Neo-Aristotelian metaphysics comprises the topics in contemporary metaphysics which bear similarity to the interests, commitments, positions and general approaches found in Aristotle. Despite the current interest in these topics, there is no monograph length general introduction to the methodology and themes of neo-Aristotelian metaphysics. One underdiscussed question concerns demarcation: what unifies the topics that fall under the heading of neo-Aristotelianism? Contemporary metaphysicians who might be classified as ‘neo-Aristotelians’ tend towards positions reminiscent of Aristotle’s metaphysics—such as sympathy with grounding, substance ontology, (...) non-modal construals of essence, hylomorphism, causal powers, presentism, endurantism and agent causation. However, prima facie it seems that one might hold any one of these positions while rejecting the others. What perhaps unifies a neo-Aristotelian approach in metaphysics, then, is not a shared collection of positions so much as a willingness to engage with Aristotle and to view this historical figure as providing a fruitful way of initially framing certain philosophical issues. However, also missing in the literature is a sustained methodological discussion on the contribution historical scholarship on Aristotle might make to contemporary metaphysics, and the contribution contemporary metaphysics might make to historical scholarship. Little hinges on whether what gets labelled neo-Aristotelian metaphysics is or isn’t Aristotle’s metaphysics. But historical scholarship is useful within contemporary metaphysics not merely to to apply historically accurate labels to positions. There are topics where the historical and contemporary issues dovetail in mutually rewarding ways: serious engagement with the history of philosophy can yield living philosophical rewards for today’s metaphysician; and serious engagement with contemporary philosophy can yield exegetical rewards for the historian. The monograph will introduce these methodological issues, and then turn to case studies on ontological dependence, substance ontology, category theory and hylomorphism. These are all topics where there is robust debate within both Aristotle studies and contemporary metaphysics, and topics where historians and metaphysicians are working somewhat in isolation from each other. The aim of the monograph is to make the relevant exegetical questions accessible to contemporary metaphysicians, and the corresponding contemporary topics accessible to historians. The target audience includes researchers, graduate students and advanced undergraduates, in both metaphysics and Aristotle studies. (shrink)
It is often supposed that metaphysical explanation is asymmetric: that for all x and y, if x metaphysically explains y, then y does not metaphysically explain x. Even amongst those who hold that metaphysical explanation is not asymmetric, but nonsymmetric, it is assumed that a relatively small number of particular explanations are symmetric: by and large, if x metaphysically explains y, then y does not metaphysically explain x. Both parties agree that as a matter of fact we at least typically (...) judge that if x metaphysically explains y, then y does not metaphysically explain x. There has, however, been no empirical investigation of our judgements on these matters, beyond the armchair reflections of philosophers. This paper investigates our judgements and finds that in every case participants were presented with, a majority judged that x metaphysically explained y, and that y metaphysically explained x. This gives us reason to conclude not only that metaphysical explanation is not asymmetric, but also that it has many more symmetric instances than philosophers have supposed. Indeed, the evidence we collected is consistent with metaphysical explanations being symmetric. We evaluate the upshots of this research for theorising about metaphysical explanation. (shrink)
Recent authors hold that the role of historical scholarship within contemporary philosophical practice is to question current assumptions, to expose vestiges or to calibrate intuitions. On these views, historical scholarship is dispensable, since these roles can be achieved by nonhistorical methods. And the value of historical scholarship is contingent, since the need for the role depends on the presence of questionable assumptions, vestiges or comparable intuitions. In this paper I draw an analogy between scientific and philosophical practice, in order to (...) float one role for historical scholarship that is nonreplicable and noncontingent. It has long been acknowledged that cognitive values – features of theories that facilitate understanding, such as ontological parsimony, ideological simplicity, computational ease and fecundity – play a key role within science. The role of some of these values within philosophy also has received attention but left understudied are the values of novelty and conservativeness. These values influence theory choice, the selection of methodology, the setting of research agenda, and the presentation of results; and are best assessed with a historically informed evaluation. This role for historical scholarship is not replicable by nonhistorical methods, and is not contingent on the presence of questionable assumptions, vestiges or comparable intuitions. (shrink)
In this paper a generalized account of relevance as difference-making is developed. It is argued that relevance should not be considered as a particular relation, but as a (higher-order) property of instances of arbitrary relations: namely the property that variations of the relata of the relation instance make a difference for its truth. This generalized account of relevance can be fruitfully applied in many domains, such as (i) logical reasoning with applications to explanation, confirmation, verisimilitude, is-ought inference, (ii) probabilistic reasoning (...) with applications to explanation and confirmation, (iii) nomological and causal implication, (iv) communication, (v) grounding and (vi) essentiality. In conclusion, difference-making relevance is a highly unifying and fruitful philosophical concept. (shrink)
In his article ‘Making semantics for essence’ (Inquiry, 2019), Justin Zylstra proposed a truthmaker semantics for essence and used it to evaluate principles regarding the explanatory role of essence. The aim of this article is to show that Zylstra's semantics has implausible implications and thus cannot adequately capture essence.
