SOPhiA 2018

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Are the Modal Properties of Coincidents Really Primitive? Towards a Biologically-Oriented Solution to Grounding Problem
(Metaphysics and Ontology, English)

The coincidence of distinct ordinary objects is possible. Objects are said to coincide whenever they share their matter and space at a given time, presumably, throughout the time they exist (Gibbard 1975). The coincidents are shown to differ in terms of de re modal properties, a fact which calls for explanation, known as the grounding problem. The presentation takes on the view presented by Karren Bennet (2004), according to which there is nothing in virtue of which the coincidents have their modal properties. She offers a disjunctive argument to the effect that the facts about modal properties' distribution are brute, for their distribution is accounted neither by the non-modal properties of objects nor by our intentional states. She backs up her point with what I call a plentitudinous modal property primitivism (PLP). Bennet claims that "the debate about the status of spatio-temporal coincidence should become a debate about the status of that position" (Bennet 2004: 342). I argue against (PLP), showing that it leads to contradiction in case one accepts a metabolic view of organisms and an immunological conception of organismic individuality (Pradeu 2010). The rejection of (PLP) does not force us to jettison the coincidence though, for the disjunctive argument behind primitivism can be challenged. It can be shown that assuming mereological universalism, the view of masses of matter as mereological sums and the property of life as a property rooted outside the time at which it is exemplified (Chisholm 1976: 100) the property of being alive can be used as the non-modal ground for the modal properties of organisms. Since the argument applies only to organisms, it's upshot is that it requires an ontology that: accepts organisms as individuals, is eliminativistic towards objects of inanimate kinds and accepts mereological universalism.


Bennett, K. (2004). Spatio-temporal coincidence and the grounding problem. Philosophical Studies, 118(3), 339-371.

Chisholm, R. (1976). Person and Object, London: Allen and Unwin

Gibbard, A. (1975). Contingent identity. Journal of Philosophical Logic, 4(2), 187-221.

Pradeu, T. (2010). What is an organism? An immunological answer. History and philosophy of the life sciences, 32, 247-267.

Chair: Bogdan Andrei Dumitrescu
Time: 17:40-18:10, 12 September 2018 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.006

Artur Szachniewicz 
(Jagiellonian University, Poland)

Artur Szachniewicz is a second year Phd student from the Jagiellonian University, Krakow, Poland. His interests lay in the ontology of material objects, particularly of organisms, and the possibility of panpsychistic ontology.

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