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Grounding-theoretic anti-realism about psychological truths

ERI 149
Wednesday 21 November 2018 (13:00-14:00)

Philosophy Work in Progress Seminar Series 2018/19

  • Speaker: Dr Darragh Byrne
  • Title: Grounding-theoretic anti-realism about psychological truths

The Philosophy department's work in progress seminar is an opportunity for the members of staff at Birmingham to present the material they are working on to each other and to the department's postgraduate students.
The seminar meets roughly on fortnightly Wednesdays from 13:00 to 14.00 in the ERI. All welcome!


In a pioneering paper on grounding, Kit Fine (2001) deployed that apparatus to try, inter alia, to precisify what’s at stake between realists and anti-realists of a certain (non-revisionary) kind. This theme barely features in the literature on the logic and metaphysics of grounding that has proliferated over subsequent years. But in the philosophy of mind, Alyssa Ney (2016) has recently proposed a grounding-theoretic analogue of role- (as opposed to realizer-) functionalism, which she advertises as an attractive Finean anti-realism about the psychological. I take issue with Ney’s characterization of her theory as distinctively anti-realist (even in Fine’s sense); but I approve of her aspiration to articulate an anti-realist construal of psychological discourse using a contemporary notion of metaphysical explanation such as grounding. Thus, in the second part of the paper, I propose a new way in which such a notion can be deployed to yield one. The key move is to propose – in a way that I argue can be informatively related, first to a familiar anti-physicalist doctrine, and second, to familiar anti-realist proposals – that relevant psychological truths are partially but not fully grounded.

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