CV

Articles

23. No Work for a Theory of Grounding It has recently been suggested that a distinctive metaphysical relation---"Grounding"---is ultimately at issue in contexts where some goings-on are said to hold "in virtue of"", be (constitutively) "metaphysically dependent on", or be "nothing over and above" some others (see Fine 2001, Schaffer 2009, and Rosen 2010). Grounding is supposed to do good work (better than merely modal notions, in particular) in illuminating metaphysical dependence. I argue that Grounding is also unsuited to do this work. To start, Grounding alone cannot do this work, for bare claims of Grounding leave open such basic questions as whether Grounded goings-on exist, whether they are reducible to or rather distinct from Grounding goings-on, whether they are efficacious, and so on; but in the absence of answers to such basic questions, we are not in position to assess the associated claim or theses concerning metaphysical dependence. There is no avoiding appeal to the specific metaphysical relations typically at issue in investigations into dependence---e.g., type or token identity, functional realization, classical mereological parthood, the set membership relation, the proper subset relation, the determinable/determinate relation, and so on---that are typically at issue in contexts where metaphysical dependence is at issue, and which are capable of answering these questions. But, I argue, once the specific relations are on the scene, there is no need for Grounding, either as tracking a coarse-grained but still useful level of investigation, as needed for the specific relations to fix the direction of priority, or as unifying the specific relations.
Inquiry 10.1080/0020174X.2014.907542

22. Hume's Dictum and Metaphysical Modality: Lewis's Combinatorialism (draft of 3/5/13) Many contemporary philosophers accept Hume's Dictum (HD), according to which there are no metaphysically necessary connections between distinct, intrinsically typed entities. Tacit in Lewis's work is a potential motivation for HD, according to which one should accept HD as presupposed by the best account of the range of metaphysical possibilities---namely, a combinatorial account, applied to spatiotemporal fundamentalia. Here I elucidate and assess this Ludovician motivation for HD.
Forthcoming in The Blackwell Companion to David Lewis (Barry Loewer and Jonathan Schaffer, eds.)

21. A Determinable-based Account of Metaphysical Indeterminacy Many phenomena appear to be indeterminate, including material macro-object boundaries, predicates or properties admitting of borderline cases, and certain open future claims. Here I provide an account of indeterminacy in metaphysical, rather than semantic or epistemic, terms. Previous such accounts have been "meta-level" accounts, taking metaphysical indeterminacy (MI) to involve its being indeterminate which of various determinate states of affairs obtain. On my alternative, "object-level" account, MI involves its being determinate (or just plain true) that an indeterminate (less than maximally specific) SOA obtains. I more specifically suggest that MI involves an object's (i) having a determinable property, but (ii) not having any unique determinate of that determinable. I motivate the needed extension of the traditional understanding of determinables, then argue that a determinable-based account of MI accommodates, in intuitive and intelligible fashion, indeterminacy in both material object boundaries and in the open future, while satisfactorily treating the usual concerns to accounts of MI stemming from Evans's argument and the problem of the many.
Inquiry 56: 359Đ385

20. Three Dogmas of Metaphysical Methodology In what does philosophical progress consist? 'Vertical' progress corresponds to development within a specific paradigm/framework for theorizing (of the sort associated, revolutions aside, with science); 'horizontal' progress corresponds to the identification and cultivation of diverse paradigms (of the sort associated, conservativism aside, with art and pure mathematics). Philosophical progress seems to involve both horizontal and vertical dimensions, in a way that is somewhat puzzling: philosophers work in a number of competing frameworks (like artists or mathematicians), while typically maintaining that only one of these is correct (like scientists). I diagnose this situation as reflecting that we are presently quite far from the end of inquiry into philosophical methodology. The good news is that we appear to be making advances on this score. The bad news is that failure to recognize or make explicit that our standards are in flux often leads to dogmatism, as I illustrate by attention to three assumptions presently operative in metaphysical and metametaphysical contexts. I close by identifying a tension between vertical and horizontal progress in philosophy, and suggesting an updated version of Carnap's principle of tolerance for new philosophical forms.
Philosophical Methodology: The Armchair or the Laboratory? (Matthew Haug, ed.) 145-165

19. The Regress Argument against Cartesian Skepticism I argue that Cartesian skepticism about the external world leads to a vicious regress of skeptical attitudes, the only principled and unproblematic response to which requires refraining from taking the very first skeptical step.
Analysis (October 2012) 72:668-773

