The present paper discusses different approaches to metaphysics and defends a specific, non-deflationary approach that nevertheless qualifies as scientifically-grounded and, consequently, as acceptable from the naturalistic viewpoint. By critically assessing some recent work on science and metaphysics, we argue that such a sophisticated form of naturalism, which preserves the autonomy of metaphysics as an a priori enterprise yet pays due attention to the indications coming from our best science, is not only workable but recommended.
In recent work, the interrelated questions of whether there is a fundamental level to reality, whether ontological dependence must have an ultimate ground, and whether the monist thesis should be endorsed that the whole universe is ontologically prior to its parts have been explored with renewed interest. Jonathan Schaffer has provided arguments in favour of 'priority monism' in a series of articles (2003, 2004, 2007a, 2007b, forthcoming). In this paper, these arguments are analysed, and it is claimed that they are (...) not compelling: in particular, the possibility that there is no ultimate level of basic entities that compose everything else is on a par with the possibility of infinite 'upward' complexity. The idea that we must, at any rate, postulate an ontologically fundamental level for methodological reasons ( Cameron 2008 ) is also discussed and found unconvincing: all things considered, there may be good reasons for endorsing 'metaphysical infinitism'. In any event, a higher degree of caution in formulating metaphysical claims than found in the extant literature appears advisable. (shrink)
We put forward a new, ‘coherentist’ account of quantum entanglement, according to which entangled systems are characterized by symmetric relations of ontological dependence among the component particles. We compare this coherentist viewpoint with the two most popular alternatives currently on offer—structuralism and holism—and argue that it is essentially different from, and preferable to, both. In the course of this article, we point out how coherentism might be extended beyond the case of entanglement and further articulated.
This paper offers a critical assessment of the current state of the debate about the identity and individuality of material objects. Its main aim, in particular, is to show that, in a sense to be carefully specified, the opposition between the Leibnizian ‘reductionist’ tradition, based on discernibility, and the sort of ‘primitivism’ that denies that facts of identity and individuality must be analysable has become outdated. In particular, it is argued that—contrary to a widespread consensus—‘naturalised’ metaphysics supports both the acceptability (...) of non-qualitatively grounded (both ‘contextual’ and intrinsic) identity and a pluralistic approach to individuality and individuation. A case study is offered that focuses on non-relativistic quantum mechanics, in the context of which primitivism about identity and individuality, rather than being regarded as unscientific, is on the contrary suggested to be preferable to the complicated forms of reductionism that have recently been proposed. More generally, by assuming a plausible form of anti-reductionism about scientific theories and domains, it is claimed that science can be regarded as compatible with, or even as suggesting, the existence of a series of equally plausible grades of individuality. The kind of individuality that prevails in a certain context and at a given level can be ascertained only on the basis of the specific scientific theory at hand. (shrink)
In the last decade, structural realism has been presented as the most promising strategy for developing a defensible realist view of science. Nevertheless, controversy still continues in relation to the exact meaning of the proposed structuralism. The stronger version of structural realism, the so-called ontic structural realism, has been argued for on the basis of some ideas related to quantum mechanics. In this paper, I will first outline these arguments, mainly developed by Steven French and James Ladyman, then challenge them, (...) putting a particular emphasis on a metaphysical principle which, even though it is crucial for the whole argument, hasn't been, in my opinion, clearly stated and examined yet. My overall view will be that a weaker version of the form of realism we are considering is more plausible – namely, epistemic structural realism. (shrink)
This is the first part of a two-tier overview article on fundamentality in metaphysics and the philosophy of physics. It provides an introduction to the notion of fundamentality in metaphysics, as well as to several related concepts. The key issues in the contemporary debate on the topic are summarised, making systematic reference to the most relevant literature. In particular, various ways in which the fundamental entities and the fundamental structure of reality may be conceived are illustrated and discussed. A final (...) brief section looks at the methodological issue of naturalism, paving the way for the survey of fundamentality in the philosophy of physics, which is carried out in the second part. (shrink)
