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Essentialist Explanation

Philosophical Studies 174 (11):2871-2889 (2017)

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  1. The Essence of Grounding.Justin Zylstra - 2019 - Synthese 196 (12):5137-5152.
    I develop a reduction of grounding to essence. My approach is to think about the relation between grounding and essence on the model of a certain conceptof existential dependence. I extend this concept of existential dependence in a coupleof ways and argue that these extensions provide a reduction of grounding to essenceif we use sorted variables that range over facts and take it that for a fact to obtain is forit to exist. I then use the account to resolve various (...)
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  • Collective Essence and Monotonicity.Justin Zylstra - 2019 - Erkenntnis 84 (5):1087-1101.
    This paper focuses on the concept of collective essence: that some truths are essential to many items taken together. For example, that it is essential to conjunction and negation that they are truth-functionally complete. The concept of collective essence is one of the main innovations of recent work on the theory of essence. In a sense, this innovation is natural, since we make all sorts of plural predications. It stands to reason that there should be a distinction between essential and (...)
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  • Essence with Ground.Justin Zylstra - 2018 - Analytic Philosophy 59 (2):193-207.
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  • Making Semantics for Essence.Justin Zylstra - 2019 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 62 (8):859-876.
    ABSTRACTIn this paper, I develop a truthmaker semantics for essence and use the semantics to investigate the explanatory role of essence.
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  • The Governance of Laws of Nature: Guidance and Production.Tobias Wilsch - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (3):909-933.
    Realists about laws of nature and their Humean opponents disagree on whether laws ‘govern’. An independent commitment to the ‘governing conception’ of laws pushes many towards the realist camp. Despite its significance, however, no satisfactory account of governance has been offered. The goal of this article is to develop such an account. I base my account on two claims. First, we should distinguish two notions of governance, ‘guidance’ and ‘production’, and secondly, explanatory phenomena other than laws are also candidates for (...)
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  • Sophisticated Modal Primitivism.Tobias Wilsch - 2017 - Philosophical Issues 27 (1):428-448.
    Summary: The paper provides an argument for modal primitivism, the view that necessity is not defined and is therefore part of the structure of reality. It then raises the explanation-challenge for primitivists: how can modal truths be explained by hyper-intensional truths, if necessity is not defined in terms of hyper-intensional phenomena? To address the challenge, the paper introduces 'sophisticated modal primitivism' which gives a substantive analysis of the notion of a 'source of necessity'. The final part of the paper offers (...)
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  • Arbitrary Grounding.Jonas Werner - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (3):911-931.
    The aim of this paper is to introduce, elucidate and defend the usefulness of a variant of grounding, or metaphysical explanation, that has the feature that the grounds explain of some states of affairs that one of them obtains without explaining which one obtains. I will dub this variant arbitrary grounding. After informally elucidating the basic idea in the first section, I will provide three metaphysical hypotheses that are best formulated in terms of arbitrary grounding in the second section. The (...)
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  • The Structure of Essentialist Explanations of Necessity.Michael Wallner - 2020 - Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 9 (1):4-13.
    Fine, Lowe and Hale accept the view that necessity is to be explained by essences: Necessarily p iff, and because, there is some x whose essence ensures that p. Hale, however, believes that this strategy is not universally applicable; he argues that the necessity of essentialist truths cannot itself be explained by once again appealing to essentialist truths. As a consequence, Hale holds that there are basic necessities that cannot be explained. Thus, Hale style essentialism falls short of what Wilsch (...)
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  • Essence, Explanation, and Modality.Michael Wallner & Anand Vaidya - 2020 - Philosophy 95 (4):419-445.
    Recently, Kit Fine's view that modal truths aretrue in virtue of,grounded in, orexplained byessentialist truths has been under attack. In what follows we offer two responses to the wave of criticism against his view. While the first response is pretty straightforward, the second is based on the distinction between, what we call,Reductive Finean EssentialismandNon-Reductive Finean Essentialism. Engaging the work of Bob Hale onNon-Reductive Finean Essentialism, we aim to show that the arguments against Fine's view are unconvincing, while we acknowledge the (...)
