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hypostasis, reification

s. g. williams

Subject Philosophy » Metaphysics

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631199991.1995.x


A process of reasoning in which the existence of something is accepted by virtue of its explicit role in a theory or explanation: the thing's existence is postulated with in the theory or explanation in order to help understand some already accepted phenomenon or fact and its existence is accepted because the theory or explanation is thought to be a good one. Hypostasis was explicitly used initially to try to warrant belief in the existence of a substance underlying various groups of perceivable attributes: the substance's existence was taken to be part of the best explanation of the co-occurrence of the attributes. But its power and plausibility are perhaps better appreciated now in the area of natural science, particularly in the vindication of our beliefs in the elementary particles of physics. Their existence is accepted solely on the basis of their role in explanatorily powerful physical theories. The reason why hypostasis seems so plausible in respect of many elementary particles is that they are postulated as causes of straight forwardly observable effects. But a number of philosophers have tried to extend the use of hypostasis to warrant acceptance of other kinds of objects to which, because of their apparent causal inertness, we would otherwise have dubious epistemological access. For example, the existence of certain mathematical objects - or their set-theoretic surrogates ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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