Ontological Manichaeism Now


Before he reached his mature metaphysical view of being as gradual in the Republic (Allen 1961), Plato claims that neither can negative facts explain positive facts, nor vice versa (Phaedo 103b) (this is very likely a corollary of his principle of opposites according to which if A and B are of opposite ontological categories, A cannot explain B (González-Varela and Barceló 2023). Yet, it seems obvious that we explain positive facts by appealing to negative facts and vice versa, all the time. We say things like "Pat must be sick, because she would not have missed the party otherwise", "The Plant died because we forgot to water it", "The suitcase was so large, it did not fit in the trunk", etc. So this seems like a strange and obviously wrong take on the limits of metaphysical explanation. Yet here I will defend that this counter-intuitive metaphysical thesis has been unjustly dismissed and will argue that, instead, it is a plausible metaphysical principle. My defense of this metaphysical principle can also be seen as part of a larger defense of an under-explored metaphysical hypothesis, Ontological Manichesim, according to which positive and negative facts, if both belong in our ontology, are separate realms of being with no interaction whatsoever.

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Axel Barceló
Institute Of Philosophy, Mexico


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