METAPHYSICS AND EPISTEMOLOGY FOR A FREE SOCIETY: THE VIEWS OF MENGER, MISES & RAND
Epistemology and Metaphysics: Two Sides of One Coin. Understanding In he wrote and delivered a paper entitled “What Is Dialectic?” in which he attacked the The necessary relationship between epistemology and metaphysics is. Psychology, Epistemology, and Metaphysics from one another. With what he says . indeed, reserve the question "What is the full meaning of reality?" and we . Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, In mathematics, there are many different ways to define numbers; similarly in Traditionally listed as the core of metaphysics, ontology often deals with Two rival theories to account for the relationship between change and identity.
According to Menger, there are intelligible a priori essences or natures existing autonomously in reality. Because these essences and essential structures are knowable, corresponding laws of and connections between these structures are able to be comprehended. These essences and the laws governing them are manifested in the world and are strictly universal. These tell us what kinds of relations can exist between various components of reality.
Menger sees intelligible law-governed change in the particulars of the world. The essences or laws are precisely universal in that they do not change and in that they are capable of being instantiated in all cultures and at all times.
The essences relevant to the various different aspects or levels of reality make up a graphic representation of structural parts. Reasoning using essences or universals as simple conceptual elements will proceed according to the nature of objects and will deduce conceptual systems of causality consonant with the causality of the real world. Menger's essentialism holds that general essences do not exist in isolation from what is individual.
Universals are said to exist only as aspects of specific objects and phenomena that are not directly observable in pure form. Every experience of the world involves both an individual and a universal or general aspect.
According to Menger, we can know what the world is like in both its individual and general features. A realist about universals, Menger observes that they exist in reality and that they are attributes shared by many particular objects. The particulars are individual whereas the universals are general. In order for the universals to be phenomena of conceptualization, they have to be abstracted from empirical reality.
Essential or necessary characteristics of an object are those of its real essence. A depiction is concrete if it concerns particulars and is abstract it is about universals. Only particulars have the capacity to act.
Universals not only do not possess the power to act, they cannot exist without the particulars. Menger believes in the knowability of general laws. However, he says that our knowledge of the general aspect of experience is in no way infallible. There may be difficulties in gaining knowledge of essential structures and converting such knowledge into the form of a strict theory. Despite the existence of problems and obstacles, he says it is possible for our knowledge of essential structures and laws to be exact and that our knowledge will in all probability exhibit a progressive improvement.
For Menger, these structures are a priori categories in reality that possess an intrinsic simplicity and intelligibility that makes them capable of being apprehended in a straightforward manner. The nature of objects in the world can be read off directly through both external observation and introspection. Menger acknowledges the existence of both intelligible i. Menger follows Aristotle in saying that all knowledge about the world begins with induction. He reasons that we can actually detect essences in reality through repeated observations of phenomena which reveal certain similarities according to which objects would be grouped into types or classes via a process of abstraction.
Induction involves inference from experience and going from the particular to the general. It follows that even deductions are ontological since they are based on metaphysical reality. Deductions are made from inductively known facts and premises. They are based on reality and are not purely a priori mental categories. Introspection is an ingredient in Menger's epistemology. He says that introspection gives people access to some limited useful and reliable knowledge about other human persons and their experiences such as the experience of making choices.
Menger's epistemology makes use of the internal perspective on human action that people share because of their common humanity. He says that introspection should be included in a legitimate epistemology because we live in a world inhabited by other human minds as well as our own. Menger's doctrine of ontological individualism states that there are no "social organisms" or "social wholes. He explains that the individual precedes the state and other collective bodies both chronologically and metaphysically.
Menger's view is that man has no innate ideas but does have the ability to reason. Man begins uninformed and becomes ever more knowledgeable about the world. Although he espouses the notion that man has free will, he displays what might be regarded as deterministic overtones in his belief in the existence in human nature of fundamental common influences of, or motives for, human behavior including: Menger observed that the impulse for one's economic self-interest was man's primary and most common trait.
He said that man is ingrained with a drive for self-interest in a healthy sense, rather than in an Hobbesian one. According to Menger, the individual, although desiring to satisfy his needs, is not directly driven or determined by them. Menger's rational egoism recognized that value was grounded in human needs and their satisfaction. Man's physical and intellectual needs derive from genuine needs of the species.
