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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 2014
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 Grounding. 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, The Unity of Grounding.
    I argue that there is one and only one grounding/in-virtue-of relation, and that it is indispensable for normative theorizing.
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  11. Selim Berker (2014). Does Evolutionary Psychology Show That Normativity Is Mind-Dependent? In Justin D'Arms & Daniel Jacobson (eds.), Moral Psychology and Human Agency: Philosophical Essays on the Science of Ethics. Oxford University Press. 215-252.
    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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  12. Sara Bernstein (2014). Two Problems for Proportionality About Omissions. Dialectica 68 (3):429-441.
    Theories of causation grounded in counterfactual dependence face the problem of profligate omissions: numerous irrelevant omissions count as causes of an outcome. A recent purported solution to this problem is proportionality, which selects one omission among many candidates as the cause of an outcome. This paper argues that proportionality cannot solve the problem of profligate omissions for two reasons. First: the determinate/determinable relationship that holds between properties like aqua and blue does not hold between negative properties like not aqua and (...)
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  13. 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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  14. Ricki 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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  15. Ricki Bliss & Kelly Trogdon (2014). Metaphysical Grounding. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: N/A.
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  16. 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.
  17. 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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  18. Craig Callender, Why Be a Fundamentalist: Reply to Schaffer.
    This is my commentary on Jonathan Schaffer's paper "Evidence for Fundamentality?”; both the paper and comments were presented at the Pacific APA, San Francisco, March 2001. Schaffer argues against the view that there is an ultimate fundamental level to the world. Seeing that quarks and leptons may have an infinite hierarchy of constituents, he claims, “empowers and dignifies the whole of nature” (15). Like Kant he holds that there are as good reasons for believing matter infinitely divisible as composed of (...)
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  19. 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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  20. 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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  21. 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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  22. Chad Carmichael (2015). Deep Platonism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 90 (3):n/a-n/a.
    According to the traditional bundle theory, particulars are bundles of compresent universals. I think we should reject the bundle theory for a variety of reasons. But I will argue for the thesis at the core of the bundle theory: that all the facts about particulars are grounded in facts about universals. I begin by showing how to meet the main objection to this thesis (which is also the main objection to the bundle theory): that it is inconsistent with the possibility (...)
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  23. 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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  24. Rodrigo Cid, Fundamentality: Structures, Powers, and a Supervenience Dualism.
    If we want to say what “fundamentality” means, we have to start by approaching what we generally see at the empty place of the predicate “____ is fundamental”. We generally talk about fundamental entities and fundamental theories. At this article, I tried to make a metaphysical approach of what is for something to be fundamental, and I also tried to talk a little bit of fundamental incomplete and complete theories. To do that, I start stating the notion of “entity” and (...)
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  25. Roberto Ciuni (2009). Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions, by Fabrice Correia. My Cms.
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  26. Roberto Ciuni (2008). Review of Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions. [REVIEW] Disputatio 3:125-134.
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  27. 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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  28. Fabrice Correia, From Grounding to Truth-Making: Some Thoughts. Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Kevin Mulligan.
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  29. 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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  30. Fabrice Correia (2005). Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions. Philosophia Verlag.
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  31. 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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  32. 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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  33. Aziz Daftari (2011). Fundamentality of Existence. Transcendent Philosophy Journal 12:93-118.
    In this article the issue of fundamentality of existence which is one ofthe greatest subjects in Islamic philosophy has been considered. Afterexplaining the key words it is stated that the issue of fundamentalityof existence is intending to prove the externality of existence and thatthe existence is a real and external issue and it is not a mental issue.Meanwhile it has been mentioned that proving the externality ofexistence was propounded for the western philosophers too, ratherthey were not able to prove the (...)
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  34. Shamik Dasgupta (2014). The Possibility of Physicalism. Journal of Philosophy 111 (9/10):557-592.
    It has been suggested that many philosophical theses—physicalism, normative naturalism, phenomenalism, and so on—should be understood in terms of ground. Against this, Ted Sider (2011) has argued that ground is ill-suited for this purpose. Here I develop Sider’s objection and offer a response. In doing so I develop a view about the role of ground in philosophy, and about the content of these distinctively philosophical theses.
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  35. 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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  36. Louis deRosset (forthcoming). On Weak Ground. Review of Symbolic Logic.
    Though the study of grounding is still in the early stages, Kit Fine, in ”The Pure Logic of Ground”, has made a seminal attempt at formalization. Formalization of this sort is supposed to bring clarity and precision to our theorizing, as it has to the study of other metaphysically important phenomena, like modality and vagueness. Unfortunately, as I will argue, Fine ties the formal treatment of grounding to the obscure notion of a weak ground. The obscurity of weak ground, together (...)
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  37. 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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  38. Louis deRosset (2013). What is Weak Ground? Essays in Philosophy 14 (1):2.
    Kit Fine, in "The Pure Logic of Ground", has made a seminal attempt at formalizing the notion of ground. Fine ties the formal treatment of grounding to the notion of a weak ground. Formalization of this sort is supposed to bring clarity and precision to our theorizing. Unfortunately, as I will argue, it's not clear what weak ground is. I review five alternative explanations of the idea, and argue that none of them are ultimately satisfactory. I close by outlining a (...)
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  39. 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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  40. Scott Dixon (forthcoming). What Is the Well-Foundedness of Grounding? Mind.
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  41. 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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  42. Cian Dorr & John Hawthorne (2013). Naturalness. In Karen Bennett & Dean Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, vol. 8. Oxford University Press. 1.
    Lewis's notion of a "natural" property has proved divisive: some have taken to the notion with enthusiasm, while others have been sceptical. However, it is far from obvious what the enthusiasts and the sceptics are disagreeing about. This paper attempts to articulate what is at stake in this debate.
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  43. Kit Fine (2013). Fundamental Truth and Fundamental Terms. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (3):725-732.
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  44. 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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  45. 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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  46. Kit Fine (2001). The Question of Realism. Philosophers' Imprint 1 (1):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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  47. Kit Fine (1995). Ontological Dependence. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 95:269 - 290.
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  48. Kit Fine (1991). The Study of Ontology. Noûs 25 (3):263-294.
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  49. Raphaël Fiorese (forthcoming). Stoljar’s Dilemma and Three Conceptions of the Physical: A Defence of the Via Negativa. Erkenntnis:1-29.
    Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical. But what does it mean to say that everything is physical? Daniel Stoljar has recently argued that no account of the physical is available which allows for a formulation of physicalism that is both possibly true and deserving of the name. As against this claim, I argue that a version of the via negativa—roughly, the view that the physical is to be characterised in terms of the nonmental—provides just such an account.
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  50. 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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