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  • Nominalist Dispositional Essentialism.Lisa Vogt - 2022 - Synthese 200 (2).
    Dispositional Essentialism, as commonly conceived, consists in the claims that at least some of the fundamental properties essentially confer certain causal-nomological roles on their bearers, and that these properties give rise to the natural modalities. As such, the view is generally taken to be committed to a realist conception of properties as either universals or tropes, and to be thus incompatible with nominalism as understood in the strict sense. Pace this common assumption of the ontological import of Dispositional Essentialism, the (...)
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  • Grounding-Mechanical Explanation.Kelly Trogdon - 2018 - Philosophical Studies 175 (6):1289-1309.
    Characterization of a form of explanation involving grounding on the model of mechanistic causal explanation.
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  • In Defence of Hybrid Contingentism.Lukas Skiba - 2022 - Philosophers' Imprint 22 (4):1-30.
    Hybrid contingentism combines first-order contingentism, the view that it is contingent what individuals there are, with higher-order necessitism, the view that it is non-contingent what properties and propositions there are (where these are conceived as entities in the range of appropriate higher-order quantifiers). This combination of views avoids the most delicate problems afflicting alternative contingentist positions while preserving the central contingentist claim that ordinary, concrete entities exist contingently. Despite these attractive features, hybrid contingentism is usually faced with rejection. The main (...)
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  • Essence and Cause: Making Something Be What It Is.Riin Sirkel - 2018 - Discipline Filosofiche 28 (1):89-112.
    Aristotle frequently describes essence as a “cause” or “explanation”, thus ascribing to essence some sort of causal or explanatory role. This explanatory role is often explicated by scholars in terms of essence “making the thing be what it is” or “making it the very thing that it is”. I argue that this is problematic, at least on the assumption that “making” expresses an explanatory relation, since it violates certain formal features of explanation. I then consider whether Aristotle is vulnerable to (...)
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  • Metaphysical explanations and the counterfactual theory of explanation.Stefan Roski - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (6):1971-1991.
    According to an increasingly popular view among philosophers of science, both causal and non-causal explanations can be accounted for by a single theory: the counterfactual theory of explanation. A kind of non-causal explanation that has gained much attention recently but that this theory seems unable to account for are grounding explanations. Reutlinger :239-256, 2017) has argued that, despite these appearances to the contrary, such explanations are covered by his version of the counterfactual theory. His idea is supported by recent work (...)
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  • Explaining essences.Michael J. Raven - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 178 (4):1043-1064.
    This paper explores the prospects of combining two views. The first view is metaphysical rationalism : all things have an explanation. The second view is metaphysical essentialism: there are real essences. The exploration is motivated by a conflict between the views. Metaphysical essentialism posits facts about essences. Metaphysical rationalism demands explanations for all facts. But facts about essences appear to resist explanation. I consider two solutions to the conflict. Exemption solutions attempt to exempt facts about essences from the demand for (...)
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  • A Puzzle for Social Essences.Michael J. Raven - 2022 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 8 (1):128-148.
    The social world contains institutions, groups, objects, and more. This essay explores a puzzle about the essences of social items. There is widespread consensus against social essences because of problematic presuppositions often made about them. But it is argued that essence can be freed from these presuppositions and their problems. Even so, a puzzle still arises. In a Platonic spirit, essences in general seem detached from the world. In an Aristotelian spirit, social essences in particular seem embedded in the world. (...)
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  • Finean Feminist Metaphysics.Asya Passinsky - 2021 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 64 (9):937-954.
    Feminist metaphysicians have recently argued that many of the most influential contemporary meta-metaphysical frameworks are at odds with feminist metaphysics. In this paper I argue that the Finean framework of grounding, essence, and reality evades the main challenges that have been raised for alternative frameworks. The upshot of my discussion is that the Finean framework is an apt one for feminist metaphysics.
