Theory of language according to which we can ‘read off’ features of the world from ways we describe the world. Abandonment of the Picture Theory opens the (...)
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  41. Mark Heller (2008). The Donkey Problem. Philosophical Studies 140 (1):83 - 101.
    The Donkey Problem (as I am calling it) concerns the relationship between more and less fundamental ontologies. I will claim that the moral to draw from the Donkey Problem is that the less fundamental objects are merely conventional. This conventionalism has consequences for the 3D/4D debate. Four-dimensionalism is motivated by a desire to avoid coinciding objects, but once we accept that the non-fundamental ontology is conventional there is no longer any reason to reject coincidence. I therefore encourage 4Dists to become (...)
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  42. Avram Hiller (2013). Object-Dependence. Essays in Philosophy 14 (1):33-55.
    There has been much work on ontological dependence in recent literature. However, relatively little of it has been dedicated to the ways in which individual physical objects may depend on other distinct, non-overlapping objects. This paper gives several examples of such object-dependence and distinguishes between different types of it. The paper also introduces and refines the notion of an n-tet. N-tets (typically) occur when there are object-dependence relations between n objects. I claim that the identity (or, rather, what I call (...)
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  43. Paul Hovda & Troy Cross (2013). Grounding Relation(S): Introduction. Essays in Philosophy 14 (1):1-6.
  44. Daniel Howard-Snyder, Joshua Rasmussen & Andrew Cullison (2013). On Whitcomb's Grounding Argument for Atheism. Faith and Philosophy 30 (2):198-204.
    Dennis Whitcomb argues that there is no God on the grounds that (i) God is supposed to be omniscient, yet (ii) nothing could be omniscient due to the nature of grounding. We give a formally identical argument that concludes that one of the present co-authors does not exist. Since he does exist, Whitcomb’s argument is unsound. But why is it unsound? That is a difficult question. We venture two answers. First, one of the grounding principles that the argument relies on (...)
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  45. Andreas Hüttemann (forthcoming). Physicalism and the Part-Whole Relation. In Christian Wüthrich & Tomasz Bigaj (eds.), Metaphysics in Contemporary Physics.
    In this paper I intend to analyse whether a certain kind of physicalism (part-wholephysicalism)is supported by what classical mechanics and quantum mechanics have to say about the part whole relation. I will argue that not even the most likely candidates – namely cases of microexplanation of the dynamics of compound systems – provide evidence for part whole-physicalism, i.e. the thesis that the behaviour of the compound obtains in virtue of the behaviour of the parts. Physics does not dictate part-whole-physicalism.
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  46. Nurbay Irmak (2013). The Privilege of the Physical and the Status of Ontological Debates. Philosophical Studies 166 (1 Supplement):1-18.
    Theodore Sider in his latest book provides a defense of the substantivity of the first-order ontological debates against recent deflationary attacks. He articulates and defends several realist theses: (a) nature has an objective structure, (b) there is an objectively privileged language to describe the structure, and (c) ontological debates are substantive. Sider’s defense of metaontological realism, (c), crucially depends on his realism about fundamental languages, (b). I argue that (b) is wrong. As a result, Sider’s metaontological realism fails to establish (...)
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  47. C. S. Jenkins (2011). Is Metaphysical Dependence Irreflexive? The Monist 94 (2):267-276.
  48. Mark Johnston (2006). Hylomorphism. Journal of Philosophy 103 (12):652-698.
  49. Joel Katzav (2002). Identity, Nature, and Ground. Philosophical Topics 30 (1):167-187.
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  50. Trogdon Kelly (forthcoming). Grounding: Necessary or Contingent? Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.
    Recent interest in the nature of grounding is due in part to the idea that purely modal notions are too coarse-grained to capture what we have in mind when we say that one thing is grounded in another. Grounding not being purely modal in character, however, is compatible with it having modal consequences. Is grounding a necessary relation? In this paper I argue that the answer is ‘yes’ in the sense that propositions corresponding to full grounds modally entail propositions corresponding (...)
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