Saturday, March 30, 2013

MAWM 2013

On September 14-15, 2013 the University of Notre Dame will host the second Midwest Annual Workshop in Metaphysics (MAWM). We invite and encourage all interested parties to attend! 

Speakers will be Ben Caplan, Matti Eklund, Daniel Korman, Jennifer McKitrick, Gillian Russell, and Jessica Wilson.

MAWMs are targeted workshops for Midwestern faculty and graduate students working in metaphysics.  Each MAWM features 5-7 invited speakers, the majority of whom come from Midwestern institutions.  They provide a venue for sharing new research and building community among metaphysicians in the region. 

For more information and to register for the workshop, visit the website:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Fundamentality and ungroundedness

I haven't been following the grounding literature, so this may be old hat, in which case I will be grateful for references.

The following seems pretty plausible:

  1. p is fundamental if and only if p is ungrounded.
But I think (1) may be false. I will put the argument in tensed fashion, but it could also be done a bit more awkwardly in a four-dimensional setting.

Let's suppose that <I ought to respect other persons> is a fundamental moral truth. Call this truth R. But now I validly promise to respect other persons. Then R comes to be grounded in <I ought to keep my promises and I promised to respect other persons>. If (1) is true, then R continues to be true but ceases to be fundamental. That doesn't sound right. It seems to me that if R is ever a fundamental moral truth, then it is always a fundamental moral truth. After I have promised to respect other persons, R gained a ground but lost nothing of its fundamentality.

Maybe I can motivate my intuition a little more. It seems that R has a relevantly different status from the status had by S, the proposition <I ought to come to your house for dinner every night>, after I promise you to come to your house for dinner every night. Each of R and S is grounded by a proposition about promises, but intuitively the fundamentality-and-grounding statuses of R and S are different. A sign (but only a sign--we want to avoid the conditional fallacy) of the difference is that R would still be true were the proposition about promises false. Another sign of the difference is that <I ought to respect you> is overdeterminingly grounded in <I ought to respect all persons> and <I promised to respect all persons and I ought to keep my promises>, while it is false that <I ought to come for dinner tomorrow night> is overdeterminingly grounded in <I ought to come for dinner every night> and <I promised to come for dinner every night and I ought to keep my promises>. The latter is not a case of overdetermination.

The above example is controversial, and I can't think of any noncontroversial ones. But it seems plausible that we should be open to phenomena like the above. Such prima facie possibilities suggest to me that ungroundedness is a negative property, while fundamentality is something positive. Normally, fundamental truths are also ungrounded. But they don't lose their fundamentality if in some world they happen to be grounded as well.

A somewhat tempting way to keep the above intuition while maintaining the idea that fundamentality is to drop the irreflexivity of grounding and say that:

  1. p is fundamental if and only if p grounds p.
Then we could say that R is overdeterminingly grounded by a proposition about promises as well as by R itself, while S is only grounded by a proposition about promises and not by S. And in ordinary language we do sometimes use expressions like "p because p" to express some kind of fundamentality of p. I am not that happy with this solution, but can't think of another one that keeps the idea that fundamentality is defined in terms of grounding. Of course, one could take fundamentality to be fundamental.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Thought Special Issue: Time and Modality

Thought is having a special issue on the metaphysics of time and modality.  Deadline is the end of May.  Call for papers follows:
Metaphysicians of modality argue over whether ontology extends beyond the actual just as metaphysicians of time argue over whether ontology extends beyond the present; and we might also ask whether it is a stable position to hold that reality includes the non-present but not the non-actual. There are modal analogues of McTaggart's infamous argument for the unreality of time, and we can ask whether the modal and temporal arguments stand or fall together. We might wonder whether trans-world identity should be treated differently from identity across time, and whether if existence is contingent it must also be temporary, etc.

For this special issue of Thought we invite papers that make a contribution to either the metaphysics of time or of modality, or that illuminate the connections between them. Papers should correspond to the standard Thought guidelines and be no longer than 4500 words, including footnotes. Papers are to be submitted before 31st May 2013. When submitting please ensure you select article type as “The Metaphysics of Time and Modality Special Issue” to ensure your paper is reviewed via the special issue route.