The Place of the Second Nature in the Diachronic First Nature

Yujian ZHENG

Research output: Other Conference ContributionsConference Paper (other)Researchpeer-review


This paper aims at revealing a paramountly important feature of the place of rational beings in the universe, a feature inextricably embedded in natural evolution or cosmological contingent processes that, with no supernatural design, ultimately have produced creatures who can legitimately and inevitably assume the ‘design stance’ to understand almost everything in their environments as well as cosmological history.

To facilitate this aim, I argue for a special notion of modality, i.e., retrospective necessity, that distinguishes itself both from causal/nomological necessity and from conceptual/apriori necessity. It is, in one sense, akin to Kripkean style aposteriori necessity but, in at least two important aspects, irreducibly unique: firstly, it is associated with the ex post facto perspective of an end-product of some multistep lottery-like (natural) games, regardless of the epistemic status of the product; secondly, the objectively attributable retrospective necessity (in a weak sense) to the product’s upstream causal chain would only gain its full logical status when the endogenous product, or surviving species, become epistemic rational beings, beings capable not only of self-legislation in the space of reasons but simultaneously also of normative retrospective endowment/ascription of content to their evolutionary predecessors.

I will conclude the argument with an illuminating comparison of this generic notion of retrospective necessity with the (weak version of) Anthropic Principle in cosmology, with an eye to showing the latter’s special significance in re-enchanting nature as well as our unique place in it.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - May 2016
EventThe 11th East-West Philosophers' Conference - University of Hawaii, Honolulu, Hawaii, United States
Duration: 24 May 201631 May 2016


ConferenceThe 11th East-West Philosophers' Conference
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityHonolulu, Hawaii
Internet address


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