Science and philosophy both express, and attempt to quench, the distinctively human thirst for knowledge. Today, their mutual relationship has become one of conflict or indifference rather than cooperation. At the same time, scientists and philosophers alike have moved away from at least some of our ordinary beliefs. But what can scientific and philosophical theories tell us about the world, in isolation from each other? And to what extent does a sophisticated investigation into the nature of things force us to (...) question commonsense beliefs? This book defends a form of naturalism which preserves the autonomy of metaphysics – the part of philosophy that aims to uncover the fundamental features of reality - while also keeping science centre stage. The proposed methodological perspective allows one to seek the right equilibrium between science, metaphysics and common sense. This is illustrated via three case studies, which provide a clear discussion of key philosophical issues. (shrink)
This article offers a limited defense of metaphysical “infinitism,” the view that there are, or might be, infinite chains of ontological dependence. According to a widespread presupposition, there must be an ultimate ground of being—most likely, a plurality of fundamental atoms. Contrary to this view, this article shows that metaphysical infinitism is internally coherent. In particular, a parallel with the debate concerning infinitism about epistemic justification is suggested, and an “emergence model” of being is put forward. According to the emergence (...) model, the being of any given entity gradually arises out of an infinite series of progressively less dependent entities—it is not wholly transmitted, as it were, from a basic, ungrounded level to all the dependent ones in a step-by-step fashion. Some objections are considered and rebutted. (shrink)
This paper is about metaphysical ‘infinitism’, the view that there are, or could be, infinite chains of ontological dependence. Its main aim is to show that, contrary to widespread opinion, metaphysical infinitism is a coherent position. On the basis of this, it is then additionally argued that metaphysical infinitism need not fare worse than the more canonical ‘foundationalist’ alternatives when it comes to formulating metaphysical explanations. In the course of the discussion, a rather unexplored parallel with the debate concerning infinitism (...) about justification is suggested. (shrink)
The present paper argues that the typical structuralist claims according to which invariances, symmetries and the like are fundamental – especially in physics – should not be understood in terms of physical relations being fundamental. Rather, they should be understood in terms of ‘metaphysical coherentism’ - the idea that object-like parts of reality exhibit symmetric relations of ontological dependence. The view is developed in some detail, in particular by showing that i) symmetric ontological dependence does not necessarily lead to uninformative (...) metaphysical explanations, and ii) metaphysical coherentism strikes the best balance between the requirements of naturalism and those of theoretical consistency – especially in view of the difficulties that structuralists seem to have in accounting for all state-independent properties of particles in relational terms. On this basis, the coherentist picture is applied to the interpretation of the quantum domain, and contrasted with extant varieties of structuralism, of both the eliminative and the non-eliminative sort, and holism. (shrink)
This paper puts forward the hypothesis that the distinctive features of quantum statistics are exclusively determined by the nature of the properties it describes. In particular, all statistically relevant properties of identical quantum particles in many-particle systems are conjectured to be irreducible, ‘inherent’ properties only belonging to the whole system. This allows one to explain quantum statistics without endorsing the ‘Received View’ that particles are non-individuals, or postulating that quantum systems obey peculiar probability distributions, or assuming that there are primitive (...) restrictions on the range of states accessible to such systems. With this, the need for an unambiguously metaphysical explanation of certain physical facts is acknowledged and satisfied. (shrink)
In this paper, we focus on two related reductive theses in metaphysics—Humean Supervenience and Composition as Identity—and on their status in light of the indications coming from science, in particular quantum mechanics. While defenders of these reductive theses claim that they can be updated so as to resist the quantum evidence, we provide arguments against this contention. We claim that physics gives us reason for thinking that both Humean Supervenience and Composition as Identity are at least contingently false, as the (...) very process of composition determines, at least in some cases, the nature of composed systems. The argument has essentially to do with the fact that denying the reductive theses in question allows one to provide better explanations for the quantum evidence. (shrink)
An argument to the effect that, under a few reasonable assumptions, the bare particular ontology is best understood in terms of supersubstativalism: objects are identical to regions of space(-time) and properties directly inhere in space(-time) points or region as their bearers.
