Existence Claims and Causality

  • Colin Cheyne
Part of the The Western Ontario Series in Philosophy of Science book series (WONS, volume 67)


I have argued that a connection between fact and belief that guarantees truth is a necessary condition for knowledge. I have further argued that the connection must be causal in nature, at least in the attenuated sense of being a k-causal connection. If my claim is correct, then we do not have knowledge of platonic objects. I have discussed difficulties for sustaining these claims in the face of various objections and counterexamples. In this chapter, I argue that a global causal requirement is not the only basis for a causal objection to platonism. By a ‘global’ requirement, I mean one that applies to all knowledge. My challenge to the platonist will be to ask how we can know that platonic objects, as such, exist. I shift the focus of the debate away from causal constraints on knowledge in general and towards causal constraints on existential knowledge, by which I mean, knowledge that certain entities exist.1


Causal Power Ontological Commitment Justify Belief Causal Interaction Causal Criterion 
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  1. 1.
    This chapter is based on Cheyne (1998).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Here I follow Hale’s practice of referring to both universal and existential facts as ‘general’ facts, in contrast to ‘singular’ facts.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    CERN is the European Organisation for Nuclear Research. LEP is their Large Electron-Positron collider.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Deductivists will claim that both are cases of deducing truths from singular and general axioms. It is just that in the empirical case, the general axioms are usually suppressed. See Musgrave(1989).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Hale (1987, p. 101) suggests this response.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    The following arguments draw on conversations with Charles Pigden and unpublished writings by Charles Pigden and Rebecca Entwisle.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    This argument is a variation on Descartes’ ontological argument for the existence of God, (164/1969, ‘Meditation V pp. 204–05). The arguments of Malcolm (1960) and Plantinga (1974, ch. 10) are, in essence, variations on Descartes’ argument.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    See Hughes & Cresswell (1968, ch. 4).Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    For a detailed criticism of the use of Frege’s criterion to prove the existence of numbers see Field (1989, ch.5). See also my Section 10.2.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    The somewhat inelegant expression ‘a tallest spy’ is necessary to cover the possibility of a dead heat for the role of tallest spy.Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    I have already noted (in Section 4.5) that Goldman (1967, p. 364) suggests such a modification for his global condition on knowledge.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    See Field (1989, Ch. 6).Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Beau incautiously claims that these non-natural scientists are, in fact, postulating the existence of acausal entities, but this is to take a large step in the direction of begging the question. For the purpose of his argument, all he need claim is that causal powers are no part of their postulation.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Cheyne
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OtagoDunedinNew Zealand

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