Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality.
Fabrice Correia (University of Geneva)
Benjamin Schnieder (University of Hamburg) (eds.)
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012, 311 pp.
Correia and Schnieder assert that Aristotle's distinction between four different kinds of aitiai involves the recognition of grounding in the formal and the material aitiai. In Plato's Euthyphro dialogue, Socrates inquires about the nature of piety. Socrates wants to know conditions under which any given thing is pious: he wants to be told the aspect by which, or in virtue of which, a pious thing is pious, aiming at the ground of piety. The Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) denies that there are fundamental facts (i.e. facts that are not grounded by anything else). Bolzano conceives of propositions as abstract objects which are structured compounds of concepts and potential contents of judgments and assertions (we can make out an objective order among true propositions: some truths are the objective grounds of others). It is characteristic of a genuinely philosophical inquiry that it be concerned with the grounds of things. One can approach basically every subject matter in a non-philosophical or a philosophical mood. The notion of "groundhood" cannot be analyzed in terms of other notions. The underlying logical form of grounding statements is a relational one, even if their surface form may look otherwise. A true conjunction is itself a grounded truth and it is grounded in its conjuncts.
On Fine's reading, an in-virtue claim is a statement of ontological or metaphysical ground when the conditional holds of metaphysical necessity. Statements of metaphysical ground are the strictest form of in-virtue-of claim. Realist or critical metaphysics is concerned with the question of what is real. Naive or pre-critical metaphysics is concerned with the nature of things without regard to whether they are real. Questions of ground are central to realist metaphysics. The notion of ground and the one of truth-making are bound up with the general phenomenon of what accounts for what. The relation of truth-making relates an entity in the world to something that represents how the world is. Ground is an operation (signified by an operator on sentences). The notion of ground should be expressed by means of a sentential operator, connecting the sentences that state the ground to the sentence that states what is grounded. Daly emphasizes that, if treated as a primitive, "grounding" is unintelligible, and concentrates on the skeptical case against those philosophers who take "grounding" to be primitive.
Audi says that grounded facts and ungrounded facts are equally real. The grounded is every bit as real as that which grounds it. Grounding is the relation expressed by certain uses of the phrase "in virtue of (it is a relation of determination, and closely linked to the concept of explanation). Grounding is a singular relation between facts, understood as things having properties and standing in relations. Facts are obtaining states of affairs (the worldly conception of facts). Facts will differ if they pick out an object or property via different concepts (the conceptual view of facts). Grounding relations depend on the natures of the properties involved in them. The correctness or incorrectness of an explanation is a matter of its matching up with the structure of the world. Grounding holds between facts whose constituent properties are essentially connected. What grounding relations obtain depends on what properties are instantiated. A grounding relation obtains when the relevant properties are instantiated. Only property instantiations (facts) are candidates to be grounds. A grounded fact is every bit as real as the fact that grounds it. Philosophical work on grounding helps clarify the notion of explanation.
As Schaffer puts it, causation links the world across time, whereas grounding links the world across levels. The best framework for treating causation is that of structural equation models which incorporate contrastive information. A contrastive treatment of grounding comes with strong initial motivations and provides a natural unified replacement principle of Differential Transitivity which can help generate metaphysical structure and resolve the plausible counterexamples to transitivity. Della Rocca argues that, for Leibniz, relations are not in, not states of, the things related (they are ideal). The states of a thing are due only to the nature of the thing itself. The nature of a thing is the basis for its properties and that of which certain changes are consequences. The nature of a thing serves as the explanatory ground of its states. My being wise has something to do with my nature. The properties of a thing are due to its nature alone. The relation between x and y consists in the fact that God has ideas of x and y (these ideas are linked in God's intellect). Leibniz accepts the reality of relational states or relational accidents of individual substances, and rejects the reality of relations and of relational accidents. Leibniz holds the PISP--the view that each state of a thing is a consequence of the nature of that thing alone. There are no real causal relations between distinct substances, or at least between distinct finite substances. Causal relations between distinct (finite) substances are not real. Nothing can be genuinely passive in relation to any other thing. The relation between a single substance and its states is real. Each substance, finite or not, causes its own states. Leibniz is wedded to creation and to the denial of monism. Della Rocca observes that Spinoza endorses the assimilation of statehood and dependence. God's existence is God's conceivability (i.e. God's being intelligible through itself). Passivity and multiplicity and relations do not fully exist. Although unintelligible things exist in some degree, the perspective on the world according to which there are brute facts is not the most accurate one. Individuals, insofar as they are passive, are nothing. What is real about finite objects is captured finely from the divine perspective, according to which only the active God exists.
Williams proposes some constraints and explanatory obligations on an autonomous theory of reality-requirements, and sketches a view on which truth-conditions and reality-requirements are jointly determined by metasemantics. The existential component of reality-requirements may be called "fundamental ontological commitments." One can build requirements directly into the specification of semantic theory in a way that does not affect what semantic values are assigned to expressions, and does not cast doubt on the cogency of the more standard ways of specifying the semantic values in philosophy of language and linguistics. Radical interpretation grounds the choice of the reality-requirement-specifying semantic theory. Koslicki maintains that a certain kind of asymmetric dependence holds between smiles and mouths and other candidate pairs of entities ("ontological dependence"). We should distinguish more firmly between essences and real definitions, which state these essences in the form of propositions or collections of propositions. At least some characteristically ontological explanations take the form of real definitions (i.e., propositions that are explanatory of the essential nature of a certain kind of entity. Lowe argues that some entities in any coherent system of ontology must be self-individuating (they ultimately explain the identities of all other entities in the system). Individuation in the metaphysical sense is a determination relation between entities. We should not confuse identity criteria with principles of individuation. A criterion of identity may be derived from a principle of individuation, but not necessarily vice versa. The distinction between causal relations and power-manifestation relations should be explained in terms of the difference between events and powers. On Azzouni's account, truth-makers explain the truth (or falsity) of the statements they are the truth-makers for. Liggins claims that truth-maker theory cannot be integrated into an attractive general account of non-causal dependence. Truth-making concerns the non-causal dependence of truth. Barker notices that introduction rules reveal the canonical grounds for use of a logical constant: what characterizes an inference-rule as an introduction rule are certain cognitive and epistemic asymmetries that are linked to the idea of a canonical ground. Non-causal making-claims express commitments to derivations. Truth-bearers are propositions. Ontological concerns about facts are exaggerated (we can make perfect sense of them). All truths have truth-makers. Facts make propositions true. In a non-causal making claim, a speaker expresses a commitment to a certain kind of proof construction. Logically complex truths and facts depend for their truth or their obtaining on logically simpler facts. The proofs supporting making statements can include elimination rules under certain circumstances. Analytic making of negative facts works in a structurally identical way to prevention.
Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality is an impressive achievement, contains penetrating insight, is clearly-written, and carefully-argued.
Reviewed by George Lazaroiu, PhD
Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies in
Humanities and Social Sciences, New York