Dissertation, University of Alberta (2017)

Ataollah Hashemi
Saint Louis University
The grounding problem is related to the puzzle of numerically distinct spatiotemporally coincident objects. Suppose Lumpl –a lump of clay– and Goliath – the statue – are created and later destroyed, simultaneously. They would share all of their physical and spatiotemporal properties and relations. But, Goliath and Lumpl have different modal and sortal properties, which would suggest they are distinct entities, while at the same time entirely co-located. This issue creates a puzzle and raises the question of how two distinct objects can be entirely colocated. Thus, on the one hand, monists (opponents of coincident objects) argue that even though we have given that thing two different names, we should keep in mind that Lumpl and Goliath, for as long as they exist, are entirely similar in terms of their physical and spatiotemporal structures. On the other hand, however, the lump and the statue have different properties. So, pluralists claim that based on Leibniz‘s law, Lumpl and Goliath would be distinct coincident objects. Monists have challenged the possibility and plausibility of the occurrence of coincident objects by the grounding problem: they think that if we accept pluralism, we have to deal with the thorny problem of what grounds the alleged modal differences between Lumpl and Goliath, given that they are similar in all their physical and spatiotemporal aspects. Some monists suspect that pluralists will not be able to find plausible grounds by means of which to explain Lumpl and Goliath‘s modal (and other) differences, and therefore conclude that the grounding problem is a compelling reason to reject pluralism as an untenable approach towards the puzzle of coincident objects. In this thesis, I attempt to show that the grounding problem, contrary to the false advertisement of some monists, does not seriously threaten the possibility and plausibility of the pluralism concerning the existence of numerically distinct spatiotemporally coincident objects. Underlining the plausibility and possibility of the pluralists‘ position, I specify most parts of this thesis as an investigation into how the grounding problem can be solved in support of pluralism. Various solutions to this problem have been proposed by pluralists from different standpoints. In general, most of these significant solutions, based upon general strategies they follow, can be classified into these two categories: the solutions which appeal to the supervenience relations (supervenience-based solutions), and the solutions which take primitivist approaches (primitivist strategies). My research proposes to take up the validity of the aforementioned strategies, and I assess them in relation to the pluralists‘ ability to solve the grounding problem. I argue that both supervenience-based solutions and the some of primitivist strategies – including the modal plenitude, sortal, and identity-based primitivism – are not winning strategies to settle the grounding problem. Considering the point mentioned, I put forward a new account of the primitivist solution to the grounding problem based on the Aristotelian notion of essence which I call ‗essential primitivism‘. I argue that the primitive essences of coincident objects can properly ground the modal and sortal properties making coincident objects distinct.
Keywords The grounding problem  Coincident objects   Modal properties
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