SOPhiA 2019

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Structure of Metaphysical Explanation: A Critique of Foundationalist Explanations Founded on Infinite Regress Arguments
(Metaphysics and Ontology, English)

Why are there the relevant entities that are needed for metaphysical explanations? A typical answer might run as follows. We have the relevant entities necessary for explanations because reality is structured according to the tenets of metaphysical foundationalism. Some entities are fundamental and the properties which these entities have back or just are metaphysical explanations.

An argument invoked in support of this claim is based on infinite regress arguments. According to this argument, if reality had no foundations then there would be no basis for the structure of reality and, consequently, there could be no metaphysical explanations because there would be nothing to explain. I will argue that the inverse claim is true. Specifically, I will claim that infinite regress arguments show only that metaphysical explanations require secure foundations and, thus, that if reality is metaphysically secure then we can construct metaphysical explanations. So, what infinite regress arguments actually show us is that the metaphysician still needs to clarify the status of those relevant entities which are needed for metaphysical explanations.

This is not a knock-down argument for metaphysical foundationalism, nor is it intended to be, but it does raise a problem which lies are the intersection of foundational metaphysics and theories of explanation. It seems that a theory of explanation requires reality to be structured in a certain way. And it seems that regardless of how we structure reality, reality already has to possess features which allow for explanation. But then the question is: how do we explain that reality has the necessary features which do the explaining given that we need those entities in order to do the explaining in the first place? If we are to make headway on metaphysical explanations and the laws of metaphysics, then this is a problem we will need to work out.

Chair: Frenzis Herbert Scheffels
Time: 15:20-15:50, 18 September 2019 (Wednesday)
Location: SR 1.003

Alexander Michael Witkamp 
(Utrecht University, Belgium)

I am a MRes student in History and Philosophy of Science at Utrecht University. I specialise in metaphysics. I have spent most of my time researching debates about foundational metaphysics and metaphysical explanation. I am particularly interested in second-order questions about metaphysics and problems which lie at the intersection of metaphilosophy and metaphysics, especially in the way they relate to debates about scientific explanation in philosophy of science.

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