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Leibniz has enjoyed a prominent place in the history of thought about possible worlds. I shall argue that on the leading interpretation of Leibniz's account of contingency - an ingenious interpretation with ample textual support - possible worlds may be invoked by Leibniz only on pain of inconsistency. Leibnizian contingency, as reconstructed in detail by Robert C. Sleigh, Jr., will be shown to preclude propositions with different truth-values in different possible worlds.
There are many versions of naturalism. In contemporary Anglophone philosophy, the dominant versions are forms of scientific naturalism. After discussing three forms of scientific naturalism – eliminative, reductive, and nonreductive naturalism – I turn to the idea of nature that scientific naturalism presupposes, and I argue that the presupposed idea of nature is inadequate: It does not include everything in nature. I shall argue that all forms of naturalism – even so-called liberal naturalism, a nonscientific version – suffer from presupposed and unargued-for closure principles that limit the scope of reality. Finally, I'll briefly discuss my own view that I call ‘near-naturalism’.
Mark Johnston takes reality to be wholly objective or impersonal, and aims to show that the inevitability of death does not obliterate goodness in such a naturalistic world. Crucial to his argument is the claim that there are no persisting selves. After critically discussing Johnston's arguments, I set out a view of persons that shares Johnston's view that there are no selves, but disagrees about the prospects of goodness in a wholly impersonal world. On my view, a wholly objective world is ontologically incomplete: Persons have irreducible first-person properties. My aim is to show that we can (and should) reject selves, but that we can (and should) retain persons and their essential first-person properties as ontologically significant.
Mainstream metaphysicians today take little ontological interest in the world as we interact with it. They interpret the variety of things in the world as variety only of concepts applied to things that are basically of the same sort—e.g., sums of particles or temporal parts of particles. I challenge this approach by formulating and defending for a contrasting line of thought. Using what I call ‘the Constitution View,’ I argue that ordinary things (like screwdrivers and walnuts) are as ontologically significant as particles. I further argue for why we need recourse to such ordinary things in our basic ontology.
The everyday world is a temporal world: the signing of the Declaration of Independence was later than the Lisbon earthquake; the Cold War is in the past; your death is in the future. There is no getting away from time.
The ontology of time is currently dominated by two theories: Presentism, according to which “only currently existing objects are real,” and Eternalism, according to which “past and future objects and times are just as real as currently existing ones.” In my opinion, neither Presentism nor Eternalism yields a satisfactory ontology of time. Presentism seems both implausible on its face and seems in conflict with the Special Theory of Relativity, and Eternalism gives us no handle on time as universally experienced in terms of an ongoing now. (There is a third theory, the Growing Block Universe, according to which the past is real but the future is not; but it also conflicts with the Special Theory of Relativity.) So, I shall by-pass these theories for now and return to them later.
This chapter aims to develop a way to understand time that is adequate both to physics and to human experience. It begins with McTaggart's framework of the A-series and the B-series – the framework that underlies both Presentism and Eternalism. I shall set out a theory (that I call “the BA theory”) that shows how the A- and B-series are related without reducing either to the other.
Human persons figure prominently in the everyday world. In this chapter, I shall add to the account of human persons given in Persons and Bodies, according to which persons are not identical to human organisms. After summarizing the Constitution View of persons, I shall consider the questions: When does a person come into existence? and When does a human organism come into existence? Then, after discussing some of the complexities of life and death, I shall show how this account of human persons satisfies a constraint that I call “quasi-naturalism.” Finally, I'll contrast the Constitution View of persons with its two main rivals: Animalism and Mind-Body Dualism.
THE CONSTITUTION VIEW OF HUMAN PERSONS
According to the Constitution View, human persons are constituted by human bodies without being identical to the bodies that constitute them. Let me begin with a clarification. Several philosophers suppose that I hold that “no actual human person is identical with any actual human being.” That is not my view. In ordinary language, the term “human being” is used ambiguously – both to name a psychological kind and to name a purely biological kind. So, I try to avoid the term. But when I use it, I am talking about human persons.
Person – like statue – is a primary kind, one of many irreducible ontological kinds.