In this paper, we evaluate some proposals that can be advanced to clarify the ontological consequences of Relational Quantum Mechanics. We first focus on priority monism and ontic structural realism and argue that these views are not suitable for providing an ontological interpretation of the theory. Then, we discuss an alternative interpretation that we regard as more promising, based on so-called ‘metaphysical coherentism’, which we also connect to the idea of an event-based, or ‘flash’, ontology.
Teller argued that violations of Bell’s inequalities are to be explained by interpreting quantum entangled systems according to ‘relational holism’, that is, by postulating that they exhibit irreducible (‘inherent’) relations. Teller also suggested a possible application of this idea to quantum statistics. However, the basic proposal was not explained in detail nor has the additional idea about statistics been articulated in further work. In this article, I reconsider relational holism, amending it and spelling it out as appears necessary for a (...) proper assessment, and application, of the position. †To contact the author, please write to: FB Philosophie‐Zukunftskolleg, University of Konstanz, Universitätstraße 10, 78464, Konstanz, Germany; e‐mail: [email protected] ‐konstanz.de. (shrink)
This paper provides a defence of the account of partial resemblances between properties according to which such resemblances are due to partial identities of constituent properties. It is argued, first of all, that the account is not only required by realists about universals à la Armstrong, but also useful (of course, in an appropriately re-formulated form) for those who prefer a nominalistic ontology for material objects. For this reason, the paper only briefly considers the problem of how to conceive of (...) the structural universals first posited by Armstrong in order to explain partial resemblances, and focuses instead on criticisms that have been levelled against the theory (by Pautz, Eddon, Denkel and Gibb) and that apply regardless of one’s preferred ontological framework. The partial identity account is defended from these objections and, in doing so, a hitherto quite neglected connection—between the debate about partial similarity as partial identity and that concerning ontological finitism versus infinitism—is looked at in some detail. (shrink)
Structural realism first emerged as an epistemological thesis aimed to avoid the socalled pessimistic metainduction on the history of science. Some authors, however, have suggested that the preservation of structure across theory change is best explained by endorsing the metaphysical thesis that structure is all there is. Although the possibility of this latter, ‘ontic’ form of structural realism has been extensively debated, not much has been said concerning its justification. In this article, I distinguish between two arguments in favor of (...) ontic structural realism that can be reconstructed from the literature and find both of them wanting. (shrink)
In this paper, it is argued that Aristotelian hylomorphism can supply a useful and informative account of composite entities as these are described by physical theory. In particular, a hylomorphic account of quantum entangled systems is defined in detail, and compared to other alternatives currently on offer—in particular, ontic structural realism. In closing, it is suggested that the view of entanglement outlined here meshes well with a recently proposed ‘coherentist’ conception.
A critical discussion of Shoemaker's argument for the possibility of time without change, intended as an argument against relationist conceptions of time. A relational view of time is proposed based on the primitive identity of events (or whatever entities are the basic subjects of change and lack thereof).
