SOPhiA 2017

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Persistence and Explanation
(Metaphysics and Ontology, English)

This paper investigates the explanatory aims and resources of theories of persistence over time. Perdurantism claims that persisting objects have temporal parts at each time of their existence, and endurantism that they are "wholly present" at each time they exist, which is taken to entail that they lack any temporal part.
Wasserman (2016) recently challenged this way of setting the debate, arguing it reduces the vies to mere ontological theses about persistence (more specifically: temporal parts) that lack any substantial explanatory power. Metaphysical theories of persistence, he contrasts, should be answers to the question: "what grounds the fact that an object persists over time?" However, he concludes, only perdurantism can properly meet this challenge, by appealing to the temporal parts it postulates as grounds. Endurantism on the other hand, fails to meet this explanatory stance, since being "wholly present" can only provide circular (thus flawed) grounding.
In this paper, I challenge Wasserman's argument. I show that to succeed, the argument must rely on a mereological, negative conception of endurantism which begs the question against the view. Indeed, pressed with this challenge, endurantists should reject (or supplement) it in favour of a locational conception (see e.g. Gilmore (2006)). An explanatory version of locational endurantism is advanced, under which some object's persisting over time is grounded in its having an exact location at different times. The view is shown to stand clear off Wasserman's circularity objection.
Although misled about the fate of endurantism, Wasserman's plea in favour of explanatory theories of persistence is shown to be beneficial. I present various ways to use the idiom of grounding in the debate, and assess their respective merits. They allow one to resists sceptical challenges (see e.g. Miller (2005); Hirsch (2002)), and make room for non-standard, hybrid theories of persistence (e.g. the brand of temporal-parts-friendly endurantism suggested in Hawthorne (2006) and Fine (2012)).

Chair: Zach Johnson
Time: 12:25-12:55, 14 September 2017 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.003

Benjamin Neeser 
(University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland)

2nd year PhD student at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland) under the supervision of Prof. F. Correia, preparing a thesis defending the stage theory of persistence in a relativistic setting, entitled "Every Thing Changes, Everything Stands Still: Dynamics and Persistence in a Relativistic Spacetime". Main area: metaphysics, bordering on philosophy of physics. Side interest: social ontology.

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