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Essence and Metaphysical Grounds

English title Essence and Metaphysical Grounds
Applicant Correia Fabrice
Number 135262
Funding scheme SNSF Professorships
Research institution Institut de philosophie Faculté des lettres Université Neuchâtel
Institution of higher education University of Neuchatel - NE
Main discipline Philosophy
Start/End 01.09.2011 - 31.08.2013
Approved amount 293'631.39
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Keywords (7)

essence; metaphysical grounding; modality; fundamentality; perspectival realism; ontological dependence; supervenience

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
The notions of essence and metaphysical grounding have belonged to the metaphysicians’ conceptual toolkit at least ever since Aristotle, and are indeed of central importance to metaphysics. Until quite recently, analytic philosophers were happy with modal accounts of these notions - roughly, with the view that essence is nothing but de re necessity, and that metaphysical grounding is necessary (or “strict”) implication. Over the past fifteen years or so, an increasing number of philosophers have become convinced that the traditional purely modal accounts of essence is inadequate, and indeed that the notion is either primitive or analysable in completely different terms - and something similar happened over the past ten years regarding the notion of metaphysical grounding. Given the importance of these notions to metaphysics, a number of studies have accordingly come out, whose aim is to clarify or analyse them outside of the modal paradigm. I have personally largely contributed to both fields of study, in particular through my current SNF professeur boursier project “The Theory of Essence”, and my book Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions. Strangely enough, the overwhelming majority of these studies concern essence or metaphysical grounding but not both. Yet, as very few philosophers have recently noticed, there appears to be deep and important connections between the concept of essence and that of metaphysical grounding. These apparent connections are at least four: (1) As it has been suggested, it seems that for some if not all statements of metaphysical ground which hold, their holding reflects the nature of certain entities. (2) As it has also been suggested, it is prima facie plausible to claim that the concept of ground is analysable in terms of the concept of essence. (3) One way of formulating essentialist claims involves the explanatory locution “in virtue of”: in order to say that a given proposition is essential to an entity, we can say that the proposition holds in virtue of the nature of that entity. It is natural in such contexts to think of the explanatory locution as expressing (the converse of) metaphysical grounding. (4) It is natural to understand the propositions which are essential to an entity as providing an explanation of the nature of that entity, i.e. of what the entity is. These explanations, if such there be, must be “metaphysical” (as opposed to e.g. causal or merely conceptual), and it is prima facie plausible to hold that they just consist in links of metaphysical grounding. I started to think of such connections between the concept of essence and that of metaphysical grounding while working on my PhD thesis, which then became my book Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions, and since the beginning of my current professeur boursier project on essence I became more and more convinced that there are such connections - in particular that either one of the two notions should be definable in terms of the other, or that both should be analysable in terms of a further notion. The primary aim of this research project is twofold: (i) to get clear about which connections hold between essence and metaphysical grounding, and to account for such connections, and (ii) to further the clarificatory work on each of the two concepts which has been carried out over the past few years, in particular by myself. The initial hope is that it is going to be possible to analyse one in terms of the other, perhaps along lines similar to what is suggested in (2) above, or to analyse the two concepts in terms of a third, more fundamental notion. I want then to study the consequences of the results obtained on some “applied” issues, i.e. of issues where the concept of essence and grounding are involved as tools used in order to achieve certain goals, e.g. to define or analyse other key metaphysical notions (like e.g. substance, dependence, supervenience), or to characterise certain debates (like e.g. the idealism / realism distinction or the debate between monists and pluralists). The project thus nicely prolongs my current professeur boursier project on the theory of essence and my past work on metaphysical grounding.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Metaphysical Grounds and Essence
Correia Fabrice (2013), Metaphysical Grounds and Essence, in M. Hoeltje B. Schnieder & A. Steinberg (ed.), Philosophia, München, 271-296.
Grounding: An Opinionated Introduction
Correia Fabrice, Schnieder Benjamin (2012), Grounding: An Opinionated Introduction, in Schnieder Benjamin, Correia Fabrice (ed.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK), 1-36.
Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality
Correia Fabrice, Schnieder Benjamin (ed.) (2012), Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge (UK).
On the Reduction of Necessity to Essence
Correia Fabrice (2012), On the Reduction of Necessity to Essence, in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, LXXXIV(3), 639-653.
Logical Grounds
Correia Fabrice, Logical Grounds, in Review of Symbolic Logic.

