Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Two metaphysical convictions

I have two basic metaphysical convictions that drive my metaphysics.  One is that there is no vagueness at the fundamental level.  So anything there is vagueness about is non-fundamental.

The other is that humans are among the fundamental substances.  We are not logical constructions out of other entities; we are not reducible to other entities; we are fundamental substances.

Together, these two convictions lead to various controversial things, especially since some people will think there is a tension between the two.


David Balcarras said...

By humans do you mean persons or Homo sapiens?

Alexander R Pruss said...

All human persons are animals.

Derrick said...

How does the claim that all persons are animals jive with the claim that people can exist apart from matter (which I assume you accept)? It seems as if all animals are material objects.

Alexander R Pruss said...

Many animals can survive the loss of their tail. Some animals can survive the loss of all of their matter.

Andrew said...

I tend to have these two convictions as well.
You mention that some people take there to be a tension between the two (I am assuming you have something in regards to Mary Ann Warren's comments that 'person' is a vague concept, and so it is vague when you or I come into existence). Is this something like what you have in mind, that some take our identity conditions to be vague?

Granting your (and my) two metaphysical convictions, they seem to entail that our existence and identity conditions are not vague. It just follows that we need to give up the 'intuitive' idea (according to some) that you can't be a single cell, or something along those lines. Something which I think we have good reason to give up anyway.

In short, I don't think there is tension between the two convictions provided we reject what some take to be an intuitive truth.

[But you might have some other tension in mind..if so please elaborate.]

Derrick said...

That strikes me as wildly counter-intuitive. Also, doesn't that conflict with a broadly Aristotelian notion of an animal? That is, doesn't Aristotle consider the genus "animal" to be a subgenus of the genus "body"?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I need to disagree with Aristotle on that. :-)

rigelrover said...

What are the other fundamental substances, then... and are they in a class that is in any way relative to that of human substances?

Are other entities that are composed of human substance?

Isn't their a difference between "entity" and "substance"?

rigelrover said...

Is your conviction about vagueness an epistemically cheaper version of the PSR?

Alexander R Pruss said...

I don't see how the vagueness stuff is that closely related to PSR, but I would be interested to learn more on that.

Other fundamental substances? Well, the kind of substance I am is an animal. So that gives me good reason to think that all animals are fundamental substances. Maybe all living things are fundamental substances, in fact. Plus, there may be fundamental particles or fundamental fields. I don't know. As Leibniz did, epistemically I start with us as a paradigm of substantiality, and then go from there--whatever is sufficiently similar to us is probably substantial.

The basic intuition is compatible with the existence of non-substantial entities, like proper parts, accidents, modes, properties, etc.

rigelrover said...

It is more likely that I misunderstood your semantics of "vagueness".

Do you mean ontological vagueness in the sense that there are concrete "things" and not merely "processes" at a fundamental level, or do you mean epistemic vagueness in the sense that distinct truths about fundamental fact-atoms is potentially knowable?

Both occur to me to have metaphysical implications, but the second seems to be in an equivalence class with most versions of the PSR.

I am guessing that you probably meant something at least subtly different altogether, though, because I would think if anyone know that a metaphysical notion was in line with the PSR it would be someone who wrote the book on it.

rigelrover said...

How does one ground the substantial nature of human persons pace reductionist claims that attempt to eliminate the meaningfulness of "person-hood" in by swapping classically vague notions about properties of persons for empirical facts about the separate phenomena that comprise our notion of person-hood (i.e. "I" is the confluence of sensory responses and memory, among other things)