Connectives, Predicates, and Priority
In the recent metaphysical literature there has been an explosion of interest in questions of metaphysical and explanatory priority, which have been usually discussed under the label of ‘grounding’. Another area of metaphysical research, of equally longstanding interest (going back even to Aristotle), is that of broadly speaking relational phenomena. The present project aims at bringing these two areas together, by working out an innovative approach to questions of metaphysical priority and by using this approach to shed new light on relational phenomena. With respect to the latter, we will put special emphasis on the semantics of connectives, such as ‘it is more probable that ... than that ...’ and ‘it is better that ... than that ...’. While the semantics of such connectives is prima facie amenable to a treatment in terms of relations between states of affairs, it is worth exploring theoretical options by which the commitment to states of affairs-and relations between them-can be avoided. For instance, in a recent robust defense of realism about the values of logical connectives, Nick Zangwill has argued that the logical ‘or’ in disjunctive facts such as ‘p or not-p’ denotes a non-mereological ‘constituent’ in the respective facts, rather than a relation between them. Armed with an account of metaphysical priority, we will be able to assess claims about the relative priority of different ways of describing relational phenomena (in particular: descriptions in terms of connectives and their semantic values, on the one hand, versus descriptions in terms of relational predicates and their semantic values, i.e., relations, on the other hand). Corresponding to the two areas into which the project’s aims fall, we plan to undertake two subprojects: (A) A general elucidation of notions of metaphysical priority, in which we follow a novel approach that emphasizes distinctions between derivative and non-derivative sectors of reality (or ‘realms of being’). (B) An application of the first subproject’s results to the elucidation of relational phenomena, with special emphasis on the thus-far understudied semantics of connectives. In addition, we also aim at connecting our results in both (A) and (B) with existing literature both in meta-ontology (in particular the burgeoning grounding literature) and in the metaphysics of relations.