The reduction of grounding to causation, or each to a more general relation of which they are species, has sometimes been justified by the impressive inferential capacity of structural equation modelling, causal Bayes nets, and interventionist causal modelling. Many criticisms of this assimilation focus on how causation is inadequate for grounding. Here, I examine the other direction: how treating grounding in the image of causation makes the resulting view worse for causation. The distinctive features of causal modelling that make this (...) connection appealing are distorted beyond use by forcing them to fit onto grounding. The very inferential strength that makes causation attractive is only possible because of a narrow construal of what counts as a causal relation; as soon as that broadens, the inferential capacity markedly diminishes. Making causation suitable for application to grounding spoils what was appealing about causation for this task in the first place. However, grounding need not appeal to causation: causal modelling does not have exclusive claim to structural equation modeling or other formal techniques of modelling structure. I offer a case in favour of a different kind of metaphysical frugality, which tend towards narrow, more restrictive construals of relations like causation or grounding, because then each relation behaves more homogenously. This more homogenous behavior delivers stronger inferential power per relation even though there may be more relations to which one is committed. (shrink)
Leibniz thinks that every created substance is causally active, and yet causally independent of every other: none can cause changes in any but itself. This is not controversial. But Leibniz also thinks that every created substance is existentially independent of every other: it is metaphysically possible for any to exist with or without any other. This is controversial. I argue that, given a mainstream reading of Leibniz’s essentialism, if one accepts the former, uncontroversial interpretation concerning causal independence, then one ought (...) also to accept the latter, controversial one concerning existential independence. This is a new way to defend the ‘existential independence’ interpretation. Moreover, this defense provides a new approach for defending the broadly ‘non-logical’ interpretive camp in the longstanding debate over Leibniz’s views on incompossibility, against perhaps the strongest objection leveled by advocates of the opposing broadly ‘logical’ interpretation. (shrink)
What grounds facts of the form? One promising answer is: facts of the form. A different promising answer is: x itself. Isaac Wilhelm has recently argued that the second answer is superior to the first. In this paper, I rebut his argument.
