Philosophy Colloquium: Robert M Adams


Fri, 02/08/2019 - 15:00 to 17:00

The Spring 2019 Philosophy Colloquium Series presents Robert M Adams (Rutgers University). 

Title: Intrinsic Reality, Relationality, and Consciousness

This talk is a chapter of a book I am writing about “metaphysics light and heavy.” In this chapter I introduce my candidate for the role of metaphysically heavyweight being. It is having being in the very opposite of the way in which merely intentional objects have being. (Examples of merely intentional objects are fictitious characters, and the famously unwritten constitution of the United Kingdom, which is definitely not fictitious, though it may now be in some disarray.) Their being is metaphysically lightweight because it has its home, not in them, but in the being of something else that represents them. Metaphysically heavyweight being is the being of something whose whole being is fully and primally present in itself. In a phrase associated with Kant, it is the being of a “thing in itself,” which has “intrinsic reality,” as I also put it. Such intrinsic reality of a thing depends on its having properties of the right sort, and having them in the right way. A property that is of the right sort, and which a thing has in the right way is, as I put it, a constitutive ground of intrinsic reality for that thing.

I have two things to say about what are the right sort of properties. The first point is that they must be positive rather negative, in a way that I don’t attempt to define but hope I don’t need to. For example, I think is it is intuitively obvious that the property of being neither conscious nor spherical does not have the right sort of positive content. The second point is that a relational or structural property, such as shape, for example, does not have the right sort of positive content unless the things that have that relationship or structure have some other positive content that is of the right sort.

And as for having the right properties in the right way, that is partly a matter of having the properties together; but it is above all a matter of having them completely in itself. Thus my concept of intrinsic reality is a both positively and negatively relational On the positive side, I argue that having certain parts can be a constitutive ground of intrinsic reality for a whole, as long as the parts are entirely contained in the whole. On the negative side, as I argue in chapter 6, if things A and B are wholly distinct from each other, and something wholly internal to A causes something wholly internal to B, that relationship cannot be a constitutive ground of intrinsic reality for either A or B, because it is not wholly internal to either A or B. That point has architectonic importance for the book, as it sets one of the the central problems for subsequent chapters, which is to identify a sufficiently inclusive subject of causal relationships to constitute a causal unity of the whole universe.

Location: Maloney Seminar Room, Social Sciences 224.

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