Making Metaphysics Matter: Essays on Reasons and Persons

Doctoral Dissertation


Metaphysicians commonly encounter challenges to why metaphysics matters. Sometimes, the challenge arises because metaphysical disputes are thought to be unresolvable. If (as is often assumed to be the case) the natural sciences and theoretical considerations constitute the totality of our evidence, there will be many cases in which we are not epistemically justified in believing any one of several competing metaphysical theses. Other times, the challenge arises because even if we can figure out which theses are true, their truth is thought to be practically irrelevant for our everyday lives. I appreciate the beauty of a statue regardless of whether it is identical to or distinct from the clay that constitutes it. I love my cat regardless of whether there are one or many cats occupying nearly the same spatial region. I value the ways in which friendships have changed my life for the better regardless of whether I persist through these changes by perduring or enduring over time. If these challenges of unresolvability and practical irrelevance are insurmountable, then the practice of metaphysics is a tragic pursuit hopelessly cut off from truth and devoid of practical significance. This dissertation is a response to these challenges. The four independent essays that compose it are united by a central theme: to what extent does normative data—roughly, facts about value and what we ought to do—bear on metaphysical disputes? Approaching metaphysical disputes in light of normative data is significant in two ways. First, an ethics-first metaphysics methodology is epistemically significant because it provides a way to resolve some metaphysical disputes. Second, focusing on the connection between metaphysics and normativity shows the ways in which metaphysical concerns matter for our practical lives. Thus, the central theme of this dissertation provides a way to answer both the unresolvability and practical irrelevance challenges for metaphysics.


Attribute NameValues
Author Rebecca Chan
Contributor Meghan Sullivan, Committee Member
Contributor Christopher Shields, Committee Member
Contributor Michael Rea, Research Director
Contributor L. A. Paul, Committee Member
Contributor Peter van Inwagen, Committee Member
Degree Level Doctoral Dissertation
Degree Discipline Philosophy
Degree Name PhD
Defense Date
  • 2017-04-20

Submission Date 2017-06-13
Record Visibility Public
Content License
  • All rights reserved

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