Metaphysical and Conceptual Grounding

Erkenntnis 85 (6):1501-1525 (2020)
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Recently, many philosophers have claimed that the world has an ordered, hierarchical structure, where entities at lower ontological levels are said to metaphysically ground entities at higher ontological levels. Other philosophers have recently claimed that our language has an ordered, hierarchical structure. Semantically primitive sentences are said to conceptually ground less primitive sentences. It’s often emphasized that metaphysical grounding is a relation between things out in the world, not a relation between our sentences. But conflating these relations is easy to do, given that both types of grounding are expressed by non-causal “in-virtue-of” claims. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the relation between metaphysical and conceptual grounding. I argue that conceptual and metaphysical grounding are exclusive: if a given in-virtue-of claim involves conceptual grounding, then it does not involve metaphysical grounding. I also develop some heuristics for deciding which type of grounding is relevant in a given case. These heuristics suggest that many proposed cases of metaphysical grounding do not actually involve metaphysical grounding at all.
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