Equating self-interested behavior with economic behavior, Menger says that men do, and should, rationally seek to attain economic advantages or gains for themselves. He is finding a basis for economics in biology. Man's metaphysical and biological needs are not arbitrary and must be met if he is to survive and prosper. Rational self-interested behavior is thus viewed as good behavior. Rationality does not imply omniscience. Menger explains that men are born into ignorance and that their primary enterprise is to learn the causal connections between objects and the satisfaction of their needs in order to make rational decisions regarding their well-being.
Economic life is constructed around the acquiring of knowledge. Menger portrays rational economic man as an uncertain being who gradually gains the knowledge and resources necessary to attain his ends. He also explains that economic progress is caused by the growth in knowledge. Menger sought to develop a categorical ontology of economic reality in an Aristotelian sense.
His causal-genetic method is rooted in Aristotelian metaphysics and epistemology. Menger thereby destroyed the existing structures of economic thought and established economics' legitimacy as a theoretical science. Menger advanced an ontology of economic objects by providing a description of the exact laws of economic phenomena. In the absence of exact laws, there could not be a science of economics and without empirical realism, economics could not be termed a social science.
In his methodology, Menger stressed that economics is a science by demonstrating that there are economic regularities and that the phenomena of economic life are ordered strictly in accordance with definite laws. Insisting on the exactness of economic theory, he used the language of the pure logician when he analyzed relationships between variables.
It is the knowledge of exact laws i. Exact theory is developed by searching for the simplest strictly typical elements of everything real. Menger looked for the essence of economic relationships. He delved for those features which must be present by the nature of the relationship under study. He held that there are simple economic categories which are universal and capable of being understood as such.
Exact laws are propositions expressing the relationships among such categories. There are certain elements, natures, or essences in the world as well as connections, structures, and laws regulating them, all of which are precisely universal.
Menger's term, exact laws, refers to propositions expressing universal connections among essences. A scientific theory consists of exact laws. For Menger, the goal of research in theoretical economics is the discovery of the essences and connections of economic phenomena. The aim of the theoretical economist is to recognize general recurring structures in reality. According to Menger, the universals of economic reality are not imposed or created, but rather are discovered through theoretical efforts.
Economics, as an exact science, is the theoretical study of universals apprehended in an immanent realist manner. Theoretical economics understands economic universals as real objects that the mind has abstracted from particulars and isolated from other universals with which they co-exist.
If a person has an idea of the essence of something, he can explain its behavior as a manifestation of its essence. In other words, the manner in which objects act depends upon what those objects are. Menger's theoretical framework deals with the intensive study of individual economic units and the observation of how they behave.
Menger distinguished between the empirical-realistic orientation to theory and the exact orientation to theory. Whereas the realistic-empirical branch of economics studies the regularities in the succession and coexistence of real phenomena, the exact orientation studies the laws governing ideal economic phenomena. He explains that realistic-empirical theory is concerned with regularities in the coexistence and succession of phenomena discovered by observing actual types and typical relationships of phenomena.
Realistic-empirical theory is subject to exceptions and to change over time. Theoretical economics in its realistic orientation derives empirical laws that are valid only for the spatial and temporal relationships from which they were observed. Empirical laws can only be alleged to be true within a particular spatiotemporal domain. The realistic orientation can only lead to real types and to the particular. The study of individual or concrete phenomena in time and space is the realm of the historical sciences.
According to Menger, it is the aim of the practical or historical sciences to discover the principles, policies, and procedures that are needed in order to shape the phenomena according to predetermined goals. Menger's view implies that economic reality manifests certain simple and intelligible structures. Economic reality is constituted in intelligible ways out of structures depending upon human thought and action. The individual and his behavior are the most basic elements by means of which Menger explains economic phenomena and derives universal laws.
Mengerian economics is built on the basis of the idea that there are, in the realm of economic phenomena, indispensable structures to every economic action that are manifested in every economy. Economic universals involve economizing action on the part of individuals. These universals of economic reality are discovered through theoretical efforts and are not arbitrary creations of the economist.