The familiar things that we interact with daily have ontological significance in their own right: they are not really something else. Persons, microscopes, cats, and all the other inhabitants in the everyday world are of real kinds whose appearance in the world makes an ontological difference: “Person,” for example, is not just a phase-sortal like “child”; nor does it designate a property or abstract entity; nor does it refer to a logical construction of nonpersonal elements. Similarly for other familiar objects: something that is a microscope could not have existed without being a microscope. Ordinary objects are nonredundant, in that they cannot be omitted from ontology without rendering ontology deficient. An inventory of what exists is incomplete if it leaves out persons, screwdrivers, houses, cats, or the other kinds of things that we routinely interact with. (Or so I have argued for the past ten chapters.) In this chapter, I want to discuss five of the ontological issues in the background of this view of ordinary things: Ontological Significance, Time and Existence, Ontological Novelty, Ontological Levels, and Emergence.
AN ACCOUNT OF ONTOLOGICAL SIGNIFICANCE
I have said several times that ordinary things have ontological significance. How should we understand what ontological significance is? Intuitively, to say that Fs (tigers, chairs, anything) have ontological significance is to say that the addition of a (nonderivative)1 F is not just a change in something that already exists, but the coming-into-being of a new thing.
Nonphilosophers, if they think of philosophy at all, may wonder why people work in metaphysics. After all, metaphysics, as Auden once said of poetry, makes nothing happen. Yet some very intelligent people are driven to spend their lives formulating and arguing for metaphysical claims. Part of what motivates metaphysicians is the appeal of grizzly puzzles (like the paradox of the heap or the puzzle of the ship of Theseus). But the main reason to work in metaphysics, for me at least, is to understand the shared world that we all encounter and interact with.
The title of this book, The Metaphysics of Everyday Life, may bring to mind the title of Freud's lively book, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, published in 1904. Although scientifically obsolete, Freud's little volume aptly describes numerous kinds of familiar phenomena. In The Psychopathology of Everyday Life, Freud focused on ordinary mistakes that go unnoticed: forgetting proper names, mistakes in reading, mislaying things, forgetting to do things, and so on. These banal errors appear to be random but, according to Freud, are products of subconscious desires. Putting aside Freud's own explanations, we can applaud Freud's seeing significance in occurrences that are usually overlooked as haphazard and purposeless. Whereas Freud saw psychological significance in ordinary things and our interactions with them, I see ontological significance in ordinary things and our interactions with them.
Lynne Rudder Baker presents and defends a unique account of the material world: the Constitution View. In contrast to leading metaphysical views that take everyday things to be either non-existent or reducible to micro-objects, the Constitution View construes familiar things as irreducible parts of reality. Although they are ultimately constituted by microphysical particles, everyday objects are neither identical to, nor reducible to, the aggregates of microphysical particles that constitute them. The result is genuine ontological diversity: people, bacteria, donkeys, mountains and microscopes are fundamentally different kinds of things - all constituted by, but not identical to, aggregates of particles. Baker supports her account with discussions of non-reductive causation, vagueness, mereology, artefacts, three-dimensionalism, ontological novelty, ontological levels and emergence. The upshot is a unified ontological theory of the entire material world that irreducibly contains people, as well as non-human living things and inanimate objects.
Are ordinary things irreducibly real? Are the medium-sized objects that we interact with daily (automobiles, people, trees) really the diverse entities that we take them to be; or are they really something else – perhaps homogeneous things like four-dimensional “spacetime worms” or collections of three-dimensional “simples”? I shall argue that ordinary things are irreducibly real, three-dimensional objects (I'll argue for three-dimensionalism in chapter 10) and that they really are of vastly different kinds. The variety of things is not merely conceptual: variety is not just a matter of different concepts being applied to things that are basically of the same sort. Rather, the differences among ordinary things are ontological: a screwdriver is a thing of a fundamentally different kind from a walnut, and both belong in a complete inventory of what exists. To vindicate such beliefs, I shall propose a nonreductive view of reality that makes sense of the world as it is encountered in ontological – and not just conceptual – terms.
In this chapter, I shall set out, and begin to defend, the particular brand of nonreductionism that I favor – I call it the “Constitution View.” If the Constitution View is correct, then ordinary things are as real as the fundamental entities of physics; ordinary things are irreducible objects, distinct from collections of microphysical entities. My aim is to offer a metaphysical theory that acknowledges the genuine reality of what our everyday concepts (as well as our scientific concepts) are concepts of.