Beyond Metaphysical Modesty

Annual lecture
Prof. Josep Corbí
Start date
End date
Seminari de Filosofia, 4ª planta. Facultat de Filosofía, UB


In Estrangement and Metaphysical Dissatisfaction (2011), Barry Stroud elaborates a number of transcendental arguments against subjectivist views on causal dependence, necessity and value. He argues that transcendental arguments entitle us to conclude that such views cannot be coherently defended, but provide no reason to ground a positive metaphysical verdict, namely, to claim that causal dependence, necessity or value are features of the world as it is in itself, independent of us. Thus, Stroud defends a modest understanding of the metaphysical import of transcendental arguments. I will argue, however, that he faces the following dilemma: either he renounces the
relevance of his transcendental arguments against the subjectivist views, or he acknowledges that his line of argument provides some reason in favour of a positive metaphysical verdict concerning causal dependence, necessity, and value. In short, I will conclude that Stroud cannot coherently defend a metaphysically modest understanding of his transcendental arguments and, therefore, that he must go beyond metaphysical modesty. Even though in my talk I will focus on causal dependence, my case against metaphysical modesty applies to necessity and value as well. My line of argument does not apply, however, to transcendental arguments against scepticism about the external world. A crucial difference in this respect is that the sceptic who merely doubts the existence of the external world does not commit themself to the truth of any metaphysical thesis, whereas subjectivist views about causal dependence deny the existence of certain properties of the world as it is in itself, independently of us. It is this metaphysical commitment that excludes a strictly modest understanding of Stroud's transcendental arguments against such views.