Menger's understanding of economic theory is essentialist and grounded in Aristotelian metaphysics. His causal-realistic economic method is a search for laws about actual, observable events. It follows that Menger's economics is actually a theory of reality. Menger is concerned with essences and laws manifested in this world. For Menger, as well as Aristotle, what is general does not exist in isolation from what is particular.
Menger's theoretical economics studies the universal aspects of particular phenomena. These economic universals are said to exist only as instantiated in specific economic actions and institutions. For Menger, the goal of theoretical research is to discover the simplest elements of all things real which must be apprehended as strictly typical merely because they are the simplest.
Of course, it is not an easy matter to discover those structures and to construct workable theories about them. There may be huge difficulties in gaining knowledge of essential structures and in converting such knowledge into the organized system of a strict theory. Menger finds it necessary to justify inductively the basic causal categories that are arrived at by the analytic part of scientific method.
The scientist needs to learn to recognize the general recurring structures in constantly changing reality. He says that theoretical knowledge is gained only by apprehending the phenomenon in question as a special case of a particular regularity in the succession or in the co-existence of phenomena.
Economic reality manifests specific simple intelligible structures which the economic theorist is capable of grasping.
In explaining the transition from particulars i. In order to derive exact laws it was first necessary to identify the essential defining quality or essence in individual phenomena that underpins their recognition as representations of that type. Menger thus sought the simplest elements of everything real i. To find the simplest elements, a person must abstract from all particular spatiotemporal circumstances.
Aristotelian philosophy was the root of Menger's framework. His biologistic language goes well with his Aristotelian foundations in his philosophy of science and economics. Menger demonstrated how Aristotelian induction could be used in economics. In addition, he based his epistemology on Aristotelian induction.
Menger's Aristotelian inclinations can be observed in his desire to uncover the essence of economic phenomena.
He viewed the constituent elements of economic phenomena as immanently ordered and emphasized the primacy of exactitude and universality as preferable epistemological characteristics of theory.
Like Aristotle, Menger thought that the laws governing phenomena of thought processes and the natural and social world were all related as parts of the natural order. In other words, the knowability of the world is a natural condition common to the various aspects of the external world and the human mind. Mises' Neo-Kantianism Menger had contended that the purpose of economic theory is the elucidate genetic-causal explanations of market phenomena.
Mises was dissatisfied with Menger's Aristotelian methodology which for him was too closely related to reality. Mises argued that concepts can never be found in reality. He wanted to study and develop pure theory and maintained that "theory alone" could provide firm guidance.
Mises wanted to construct a purely deductive system and was searching for a foundation upon which to build it. Mises was searching for a theoretical foundation that could not be questioned or doubted. He wanted to find knowledge of logical necessity.
He also wanted to escape from the concrete-based empiricism of historicism. His mission became to look inward in order to deduce a system that was logically unobjectionable. He wanted to find laws that could only be verified or refuted by means of discursive reasoning.
Mises' axiom of action, the universal introspectively-known fact that men act, was the foundation upon which Mises built his deductive system. Action, for Mises, is the real thing. Mises said that action was a category of the mind, in a Kantian sense, that was required in order to experience phenomenal reality i.
The unity found in Mises' theorems of economics is rooted in the concept of human action. Mises' economic science is deductive and based on laws of human action that he contends are as real as the laws of nature. His praxeological laws have no spatial, temporal, or cultural constraints.
They are universal and pertain to people everywhere, at every time, and in all cultures. Not a strict Kantian, Mises modifies and extends Kant's epistemology. However, he does make use of Kant's main terminological and conceptual distinctions and basic insights into the nature of human knowledge. Kant's philosophy constitutes an all-out attack on the mind's ability to know reality.
Man is denied access to the noumenal world. The mind is trapped in its own logical way of thinking. Kant's impositionist view is that the content of man's knowledge reflects certain structures or forms that have been subscribed or imposed on the world by the mind of the knowing subject.
This knowledge is never directly of reality itself, but instead reflects the logical structures of the mind and reflects reality only as shaped, formed, or filtered by the human mind.
Like Kant, Mises believed that the human mind understood the world only through its own categories. However, Mises is not a pure Kantian. Unlike Kant, Mises does not attempt to make a transcendental argument to derive the categories. He merely says that there is a group of common categories lodged in men's minds through which they grasp that which exists.
