What Is a Thing?

Metaphilosophy 50 (5):649-669 (2019)
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‘Thing’ in the titular question should be construed as having the utmost generality. In the relevant sense, a thing just is an entity, an existent, a being. The present task is to say what a thing of any category is. This task is, I believe, the primary one of any comprehensive and systematic metaphysics. Indeed, an answer provides the means for resolving perennial disputes concerning the integrity of the structure in reality—whether some of the relations among things are necessary merely given those relata themselves—and the intricacy of this structure—whether some things are more or less fundamental than others. After considering some reasons for thinking the generality of the titular question makes it unanswerable, I propound the methodology, original inquiry, required to answer it. The key to this methodology is adopting a singular perspective; confronting the world as merely the impetus to inquiry, one can attain an account of what a thing must be. Radical ontology is a systematic metaphysics—broadly Aristotelian, essentialist and nonhierarchical—that develops the consequences of this account. With it, it is possible to move past stalemate in metaphysics by revealing the grounds of a principled choice between seemingly incommensurable worldviews.

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M. Oreste Fiocco
University of California, Irvine


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