2nd one-day workshop on Metaphysical Explanation, September 2017

Welcome to our second one-day workshop on metaphysical explanation, this time featuring presentations by Alexander Skiles (NYU), Naomi Thompson (Southampton and Gothenburg), Robin Stenwall (Lund and Gothenburg), Anna-Sofia Maurin (Gothenburg), Andrew Brenner (Notre Dame) (the newest member of our research group), and Ricki Bliss (Hamburg and Lehigh) (also a member of the project’s scientific advisory board).



Time & Place: The workshop takes place Tuesday, Sep 12, in room T340, Olof     Wijksgatan 6 (“Gamla Hovrätten”). We start at 9.

Registration: Participation is free of charge. To register send an e-mail to Anna-Sofia Maurin (anna-sofia[dot]maurin[at]gu[dot]se). Everyone who register will be sent papers and abstracts by e-mail, and will be informed of any and every schedule-changes.

If you want to join the speakers for lunch/dinner (at your own expense), you should let Anna-Sofia know when registering.


9.00-10.00   Alexander Skiles: “Is There a Euthypro Problem for Haecceitism?”

10.00-10.15  coffee break

10.15-11.15  Ricki Bliss: “Some Work for a Theory of Grounding?”

11.20-12.20  Andrew Brenner: “The Mereological Pairing Problem”

12.20-14.00  lunch

14.00-15.00  Robin Stenwall: “The Causal Irrelevance of Derivative Entities”

15.10-16.10  Naomi Thompson: “Varieties of Metaphysical Explanation”

16.10-16.30  coffee break

16.30-17.30  Anna-Sofia Maurin: “The Problem of Character”



in alphabetic order (by last name)

Ricki Bliss: Some Work for a Theory of Grounding?

Jessica Wilson has argued that there is no work for a theory of what she calls big-G Grounding – the kind of Grounding that the likes of Schaffer and Fine avail themselves of.  The reason for this, she believes, is two-fold: (i) Big-G Grounding isn’t able to do the kind of work that we think needs to be done and (ii) what she calls small-g grounding relations can (better) do all of the structuring work in its place.  In this paper, I take issue with Wilson’s positive thesis – (ii).  I argue that we can neither engage properly with certain historical accounts nor with a full and proper exploration of certain possibilities armed only with small-g relations.

Andrew Brenner: The Mereological Pairing Problem

In this paper I develop a problem for those who believe in composition, what I call the mereological pairing problem. The mereological pairing problem is inspired by Jaegwon Kim’s pairing problem for substance dualism. Kim’s pairing problem challenges the substance dualist to account for the fact that souls and bodies are paired in the manner in which they are paired, given that the manner in which causal relata are normally paired (in terms of their spatial proximity) is not open to the substance dualist. The mereological pairing problem challenges those who believe in composition to provide some explanation for the purported fact that such-and-such proper parts enter into mereological relations with such-and-such composite objects (and vice versa). I argue that those who believe in composition have no obviously satisfactory explanations available, and that the mereological pairing relations should not be left as brute. Brute mereological pairing relations do not, as in Kim’s pairing problem, run afoul of principles governing the manner in which causal relata are paired. Rather, they run afoul of the plausible principle that our theories should not be needlessly complex.

Anna-Sofia Maurin: The problem of character

Critics of so-called constitutionalist accounts of the nature of concrete objects have argued that these accounts are incurably mysterious and should therefore be rejected. This is because the constitutionalist accounts for the existence and nature of things belonging to category x, with reference to the existence and nature of entities belonging to category y (standing in some suitable relation). But how can the existence and nature of some things belonging to category y explain the existence and nature of something belonging to category x? Largely unnoticed in this debate, if the critic of constitutionalist is right and constitutionalism, to be acceptable, must be able to provide a substantial answer to this question, then the same goes for any account or explanation of the existence and nature of entities belonging to some category x in terms of entities belonging to a distinct and different category y. Which means that more or less all accounts of the nature and existence of whatever there is in this world, in terms of what grounds it, must be able to stand up to this challenge. In my presentation I want to discuss, first, exactly how serious one ought to take this challenge, and why. I also want to discuss what, given that the challenge is taken very seriously, would count as meeting the challenge.

Alexander Skiles: Is there a Euthypro problem for haecceitism?

Let haecceitism be the thesis that each individual possesses a ‘haecceity’: a non-qualitative property the instantiation of which is both necessary and sufficient to be that very individual. In a recent article, Jason Bowers and Meg Wallace argue that mundane cases of generation and destruction involving material objects give rise to a Euthyphro-style dilemma for haecceitism (“The Haecceitic Euthyphro problem”, Analysis). In this talk, I will argue that haecceitists can evade both horns of Bowers and Wallace’s dilemma by carefully distinguishing the various notions of explanation that it equivocates between.

Robin Stenwall: The Causal Irrelevance of Derivative Entities

Remember how Jaegwon Kim (1993) used to argue against non-reductive physicalism to the effect that it cannot accommodate the causal efficacy of mental properties? The argument was that if physicalists accept the causal closure of the physical (i.e. the idea that no physical effect has a cause outside the physical domain), they must renounce non-reductive physicalism. In the present paper I will argue that those who think that the world is hierarchically structured into more and less fundamental levels of being are faced with a similar exclusion worry.

Naomi Thompson: Varieties of Metaphysical Explanation

A survey of the recent literature concerning metaphysical explanation and grounding suggests that people have many different things in mind when they talk about metaphysical explanation. In this talk I’ll attempt to untangle some of the notions under discussion and make a case for thinking that metaphysical explanation has some epistemic connotations.


Please note!

* it’s a small venue which means that, the sooner you register, the better!

* you are very welcome to attend only select talks. If you do, please make sure you arrive    and leave during the breaks!