Nemes on Existential Inertia: The Earlier Account

So, this will be a short post, as I’m incredibly busy with schoolwork. The wonderfully-dressed and beautifully-mustached Steven Nemes recently criticized portions of my paper on existential inertia. For a proof of the truth of existential inertia, click here.

In the podcast, he first criticized (what has come to be called) the Earlier Account as not providing any account of that in virtue of which things persist, citing the discussion on Intellectual Conservatism. (I have responded to this discussion in a two part video series.)

In personal correspondence, Steven has articulated this objection to me as follows (this is a (very-close-to-the-original) paraphrase of what he wrote):

“The Earlier Account is not an actual account of how existence can be inertial. It is simply a reformulation of the EI thesis. There is no substantial difference between affirming that (a) x persists in the absence of destructive factors without external sustaining assistance, and affirming that (b) the total existence and state of x at an immediately prior time in conjunction with the absence of destructive factors sufficiently explains the existence of x at the next time.”

Steven Nemes

But this is wrong. The account provides a means by which the object persists, namely in terms of (one or more) transtemporal explanatory relations. For simplicity and ease of presentation, I’ll henceforth treat these as causal explanations. (Though, it should be noted that I leave the particular kind of explanatory relation open in the paper.)

So, the account in question can be viewed as saying that there are transtemporal causal explanations that ensure objects persist – and as with any other causal explanation, the condition that there’s no sufficiently causally counteracting factor is necessary to include. (For example, x may causally contribute to y, such that x is sufficient for y in the absence of sufficiently counteractive factors; but there could be some overriding causal factor z that prevents y; and hence a full explanation of y’s obtaining in terms of x would have to adduce the absence of z).

And by my lights, it seems simply mistaken to say that (inertial) persistence isn’t explained/accounted for under the proposal in question (namely, by means of causation). Causation is a hallmark explanatory relation. (ndeed, Nemes’ account requires the purely actual being to cause the this-such. The only substantive difference between our accounts is whether or not the causation in question is concurrent (as opposed to transtemporal). At the very least, it seems to be metaphysical prejudice to say my account in terms of causation is not an ‘actual account’ while Nemes’ account in terms of causation is an actual account simply because mine involves an immediately-temporally-prior cause while Nemes’ involves a concurrent cause.

Moreover, there is clearly a (substantial) difference between (a) and (b), since the former underdetermines whether inertial persistence is a brute fact, while the latter is explicit that it cannot be a mere brute fact but is instead accounted for in terms of transtemporal explanatory relations – something we already have good reason to include within our ontology (so I and others would argue).

I’m still in the middle of listening to the podcast episode; if there are further criticisms that trigger me enough to make blog posts, you shall see those in due time. And, once again, thanks to the Classical Theism podcast and Steven Nemes for engaging my work. Much love! 🙂

Author: Joe

Email: MajestyOfReason@gmail.com

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