'Weak' Priority Monism: or why both the 'One' and the 'Many' are fundamental

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Priority monism-the position that one object, the Cosmos, is fundamental-has recently been brought to the fore by Jonathan Schaffer, who has put forward a variety of arguments in its favour. In this paper, however, I defend a new version of priority
  1 ‘Weak Priority Monism: or why both the ‘One’ and the ‘Many’ are fundamental  Abstract: Priority monism  –   the position that one object, the Cosmos, is fundamental  –   has recently been brought to the fore by Jonathan Schaffer, who has put forward a variety of arguments in its favour. In this paper, however, I defend a new version of priority monism on which the Cosmos is also identical to its proper parts collectively. This involves accepting composition is identity  , and I call this version of monism ‘weak priority monism’ (WPM).  The aim of this paper is to argue that not only is (WPM) a coherent metaphysical view, but is preferable to Schaffer’s version of monism  on two grounds: it gives a better account of the world’s heterogeneity, and solves the problem of ‘weak junk’.  I then defend (WPM) from two potential objections: it is committed to mereological essentialism, and is incompatible with emergent properties. Contra Schaffer, then, I hold the priority monist should embrace composition is identity as a mereological thesis. Keywords: monism; composition is identity: plural grounding; heterogeneity; infinite ascent; emergence More than ten years ago, Jonathan Schaffer ‘ reintroduced ’  into metaphysics a view called priority monism: the position that only one entity, the Cosmos, is fundamental. This is in contrast to the priority pluralism: that position that many objects are fundamental. Monism, he claims, was once mainstream in philosophy, before becoming unfairly maligned in the twentieth century. 1  Schaffer has argued in favour of monism, putting forward a wide range of arguments in its defence. These include the (alleged) metaphysical possibility of gunk and emergent properties (2010a), that all sub-cosmic objects are internally related such that they are interdependent on the Cosmos (2010b), and that the Cosmos is the only object which evolves in accordance with the fundamental laws (2013). As such, Schaffer holds that there is strong to case to suppose that is 1  See the appendix of Schaffer (2010a) for his account of monism’s history  , and where he argues that many previous monists should be regarded as priority as opposed to existence monists: those who think the Cosmos is the only object which exists. All existence monists are priority monists, but the converse does not follow.  2 not the smallest particles that physicists may uncover which should be considered fundamental, but rather it is the universal object of which everything is a part. I am sympathetic towards priority monism, but the version of it I’m going to defend here is not the same version as Schaffer’s.  For in outlining the monism and priority pluralism, Schaffer makes the following assumption: “In particular, I assume the cosmos is not identical to the plurality of its planets, pebbles, or particles, or to any other plurality of its many proper parts. If the one literally is   the many, then monism and pluralism would no longer be opposing views  –    indeed both “sides” would turn out to be right (2010a, 35).”   That is, Schaffer rejects that composition is identity (CII): that for some plurality of objects to compose some object is for them to be collectively   identical to that object. For if there is to be a hierarchy of relative fundamentality, if the Cosmos is fundamental then none of its proper parts can be, otherwise every object in the world would be fundamental. But this is a mistake. For it can still be true that even though the Cosmos’ parts are collectively fundamental  , each of them are distributively   derivative entities. Indeed, in the last few years, a number of philosophers have argued that both fundamentality and metaphysical grounding can be non-distributive: some entities can be more fundamental than some others, yet each of those entities in both pluralities are not. In fact  –    as we’ll see –   there are structuralist metaphysical views which suggest this is plausible. Yet if grounding and fundamentality can be non-distributive, monism and ‘traditional pluralism’ will still be distinct views even if composition is identity  : monists can reject that each of the Cosmos’ proper parts  are fundamental, while pluralists can hold that only some   of the Cosmos’ parts are fundamental and that they are distributively fundamental.   Via non-distributive grounding and (CII), we can develop a distinct version of priority monism:  weak priority monism (WPM). This is in contrast to Schaffer’s strong priority monism (SPM):    3 Strong Priority Monism (SPM):  The Cosmos is fundamental and only one thing  Weak Priority Monism (WPM):  The Cosmos is fundamental and is identical to the collective  plurality of all its proper parts    In this paper, I’m not only going to argue that (WPM) is a coherent metaphysical view, but I’m going to show that it is in fact a preferable version of monism to (SPM). In the first section, I  will outline a  version of Schaffer’s Tiling Constraint in terms of plural logic, and show that (WPM)  –    as well as Schaffer’s (SPM)  - meets it. In doing so, I will argue that non-distributive fundamentality is a coherent metaphysical notion, and does not lead to the irreflexivity of grounding being violated. In the second section, I will then argue in favour of (WPM). Not only can arguments which support (SPM) be utilised to support (WPM), but it is preferable to (SPM) on two grounds: (i) it has a better solution to the problem of heterogeneity than (SPM), and (ii) is compatible with weak junk : where some structure is weak junky iff every proper part of is the proper part of another   proper part. In the third section, I will then consider two objections to (WPM): (i) that it is committed to mereological essentialism; and (ii) that (WPM) is incompatible  with emergence and/or undermines the argument from emergence for priority monism. I will show that these two objections can be overcome, and thus that we should accept (WPM). 