Philosophers have recently highlighted substantial affinities between causation and grounding, which has inclined some to import the conceptual and formal resources of causal interventionism into the metaphysics of grounding. The prospect of grounding interventionism raises two important questions: exactly what are grounding interventions, and why should we think they enable knowledge of grounding? This paper will approach these questions by examining how causal interventionists have addressed (or might address) analogous questions and then comparing the available options for grounding interventionism. I (...) argue that grounding interventions must be understood in worldly terms, as adding something to or deleting something from the roster of entities, or making some fact obtain or fail to obtain. I consider three bases for counterfactual assessment: imagination, structural equation models, and background theory. I conclude that grounding interventionism requires firmer epistemological foundations, without which the interventionist's epistemology of grounding is incomplete and ineffectually rationalist. (shrink)
This book offers a unique perspective on one of the deepest questions about the world we live in: is reality multi-leveled, or can everything be reduced to some fundamental ‘flat’ level? This deep philosophical issue has widespread implications in philosophy, since it is fundamental to how we understand the world and the basic entities in it. Both the notion of ‘levels’ within science and their ontological implications are issues that are underexplored in the philosophical literature. The volume reconsiders the view (...) that reality contains many levels and opens new ways to understand the ontological status of the special sciences. The book focuses on major open questions that arise at the foundations of cognitive science, cognitive psychology, brain science and other special sciences, in particular with respect to the physical foundations of these sciences. For example: Is the mental computational? Do brains compute? How can the special sciences be autonomous from physics, grounded in, or based on, physics and at the same time irreducible to physics? The book is an important read for scientists and philosophers alike. It is of interest to philosophers of science, philosophers of mind and biology interested in the notion of levels, but also to psychologists, cognitive scientists and neuroscientists investigating such issues as the precise relation of the mental to the underlying neural structures and the appropriate approach to study it. (shrink)
I argue that the growing-block theory of time and truthmaker maximalism jointly entail that some truthmakers undergo mereological change as time passes. Central to my argument is a grounding-based account of what I call the “purely incremental” nature of the growing-block theory of time. As I will show, the argument presented in this paper suggests that growing-block theorists endorsing truthmaker maximalism have reasons to take composition to be restricted and the “block” of reality to literally grow as time goes by.
We argue that Lewis would have rejected recent appeals to the notions of ‘metaphysical dependency’, ‘grounding’ and ‘ontological priority’, because he would have held that they’re not needed and they’re not intelligible. We argue our case by drawing upon Lewis’s views on supervenience, the metaphysics of singletons and the dubiousness of Kripke’s essentialism.
I present an argument proving that there are no fundamental facts, which is similar to an argument recently presented by Mark Jago for truthmaker maximalism. I suggest that this argument gives us at least some prima facie, defeasible reason to believe that there are no fundamental facts.
Ground, essence, and modality seem to have something to do with each other. Can we provide unified foundations for ground and essence, or should we treat each as primitives? Can modality be grounded in essence, or should essence be expressed in terms of modality? Does grounding entail necessitation? Are the notions of ground and essence univocal? This volume focuses on the links—or lack thereof—between these three notions, as well as the foundations of ground, essence, and modality more generally, bringing together (...) work on the metaphysics, epistemology, and logic of these three notions by some of the leading figures in the field as well as emerging young scholars. The invited contributors to this volume presented their work at a conference on Ground, Essence, and Modality at the University of Helsinki in June 2016, funded by the Academy of Finland Project The Epistemology of Metaphysics: From Rationalism to Nominalism. This conference is just one of many recent high-profile events and publications on these themes (e.g., the edited volumes Correia and Schnieder 2012a; Sirkel and Tahko 2014; Jago 2016). After providing a brief historical summary of the (re)emergence of modality, essence and ground as central notions in metaphysics (Sect. 1), we shall outline some of the main themes in recent work on these notions and on the links between them (Sect. 2). In Sect. 3 we briefly introduce the papers in this volume. (shrink)
In this article I discuss several apparent counterexamples to the asymmetry of ontological dependence. These counterexamples were introduced in discussions about grounding, but they can affect every theory of ontological dependence. I show that, if one adopts metaontological pluralism (i.e., the view according to which there are many dependence relations), one has some advantages when it comes to defending the asymmetry of dependence. In Section 1, I introduce metaontological pluralism and my own version of it, which is based on Respect-of-Dependence (...) Relations (RD-Relations). I then single out five strategies to deal with apparent cases of symmetric dependence and show that only two of them are available to metaontological pluralists. In Sections 2, 3, and 4 I deal with cases of symmetric dependence by adopting these strategies. Finally, in Section 5, I anticipate and reply to three objections against my account. (shrink)
This paper explores a middle way between realism and eliminativism about grounding. Grounding-talk is intelligible and useful, but it fails to pick out grounding relations that exist or obtain in reality. Instead, grounding-talk allows us to convey facts about what metaphysically explains what, and about the worldly dependence relations that give rise to those explanations.
