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Questions and Answers: Metaphysical Explanation and the Structure of Reality

  • NAOMI THOMPSON (a1)

Abstract

This paper develops an account of metaphysical explanation according to which metaphysical explanations are answers to what-makes-it-the-case-that questions. On this view, metaphysical explanations are not to be considered entirely objective, but are subject to epistemic constraints imposed by the context in which a relevant question is asked. The resultant account of metaphysical explanation is developed independently of any particular views about grounding. Toward the end of the paper an application of the view is proposed that takes metaphysical explanations conceived in this way to characterize reality's structure. According to this proposal, reality's structure is partly constituted by a projection of our explanatory practices onto reality.

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Footnotes

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Thanks to Andrew Brenner, Darragh Byrne, Nicholas K. Jones, Brian McElwee, Donnchadh O'Conaill, Alexander Skiles, Alastair Wilson, Jessica Wilson, and to two helpful referees for comments on earlier drafts of this paper. Thanks too to audiences at Structure in Metaphysics at the University of Oxford in 2016, Grounding and Explanation at the University of Leeds in 2016, Metaphysical Explanation at the University of Gothenburg in 2016, GEM Colloquium, Collège de France in 2017, Metaphysical and Mathematical Explanations: Explanation, Grounding, Dependence, in Pavia, Italy, in 2017, and at a departmental seminar at Queen's University Belfast in 2017.

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References

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Journal of the American Philosophical Association
  • ISSN: 2053-4477
  • EISSN: 2053-4485
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