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A Seminar on Metaphysics

Jeremiah Joven Joaquin September 13, 2011 De La Salle University-Manila

What is Metaphysics?
Metaphysics is about reality Its not about how we come to know reality Its not about how we talk about reality Its not about how we think about reality Its not about the beauty or goodness of reality Its just about reality I.e. it is a study of what reality is ultimately like

Tools and Data of Todays Metaphysicians

Analytical tools of logic and mathematics

Empirical findings of physics Commonsense

Synthetic a priori truths
the most general and ubiquitous features of reality the most fundamental principles that apply to everything that is real.

Metaphysical Topics
Metaphysics can be about anything from the nature of universals to the existence of holes in your shirt. But there are specific topics that metaphysicians focus on.

Here are some (in alphabetical order)

Abstract entities Causation Existence Free will Modality Persistence Persons Time

Abstract Entities
Do abstract entities really exist?
Particular tables and chairs exist. Do numbers, properties, and propositions have the same ontological status?

Rival Views about Abstracta

Yes. Abstracta exist.
Platonic Realism Aristotelian Realism
Semantic Argument and Metaphysical Argument

Russellian Realism
Knowability Argument

Anti-realism (nominalism)
No. Abstacta do not exist.
Predicate/Class/Resemblance Nominalism
Argument from Parsimony

Trope Theory
Argument from the Best Explanation

What is the nature of causation?
Given that A caused B, what does cause here mean? Is it even analyzable? What are the objects of causation? Are they facts, events, or things? Where do we get the necessity of causal relations? Is there a law which binds causes and effects together?

Rival Views about the Nature of Causation

Humean (Reductive)
There is an analysis of causation. (Motivation: Humean Supervenience)
Regularity Theory
A caused B iff (i) A preceded B and (ii) all A-type events are followed by B-type events.

Counterfactual Theory (Lewiss version)

A caused B iff had A not happened, B wouldnt have happened.

Anti-Humean (Non-reductive)
There is no analysis of causation. (Motivation: Singularism about causation)
A causes B iff B derives from A (with or without necessitating laws).
Anscombes Analysis and John Carrolls Primitivism Failure of Humean views of causation

Existence is a often-used word in metaphysics. But what is it? What is the nature of existence?

Rival Views about Existence

Property View
Existence is a property had by some, but not all, things.
A version of the Semantic Argument Meinongian Ontology (non-existent/subsitent) objects)

Quantifier View
Existence just means (x).
Argument from the Logical Structure of Existential Statements. Accounts for true negative existentials

Free will
Do we have free will? Obstacles:
Fatalism: the idea that everything has a definite end defined by fate Determinism: the thesis that, given the laws of nature, and the state of the universe at any time, it is impossible for the history of the universe (before and after that time) to be other than it is. Alternatively, it can be rendered as the thesis that every event has a cause, where causes are understood to necessitate or determine their effects. Incoherentism: (from Galen Strawson), any conception of free will is incoherent; thus, there is no such thing!

Free Will and Determinism

Problem: Is free will compatible with determinism?
Yes. (Compatibalism)
Argument from Possible Worlds Frankfurt Cases

No. (Incompatibalism)
Argument from the truth (or falsity) of determinism
Hard Determinism Libertarianism

Argument from Responsibility (for libertarians)

Metaphysics of (de re and de dicto) modality
Essentialism (de re modality)
Are there such things as necessary or contingent properties?

Necessary Truths (de dicto modality)

Modality and Possible Worlds

Modality and Possible Worlds

Developments in modal logic led to an analysis of modalities using possible world semantics. But are we ontologically committed to the existence of these possible worlds?
No. Actualism
This is the only actual world.

Possibilism (possible objects, properties, facts, and worlds do exist akin to the existence of negative facts) Lewisian Modal Realism (possible worlds do exist; in the sense that this world of ours is just one of the many possible worlds in existence)

Nature Question
What is the nature of persons? What are we?

Identity (Persistence) Question

What, if any, is it for the same person to persist over time? What is the necessary and sufficient condition for personal identity?

What Matters Question

What grounds prudential concern? Is personal identity an important relation?

Personal Identity
Is there a criterion (a necessary and sufficient condition) for personal identity?
Yes. Complex View
Motivation: There should be an analysis of personal identity
Physical Continuity Theory Brain Continuity Theory Animalism Psychological Continuity Theory

No. Simple View

Motivation: There cant be an analysis of personal identity. Argument: Determinacy of identity; phenomenology; preservation of what matters; failure of complex view theories

What is time? Is time like space? In what way are they similar/different? What is the correct philosophical account of the fundamental nature of time?

Rival Views about Time

A Theory
(Presentism and Growing Block View)
Argument from Change Argument from the Flow of Time Argument from the Direction of Time

B Theory
Argument from Analogy of Time and Space Argument from Conservation of Energy Argument from Exotica (Time Travel)

How do things persist? Do they endure or perdure? Motivation: Things persist; the question is about the nature of persistence (the how part)

Two Views
Objects persist by enduring Enduring = the identity between two (threedimensional) objects each wholly present at two different times

Objects persist by perduring Perduring = the object (a four-dimensional one) aside from having spatial parts also has temporal parts

The Issue
Do ordinary objects have temporal parts?
No (Endurantism/3D View)
Argument from commonsense Argument from the disanalogy between spatial and temporal parts

Yes (Perdurantism/4D View)

Argument from temporary intrinsics (aka argument from change) Best accounts for puzzles about material constitution

Dissecting Sider
Things to do:
Note Siders style and presentation Analysis and evaluation of the arguments

Suggested Readings
Brian Garrett. 2011. What is this thing called metaphysics? 2nd edition. Routledge.

Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne, and Dean Zimmerman, eds. 2007. Contemporary debates in metaphysics. Blackwell. Peter van Inwagen and Dean Zimmerman, eds. 2008. Metaphysics: The big questions 2nd edition. Blackwell. Micahel J. Loux, ed. 2008. Metaphysics: Contemporary readings 2nd edition. Routledge. Michael Rea. 2009. Arguing about metaphysics. Routledge.

Online Databases:
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy PhilPapers