Institut Jean Nicod

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Reality & Representation



Contact: Uriah Kriegel



Lundi 1er juin de 16h à 18h - IJN, Salle de réunion, RDC.
Michael Raven (University of Victoria),
"Fundamentality without foundations"

A commonly held view is that a central aim of metaphysics is to give a fundamental account of reality which refers only to the fundamental entities. It is at least a working hypothesis for those pursuing the aim that, first, there must be fundamental entities. But, second, it also seems possible that the world has no foundation, with each entity depending on others. These two claims are inconsistent with the widely held third claim that the fundamental just is the foundational. The puzzle is typically resolved by rejecting the first or second claim, perhaps because it is obscure how the third claim might plausibly be challenged. But I develop a new analysis of fundamentality which surprisingly reveals that an entity might be fundamental without being foundational. The possibility of fundamentality without foundations not only provides for a novel resolution to the puzzle, but has applications to some live debates: for example, it shows that Jonathan Schaffer’s modal argument for priority monism is unsound.

Jeudi 18 juin, de 16h à 18h - IJN, Salle de réunion, RDC.
Trenton Merricks (University of Virginia),
“Vagueness is not a Linguistic Phenomenon”


Past sessions

Vendredi 3 avril, 11h30 à 13h dans le cadre de colloquium
Institut Nicod, Pavillon Jardin, ENS, 29, rue d'Ulm  Salle de réunion, RDC.
Olivier Massin (Geneva),
"Colours as dependent stuffs"

Mercredi 8 avril, 14h30 à 16h00 - Salle de réunion du Département d'études cognitives, ENS, 29, rue d'Ulm.
Ghislain Guigon (Geneva),
"The disunity of science in the image of grounding"

Grounding discourse is a philosophical language game composed of sentences like these: “Mental facts are grounded in neurophysiological facts.” “It is true that snow is white because snow is white.” “Mona Lisa is beautiful because of its natural properties.” “Modal properties cannot be fundamental and, therefore, must be grounded.” “Legal facts are grounded in social facts”, etc. Grounding realism, the characteristic of which is that it takes grounding sentences at their face value, is the dominant interpretation of grounding discourse (its main proponents are people like Kit Fine, Jonathan Schaffer, Gideon Rosen, Karen Bennett, Fabrice Correia). The popularity of grounding realism in contemporary metaphysics can be partly explained by the fact that it gives rise to a middle view in the reductionist vs. anti-reductionist debate about the relationship between levels of organisation in empirical reality: the physical, the biological, the psychological, etc. But the belief that such a middle view is welcome and fruitful appears to be based on an implicit belief in some vertical metaphysical unity between levels of organisation, a belief which finds its origin in the long unity of science tradition. The grounding realist’s belief that such a vertical unity is a good thing contrasts with central claims of the disunity of science movement or the pluralist stance that is gaining popularity and acceptance among philosophers of science (among proponents of this movement we find Patrick Suppes, Ian Hacking, John Dupré, Nancy Cartwright, and many others). Proponents of the pluralist stance do not only claim that the assumption of vertical metaphysical unity is unwarranted on empirical grounds, they also claim that abandoning this dogma yields a more fruitful interdisciplinary approach to scientific debates. My aim in this talk is to compare the consequences of grounding realism and the disunity of science movement when it comes to levels of organisation in empirical reality and to criticise grounding realism on this basis. By means of a case study in the pluralist literature (the mind/body problem as discussed by C. Wade Savage) I shall also argue that the pluralist stance is compatible with a fruitful appeal to grounding discourse regarding the relationship between levels of organisation. But using grounding discourse in this fruitful way requires us to abandon the realist interpretation of it and to favour an alternative understanding of it.