Grounding and the argument from explanatoriness

Research paper by David Mark Kovacs

Indexed on: 17 Nov '16Published on: 17 Nov '16Published in: Philosophical Studies


In recent years, metaphysics has undergone what some describe as a revolution: it has become standard to understand a vast array of questions as questions about grounding, a metaphysical notion of determination. Why should we believe in grounding, though? Supporters of the revolution often gesture at what I call the Argument from Explanatoriness: the notion of grounding is somehow indispensable to a metaphysical type of explanation. I challenge this argument and along the way develop a “reactionary” view, according to which there is no interesting sense in which the notion of grounding is explanatorily indispensable. I begin with a distinction between two conceptions of grounding, a distinction which extant critiques of the revolution have usually failed to take into consideration: grounding qua that which underlies metaphysical explanation and grounding qua metaphysical explanation itself. Accordingly, I distinguish between two versions of the Argument from Explanatoriness: the Unexplained Explanations Version for the first conception of grounding, and the Expressive Power Version for the second. The paper’s conclusion is that no version of the Argument from Explanatoriness is successful.