It has been suggested that many philosophical theses—physicalism, normative naturalism, phenomenalism, and so on—should be understood in terms of ground. Against this, Ted Sider (2011) has argued that ground is ill-suited for this purpose. Here I develop Sider’s objection and offer a response. In doing so I develop a view about the role of ground in philosophy, and about the content of these distinctively philosophical theses.
The Principle of Sufficient Reason states that everything has an explanation. But different notions of explanation yield different versions of this principle. Here a version is formulated in terms of the notion of a “grounding” explanation. Its consequences are then explored, with particular emphasis on the fact that it implies necessitarianism, the view that every truth is necessarily true. Finally, the principle is defended from a number of objections, including objections to necessitarianism. The result is a defense of a “rationalist” (...) metaphysics, one that constitutes an alternative to the contemporary dogmas that some aspects of the world are “metaphysically brute” and that the world could in so many ways have been different. (shrink)
This paper argues that ground is irreducibly plural: a group of facts can be grounded together, as a collective, even though no member of the group has a ground on its own. This kind of plural grounding is applied to the metaphysics of individuals and quantities, yielding a “structuralist” view in each case. Some more general implications of plural grounding are also discussed.
We naturally think of the material world as being populated by a large number of individuals . These are things, such as my laptop and the particles that compose it, that we describe as being propertied and related in various ways when we describe the material world around us. In this paper I argue that, fundamentally speaking at least, there are no such things as material individuals. I then propose and defend an individual-less view of the material world I call (...) “generalism”. (shrink)
Symmetries in physics are a guide to reality. That much is well known. But what is less well known is why symmetry is a guide to reality. What justifies inferences that draw conclusions about reality from premises about symmetries? I argue that answering this question reveals that symmetry is an epistemic notion twice over. First, these inferences must proceed via epistemic lemmas: premises about symmetries in the first instance justify epistemic lemmas about our powers of detection, and only from those (...) epistemic lemmas can we draw conclusions about reality. Second, in order to justify those epistemic lemmas, the notion of symmetry must be defined partly in epistemic terms. 1 Symmetry-to-Reality Reasoning1.1 A rough introduction to symmetry1.2 The symmetry-to-reality inference1.3 Two questions1.4 Two answers1.5 Preliminary clarifications2 Against Redundancy2.1 Redundancy2.2 Is absolute velocity redundant?2.3 Some redundancies3 Against Objectivity4 From Symmetry to Detection4.1 The epistemic approach4.2 The Occamist norm4.3 From symmetry to detection5 The Meaning of ‘Symmetry’5.1 A framework5.2 Formal definitions5.3 Ontic definitions6 Epistemic Definitions6.1 Taking observation seriously6.2 How things look6.3 Observation sentences6.4 Observational equivalence7 Symmetry as an Epistemic Notion 7.1 Observational equivalence and metaphysics7.2 The Occamist norm revisted7.3 Consequences8 Conclusion. (shrink)
Much recent metaphysics is built around notions such as naturalness, fundamentality, grounding, dependence, essence, and others besides. In this article I raise a problem for this kind of metaphysics, the “problem of missing value.” I survey a number of possible solutions to the problem and find them all wanting. This suggests a return to a kind of Goodmanian view that the world is a structureless mess onto which we project our own categorizations, not something with categories already built in.
Sometimes, ignorance is inexpressible. Lewis recognized this when he argued, in “Ramseyan Humility,” that we cannot know which property occupies which causal role. This peculiar state of ignorance arises in a number of other domains too, including ignorance about our position in space and the identities of individuals. In these cases, one does not know something, and yet one cannot give voice to one's ignorance in a certain way. But what does the ignorance in these cases consist in? This essay (...) argues that many standard models of ignorance cannot account for the phenomenon of inexpressible ignorance. It then develops an alternative model that does better, on which the ignorance consists in a failure to identify something by way of its nature or essence. (shrink)
Substantivalism is the view that space exists in addition to any material bodies situated within it. Relationalism is the opposing view that there is no such thing as space; there are just material bodies, spatially related to one another. This paper assesses this issue in the context of classical physics. It starts by describing the bucket argument for substantivalism. It then turns to anti-substantivalist arguments, including Leibniz's classic arguments and their contemporary reincarnation under the guise of ‘symmetry’. It argues that (...) these anti-substantivalist arguments are stronger than is often acknowledged. (shrink)
This article argues that extended school closures during the Covid-19 pandemic were a moral catastrophe. It focuses on closures in the United States of America and discusses their effect on the pandemic, their harmful effects on children, and other morally relevant factors. It concludes by discussing how these closures came to pass and suggests that the root cause was structural, not individual: the relevant decision-makers were working in an institutional setting that stacked the deck heavily in favor of extended closures.
_Current Controversies in Philosophy of Science_ asks twelve philosophers to debate six questions that are driving contemporary work in this area of philosophy. But each question also leads readers back to more general issues and shows how these general issues play out in contemporary debates. The result is a book that’s perfect for the advanced student, building up her knowledge of the foundations of the field while also engaging with its cutting-edge questions. Preliminary descriptions of each chapter, annotated bibliographies for (...) each controversy, study questions, and a supplemental guide to further controversies in philosophy of science help provide clearer and richer snapshots of active controversies for all readers. (shrink)