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  • March 20, 2019
  • Bertrand, Michael
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • This dissertation consists of three papers introducing and defending the notion of metaphysical constraint. Each paper is centered on a different set of theoretical or methodological roles played by metaphysical constraints by which they earn their keep. In my first chapter, I introduce the puzzle of unequal treatment: why is it that among the intuitive threats to a view, some are thought to be serious trouble while others are treated as mere invitation for further work? I argue that in order to solve the puzzle, we need to introduce the notion of metaphysical constraint. This solution indicates a general methodological role for metaphysical constraints. In this spirit, I argue that metaphysical constraints back a familiar way of developing metaphysical theories, what I call the IPA method. In addition, I argue that many existing metaphysical debates are well understood as debates about metaphysical constraints. In my second chapter, I identify and account for a before-now unrecognized kind of metaphysical explanation backed by metaphysical constraints, which I call metaphysical explanation by constraint. I argue that metaphysical explanations by constraint belong to a novel category of metaphysical explanation and are different in kind from more widely appreciated metaphysical explanations underwritten by the grounding relation. Metaphysical explanations by constraint show that grounding-centric views of metaphysical explanation are incomplete while revealing an interesting structural similarity between scientific and metaphysical explanation. In my final chapter, I provide a general case against a familiar form of argument often called the Argument from Absence of Analysis. When applied to some entity x, the Argument from Absence of Analysis concludes that x is likely to be a primitive entity on the basis of our persistent actual failure, or failure in principle, to provide a reductive account of x. However, I claim that the argument rests on the dubious assumption that reduction and primitivism are the only dialectical options with respect to x and so is fatally flawed. To do this, I offer a way of providing explanatory characterizations that are backed by metaphysical constraints. I argue that constraintist views are neither reductive nor primitivists but preserve the advantages of each kind of view. As a result, they promise to occupy previously unexplored space in which new and interesting metaphysical theories might be found.
Date of publication
Resource type
Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Kotzen, Matthew
  • Neta, Ram
  • Hofweber, Thomas
  • Paul, L. A.
  • Lange, Marc
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2016

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