18. Nonlinearity and Metaphysical Emergence The nonlinearity of a composite system, whereby certain of its features (including powers and behaviors) cannot be seen as linear or other broadly additive combinations of features of the system's composing entities, has been frequently seen as a mark of metaphysical emergence, coupling the dependence of a composite system on an underlying system of composing entities with the composite system's ontological autonomy from its underlying system. But why think that nonlinearity is a mark of emergence, and moreover, of metaphysical rather than merely epistemological emergence? Are there diverse ways in which nonlinearity might enter into an account of properly metaphysical emergence? And what are the prospects for there actually being phenomena that are metaphysically emergent in any available sense? Here I explore the mutual bearing of nonlinearity and metaphysical emergence, with an eye towards answering these and related questions.
Metaphysics and Science (Stephen Mumford and Matthew Tugby, eds.) (2013) 201-235

17. Hume's Dictum and the Asymmetry of Counterfactual Dependence (draft of 10/08/13) Why believe Hume's Dictum, according to which there are, roughly speaking, no necessary connections between wholly distinct entities? Schaffer ('Quiddistic Knowledge', 2009) suggests that HD, at least as applied to causal or nomological connections, is motivated as required by the best account of (the truth) of counterfactuals---namely, a similarity-based possible worlds account, where the operative notion of similarity requires 'miracles'---more specifically, worlds where entities of the same type that actually exist enter into different laws. The main cited motivations for such an account of similarity are first, that some salient contexts presuppose CF asymmetry, and second, that accounts of CFs failing to presuppose CF asymmetry are epistemologically problematic, such that under conditions of determinism, the variations in initial micro-conditions needed to implement a given counterfactual antecedent would result in so many changes to macro-states that evaluation of CFs would be rendered practically impossible. Against the first reason, I argue that no non-artificial contexts presuppose CF asymmetry; against the second, I observe that such micro-variation is compatible, in principle, with significant similarity as regards macroscopic states of affairs---enough, in particular, to allow CFs to be appropriately evaluated.
Forthcoming in Chance and Temporal Asymmetry (Alastair Wilson, ed.)

16. Fundamental Determinables Contemporary philosophers commonly suppose that any fundamental entities there may be are maximally determinate, or that in any case determinables are grounded in, hence less fundamental than, more determinate entities. Here I argue that the usually cited reasons for these suppositions are not compelling; I moreover identify a positive reason for taking some determinable entities to be part of a fundamental (or relatively fundamental) base.
Philosophers' Imprint' (January 2012) 12:1--17

15. Relativized Metaphysical Modality (with Adam Murray) (2012) : It is commonly supposed that metaphysical modal claims are to be evaluated with respect to a single domain of possible worlds: a claim is metaphysically necessary just in case it is true in every possible world, and metaphysically possible just in case it is true in some possible world. We argue that the standard understanding is incorrect; rather, whether a given claim is metaphysically necessary or possible is relative to which world is indicatively actual. We motivate our view by attention to discussions in Salmon 1989 and Fine 2005, in which various data are taken to support rejecting the transitivity of accessibility (Salmon) and modal monism (Fine); we argue that relativized metaphysical modality can accommodate these data compatible with both standard modal logic(s) and modal monism. Noting an analogy with two-dimensional semantics, we argue that metaphysical modality has a complex structure, reflecting what is counterfactually possible, relative to each indicatively actual world. In arguing for the need for relativization, we are broadly on the same side with Crossley and Humberstone (1977) and Davies and Humberstone (1979); our contribution here is, first, to offer distinctively metaphysical reasons for relativization, and second, to show that relativization can be incorporated in ways minimally departing from standard modal logic(s).
Oxford Studies in Metaphysics (Karen Bennett and Dean Zimmerman, eds.) Oxford: Oxford University Press; 189-286

14. Much Ado about 'Something': Critical Notice of Metametaphysics Analysis (2011) 71:172--188
13. Non-reductive Realization and the Powers-based Subset Strategy I argue that satisfaction of a certain condition on token powers is sufficient and plausibly necessary for non-reductive realization. (Here I refine and defend the powers-based subset strategy first presented in Wilson 1999.) In terms of states, the condition requires that the token powers of a realized state on an occasion be a proper subset of the token powers of the realizing state on that occasion. I motivate the strategy and argue that it does not require endorsement of a causal essentialist account of properties/states; I argue that it makes room for realized states to be ontologically and causally autonomous, without inducing problematic causal overdetermination, and compatible with both Physicalism and Non-reduction; I show that several accounts of non-reductive realization arguably implement the strategy; I argue that alternative accounts (in terms of supervenience, token identity, and constitution) are problematic.
The Monist issue on powers (2011) 94:121--154

