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A Mechanistic Conception of Metaphysical Grounding (Tommy Kivatinos)

The Logic and Metaphysics Workshop will meet on April 29th from 4:15-6:15 in room 7314 of the CUNY Graduate Center for a talk by Tommy Kivatinos (CUNY).

Title: A Mechanistic Conception of Metaphysical Grounding

Abstract: A dominant theoretical framework in philosophy of science employs the notion of mechanistic dependence to elucidate how higher-level, less fundamental phenomena depend upon and arise out of lower-level, more fundamental phenomena. To elucidate the same thing, literature in metaphysics employs the notion of grounding. As I argue, regardless of whether the notion of mechanistic dependence or the notion of grounding is used to theoretically portray how higher-level phenomena arise out of lower-level phenomena, what is captured by such portrayals is the same. Thus, these notions pick out the same features of the world. With this as my basis, I identify the notion of grounding with the notion of mechanistic dependence, and thus, construct a mechanistic conception of grounding. Since mechanistic dependence is understood in terms of mechanisms, my conception frames grounding in terms of mechanisms. Moreover, the contemporary notion of mechanisms is shaped by how mechanisms are represented via the mechanistic models and mechanistic explanations provided by science. Thus, because my conception grounding identifies grounding with mechanistic dependence and thereby frames grounding in terms of mechanisms, this conception suggests that the notion of grounding is to be tailored to and constrained by the mechanistic models and mechanistic explanations provided by science. This leads the mechanistic conception of grounding to reject a wide variety of conventional claims about grounding, and thus, to offer a treatment of grounding that is highly revisionary. To reinforce the plausibility of the mechanistic conception of grounding, I discuss how grounding and mechanistic dependence are associated with explanation. Whereas mechanistic dependence is associated with mechanistic explanation, grounding is associated with grounding explanation. For each kind of explanation, some higher-level phenomenon P is explained by appeal to some low-level phenomenon that Parises out of. As I argue, these forms of explanation can be plausibly identified. This greatly supports the mechanistic conception of grounding. For if grounding explanations employ the notion of grounding and mechanistic explanations employ the notion of mechanistic explanation, and these forms of explanation can be identified, this suggests that these explanations employ the same notion. And, just as the notions of grounding and mechanistic dependence capture the same connection between higher-level and lower-level phenomena, grounding explanation and mechanistic explanation do so as well. Finally, to argue that the mechanistic conception is to be preferred to standard conceptions, I argue that my conception offers a powerful defense of grounding from recent criticisms.

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