What Mises considered as critical in Kant was his conviction that reason could supply universal and necessary knowledge. Mises also disagreed with Kant regarding freedom of the individual. Kant conceived of the noumenal or real self as possessing free will and of the phenomenal self as being determined by the rational desire for happiness.
Mises views freedom as the use of reason to attain one's goals. Assuming as little as possible, Mises says that we should assume people to be free and rational actors in the world as we perceive it since we have no certain knowledge of any determinants of human action, Mises was a metaphysical and cosmological agnostic regarding materialist or spiritual explanations of mental events. Mises extends Kant by adding an important insight. Kantianism has been viewed as a type of idealism due to its failure to connect the mind's categories to the world.
Mises further develops Kantian epistemology when he explains that the laws of logic affect both thought and action. He says that we must acknowledge that the human mind is a mind of acting persons and that our mental categories have to be accepted as fundamentally grounded in the category of action.
Mises states that when this is realized, the notion of the existence of true synthetic a priori categories and propositions can be accepted as a realistic, rather than as an idealistic, philosophy of knowledge. The mind and physical reality make contact via action. Mises believes that this insight fills in the gap between the mental world and the outside physical world. Mises thus contends that epistemology depends on our reflective knowledge of action.
Mises considers the law of human action to be a law of thought and as a categorical truth prior to all experience. Thinking is a mental action. For Mises, a priori means independent of any particular time or place.
Denying the possibility of arriving at laws via induction, Mises argues that evidence for the a priori is based on reflective universal inner experience. Unlike Menger, the father of Austrian economics, Mises did not believe the essential defining qualities or essences existed in individual phenomena that made possible their recognition as representatives of that type.
If he had held to the notion that there are certain ontological, a priori, and intelligible structures in the world, then he may have considered the law of human action to be a law of reality rather than a law of thought. An a priori in reality would not be the result of any forming or shaping of reality on the part of the experiencing subject. Rather, essences or universals would then be said to be discerned through a person's theoretical efforts. It is hard to see how Mises could contend that a priori knowledge is gained exclusively through non-inductive means.
Perhaps it would have been better if he had said that economic theory is based in part on introspection. He could have argued that sense data alone could not reveal to a person the essential purposefulness of human action. The action axiom could then be depicted as derived form a combination of both external observation and introspection.
Mises states that his action axiom, the proposition that men act, meets the requirements for a true synthetic a priori proposition. This proposition cannot be denied because the denial itself would necessarily be categorized as an action. Mises defines action as purposeful behavior. He explains that it cannot be denied that humans act in a purposeful manner because the denial itself would be a purposeful act.
All conscious human action is directed toward goals because it is impossible to conceive of an individual consciously acting without having a goal. Reason and action are congeneric. For Mises, knowledge is a tool of action and action is reason applied to purpose.
When people look within, they see that all conscious actions are purposeful and willful pursuits of selected ends or objectives. Reason enables people to choose. Human actions are engaged in to achieve goals that are part of the external world.
However, a person's understanding of the logical consequences of human action does not stem from the specific details of these goals or the means employed.
Metaphysics and epistemology
Comprehension of these laws does not depend on a person's specific knowledge of those features of the external world that are relevant to the person's goals or to the methods used in his pursuit of these goals. Praxeology's cognition is totally general and formal without reference to the material content and particular features of an actual case.
Praxeological theorems are prior to empirical testing because they are logically deduced from the central axiom of action. By understanding the logic of the reasoning process, a person can comprehend the essentials of human actions. From this concept all of praxeology's propositions can be derived. Mises contends that the axiom of action is known by introspection to be true. In the tradition of Kant, Mises argues that the category of action is part of the structure of the human mind.
It follows that the laws of action can be studied introspectively because of aprioristic intersubjectivity of human beings. Not derived from experience, the propositions of praxeology are not subject to falsification or verification on the basis of experience. Rather, these propositions are temporally and logically prior to any understanding of historical facts.
For Mises, economic behavior is simply a special case of human action. He contends that it is through the analysis of the idea of action that the principles of economics can be deduced. Economic theorems are seen as connected to the foundation of real human purposes. Economics is based on true and evident axioms, arrived at by introspection, into the essence of human action. From these axioms, Mises derives logical implications or the truths of economics.
