Abstract Seibt

Johanna Seibt, Aarhus University

Ontological explanation, metaphysical explanation, and dynamic being

Armstrong’s interpretation of truthmaking (2000) has led many to follow Schaffer (2007) and to embrace the idea that ontological explanations consist in determining which “facts”  ‘ground’ which other “facts”,  where the modality of grounding is taken to be “metaphysical necessity”, tracing “real essences.” However, as shown by Maurin (2019), it is far from clear that ‘grounding’ has any explanatory force at all.  Most recently, ontologists are waking up from the dogmatic slumbers of pre-Kantian “metaphysics” and rediscover that truth-making is neither grounding nor correspondence (Saenz 2020, Heil 2021, Audi 2021). I discuss these recent proposals and compare them to the original understanding of truthmaking (“truth grounds”, “ontological assays” etc.) in the heydays of analytical ontology during the 20th century. As I reconstruct this past conception, a ‘truth-maker’ (ontological correlate) is related to at true L-sentence (or true proposition) p—it does not establish of justify the truth of p, but reclassifies what p is about,  in relation to p’s inferential role.  Or more briefly: the structural domain descriptions of ontology (“set-up”) do not explain why a sentence is true but what we can rationally take ourselves to be referring to when we state that p.    Ontological descriptions are both reconstructive and (potentially) informative: so-called “revisionary” ontologies reveal possibilities for conceptual linkages. I argue against the current practice of equating “ontology” and “metaphysics”, and suggest that metaphysics provides meta-ontological reflections on the limitations of ontology in the context of a (self-applicatory) philosophical theory of cognition. Metaphysical explanations thus endorse and supplement ontological explanations from the wider angle of a comprehensive philosophical theory of reality. The last fourth of the talk is spent on illustrating a metaphysical explanation: if we want to take seriously ontological characterizations of entities as “dynamic” (e.g., powers, processes etc.), we need to abandon three methodological principles that guide ontological research since Descartes: (1) extensionalism; (2) particularism; (3) determinatism. I sketch the dynamic nature of being as described in the process metaphysical extension of GPT (General Process Theory): being as “unzipping.”