In a recent paper, Sun Demirli (2010) proposes an allegedly new way of conceiving of individuation in the context of the bundle theory of object constitution. He suggests that allowing for distance relations to individuate objects solves the problems with worlds containing indiscernible objects that would otherwise affect the theory. The aim of the present paper is i) To show that Demirli’s proposal falls short of achieving this goal and ii) To carry out a more general critical assessment of the (...) issue by appraising the costs and benefits of Demirli’s view as well as of existing alternatives. (shrink)
Abstract In this article, a critical assessment is carried out of the two available forms of nominalism with respect to the ontological constitution of material objects: resemblance nominalism and trope theory. It is argued that these two nominalistic ontologies naturally converge towards each other when the problems they have to face are identified and plausible solutions to these problems are sought. This suggests a synthesis between the two perspectives along lines first proposed by Sellars, whereby, at least at the level (...) of the simplest, truly fundamental constituents of reality, every particular is literally both an object and a particularized property (or, alternatively put, the distinction between objects and properties dissolves). Some potential problems and open issues for such an approach to nominalism in ontology are identified and discussed, with particular emphasis on the sort of fundamentalism that seems to crucially underlie the proposed ontology. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-14 DOI 10.1007/s12136-011-0145-x Authors Matteo Morganti, Department of Philosophy, University of Rome ‘RomaTRE’, Via Ostiense, 234, 00144 Rome, Italy Journal Acta Analytica Online ISSN 1874-6349 Print ISSN 0353-5150. (shrink)
This paper defends a relational view of time based on recent work on quantum gravity. Julian barbour's relational approach to physical theory, in particular, is developed as a basis for a relational, rather than anti-realist, metaphysics of time.
Saunders' recent arguments in favour of the weak discernibility of (certain) quantum particles seem to be grounded in the 'generalist' view that science only provides general descriptions of the worlIn this paper, I introduce the ‘generalist’ perspective and consider its possible justification and philosophical basis; and then look at the notion of weak discernibility. I expand on the criticisms formulated by Hawley (2006) and Dieks and Veerstegh (2008) and explain what I take to be the basic problem: that the properties (...) invoked by Saunders cannot be pointed to as ‘individuators’ of otherwise indiscernible (and thus numerically identical) entities because their ontological status remains underdetermined by the evidence and the established interpretation of the theory. In addition to to this, I suggest that Saunders does not deal adequately with bosons, and cannot do so exactly because he subscribes to PII and the generalist picture. The last part of the paper contains a critical examination of the claim (or at least implicit assumption) that the generalist picture should be regarded as obviously compelling by the modern-day empiricist. (shrink)
This paper examines a recent proposal for reviving so-called resemblance nominalism. It is argued that, although consistent, it naturally leads to trope theory upon examination for reasons having to do with the appeal of neutrality as regards certain non-trivial ontological theses.
In this paper, we evaluate some proposals that have been put forward to clarify the ontological consequences of relational quantum mechanics. We first focus on priority monism and ontic structural realism and argue that these views are not suitable for providing an ontological interpretation of the theory. Then, we discuss an alternative interpretation that we regard as more promising, based on so-called ‘metaphysical coherentism’, which we also connect to the idea of an event-based, or ‘flash’, ontology.
In a recent paper, Jiri Benovsky argues that the bundle theory and the substratum theory, traditionally regarded as ‘deadly enemies’ in the metaphysics literature, are in fact ‘twin brothers’. That is, they turn out to be ‘equivalent for all theoretical purposes’ upon analysis. The only exception, according to Benovsky, is a particular version of the bundle theory whose distinguishing features render unappealing. In the present reply article, I critically analyse these undoubtedly relevant claims, and reject them.
This paper discusses the issue of the identity and individuality (or lack thereof) of quantum mechanical particles. It first reconstructs, on the basis of the extant literature, a general argument in favour of the conclusion that such particles are not individual objects. Then, it critically assesses each one of the argument’s premises. The upshot is that, in fact, there is no compelling reason for believing that quantum particles are not individual objects.