Mises' methodology thus does not require controlled experiments because he treats economics as a science of human action. By their nature, economics acts are social acts. Economics is a formal science whose theorems have no formal content and whose propositions do not derive their validity from empirical observations. Economics is the branch of praxeology that studies market exchange and alternative systems of market exchange. These include, but are not limited to: Many believe that Mises is on questionable grounds with his extreme aprioristic position with respect to epistemology.
However, his praxeology does not inevitably require a neo-Kantian epistemology. It is not inextricably tied to an aprioristic foundation. Other epistemological frameworks may provide a better underpinning for free will and rationality.
For example, Misesian praxeology could operate within an Aristotelian, Thomistic, Mengerian or Randian philosophical structure. The concept of action could be formally and inductively derived from perceptual data. Actions would be seen as performed by entities who act in accordance with their nature. Man's distinctive mode of action involves rationality and free will.
Men are thus rational beings with free will who have the ability to form their own purposes and aims. Human action also assumes an uncoerced human will and limited knowledge. All of the above can be seen as consistent with Mises' praxeology. For there is more to the problem of universals than the question whether universals exist and the question whether, if they do exist, their existence is ante res or in rebus.
For example, the problem of universals also includes questions about the relation between universals if such there be and the things that are not universals, the things usually called particulars.
Aristotle did not consider these questions in the Metaphysics.
One might therefore plausibly contend that only one part of the problem of universals the part that pertains to the existence and nature of universals belongs to metaphysics in the old sense. Therefore, questions about its nature belong to metaphysics, the science of things that do not change.
But dogs are things that change. Therefore, questions concerning the relation of dogs to doghood do not belong to metaphysics. But no contemporary philosopher would divide the topics that way—not even if he or she believed that doghood existed and was a thing that did not change. That is, that concern particulars—for even if there are particulars that do not change, most of the particulars that figure in discussions of the problem of universals as examples are things that change.
Consider two white particulars—the Taj Mahal, say, and the Washington Monument. And suppose that both these particulars are white in virtue of i.
All white things and only white things fall under whiteness, and falling under whiteness is what it is to be white. We pass over many questions that would have to be addressed if we were discussing the problem of universals for its own sake.
For example, both blueness and redness are spectral color-properties, and whiteness is not. What is it about the two objects whiteness and the Taj Mahal that is responsible for the fact that the latter falls under the former?
Or might it be that a particular like the Taj, although it indeed has universals as constituents, is something more than its universal constituents? If we take that position, then we may want to say, with Armstrong Or might the Taj have constituents that are neither universals nor substrates?
Is the Taj perhaps a bundle not of universals but of accidents? Or is it composed of a substrate and a bundle of accidents? And we cannot neglect the possibility that Aristotle was right and that universals exist only in rebus. The series of questions that was set out in the preceding paragraph was introduced by observing that the problem of universals includes both questions about the existence and nature of universals and questions about how universals are related to the particulars that fall under them.
We can contrast ontological structure with mereological structure. A philosophical question concerns the mereological structure of an object if it is a question about the relation between that object and those of its constituents that belong to the same ontological category as the object.
For example, the philosopher who asks whether the Taj Mahal has a certain block of marble among its constituents essentially or only accidentally is asking a question about the mereological structure of the Taj, since the block and the building belong to the same ontological category. Many philosophers have supposed that particulars fall under universals by somehow incorporating them into their ontological structure.
And other philosophers have supposed that the ontological structure of a particular incorporates individual properties or accidents—and that an accident is an accident of a certain particular just in virtue of being a constituent of that particular.
Advocates of other theories of universals are almost always less liberal in the range of universals whose existence they will allow. And it seems that it is possible to speak of ontological structure only if one supposes that there are objects of different ontological categories. For a recent investigation of the problems that have been discussed in this section, see Lowe They make up the most important of his ontological categories.
Several features define protai ousiai: This last feature could be put this way in contemporary terms: More on this in the next section. It is difficult to suppose that smiles or holes have this sort of determinate identity. The question whether there in fact are substances continues to be one of the central questions of metaphysics.
Several closely related questions are: How, precisely, should the concept of substance be understood? Depending on how one understood the word or the concept one might say either that Hume denied that there were any substances or that he held that the only substances or the only substances of which we have any knowledge were impressions and ideas.
