What is the Grounding Problem?

Philosophical Studies 156 (2):173-197 (2011)
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A philosophical standard in the debates concerning material constitution is the case of a statue and a lump of clay, Goliath and Lumpl, respectively. According to the story, Lumpl and Goliath are coincident throughout their respective careers. Monists hold that they are identical; pluralists that they are distinct. This paper is concerned with a particular objection to pluralism, the Grounding Problem. The objection is roughly that the pluralist faces a legitimate explanatory demand to explain various differences she alleges between Lumpl and Goliath, but that the pluralist’s theory lacks the resources to give any such explanation. In this paper, I explore the question of whether there really is any problem of this sort. I argue (i) that explanatory demands that are clearly legitimate are easy for the pluralist to meet; (ii) that even in cases of explanatory demands whose legitimacy is questionable the pluralist has some overlooked resources; and (iii) there is some reason for optimism about the pluralist’s prospects for meeting every legitimate explanatory demand. In short, no clearly adequate statement of a Grounding Problem is extant, and there is some reason to believe that the pluralist can overcome any Grounding Problem that we haven’t thought of yet.



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Louis deRosset
University of Vermont

Citations of this work

Ordinary objects.Daniel Z. Korman - 2011 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
Material constitution.Ryan Wasserman - 2010 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
A grounding solution to the grounding problem.Noël B. Saenz - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (8):2193-2214.
Towards a Hylomorphic Solution to the Grounding Problem.Kathrin Koslicki - 2018 - Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplements to Philosophy 82:333-364.
Mereological Nominalism.Nikk Effingham - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 100 (1):160-185.

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On the Plurality of Worlds.David Lewis - 1986 - Wiley-Blackwell.
An Essay Concerning Human Understanding.John Locke - 1689 - London, England: Oxford University Press.
On the Plurality of Worlds.David K. Lewis - 1986 - Revue Philosophique de la France Et de l'Etranger 178 (3):388-390.
Sameness and Substance.David Wiggins - 1980 - Harvard University Press.

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