Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Levey's Important New Paper on PSR

Levey Samuel. "The Paradox of Sufficient Reason", The Philosophical Review 125:3 (July 2016), pp. 397-430.

Here's the abstract:
It can be shown by means of a paradox that, given the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR), there is no conjunction of all contingent truths. The question is, or ought to be, how to interpret that result: Quid sibi velit? A celebrated argument against PSR due to Peter van Inwagen and Jonathan Bennett in effect interprets the result to mean that PSR entails that there are no contingent truths. But reflection on parallels in philosophy of mathematics shows it can equally be interpreted either as a proof that there are “too many” contingent truths to combine in a single conjunction or as a proof that the concept contingent truth is indefinitely extensible and there is no such thing as “all contingent truths.” Either interpretation would reconcile PSR with contingent truth, but the natural rationales of those interpretations are at odds. This essay argues that the second interpretation is a more satisfactory explanation of why, if PSR is true, there should be no conjunction of all contingent truths. This sheds new light on the nature of the explanatory demand embedded in PSR and uncovers a number of surprising implications for the commitments of rationalism.
Required reading.

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