Collaboration

Group / person Country
Types of collaboration
Université de Hambourg Germany (Europe)
- Publication
Université de Barcelone Spain (Europe)
- Publication
Université de Barcelone Spain (Europe)
- in-depth/constructive exchanges on approaches, methods or results

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Groundedness in Semantics and Beyond Individual talk 23.08.2013 Oslo, Norway Correia Fabrice;
Kit Fine Conference Individual talk 28.07.2013 Varano Borghi, Italy Correia Fabrice;
Rencontre philosophique romande Individual talk 06.12.2012 Neuchâtel, Switzerland Correia Fabrice;
Departmental Talks, Philosophisches Seminar, Tübingen Individual talk 29.11.2012 Tübingen, Germany Correia Fabrice;
Colloquium in Mathematical Philosophy, Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy, LMU Individual talk 15.11.2012 München, Germany Correia Fabrice;
Institutskolloquium, Philosophisches Seminar, Hamburg Individual talk 31.10.2012 Hamburg, Germany Correia Fabrice;
PETAF Modality Workshop Individual talk 12.06.2012 Stockholm, Sweden Correia Fabrice;
Metaphysics, Meaning and Modality: Themes from Kit Fine Individual talk 24.05.2012 Bucarest, Romania Correia Fabrice;
Logic Tea Individual talk 13.03.2012 Amsterdam, Netherlands Correia Fabrice;
Philosophical Society Talks Individual talk 17.02.2012 Oxford, Great Britain and Northern Ireland Correia Fabrice;
The Logic and Metaphysics of Essence Individual talk 12.01.2012 Lugano, Switzerland Correia Fabrice;


Self-organised

Title Date Place
Explanation in Metaphysics 22.06.2013 Neuchâtel, Switzerland
Time and Explanation 14.09.2011 Genève, Switzerland

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
164937 Haecceitism as a Theory of Individual Essences 01.09.2016 Doc.Mobility
147685 Grounding - Metaphysics, Science, and Logic 01.12.2013 Sinergia
159472 Essences, Identities and Individuals 01.04.2015 Project funding (Div. I-III)
114758 La théorie de l'essence 01.09.2007 SNSF Professorships
150289 The Nature of Existence: Neglected Questions at the Foundations of Ontology 01.11.2013 Project funding (Div. I-III)

Abstract

The notions of essence and metaphysical grounding have belonged to the metaphysicians’ conceptual toolkit at least ever since Aristotle, and are indeed of central importance to metaphysics. Until quite recently, analytic philosophers were happy with modal accounts of these notions. Over the past fifteen years or so, an increasing number of philosophers have become convinced that the traditional purely modal accounts of essence is inadequate, and indeed that the notion is either primitive or analysable in completely different terms - and something similar happened over the past ten years regarding the notion of metaphysical grounding. Given the importance of these notions to metaphysics, a number of studies have accordingly come out, whose aim is to clarify or analyse them outside of the modal paradigm. Strangely enough, the overwhelming majority of these studies concern essence or metaphysical grounding but not both. Yet, as very few philosophers have recently noticed, there appears to be deep and important connections between the concept of essence and that of metaphysical grounding. The primary aim of this research project is twofold: (i) to get clear about which connections hold between these two concepts, and to account for such connections, and (ii) to further the clarificatory work on each of the two concepts which has been carried out over the past few years, in particular by myself. The initial hope is that it is going to be possible to analyse one in terms of the other, or to analyse the two concepts in terms of a third, more fundamental notion. I want then to study the consequences of the results obtained on some “applied” issues, i.e. of issues where the concepts of essence and metaphysical grounding are involved as tools used in order to achieve certain goals, e.g. to define or analyse other key metaphysical notions (like e.g. substance, dependence, supervenience), or to characterise certain debates (like e.g. the idealism / realism distinction or the debate between monists and pluralists).
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