Volume 59, Issue 1, March 2019
James Dominic Rooney, O.P.
Grounding Relations Are Not Unified
Aquinas and Heil versus Schaffer
Jonathan Schaffer, among others, has argued that metaphysics should deal primarily with relations of “grounding.” I will follow John Heil in arguing that this view of metaphysics is problematic, for it draws on ambiguous notions of grounding and fundamentality that are unilluminating as metaphysical explanations. I take Heil’s objections to presuppose that “grounding” relations do not form a natural class, where a natural class is one where some member of that class has (analytic or contingent a posteriori) priority among others and explains order among other members in the class. To strengthen Heil’s criticism that “grounding” is a non-natural class of relations, I will draw on an unlikely ally. Thomas Aquinas’s “analogy of being” doctrine, if accurate, offers reasons that no categorical relations (like grounding relations) form a natural class.