I argue against a principle that is widely taken to govern metaphysical explanation. This is the principle that no necessary facts can, on their own, explain a contingent fact. I then show how this result makes available a response to a longstanding objection to the Principle of Sufficient Reason—the objection that the Principle of Sufficient Reason entails that the world could not have been otherwise.
This paper develops and motivates a unification theory of metaphysical explanation, or as I will call it, Metaphysical Unificationism. The theory’s main inspiration is the unification account of scientific explanation, according to which explanatoriness is a holistic feature of theories that derive a large number of explananda from a meager set of explanantia, using a small number of argument patterns. In developing Metaphysical Unificationism, I will point out that it has a number of interesting consequences. The view offers a novel (...) conception of metaphysical explanation that doesn’t rely on the notion of a “determinative” or “explanatory” relation; it allows us to draw a principled distinction between metaphysical and scientific explanations; it implies that naturalness and fundamentality are distinct but intimately related notions; and perhaps most importantly, it re-establishes the unduly neglected link between explanation and understanding in the metaphysical realm. A number of objections can be raised against the view, but I will argue that none of these is conclusive. The upshot is that Metaphysical Unificationism provides a powerful and hitherto overlooked alternative to extant theories of metaphysical explanation. (shrink)
This paper explores the prospects of combining two views. The first view is metaphysical rationalism : all things have an explanation. The second view is metaphysical essentialism: there are real essences. The exploration is motivated by a conflict between the views. Metaphysical essentialism posits facts about essences. Metaphysical rationalism demands explanations for all facts. But facts about essences appear to resist explanation. I consider two solutions to the conflict. Exemption solutions attempt to exempt facts about essences from the demand for (...) explanation. Explanation solutions attempt to explain facts about essences. I argue that exemption solutions are less promising than explanation solutions. I then consider how explanation solutions might be developed. I suggest that a “generative” approach is most promising. I tentatively conclude that the prospects for combining metaphysical rationalism and metaphysical essentialism turn on the viability of a generative approach. This sets the agenda for defending the combination as well as the more general project of explaining essences. (shrink)
A collection of 37 essays surveying the state of the art on metaphysical ground. -/- Essay authors are: Fatema Amijee, Ricki Bliss, Amanda Bryant, Margaret Cameron, Phil Corkum, Fabrice Correia, Louis deRosset, Scott Dixon, Tom Donaldson, Nina Emery, Kit Fine, Martin Glazier, Kathrin Koslicki, David Mark Kovacs, Stephan Krämer, Stephanie Leary, Stephan Leuenberger, Jon Litland, Marko Malink, Michaela McSweeney, Kevin Mulligan, Alyssa Ney, Asya Passinsky, Francesca Poggiolesi, Kevin Richardson, Stefan Roski, Noel Saenz, Benjamin Schnieder, Erica Shumener, Alexander Skiles, Olla Solomyak, (...) Tuomas Tahko, Naomi Thompson, Kelly Trogdon, Jennifer Wang, Tobias Wilsch, and Justin Zylstra. (shrink)
It is often thought that metaphysical grounding underwrites a distinctive sort of metaphysical explanation. However, it would be a mistake to think that all metaphysical explanations are underwritten by metaphysical grounding. In service of this claim, I offer a novel kind of metaphysical explanation called metaphysical explanation by constraint, examples of which have been neglected in the literature. I argue that metaphysical explanations by constraint are not well understood as grounding explanations.
