Anchoring versus Grounding: Reply to Schaffer

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (3):768-781 (2019)
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In his insightful and challenging paper, Jonathan Schaffer argues against a distinction I make in The Ant Trap (Epstein 2015) and related articles. I argue that in addition to the widely discussed “grounding” relation, there is a different kind of metaphysical determination I name “anchoring.” Grounding and anchoring are distinct, and both need to be a part of full explanations of how facts are metaphysically determined. Schaffer argues instead that anchoring is a species of grounding. The crux of his argument comes in the last sections of his paper, in his discussion of “exportation,” the relations strategy, and the definitions strategy. I am inclined to agree that Schaffer’s interesting strategies offer the best choices for the philosopher who wants to insist that anchoring is a species of grounding. But both, I will argue, are fatally flawed. I do not take the separation of anchors from grounds lightly, but find the evidence in its favor overwhelming. And once the distinction is made, I find anchoring to be a powerful practical tool in metaphysics. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Volume 99, Issue 3, Page 768-781, November 2019.

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Brian Epstein
Tufts University


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