1.   Plural Grounding and Fundamental Mereology In this section, I’m going to sketch out a pluralized version of Schaffer’s Tiling Constraint,  which is compatible with (WPM). But before I do so, however, I need to outline the notions of grounding and fundamentality, as well as the idea of non-distributive grounding/fundamentality. If we are to take seriously (WPM), it is important that we can make sense of non-distributive fundamentality, and that its acceptance does not lead to the irreflexivity of grounding being  violated. 1.1.   Grounding and Fundamentality  4 I take grounding to be a relation of non-causal dependence that holds between entities of any ontological category, 2  and which underwrites metaphysical explanation. If some facts about some entity can be metaphysically explained by facts about some others, then latter entities ground the former. Grounding is not metaphysical explanation, but backs in the same that causal relations back causal explanations (Schaffer 2016). Plausible examples of grounding include Socrates’ singleton obtaining in-virtue-of Socrates, conjunctions holding in-virtue-of their conjuncts, and so forth. To say that some entities, φ , fully ground some entity, x  , is to say that φ  are sufficient by themselves to ground x  , whereas to say that some entity,  y  , partially grounds x  , is to say that  y   is not necessarily sufficient to ground x  . Every full ground is a partial ground, but the converse does not follow. Furthermore, grounding is taken to be a strict partial order relation, in that it is asymmetric, irreflexive, and transitive. Grounds are also said to be more fundamental   than what they ground. If some entity is grounded in some others, the being   of the derivative entity obtains in-virtue-of those others. The derivative entity is a piece of an ontological free lunch  , and is no addition of being over and above its grounds.  That grounding seems to involve such a transference of being has led many grounding theorists to hold that it must be well-founded: that all derivative entities must be fully grounded in some fundamental entities. If each derivative entity were part of some infinite grounding chain which never terminated, there would be no source   of being for any of them (Schaffer 2016, 94-96). As such, there must be some fundamental entities: ungrounded entities from which all the derivative entities are grounded. This position is known as metaphysical foundationalism  . 1.2. Plural Grounding and Plural Fundamentality 2  This is the same conception of grounding had by Jonathan Schaffer (2016). Other authors, however, think that grounding is either a relation which holds between facts (Rosen 2010) or is a sentential operator (Fine 2012). If the reader is of the view that one of these other conceptions is correct, they are free to try and define my use of grounding in terms of their own.  5  Traditionally, both grounding and fundamentality have both been taken to be distributive, in that if some entities, ψ  , are fundamental or are grounded, then each of them must be fundamental or are grounded. That this is so, is because debates about both notions have been considered in terms of singular logic. As such, both of the following grounding principles have implicitly been take to be true: Distributive Ground: If x   is fully grounded in some φ , and  y   is among φ , x   is partially grounded in  y    Distributive Grounded: If some ψ   are fully grounded in υ , and  y   is amongst ψ  ,  y   is fully grounded in υ   So, for instance, suppose I’m  grounded in my proper parts. If I am grounded in those parts, then given Distributive Ground, I’m partially grounded in each   part. Now, instead suppose that my proper parts are grounded in me. If some electron is amongst them, then given Distributive Grounded, that electron is fully grounded in me. The idea then is grounding is distributive in both locutions, but that this is so grounding has not been typically formulated in terms of plurals. By bringing plurals into the logic of ground, 3  the notion that some things can be grounds collectively  , yet not distributively,  becomes coherent. Grounding then can be non-distributive   in at least one of its locutions. Plausible examples of non-distributive grounding come from structuralist metaphysics. Here’s one such example. Shamik Dasgupta (2014) is a comparativist about quantity: things have the quantities they have in-virtue-of how those quantities are related to other quantities, rather than  vice versa. To be a comparativist about mass, for instance, is to hold that the mass an object has is accounted for by its relations to the masses of other objects, and to reject that those relations 3  See Litland (2016) and (2018) at two different ways of do ing so; the former via Fine’s truthmaker semantics,  the latter via a hypergraph-theoretic account.
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