About this topic

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 1994, 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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249 found
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  1. Physics and Fundamentality.Ney Alyssa - manuscript
    What justifies the allocation of funding to research in physics when many would argue research in the life and social sciences may have more immediate impact in transforming our world for the better? Many of the justifications for such spending depend on the claim that physics enjoys a kind of special status vis-a-vis the other sciences, that physics or at least some branches of physics exhibit a form of fundamentality. The goal of this paper is to articulate a conception of (...)
  2. On Ground as a Guide to Realism.Emad Atiq - forthcoming - Ratio.
    According to Fine (among others), a nonbasic factual proposition must be grounded in facts involving those of its constituents that are both real and fundamental. But the principle is vulnerable to several dialectically significant counterexamples. It entails, for example, that a logical Platonist cannot accept that true disjunctions are grounded in the truth of their disjuncts; that a Platonist about mathematical objects cannot accept that sets are grounded in their members; and that a color primitivist cannot accept that an object’s (...)
  3. Grounding: Toward a Theory of the In-Virtue-Of Relation.Paul Audi - 2012 - Journal of Philosophy 109 (12):685-711.
  4. The Incompatibility of Composition as Identity, Priority Pluralism, and Irreflexive Grounding.Andrew M. Bailey - 2011 - 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.
  5. Expressivism About Making and Truth-Making.Stephen Barker - 2012 - In Fabrice Correia & Benjamin Schnieder (eds.), Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality. Cambridge University Press. pp. 272-293.
    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 (...)
  6. Emergence and Fundamentality.Elizabeth Barnes - 2012 - 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 (...)
  7. The Priority of the Now.Sam Baron - 2014 - 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, (...)
  8. Groundless Truth.Sam Baron, Kristie Miller & James Norton - 2014 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 57 (2):175-195.
    We defend two claims: (1) if one is attracted to a strong non-maximalist view about truthmaking, then it is natural to construe this as the view that there exist fundamental truths; (2) despite considerable aversion to fundamental truths, there is as yet no viable independent argument against them. That is, there is no argument against the existence of fundamental truths that is independent of any more specific arguments against the ontology accepted by the strong non-maximalist. Thus there is no argument (...)
  9. Monism: The Islands of Plurality.Sam Baron & Jonathan Tallant - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93 (3):583-606.
    Priority monism (hereafter, ‘monism’) is the view that there exists one fundamental entity—the world—and that all other objects that exist (a set of objects typically taken to include tables, chairs, and the whole menagerie of everyday items) are merely derivative. Jonathan Schaffer has defended monism in its current guise, across a range of papers. Each paper looks to add something to the monistic picture of the world. In this paper we argue that monism—as Schaffer describes it—is false. To do so (...)
  10. By Our Bootstraps.Karen Bennett - 2011 - 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?
  11. Priority Monism and Essentiality of Fundamentality: A Reply to Steinberg.Benocci Matteo - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (8):1983-1990.
    Steinberg has recently proposed an argument against Schaffer’s priority monism. The argument assumes the principle of Necessity of Monism, which states that if priority monism is true, then it is necessarily true. In this paper, I argue that Steinberg’s objection can be eluded by giving up Necessity of Monism for an alternative principle, that I call Essentiality of Fundamentality, and that such a principle is to be preferred to Necessity of Monism on other grounds as well.
  12. Priority Monism and Essentiality of Fundamentality: A Reply to Steinberg.Benocci Matteo - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (8):1983-1990.
    Steinberg has recently proposed an argument against Schaffer’s priority monism. The argument assumes the principle of Necessity of Monism, which states that if priority monism is true, then it is necessarily true. In this paper, I argue that Steinberg’s objection can be eluded by giving up Necessity of Monism for an alternative principle, that I call Essentiality of Fundamentality, and that such a principle is to be preferred to Necessity of Monism on other grounds as well.
  13. Priority Monism and Essentiality of Fundamentality: A Reply to Steinberg.Benocci Matteo - unknown
    Steinberg has recently proposed an argument against Schaffer’s priority monism. The argument assumes the principle of Necessity of Monism, which states that if priority monism is true, then it is necessarily true. In this paper, I argue that Steinberg’s objection can be eluded by giving up Necessity of Monism for an alternative principle, that I call Essentiality of Fundamentality, and that such a principle is to be preferred to Necessity of Monism on other grounds as well.