12. What is Hume's Dictum, and Why Believe It? Hume's Dictum (HD) says, roughly and typically, that there are no metaphysically necessary connections between distinct, intrinsically typed, entities. HD plays an influential role in metaphysical debate, both in constructing theories and in assessing them. One should ask of such an influential thesis: why believe it? Proponents do not accept Hume's arguments for his dictum, nor do they provide their own; however, some have suggested either that HD is analytic or that it is synthetic a priori (that is: motivated by intuitions we have no good reason to question). Here I explore whether belief in HD is directly justified on either grounds. I motivate and present more formal characterizations of HD; I show that there are good prima facie cases to be made for HD's being analytic and for its being synthetic a priori; I argue that each of the prima facie cases fails, some things considered.
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2010) 80:595--637

11. Non-reductive Physicalism and Degrees of Freedom Some claim that Non-reductive Physicalism (NRP) is an unstable position, on grounds that NRP either collapses into reductive physicalism (contra Non-reduction), or expands into emergentism of a robust or ``strong'' variety (contra Physicalism). I argue that this claim is unfounded, by attention to the notion of a degree of freedom---roughly, an independent parameter needed to specify states upon which the law-governed properties and behavior of a given (type of) entity functionally depend. In particular, I argue that what I call "eliminations in DOF"---when strictly fewer degrees of freedom are required to characterize certain special science entities than are required to characterize (systems consisting of) their composing physical/physically acceptable entities---provide a basis for making sense of how certain special science entities can be both physically acceptable and ontologically irreducible to physical entities.
British Journal for Philosophy of Science (2010) 61:279--311

10. From Constitutional Necessities to Causal Necessities Humeans and non-Humeans typically agree that there may be necessary connections between entities that are identical or merely partly distinct. Following Hume's Dictum (HD), however, Humeans maintain that there are no necessary causal connections between wholly distinct entities. The Humean's differential treatment appears principled, in that commonly accepted necessary connections involve constitutional relations, whereas causally connected entities do not constitute each other. I argue that the best account of what facts in the world plausibly warrant our beliefs in certain constitutional necessities involving natural kinds, known either a priori (`necessarily, everything scarlet is red') or a posteriori (`necessarily, anything that is an electron is negatively charged')---shows that the appearance of principle is not genuine, as per Constitutional -> Causal: If one accepts certain constitutional necessities, one should accept certain causal necessities.
Classifying nature: the semantics and metaphysics of natural kinds, Helen Beebee and Nigel Sabbarton-Leary, eds. (2010) New York: Routledge; 192--211

9. The Causal Argument against Component Forces Do component forces exist in conjoined circumstances? Cartwright (1980) says no; Creary (1981) says yes. I'm on Cartwright's side in this matter, but find several problems with her argumentation. My primary aims in this paper are first, to canvass these problems and second, to present a better, distinctly causal, argument against component forces. A secondary aim is to show that rejecting component forces does not require, pace Cartwright, rejecting the 'facticity' account of laws of nature, according to which laws express facts about what happens.
Dialectica (2010) 63:525--554

8. Determination, Realization, and Mental Causation How can mental properties bring about physical effects, as they seem to do, given that the physical realizers of the mental goings-on are already sufficient to cause these effects? This question gives rise to the problem of mental causation (MC) and its associated threats of causal overdetermination, mental causal exclusion, and mental causal irrelevance. Some (e.g., the Macdonalds and Yablo) have suggested that understanding mental-physical realization in terms of the determinable/determinate relation (henceforth, `determination') avoids all three threats. Others (e.g., Ehring, Funkhauser, and Walter) have objected that mental-physical realization can't be determination, since such realization lacks one or other characteristic feature of determination. I argue that on a proper understanding of the features of determination key to solving the problem of MC these arguments can be resisted.
Philosophical Studies (2009) 145:149--169

7. Resemblance-based Resources for Reductive Singularism Following Hume, it has been commonly assumed that Causal reductionism requires Causal generalism (whereby causal relations are constituted, in part, by causal laws). I argue that causal reductionists have resources for making sense of Causal singularism, associated with an underexploited relation: resemblance. The core idea I explore is that causation may be metaphysically and epistemologically indicated by the coming-to-be of a resemblance. Comings-to-be of resemblances are epistemically available in the singular instance, and can justify singular causal belief; hence Hume's general argument for generalism fails. Such resemblances also provide valuable resources for contemporary singularist accounts: while neither changes (Ducasse) nor transfers of physical quantities (Fair, Dowe, Salmon) provide a sufficiently fine-grained basis for the individuation of causes, either changes or transfers, in combination with comings-to-be of resemblances, can do so.
The Monist (2009; singularist causation issue) 92:153--190