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  • Essential Truths and Their Truth-Grounds.Robert Michels - 2018 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 5:790-815.
    This paper motivates and defends a principle which captures a systematic connection between essence, truth, and grounding. It says that if a proposition expresses an essential truth, i.e., if it is true in virtue of the nature of some objects, then there are grounds for its truth which involve these objects. Together with the assumption that a fact can only be grounded in facts which are relevant to it, this principle is then applied in an argument against the monotonicity of (...)
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  • The Question of Iterated Causation.David Mark Kovacs - 2022 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 104 (2):454-473.
    This paper is about what I call the Question of Iterated Causation (QIC): for any instance of causation in which c1…ck cause effect e, what are the causes of c1…ck’s causing of e? In short: what causes instances of causation or, as I will refer to these instances, the “causal goings‐on”? A natural response (which I call “dismissivism”) is that this is a bad question because causal goings‐on aren’t apt to be caused. After rebutting several versions of dismissivism, I consider (...)
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  • Four Questions of Iterated Grounding.David Mark Kovacs - 2020 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (2):341-364.
    The Question of Iterated Grounding (QIG) asks what grounds the grounding facts. Although the question received a lot of attention in the past few years, it is usually discussed independently of another important issue: the connection between metaphysical explanation and the relation or relations that supposedly “back” it. I will show that once we get clear on the distinction between metaphysical explanation and the relation(s) backing it, we can distinguish no fewer than four questions lumped under QIG. I will also (...)
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  • An Explanatory Idealist Theory of Grounding.David Mark Kovacs - 2022 - Noûs 56 (3):530-553.
    How is grounding related to metaphysical explanation? The standard view is that the former somehow “backs”, “undergirds” or “underlies” the latter. This view fits into a general picture of explanation, according to which explanations in general hold in virtue of a certain elite group of “explanatory relations” or “determinative relations” that back them. This paper turns the standard view on its head: grounding doesn't “back” metaphysical explanation but is in an important sense downstream from it. I call this view “grounding (...)
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  • The Explanation of Logical Theorems and Reductive Truthmakers.Yannic Kappes - 2021 - Philosophical Studies 178 (4):1267-1284.
    This paper first identifies several plausible desiderata on satisfactory explanations of logical theorems, shows that ordinary grounding explanations cannot satisfy them and argues that there is reason to believe that no alternative grounding explanations of logical theorems can be given. It then develops an alternative explanation of logical theorems based on Yablo’s idea of reductive truthmaking. The resulting proposal invokes instances of reductive truthmaking that bear an interesting structural similarity to the notion of zero-ground, in virtue of which it is (...)
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  • Self-Explanation and Empty-Base Explanation.Yannic Kappes - 2022 - Journal of the American Philosophical Association 8 (3):436-453.
    This paper explores a novel notion of self-explanation that combines ideas from two sources: the tripartite account of explanation, according to which a proposition can help explain another either in the capacity of a reason why the latter obtains or in the capacity of an explanatory link, and the notion of an empty-base explanation, which generalizes the ideas of explanation by zero-grounding and explanation by status. After having introduced these ideas and the novel notion of self-explanation, I argue that the (...)
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  • Explanation by Status as Empty-Base Explanation.Yannic Kappes - 2020 - Synthese 199 (1-2):2575-2595.
    This paper explores the practice of explanation by status, in which a truth with a certain status is supposed to be explained by its having that status. It first investigates whether such explanations are possible. Having found existing accounts of the practice wanting, it then argues for a novel account of explanation by status as empty-base explanation. The latter notion captures a certain limiting case of ordinary explanation so that according to the empty-base account, explanation by status can be fruitfully (...)
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  • The Difference Between Epistemic and Metaphysical Necessity.Martin Glazier - 2017 - Synthese 198 (Suppl 6):1409-1424.
