Philosophical Studies

, Volume 174, Issue 5, pp 1191–1215 | Cite as

Difference-making grounds

  • Stephan KrämerEmail author
  • Stefan Roski


We define a notion of difference-making for partial grounds of a fact in rough analogy to existing notions of difference-making for causes of an event. Using orthodox assumptions about ground, we show that it induces a non-trivial division with examples of partial grounds on both sides. We then demonstrate the theoretical fruitfulness of the notion by applying it to the analysis of a certain kind of putative counter-example to the transitivity of ground recently described by Jonathan Schaffer. First, we show that our conceptual apparatus of difference-making enables us to give a much clearer description than Schaffer does of what makes the relevant instances of transitivity appear problematic. Second, we suggest that difference-making is best seen as a mark of good grounding-based explanations rather than a necessary condition on grounding, and argue that this enables us to deal with the counter-example in a satisfactory way. Along the way, we show that Schaffer’s own proposal for salvaging a form of transitivity by moving to a contrastive conception of ground is unsuccessful. We conclude by sketching some natural strategies for extending our proposal to a more comprehensive account of grounding-based explanations.


Grounding Causation Explanation Difference-making Transitivity 



We would like to thank our fellow phlox research-group members Michael Clark and Martin Lipman as well as Neil McDonnell for their comments on an earlier version of the paper. We'd also like to thank Ansten Klev and an anonymous referee of this journal for their comments. Stephan Krämer’s work on this paper has been funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (Grant KR 4516/1-1); Stefan Roski’s work has been funded by the Behörde für Wissenschaft und Forschung Hamburg (Grant: Welt der Gründe). Both of us gratefully acknowledge the support.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyUniversität HamburgHamburgGermany

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