In this paper I consider respects of dependence, namely, the fact that some entities depend on other entities in some respect or another. In the first section, I provide a characterization of contemporary debates on dependence based on respects of dependence. I also single out seven desiderata a good theory of dependence should satisfy and three ways of interpreting respects of dependence. In the second section, I criticize two such ways and, in the third section, I defend the remaining option, (...) namely, that respects of dependence correspond to different dependence-relations between entities. In the fourth section, I develop my theory of Respect-of-Dependence Relations in order to distinguish between partial and full dependence and between specific and generic dependence, and to qualify RD -relations in temporal and modal terms. Finally, in the last section, I anticipate and reply to three objections against dependence pluralism. (shrink)
reality is a complex affair. It comprises a huge variety of different elements. Importantly, though, reality is not a mere aggregate of its elements but rather a structured whole or system whose building blocks are not all on the same level. Instead, they form hierarchical networks ordered by relations of priority. In such networks, derivative aspects of reality obtain in virtue of their grounds, that is, in virtue of more fundamental aspects of reality that are prior to them.This picture of (...) reality as a structured whole is currently enjoying a renaissance in the works of philosophers such as Kit Fine, Jonathan Schaffer, and many others. But far from being a new picture, it has been widely endorsed throughout the... (shrink)
The viability of metaphysics as a field of knowledge has been challenged time and again. But in spite of the continuing tendency to dismiss metaphysics, there has been considerable progress in this field in the 20th- and 21st- centuries. One of the newest − though, in a sense, also oldest − frontiers of metaphysics is the grounding project. In this paper I raise a methodological challenge to the new grounding project and propose a constructive solution. Both the challenge and its (...) solution apply to metaphysics in general, but grounding theory puts the challenge in an especially sharp focus. The solution consists of a new methodology, holistic grounding or holistic metaphysics. This methodology is modeled after a recent epistemic methodology, foundational holism, that enables us to pursue the foundational project of epistemology without being hampered by the problems associated with foundationalism. (shrink)
Fifteen leading philosophers explore metaphysical foundationalism, the idea that reality has an over-arching hierarchical structure ordered by relations of metaphysical dependence, where chains of entities ordered by those dependence relations terminate in something fundamental.
When an entity ontologically depends on another entity, the former ‘presupposes’ or ‘requires’ the latter in some metaphysical sense. This paper defends a novel view, Dependence Deflationism, according to which ontological dependence is what I call an aggregative cluster concept: a concept which can be understood, but not fully analysed, as a ‘weighted total’ of constructive and modal relations. The view has several benefits: it accounts for clear cases of ontological dependence as well as the source of disagreement in controversial (...) ones; it gives a nice story about the evidential relevance of modal, mereological and set-theoretic facts to ontological dependence; and it makes sense of debates over the relation's formal properties. One important upshot of the deflationary account is that questions of ontological dependence are generally less deep and less interesting than usually thought. (shrink)
Explanatory realism is the position that all explanations give information about whatever metaphysically determines the explanandum. This view is popular and plays a central role in metaphysics, but in this paper I argue that explanatory realism is false. In Sect. 1 I introduce explanatory realism in its weak and strong versions, and discuss the argumentative work that explanatory realism is used for in contemporary metaphysics. In Sect. 2 I present a series of problem cases for explanatory realism, including explanation by (...) analogy, explanations involving rules, reduction ad absurdum explanations and certain statistical explanations. In Sect. 3 I consider and reject two modified versions of explanatory realism: the position that explanatory realism is true only of explanation in metaphysics, and the position that determinative explanation is the most complete form of explanation. In conclusion I consider explanatory antirealism and explanatory pluralism as alternatives to explanatory realism. (shrink)