Universals and other abstract objects. It should be noted that Aristotle criticized Plato for supposing that the protai ousiai were ante res universals. Events, processes, or changes. Stuffs, such as flesh or iron or butter. We now turn to topics that belong to metaphysics only in the post-Medieval sense. Compare, for example, the proposition that Paris is the capital of France and the proposition that there is a prime between every number greater than 1 and its double.
Both are true, but the former could have been false and the latter could not have been false. Likewise, there is a distinction to be made within the class of false propositions: The types of modality of interest to metaphysicians fall into two camps: If modality were coextensive with modality de dicto, it would be at least a defensible position that the topic of modality belongs to logic rather than to metaphysics.
Indeed, the study of modal logics goes back to Aristotle's Prior Analytics. But many philosophers also think there is a second kind of modality, modality de re—the modality of things. The modality of substances, certainly, and perhaps of things in other ontological categories. There are two types of modality de re. The first concerns the existence of things—of human beings, for example.
And if what she has said is indeed true, then she exists contingently. That is to say, she is a contingent being: A necessary being, in contrast, is a being of which it is false that it might not have existed. Whether any objects are necessary beings is an important question of modal metaphysics.
Some philosophers have gone so far to maintain that all objects are necessary beings, since necessary existence is a truth of logic in what seems to them to be the best quantified modal logic.
See Barcan for the first modern connection between necessary existence and quantified modal logic. Barcan did not draw any metaphysical conclusions from her logical results, but later authors, especially Williamson have.
The second kind of modality de re concerns the properties of things. Like the existence of things, the possession of properties by things is subject to modal qualification.
Additionally there may be properties which some objects have essentially. A thing has a property essentially if it could not exist without having that property. Examples of essential properties tend to be controversial, largely because the most plausible examples of a certain object's possessing a property essentially are only as plausible as the thesis that that object possesses those properties at all. For example, if Sally is a physical object, as physicalists suppose, then it is very plausible for them to suppose further that she is essentially a physical object—but it is controversial whether they are right to suppose that she is a physical object.
And, of course, the same thing can be said, mutatis mutandis, concerning dualists and the property of being a non-physical object. It would seem, however, that Sally is either essentially a physical object or essentially a non-physical object. The most able and influential enemy of modality both de dicto and de re was W. Quine, who vigorously defended both the following theses. First, that modality de dicto can be understood only in terms of the concept of analyticity a problematical concept in his view.
Secondly, that modality de re cannot be understood in terms of analyticity and therefore cannot be understood at all. Quine argued for this latter claim by proposing what he took to be decisive counterexamples to theories that take essentiality to be meaningful. If modality de re makes any sense, Quine contended What then, Quine proceeded to ask, of someone who is both a mathematician and a cyclist? Since this is incoherent, Quine thought that modality de re is incoherent.
Kripke and Plantinga's defenses of modality are paradigmatically metaphysical except insofar as they directly address Quine's linguistic argument. Both make extensive use of the concept of a possible world in defending the intelligibility of modality both de re and de dicto.
For Leibniz, a possible world was a possible creation: For Kripke and Plantinga, no being, not even God, could stand outside the whole system of possible worlds.
A Kripke-Plantinga KP world is an abstract object of some sort. Let us suppose that a KP world is a possible state of affairs this is Plantinga's idea; Kripke says nothing so definite. Consider any given state of affairs; let us say, Paris being the capital of France. This state of affairs obtains, since Paris is the capital of France.
By contrast, the state of affairs Tours being the capital of France does not obtain. The latter state of affairs does, however, exist, for there is such a state of affairs. Obtaining thus stands to states of affairs as truth stands to propositions: The state of affairs x is said to include the state of affairs y if it is impossible for x to obtain and y not to obtain. If it is impossible for both x and y to obtain, then each precludes the other. A possible world is simply a possible state of affairs that, for every state of affairs x, either includes or precludes x; the actual world is the one such state of affairs that obtains.
Using the KP theory we can answer Quine's challenge as follows. In every possible world, every cyclist in that world is bipedal in that world. Assuming with Quine that necessarily cyclists are bipedal. Apparently he had not foreseen adaptive bicycles. Nevertheless for any particular cyclist, there is some possible world where he the same person is not bipedal.