    Philosophers have observed that metaphysical necessity appears to be a true or real or genuine form of necessity while epistemic necessity does not. Similarly, natural necessity appears genuine while deontic necessity does not. But what is it for a form of necessity to be genuine? I defend an account of genuine necessity in explanatory terms. The genuine forms of necessity, I argue, are those that provide what I call necessitarianexplanation. I discuss the relationship of necessitarian explanation to ground.
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  • New Powers for Dispositionalism.Giacomo Giannini - 2022 - Synthese 200 (384):1-30.
    Establishing Dispositionalism as a viable theory of modality requires the successful fulfilment of two tasks: showing that all modal truths can be derived from truths about actual powers, and offering a suitable metaphysics of powers. These two tasks are intertwined: difficulties in one can affect the chances of success in the other. In this paper, I generalise an objection to Dispositionalism by Jessica Leech and argue that the theory in its present form is ill-suited to account for de re truths (...)
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  • Fundamentality and Minimalist Grounding Laws.Joaquim Giannotti - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (9):2993-3017.
    What grounds facts of ground? Some metaphysicians invoke fundamental grounding laws to answer this question. These are general principles that link grounded facts to their grounds. The main business of this paper is to advance the debate about the metaphysics of grounding laws by exploring the prospects of a plausible yet underexplored minimalist account, one which is structurally analogous to a familiar Humean conception of natural laws. In the positive part of this paper, I articulate such a novel view and (...)
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  • Brutalist fundamentalism: radical and moderate.Joaquim Giannotti - 2022 - Synthese 200 (3):1-19.
    In contemporary metaphysics, the doctrine that the fundamental facts are those which are wholly ungrounded is the received view or something near enough. Against this radical brutalism, several metaphysicians argued in favour of the existence of fundamental facts that are moderately brute or merely partially grounded. However, the arguments for moderately brute facts rely on controversial metaphysical scenarios. This paper aims to counteract the tendency in favour of radical brutalism on scientific grounds. It does so by showing that naturalistic metaphysicians (...)
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  • A Ground-Theoretical Modal Definition of Essence.Julio De Rizzo - 2022 - Analysis 82 (1):32-41.
    I provide a case-by-case definition of essential truths based on the notions of metaphysical necessity and ontological dependence. Relying on suggestions in the literature, I adopt a definition of the latter notion in terms of the notion of ground. The resulting account is adequate in the sense that it is not subject to Kit Fine’s famous counterexamples to the purely modal account of essence. In addition, it provides us with a novel conception of truths pertaining to the essence of objects, (...)
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  • A New Argument for the Groundedness of Grounding Facts.Fabrice Correia - forthcoming - Erkenntnis:1-16.
    Many philosophers have recently been impressed by an argument to the effect that all grounding facts about “derivative entities”—e.g. the facts expressed by the true sentences ‘the fact that Beijing is a concrete entity is grounded in the fact that its parts are concrete’ and ‘the fact that there are cities is grounded in the fact that p’, where ‘p’ is a suitable sentence couched in the language of particle physics—must themselves be grounded. This argument relies on a principle, Purity, (...)
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  • A Kind Route From Grounding to Fundamentality.Fabrice Correia - 2021 - Synthese 199 (3-4):8299-8315.
    I offer an account of fundamentality for facts in terms of metaphysical grounding. The account does justice to the idea that whether a fact is absolutely fundamental, and whether a fact is more fundamental than, or as fundamental as, another fact, are a matter of where in a grounding-induced hierarchy of kinds of facts these facts appear.
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  • Explaining Why There is Something Rather Than Nothing.Andrew Brenner - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (4):1831-1847.
    It is sometimes supposed that, in principle, we cannot offer an explanation for why there is something rather than nothing. I argue that this supposition is a mistake, and stems from a needlessly myopic conception of the form explanations can legitimately take. After making this more general point, I proceed to offer a speculative suggestion regarding one sort of explanation which can in principle serve as an answer to the question “why is there something rather than nothing?” The suggestion is (...)
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  • On the necessity of essence.Gaétan Bovey - 2022 - Philosophical Studies 179 (7):2167-2185.