Kit Fine, the leading proponent of the metaphysical project of grounding theory, has offered a number of potentially devastating objections to truthmaker theory, the branch of metaphysics dedicated to exploring the ontological grounds for truths. In this paper I show what presuppositions about truthmaker theory Fine’s objections are based upon, and why they are false. I discuss four objections that Fine raises, and demonstrate how truthmaker theorists may respond to them. I then showcase the positive contribution that truthmaker theory can (...) make to metaphysics, including its ability to speak to a core metaphysical topic (the ontological grounds for truths) that Fine’s approach to grounding must ultimately remain silent on. I conclude by exploring what I take to be the best option when it comes to understanding how truthmaking and grounding fit together. (shrink)
Before the limits of the standard Quinean meta-ontology that persists in contemporary analytical metaphysics, an alternative has recently emerged, proposing metaphysical grounding. Under the inspiration of neo-Aristotelians, it seeks to overcome the Quinean constraints by reflecting on the relation of ontological dependence. However, the theorists of metaphysical grounding are currently at a stalemate among themselves: a current debate between grounding monists and grounding pluralists divides and dominates the community. The authors of this essay present the circumstances that has led to (...) this state of affairs in order to illustrate the problematic nature of the positions in contention and to demonstrate that an elegant way out of this impasse involves Thomistic metaphysics, i.e., by conjugating the unifying principle of esse and the limiting principle of essentia. Conceived in terms of participation and analogy, it can, on the one hand, assert the advantages of the positions in conflict, namely, the principle of unity and the principle of diversity, and, on the other hand, avoid their respective weaknesses, namely, the problem of differences and the problem of disunity. (shrink)
Der Artikel diskutiert Bolzanos Theorie der Abfolge (grounding). Im Mittelpunkt steht eine kritische Untersuchung der These Bolzanos, dass sich eine Vielzahl von Grund-Folge-Beziehungen auf die Beziehung der Abfolge zurückführen lassen.
This essay focuses on a recently prominent notion of ground which is distinctive for how it links metaphysics to explanation. Ground is supposed to serve both as the common factor in diverse in virtue of questions as well as the structuring relation in the project of explaining how some phenomena are “built” from more fundamental phenomena. My aim is to provide an opinionated synopsis of this notion of ground without engaging with others. Ground, so understood, generally resists illumination by appeal (...) to more familiar models of explanation. Nevertheless, its distinctive explanatory and metaphysical aspects guide us on characterizing its explanatory logic and its metaphysical features. Some issues concerning the meta-question of what grounds ground are explored, as well as some recent skeptical challenges to ground. (shrink)
The dissertation provides a reconstruction of Bernard Bolzano's theory of grounding (both in early and late works) against the background of a classical conception of science and scientific explanation.
This Paper is an Exploration of Bolzano’s views on causation, which have not been thoroughly examined yet. The paper reconstructs Bolzano’s position, with a focus on his analysis of the concept of causation, on its ontological presuppositions, and on how he relates causation to his theory of grounding.1 A comparison with standard positions from the contemporary debate on causation will prove his views to be quite original. Moreover, they are a valuable addition to the more recent debate on metaphysical grounding,2 (...) in which grounding is sometimes informally described as something like metaphysical causation with the exact connection of the two notions seldom being elaborated. Bolzano’s theory explicitly addresses .. (shrink)
This thesis explores attempts to characterise the structure of reality. Three notions stand out: Lewisian naturalness, Sider’s ‘structure’, and grounding, where the latter has become the most popular way to characterise the structure of reality in the contemporary literature. I argue that none of these notions, as they are currently understood, are suited for limning the metaphysical structure of reality. In the first part of the thesis I argue that, by the lights of the relevant theories, both naturalness and structure (...) fall short of the theoretical role carved out for those posits. In the second part of the thesis I present two challenges to the ‘orthodox’ conception of grounding. The first contests the standard assumption that grounding is asymmetric, both by citing what I take to be best described as symmetric instances of grounding, and by developing and arguing for a new theory of metaphysical structure – ‘metaphysical interdependence’ – which takes grounding to be nonsymmetric. The second challenge concerns the relationship between grounding and explanation, and leads to a dilemma for the grounding theorist. My proposed resolution to the dilemma is to adopt an antirealist approach to grounding, which I further motivate and develop in the final chapter. (shrink)