Metaphysics (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Once we draw this distinction, we can see that Quine's argument is invalid. More generally, on the KP theory, theses about de re essential properties need not be analytic; they are meaningful because they express claims about an object's properties in various possible worlds. We can also use the notion of possible worlds to define many other modal concepts.
For example, a necessarily true proposition is a proposition that would be true no matter what possible world was actual. Kripke and Plantinga have greatly increased the clarity of modal discourse and particularly of modal discourse de rebut at the expense of introducing a modal ontology, an ontology of possible worlds.
Theirs is not the only modal ontology on offer. What we call the actual world is one of these concrete objects, the spatiotemporally connected universe we inhabit. There is, Lewis contends, a vast array of non-actual worlds, an array that contains at least those worlds that are generated by an ingenious principle of recombination, a principle that can be stated without the use of modal language In the matter of modality de dicto, Lewis's theory proceeds in a manner that is at least parallel to the KP theory: But the case is otherwise with modality de re.
Since every ordinary object is in only one of the concrete worlds, Lewis must either say that each such object has all its properties essentially or else adopt a treatment of modality de re that is not parallel to the KP treatment.
He chooses the latter alternative. If all Socrates' counterparts are human, then we may say that he is essentially human. If one of Hubert Humphrey's counterparts won the counterpart of the presidential election, it is correct to say of Humphrey that he could have won that election.
In addition to the obvious stark ontological contrast between the two theories, they differ in two important ways in their implications for the philosophy of modality. For Kripke and Plantinga, however, modal concepts are sui generis, indefinable or having only definitions that appeal to other modal concepts. Secondly, Lewis's theory implies a kind of anti-realism concerning modality de re.
Socrates, therefore, may well have non-human counterparts under one counterpart relation and no non-human counterparts under another. And the choice of a counterpart relation is a pragmatic or interest-relative choice. But on the KP theory, it is an entirely objective question whether Socrates fails to be human in some world in which he exists: Whatever one may think of these theories when one considers them in their own right as theories of modality, as theories with various perhaps objectionable ontological commitmentsone must concede that they are paradigmatically metaphysical theories.
They bear witness to the resurgence of metaphysics in analytical philosophy in the last third of the twentieth century. A glance through any dictionary of quotations suggests that the philosophical pairing of space and time reflects a natural, pre-philosophical tendency: Kant, for example, treated space and time in his Transcendental Aesthetic as things that should be explained by a single, unified theory. And his theory of space and time, revolutionary though it may have been in other respects, was in this respect typical of philosophical accounts of space and time.
As one can ask whether there could be two extended objects that were not spatially related to each other, one can ask whether there could be two events that were not temporally related to each other. One can ask whether space is a a real thing—a substance—a thing that exists independently of its inhabitants, or b a mere system of relations among those inhabitants. And one can ask the same question about time. But there are also questions about time that have no spatial analogues—or at least no obvious and uncontroversial analogues.
There are, for example, questions about the grounds of various asymmetries between the past and the future—why is our knowledge of the past better than our knowledge of the future?
There do not seem to be objective asymmetries like this in space. In one way of thinking about time, there is a privileged temporal direction marking the difference between the past, present, and future. Times change from past to present to future, giving rise to passage.
Presentist A-theorists, like Priordeny that the past or future have any concrete reality. Presentists typically think of the past and future as, at best, akin to abstract possible worlds—they are the way the world was or will be, just as possible worlds are ways the actual world could be. Other A-theorists, like Sullivanhold that the present is metaphysically privileged but deny that there is any ontological difference between the past, present, and future.
More generally, A-theorists often incorporate strategies from modal metaphysics into their theories about the relation of the past and the future to the present. According to B-theories of time, the only fundamental distinction we should draw is that some events and times are earlier or later relative to others. According to the B-theorists, there is no objective passage of time, or at least not in the sense of time passing from future to present and from present to past.
B-theorists typically maintain that all past and future times are real in the same sense in which the present time is real—the present is in no sense metaphysically privileged.
