Colloquium: Oct. 25th 2019

Speaker: Troy Cross (Reed College) & Brian Haas (University of Southern California)

Title: Two Concepts of Ground

Friday, October 25th at 2:30 in CLE A303



Metaphysical grounding is often thought to be connected to a species of non-causal explanation—called ‘metaphysical,’ ‘constitutive,’ or ‘grounding’ explanation. Due to the structural features of this species of non-causal explanation—namely, that it is irreflexive, transitive, and asymmetric—ground is standardly taken to form a strict partial order, which can then serve as the basis for discerning an order of relative fundamentality. But Kit Fine, Stephan Kramer, and others have shown how certain intuitive principles about grounding, e.g., that existential generalizations are grounded in their instances, and Aristotle's Principle about the groundedness of truth, lead to reflexive instances of ground. We argue that there is an intuitive distinction between grounding explanations of why a fact obtains, as opposed to not obtaining, and explanations of how a fact obtains, or the manner in which it obtains. Only the former, we argue, is irreflexive. By attending to the distinctness of these two kinds of explanations, marking their unique structural features, and mapping their relations to one another, certain “puzzles of ground” can be resolved.