  14. Primitiveness, Metaontology, and Explanatory Power.Jiri Benovsky - 2013 - 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 (...)
  15. Aesthetic Supervenience Vs. Aesthetic Grounding.Jiri Benovsky - 2012 - 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 (...)
  16. The Unity of Grounding.Selim Berker - forthcoming - Mind:fzw069.
    I argue—contra moderate grounding pluralists such as Kit Fine and more extreme grounding pluralists such as Jessica Wilson—that there is fundamentally only one grounding/in-virtue-of relation. I also argue that this single relation is indispensable for normative theorizing—that we can’t make sense of, for example, the debate over consequentialism without it. It follows from what I argue that there is no metaethically-pure normative ethics.
  17. Does Evolutionary Psychology Show That Normativity Is Mind-Dependent?Selim Berker - 2014 - In Justin D'Arms & Daniel Jacobson (eds.), Moral Psychology and Human Agency: Philosophical Essays on the Science of Ethics. Oxford University Press. pp. 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 (...)
  18. Two Problems for Proportionality About Omissions.Sara Bernstein - 2014 - 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 (...)
  19. Fundamental Ontological Structure: An Argument Against Pluralism.Michael Bertrand - 2016 - Philosophical Studies (5):1-21.
    In recent years, a hierarchical view of reality has become extremely influential. In order to understand the world as a whole, on this view, we need to understand the nature of the fundamental constituents of the world. We also need to understand the relations that build the world up from these fundamental constituents. Building pluralism is the view that there are at least two equally fundamental relations that together build the world. It has been widely, though tacitly, assumed in a (...)
  20. Viciousness and Circles of Ground.Ricki Bliss - 2014 - 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 (...)
  21. Viciousness and the Structure of Reality.Ricki Bliss - 2013 - 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, (...)
  22. Reality and its Structure.Ricki Bliss & Graham Priest (eds.) - forthcoming - Oxford University Press.
  23. Metaphysical Grounding.Ricki Bliss & Kelly Trogdon - 2014 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  24. Indefinitely Descending Ground.Einar Duenger Bohn - forthcoming - In Ricki Bliss & Graham Priest (eds.), Reality and its Structure. Oxford University Press.
    In this paper I argue against grounding being necessarily well-founded, and provide some reasons to think it's actually not well-founded.
  25. Mereological Monism and Humean Supervenience.Andrea Borghini & Giorgio Lando - forthcoming - Synthese:1-21.
    According to Lewis, mereology is the general and exhaustive theory of ontological composition, and every contingent feature of the world supervenes upon some fundamental properties instantiated by minimal entities. A profound analogy can be drawn between these two basic contentions of his metaphysics, namely that both can be intended as a denial of emergentism. In this essay, we study the relationships between Humean supervenience and two philosophical spin-offs of mereological monism: the possibility of gunk and the thesis of composition as (...)
  26. Fundamental Ontology, Scientific Methods, and Epistemic Foundations.Patrick Lyall Bourgeois - 1982 - New Scholasticism 56 (4):471-479.
  27. Underdetermination as a Path to Structural Realism.Katherine Brading & Alexander Skiles - 2012 - In Elaine Landry & Dean Rickles (eds.), Structural Realism: Structure, Object, and Causality. Springer.
  28. Natural Objects.Joshua D. K. Brown - 2016 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 2 (2):254-271.
    This paper introduces a framework for thinking about ontological questions—in particular, the Special Composition Question—and shows how the framework might help support something like an account of restricted composition. The framework takes the form of an account of natural objects, in analogy with David Lewis’s account of natural properties. Objects, like properties, come in various metaphysical grades, from the fundamental, fully objective, perfectly natural objects to the nomologically otiose, maximally gerrymandered, perfectly non-natural objects. The perfectly natural objects, I argue, are (...)
  29. Physicalism, Supervenience and the Fundamental Level.Robin Brown & James Ladyman - 2009 - 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 (...)
  30. Monism and Gunk.Jacek Brzozowski - 2016 - In Mark Jago (ed.), Reality Making. Oxford University Press. pp. 57-74.
  31. 9. On Locating Composite Objects.Jacek Brzozowski - 2008 - In Dean W. Zimmerman (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. Oxford University Press. pp. 4--193.
