In Virtue Of: Determination, Dependence, and Metaphysically Opaque Grounding

Dissertation, Uppsala University (2019)
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This dissertation investigates grounding, the relation of non-causal determination whereby one fact obtains in virtue of some other fact or facts. Although considerations of grounding have been central throughout Western philosophy, the last 15-20 years have seen a renaissance of systematic work on grounding in analytic philosophy. The aim of the dissertation is to contribute to our understanding of the nature of grounding and its relation to other central phenomena in metaphysics. Chapter 1 of the dissertation provides a brief presentation of grounding and introduces some distinctions of relevance to later chapters. Chapter 2 discusses the question of whether grounding can be reduced. Four reductive accounts – in terms of fundamentality and supervenience, essence, reduction, and metaphysical laws respectively – are considered. All of these accounts are found to be subject to objections and are consequently rejected. Chapter 3 considers the relation between grounding and another important phenomenon in metaphysics, namely ontological dependence. The question of the relation between the two is approached through an investigation of their modal connection (or lack thereof). It is argued that on the common assumption that grounding is a factive relation, ontological dependence can be shown to be neither necessary nor sufficient for grounding. Furthermore, to get any form of modal connection between the two relations, one needs to move to a non-factive conception of grounding or consider generic ontological dependence and accept a potentially controversial principle about the modal behaviour of grounding. Even then, the modal connection between grounding and ontological dependence is weak and subject to qualifications. Chapter 4 develops and defends the novel notion of metaphysically opaque grounding. It is commonly assumed that grounding is an especially intimate and powerful connection and enables a form of explanation that is particularly strict and illuminating. An arguably related idea is that grounding is necessarily connected with the core features of things – their essences or natures. Metaphysically opaque grounding constitutes a form of grounding that falsifies both of these ideas. Chapter 4 makes the notion of metaphysically opaque grounding precise, motivates the idea that there are genuine cases of such grounding, explores its consequences for the theory of grounding, and defends the notion from potential objections, concluding that there are currently no strong reasons to rule out opaque grounding.



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Henrik Rydéhn
University Tübingen

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