It is also true, and less often remarked on, that space raises philosophical questions that have no temporal analogues—or at least no obvious and uncontroversial analogues. Why, for example, does space have three dimensions and not four or seven? On the face of it, time is essentially one-dimensional and space is not essentially three-dimensional. It also seems that the metaphysical problems about space that have no temporal analogues depend on the fact that space, unlike time, has more than one dimension.
For example, consider the problem of incongruent counterparts: So it seems there is an intuitive orientation to objects in space itself. It is less clear whether the problems about time that have no spatial analogues are connected with the one-dimensionality of time. Finally, one can raise questions about whether space and time are real at all—and, if they are real, to what extent so to speak they are real. Or was McTaggart's position the right one: If these problems about space and time belong to metaphysics only in the post-Medieval sense, they are nevertheless closely related to questions about first causes and universals.
First causes are generally thought by those who believe in them to be eternal and non-local. God, for example—both the impersonal God of Aristotle and the personal God of Medieval Christian, Jewish, and Muslim philosophy—is generally said to be eternal, and the personal God is said to be omnipresent. To say that God is eternal is to say either that he is everlasting or that he is somehow outside time.
And this raises the metaphysical question of whether it is possible for there to be a being—not a universal or an abstract object of some other sort, but an active substance—that is everlasting or non-temporal. An omnipresent being is a being that does not occupy any region of space not even the whole of it, as the luminiferous ether of nineteenth-century physics would if it existedand whose causal influence is nevertheless equally present in every region of space unlike universals, to which the concept of causality does not apply.
The doctrine of divine omnipresence raises the metaphysical question whether it is possible for there to be a being with this feature. But it is doubtful whether this is a position that is possible for a metaphysician who says that a white thing is a bundle composed of whiteness and various other universals.
All theories of universals, therefore, raise questions about how things in various ontological categories are related to space. And all these questions have temporal analogues. Are some or all objects composed of proper parts? Can more that one object be located in exactly the same region? Do objects persist through change by having temporal parts?
Much work on persistence and constitution has focused on efforts to address a closely knit family of puzzles—the puzzles of coincidence. Consider a gold statue. Many metaphysicians contend that there is at least one material object that is spatially co-extensive with the statue, a lump of gold. This is easily shown, they say, by an appeal to Leibniz's Law the principle of the non-identity of discernibles.
There is a statue here and there is a lump of gold here, and—if the causal story of the statue's coming to be is of the usual sort—the lump of gold existed before the statue. And even if God has created the statue and perforce the lump ex nihilo and will at some point annihilate the statue and thereby annihilate the lumpthey further argue, the statue and the lump, although they exist at exactly the same times, have different modal properties: Or so these metaphysicians conclude.
But it has seemed to other metaphysicians that this conclusion is absurd, for it is absurd to suppose these others say that there could be spatially coincident physical objects that share all their momentary non-modal properties.
What, if anything, is the flaw in the argument for the non-identity of the statue and the lump? Tibbles is a cat. Suppose Tail is cut off—or, better, annihilated. Tibbles still exists, for a cat can survive the loss of its tail. But what will be the relation between Tib and Tibbles? Can it be identity? No, that is ruled out by the non-identity of discernibles, for Tibbles will have become smaller and Tib will remain the same size.
But then, once again, we seem to have a case of spatially coincident material objects that share their momentary non-modal properties. Both these constitution problems turn on questions about the identities of spatially coincident objects—and, indeed, of objects that share all their proper parts. A third famous problem of material constitution—the problem of the Ship of Theseus—raises questions of a different sort.
Baker is a defense of this thesis. Others contend that all the relations between the objects that figure in both problems can be fully analyzed in terms of parthood and identity.
For a more thorough overview of the solutions to these puzzles and different theories of constitution in play, see Rea ed. Of course, discussion of causes go back to Ancient Philosophy, featuring prominently in Aristotle's Metaphysics and Physics. Aristotle classifies four such explanatory conditions—an object's form, matter, efficient cause, and teleology. An object's efficient cause is the cause which explains change or motion in an object. With the rise of modern physics in the seventeenth century, interest in efficient causal relations became acute, and it remains so today.
And when contemporary philosophers discuss problems of causation, they typically mean this sense. One major issue in the metaphysics of causation concerns specifying the relata of causal relations. Consider a mundane claim: Does the causal relation hold between two events: Or does it hold between two sets of states of affairs?