  32. Why Be a Fundamentalist: Reply to Schaffer.Craig Callender - unknown
    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 (...)
  33. Quantum Mechanics and Priority Monism.Claudio Calosi - 2014 - Synthese 191 (5):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.
  34. Do We Need Grounding?Ross P. Cameron - 2016 - Inquiry : An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 59 (4):382-397.
    Many have been tempted to invoke a primitive notion of grounding to describe the way in which some features of reality give rise to others. Jessica Wilson argues that such a notion is unnecessary to describe the structure of the world: that we can make do with specific dependence relations such as the part–whole relation or the determinate–determinable relation, together with a notion of absolute fundamentality. In this paper I argue that such resources are inadequate to describe the particular ways (...)
  35. From Humean Truthmaker Theory to Priority Monism.Ross P. Cameron - 2010 - 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 (...)
  36. Turtles All the Way Down: Regress, Priority and Fundamentality.Ross P. Cameron - 2008 - 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, (...)
  37. Deep Platonism.Chad Carmichael - 2016 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 92 (2):307-328.
    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 (...)
  38. Hierarchy, Form, and Reality.Chen Gang - 2009 - 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 (...)
  39. Fundamentality: Structures, Powers, and a Supervenience Dualism.Rodrigo Cid - manuscript
    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 (...)
  40. Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions, by Fabrice Correia.Roberto Ciuni - 2009 - Disputatio.
  41. Review of Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions. [REVIEW]Roberto Ciuni - 2009 - Disputatio 3 (26):125-134.
  42. Recent Work on Grounding.Michael J. Clark & David Liggins - 2012 - Analysis Reviews 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.
  43. Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality.Correia Fabrice & Schnieder Benjamin (eds.) - 2012 - 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 (...)
  44. From Grounding to Truth-Making: Some Thoughts.Fabrice Correia - 2011 - Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Kevin Mulligan.
    I assume that truth-making is to be understood in terms of grounding, and I show how, on that assumption, various general properties of truth-making follow from certain features of grounding.
  45. Ontological Dependence.Fabrice Correia - 2008 - 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 (...)
  46. Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions.Fabrice Correia - 2005 - Philosophia Verlag.
    The purpose of the book is to clarify the notion of existential dependence and cognate notions, such as supervenience and the notion of an internal relation. I defend the view that such notions are best understood in terms of the concept of metaphysical grounding, i.e. the concept of one fact obtaining in virtue of other facts, where ‘in virtue of’ has a distinctively metaphysical meaning.
  47. Grounding, Essence, and Identity.Fabrice Correia & Alexander Skiles - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Recent metaphysics has turned its focus to two notions that are—as well as having a common Aristotelian pedigree—widely thought to be intimately related: grounding and essence. Yet how, exactly, the two are related remains opaque. We develop a unified and uniform account of grounding and essence, one which understands them both in terms of a generalized notion of identity examined in recent work by Fabrice Correia, Cian Dorr, Agustín Rayo, and others. We argue that the account comports with antecedently plausible (...)
  48. Instantiation as Location.Sam Cowling - 2014 - 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 (...)
  49. Renormalizability, Fundamentality and a Final Theory: The Role of UV-Completion in the Search for Quantum Gravity.Karen Crowther & Niels Linnemann - forthcoming - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science:axx052.
    Principles are central to physical reasoning, particularly in the search for a theory of quantum gravity (QG), where novel empirical data is lacking. One principle widely adopted in the search for QG is UV completion: the idea that a theory should (formally) hold up to all possible high energies. We argue---/contra/ standard scientific practice---that UV-completion is poorly-motivated as a guiding principle in theory-construction, and cannot be used as a criterion of theory-justification in the search for QG. For this, we explore (...)
  50. The Unique Groundability of Temporal Facts.John Cusbert & Kristie Miller - 2017 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 94 (1).
    The A-theory and the B-theory advance competing claims about how time is grounded. The A-theory says that A-facts are more fundamental in grounding time than are B-facts, and the B-theory says the reverse. We argue that whichever theory is true of the actual world is also true of all possible worlds containing time. We do this by arguing that time is uniquely groundable: however time is actually grounded, it is necessarily grounded in that way. It follows that if either the (...)
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