Grounding Questions
Erica Shumener (New York University)

part of: Recent Work on the Logic of Ground
June 5, 2014, 5:00am - 5:30am
IFIKK, University of Oslo


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Jon Erling Litland
University of Oslo


Statements like “Joan is a bachelorette in virtue of being an unmarried woman” are perplexing.  On the one hand, the above captures a compelling grounding claim. The fact that Joan is an unmarried woman grounds the fact that Joan is a bachelorette.  And because grounding is plausibly an irreflexive relation, “Joan is a bachelorette” must be a distinct fact from “Joan is an unmarried woman.”  Yet, the following is a compelling identity claim:  the fact that Joan is a bachelorette is the fact that Joan is an unmarried woman.  So a tension arises.  We must reject one of the following: the grounding claim, certain structural features of ground, or the identity claim.I formulated the tension above in terms of a fact-based approach to ground, but I will explain how these cases cause tension both for proponents of fact-based and sentential operator-based accounts of ground.  Then I will discuss one way of relieving the tension by appealing to essences.  The straightforward appeal to essences is problematic because it is difficult to incorporate this treatment of essences into our account of ground.I will offer a new proposal which rejects the grounding claim above but defends a grounding relationship in the vicinity.  I will argue that we can incorporate essences into a grounding framework by focusing on the nature of questions concerning essences.  Questions and answers stand in an explanatory relationship much like the one grounded claims stand in to their grounds and, furthermore, I will suggest that it makes sense to count the relationship between a question and an answer as a type of grounding.

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