The present paper identifies a challenge for a certain view of practical reasons, according to which practical reasons (both normative and motivating) are states of affairs. The problem is that those who endorse such a view seem forced to maintain both a) that the contents of beliefs are states of affairs and b) that the conception according to which the contents of beliefs are states of affairs is outlandish. The suggestion is put forward that, by distinguishing the content of a (...) belief (as a proposition) from its object (as a state of affairs), the conflict between a) and b) can be neutralised. The resulting proposal is of interest for all those sharing the view that practical reasons must be states of affairs, i.e., things capable of being the case. (shrink)
This is the second part of an overview article on fundamentality in metaphysics and the philosophy of physics. Here, the notion of fundamentality is looked at from the viewpoint of the philosophical analysis of physics and physical theories. The questions are considered (1) whether physics can be regarded as fundamental with respect to other sciences, and in what sense; (2) what the label ‘fundamental physics’ should exactly be taken to mean; (3) on what grounds a particular physical theory should be (...) considered fundamental; (4) what should be regarded as fundamental according to particular theories of physics; and (5) what indications come from contemporary physics concerning the fundamental structure of reality. (shrink)
The recent ‘new realist’ wave in philosophy reacts to the postmodernist/deconstructivist rejection of the notions of truth and objectivity by affirming the priority of the real over the subjective and socially constructed. Crucial in this dynamics is, among other things, the refusal of the anti-scientific stance integral to the non-realist view. In light of this, it is advisable to look at the new realism vs. antirealism debate from the perspective of the seemingly more local dispute concerning scientific realism vs. antirealism. (...) Indeed, doing this enables one to exploit elements that are peculiar to the discussion concerning the epistemic content of scientific theories with a view to properly evaluating, and even clarifying and further articulating, the ‘new realist’ stance itself. (shrink)
This chapter has a twofold aim. First, to look at the debate about identity and individuality in nonrelativistic quantum mechanics and offer a limited defense of the view according to which identity facts are primitive in that domain. Second, to contribute to the clarification of the relationship between science and metaphysics, in particular with respect to what a proper “naturalistic” methodology should and should not be taken to entail as far as the theme of individuality is concerned. The guiding idea (...) is that taking identity and individuality facts as basic is not necessarily in conflict with naturalism. The overall picture that emerges, however, is that of a “pluralistic” approach, whereby different scientific domains and theories are likely to allow, and in fact to ask for, different forms of individuality. (shrink)
Although there have been several attempts to resist this conclusion, it is commonly held that the peculiar statistical behaviour of quantum particles is due to their non-individuality. In this paper, a new suggestion is put forward: quantum particles are individuals, and the distinctive features of quantum statistics are determined by the fact that all the state-dependent properties described by quantum statistics are emergent relations.
This paper deals with the identity and individuality of material objects. In particular, the view that identity is derivative on the qualities of things, based on the endorsement of the Principle of the Identity of the Indiscernibles, is studied in detail. This provides what seems to be a much-needed unitary look at, and up-to-date critical analysis of, the vast literature on the Identity of the Indiscernibles. It is concluded that the ‘reductionist’ view, dating back to Quine and, earlier, to Leibniz, (...) possesses no compelling justification, neither from the conceptual, a priori point of view, nor from the methodological perspective, nor as far as empiricalevidence (as the latter is described by our best current science) is concerned. That is to say, the Principle has not been (perhaps, cannot be) shown to be either a necessary or a contingent truth. Therefore, it can be argued that the whole reductionist view of the individuality of material entities can be dispensed with in favour of an interpretation of reality in terms of objects provided with primitive identity. A suggestion in this latter sense that preserves the appeal of a property-based ontology is very briefly made. (shrink)
An argument to the effect that non-relativistic quantum particles can be understood as individual objects in spite of the empirical evidence seemingly lending support to the opposite conclusion. Ways to understand quantum indistinguishability and quantum statistics in terms of individuals are indicated.
This essay aims to discuss a potential conflict between two intuitions about material objects: a 'pluralist' one, according to which every object belongs to more than one kind, and a 'reductionist' one, according to which there is only one fundamental type of things, i.e., material things. The former view threatens to translate a merely subjective matter of fact into an ontological fact, while the latter naturally leads to an outdated form of physicalism. What then? How to satisfy both the request (...) for a precise ontology and the need to make sense of the richness of our experience of things? The paper reconstructs the general structure of the issue, and explores two ways of solving it via the formulation of an intermediate view. (shrink)