Philosophical Studies

, Volume 174, Issue 12, pp 2927–2952 | Cite as

Grounding and the argument from explanatoriness

  • David Mark KovacsEmail author


In recent years, metaphysics has undergone what some describe as a revolution: it has become standard to understand a vast array of questions as questions about grounding, a metaphysical notion of determination. Why should we believe in grounding, though? Supporters of the revolution often gesture at what I call the Argument from Explanatoriness: the notion of grounding is somehow indispensable to a metaphysical type of explanation. I challenge this argument and along the way develop a “reactionary” view, according to which there is no interesting sense in which the notion of grounding is explanatorily indispensable. I begin with a distinction between two conceptions of grounding, a distinction which extant critiques of the revolution have usually failed to take into consideration: grounding qua that which underlies metaphysical explanation and grounding qua metaphysical explanation itself. Accordingly, I distinguish between two versions of the Argument from Explanatoriness: the Unexplained Explanations Version for the first conception of grounding, and the Expressive Power Version for the second. The paper’s conclusion is that no version of the Argument from Explanatoriness is successful.


Causal explanation Constitution Constitutive explanation Grounding Metaphysical explanation Scientific explanation Unification 



For many helpful comments on and numerous discussions about this paper, I’m especially indebted to Karen Bennett, Matti Eklund, and Ted Sider. For very helpful comments and discussion I’m also grateful to Paul Audi, Shamik Dasgupta, Louis deRosset, Eric Epstein, Ghislain Guigon, Dan Korman, Jon Litland, Eric Rowe, Nico Silins, Alex Skiles, Tuomas Tahko, Elanor Taylor, Kelly Trogdon, two anonymous referees, and audiences at the department workshop at Cornell University, the 88th Joint Session at the University of Cambridge, the 2nd Philosophy Unbound conference at Lehigh University, the 2015 Central APA at St. Louis, and the Research Group for the History and Philosophy of Science (RCH HAS) at Budapest.


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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyBilkent UniversityBilkent, AnkaraTurkey

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