    In the present inquiry, I defend the claim that the thesis that essence is the source of all necessity is compromised. I argue that, on pain of circularity, essentialists cannot successfully account for the necessity of essences. In response to the difficulties I raise, I discuss potential solutions on behalf of essentialists and explain why I find none of them compelling. My conclusion on the matter is that the best essentialists can hope for is a view where the necessity of (...)
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  • We Need Non-factive Metaphysical Explanation.Michael Bertrand - 2022 - Erkenntnis 87 (3):991-1011.
    Suppose that A explains B. Do A and B need to be true? Provided that we have metaphysical explanation in mind, orthodoxy answers “yes:” metaphysical explanation is factive. This article introduces and defends a non-factive notion of metaphysical explanation. I argue that we need a non-factive notion of explanation in order to make sense of explanationist arguments where we motivate a view by claiming that it offers better explanations than its competitors. After presenting and rejecting some initially plausible rivals, I (...)
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  • The Explanatory Ambitions of Moral Principles.Selim Berker - 2019 - Noûs 53 (4):904-936.
    Moral properties are explained by other properties. And moral principles tell us about moral properties. How are these two ideas related? In particular, is the truth of a given moral principle part of what explains why a given action has a given moral property? I argue “No.” If moral principles are merely concerned with the extension of moral properties across all possible worlds, then they cannot be partial explainers of facts about the instantiation of those properties, since in general necessitation (...)
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  • Metaphysical Explanation by Constraint.Michael Bertrand - 2019 - Erkenntnis 84 (6):1325-1340.
    It is often thought that metaphysical grounding underwrites a distinctive sort of metaphysical explanation. However, it would be a mistake to think that all metaphysical explanations are underwritten by metaphysical grounding. In service of this claim, I offer a novel kind of metaphysical explanation called metaphysical explanation by constraint, examples of which have been neglected in the literature. I argue that metaphysical explanations by constraint are not well understood as grounding explanations.
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  • Two Problems for Zylstra's Truthmaker Semantics for Essence.Lisa Vogt - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    In his article ‘Making semantics for essence’ (Inquiry, 2019), Justin Zylstra proposed a truthmaker semantics for essence and used it to evaluate principles regarding the explanatory role of essence. The aim of this article is to show that Zylstra's semantics has implausible implications and thus cannot adequately capture essence.
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  • Facts.Kevin Mulligan - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
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  • Metaphysical Grounding.Ricki Bliss & Kelly Trogdon - 2021 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    General discussion of grounding, including its formal features, relations to other notions, and applications. (Originally published 2014; revised 2021).
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  • Modality.David Mark Kovacs - 2020 - In Michael J. Raven (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaphysical Grounding. New York, USA: Routledge. pp. 348-360.
    A survey of the connection between grounding and modality, in particular supervenience. The survey explores three possible connections between grounding and supervenience: (1) supervenience can be analyzed in terms of grounding, (2) grounded facts supervene on their grounds, and (3) grounding and supervenience overlap in their theoretical roles.
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  • Formal Causes for Powers Theorists.Giacomo Giannini & Stephen Mumford - 2021 - In Ludger Jansen & Petter Sandstad (eds.), Neo-Aristotelian Perspectives on Formal Causation. Routledge. pp. 87-106.
    In this paper we examine whether and how powers ontologies can back formal causation. We attempt to answer three questions: i) what is formal causation; ii) whether we need formal causation, and iii) whether formal causation need powers and whether it can be grounded in powers. We take formal causal explanations to be explanations in which something's essence features prominently in the explanans. Three kinds of essential explanations are distinguished: constitutive, consequential, and those singling out something's propria. This last kind (...)
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  • Explanation.Martin Glazier - 2020 - In Michael J. Raven (ed.), Routledge Handbook of Metaphysical Grounding. London: pp. 121-132.
    I survey the philosophical literature on grounding explanation and its connection to metaphysical ground.
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