Andrew James Latham
University of Sydney
Kristie Miller
University of Sydney
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.
Keywords experimental philosophy  metaphysical explanation  asymmetry
Categories (categorize this paper)
Edit this record
Mark as duplicate
Export citation
Find it on Scholar
Request removal from index
Revision history

Download options

PhilArchive copy

 PhilArchive page | Other versions
External links

Setup an account with your affiliations in order to access resources via your University's proxy server
Configure custom proxy (use this if your affiliation does not provide a proxy)
Through your library

References found in this work BETA

No references found.

Add more references

Citations of this work BETA

No citations found.

Add more citations

Similar books and articles

Metaphysical Explanation by Constraint.Michael Bertrand - 2019 - Erkenntnis 84 (6):1325-1340.
Metaphysical Explanatory Asymmetries.Jan Willem Wieland & Erik Weber - 2010 - Logique and Analyse 53 (211):345-365.
Grounding and Metaphysical Explanation.Naomi Thompson - 2016 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 116 (3):395-402.
Symmetric Dependence.Elizabeth Barnes - 2018 - In Ricki Leigh Bliss & Graham Priest (eds.), Reality and Its Structure. Oxford, UK: pp. 50-69.
Metaphysical Interdependence.Naomi Thompson - 2016 - In Mark Jago (ed.), Reality Making. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 38-56.
Grounding: It’s (Probably) All in the Head.Kristie Miller & James Norton - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (12):3059-3081.
Four Questions of Iterated Grounding.David Mark Kovacs - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (2):341-364.
Essence Facts and Explanation.Chris Tillman - 2016 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 5 (3):190-195.
Explanation in Metaphysics?Johannes Persson - 2011 - Metaphysica 12 (2):165-181.


Added to PP index

Total views
104 ( #103,454 of 2,448,749 )

Recent downloads (6 months)
10 ( #64,114 of 2,448,749 )

How can I increase my downloads?


My notes