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Defending Deflationary Heuristics Against Hyperintensional Manoeuvres



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Duxbury, Stephen James 


`Deflationary heuristics' for deflating metaphysical disputes are prominent due to the work of Hirsch, Chalmers and Thomasson. Though these heuristics differ in detail, they work broadly on the same basis. They show that the disputants in a dispute agree on all extensional and intensional facts. Hence, the dispute is merely verbal and should be deflated.

These deflationary heuristics are threatened by `hyperintensional manoeuvres' -- substantivist reformulations that render the dispute about some \textit{hyperintensional} disagreement. This protects the dispute from deflation. Even if there is complete agreement on all extensional and intensional facts, there can be disagreement about some matter of \textit{fundamentality}. Different variants correspond to different analyses of fundamentality: for example, naturalness or grounding-variants.

I seek to defang these hyperintensional manoeuvres. I argue that naturalness and grounding should be interpreted as subjective or interest-relative notions that cannot sustain substantive dispute. If fundamentality is analysed using such notions, then fundamentality inherits this `deflationary-friendliness'. Hence, hyperintensional manoeuvres fail to preserve the substantivity of threatened disputes.

My thesis is structured into three parts. The first introduces deflationary heuristics and hyperintensional manoeuvres. The second argues for the deflationary-friendliness of naturalness, making connections between the perfectly natural properties and the primitive predicates of a future, complete science. I argue that this interpretation of naturalness is to be preferred, as it enjoys the same benefits as traditional interpretations, but without some ideological costs. The third part forges a connection between naturalness and grounding. I argue that all grounding claims are derivable from natural grounding claims in a suitable logic of ground: when natural grounding claims are tautological applications of that logic to perfectly natural translations of English sentences. This permits me to show that grounding inherits the deflationary-friendliness of naturalness.

Consequently, I show that naturalness and grounding is deflationary-friendly. This defangs naturalness and grounding-variants of hyperintensional manoeuvre against deflationary heuristics.




Button, Tim


philosophy, metaphysics, deflationism, grounding, naturalness, hyperintensional


Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
AHRC Doctoral Training Partnership