6. Newtonian Forces Newtonian forces are pushes and pulls, possessing magnitude and direction, that are exerted (in the first instance) by objects, and which cause motions. I defend Newtonian forces against the four best reasons for denying or doubting their existence: (1) that Newtonian mechanics is unfit to deliver ontological conclusions on grounds of having been superseded by energy-based theories; (2) that Newtonian forces are unobservable, and hence are, at best, instrumentalist fictions; (3) that since we can construct a theory empirically equivalent to Newtonian mechanics that eliminates all reference to forces, OckhamĂ­s razor counsels accepting the more parsimonious theory, and rejecting forces; and (4) that since Newtonian forces cause effects that non-force entities already cause, the posit of forces leads to an unacceptable problem of causal overdetermination. A running theme in my defense of forces will be the suggestion that NM is a special science, and as such has certain prima facie ontological rights and privileges, that may be maintained against various challenges.
British Journal for Philosophy of Science (2007) 58:173--205

5. On Characterizing the Physical How should physical entities be characterized? Physicalists, who have most to do with the notion, usually characterize the physical by reference to two components: 1. The physical entities are the entities treated by fundamental physics with the proviso that 2. Physical entities are not fundamentally mental (that is, do not individually possess or bestow mentality) Here I explore the extent to which the appeals to fundamental physics and to the NFM (no fundamental mentality) constraint are appropriate for characterizing the physical, especially for purposes of formulating physicalism. Ultimately, I motivate and defend a version of an account incorporating both components: The physics-based NFM account: An entity existing at a world w is physical iff (i) it is treated, approximately accurately, by current or future (in the limit of inquiry, ideal) versions of fundamental physics at w, and (ii) it is not fundamentally mental (that is, does not individually either possess or bestow mentality)
Philosophical Studies (2006) 131:61--99

4. Supervenience-based Formulations of Physicalism The physicalist thesis that all entities are nothing over and above physical entities is often interpreted as appealing to a supervenience-based account of "nothing over and aboveness”, where, schematically, the A-entities are nothing over and above the B-entities if the A-entities supervene on the B-entities. The main approaches to filling in this schema correspond to different ways of characterizing the modal strength, the supervenience base, or the supervenience connection at issue. I consider each approach in turn, and argue that the resulting formulation of physicalism is compatible with physicalism’s best traditional rival: a naturalist emergentism. Others have argued that supervenience-based formulations of physicalism fail. My aim here, besides addressing the full spectrum of supervenience-based approaches, is to show how certain philosophical and scientific theses concerning naturalism, properties, and laws give us new reasons to think that supervenience-based formulations of physicalism are untenable.
Nous (2005) 29:426--459

3. Causal Powers, Forces, and Superdupervenience Horgan (1993) proposed that \superdupervenience"|supervenience preserving physicalistic acceptability|is a matter of robust explanation. I argued against him (1999) that (as nearly all physicalist and emergentist accounts respect) superdupervenience is a matter of Condition on Causal Powers (CCP): every causal power bestowed by the supervenient property is identical with a causal power bestowed by its base property. Here I identify a problem with CCP: it threatens to render physicalism trivially true, for on standard accounts of causation, a necessitating entity inherits every causal power of any entity it necessitates. I offer a revised version of a causal powers account not rendering physicalism trivially true, based in the fact that causal powers are grounded in particular sets of fundamental forces or interactions. The revised account (which applies to cases of diachronic as well as synchronic necessitation) characterizes over and aboveness in 'force-relative' terms (such that, e.g., a physicalist would maintain, and an emergentist would deny, that no mental state had or bestowed a causal power that its necessitating brain state didn't bestow, relative to the set of fundamental physical forces/interactions).
Grazer Philosophische Studien (2002) 63:53--78

2. Could Experience Disconfirm the Propositions of Arithmetic? Alberto Casullo ("Necessity, Certainty, and the A Priori", Canadian Journal of Philosophy 18, 1988) argues that arithmetical propositions could be disconfirmed by appeal to an invented scenario, wherein our standard counting procedures indicate that 2 + 2 != 4. Our best response to such a scenario would be, Casullo suggests, to accept the results of the counting procedures, and give up standard arithmetic. While Casullo's scenario avoids arguments against previous "disconfirming" scenarios, it founders on the assumption, common to scenario and response, that arithmetic might be independent of standard counting procedures. Here I show, by attention to tallying as the simplest form of counting, that this assumption is incoherent: given standard counting procedures, then (on pain of irrationality) arithmetical theory follows. §
Canadian Journal of Philosophy (2000) 30:55--84

1. How Superduper does a Physicalist Supervenience Need to Be? Horgan claims that physicalism requires "superdupervenience" -- supervenience plus robust ontological explanation of supervenient in terms of base properties. I argue that Horgan's account fails to rule out physically unacceptable emergence. I rather suggest that this and other unacceptable possibilities may be ruled out by requiring that each individual causal power in the set associated with a given supervenient property be numerically identical with a causal power in the set associated with its base property. Satisfying this condition is all that is needed to render supervenience superduper. I go on to show that a wide variety of physicalist accounts, both reductive and non-reductive, are implicitly or explicitly designed to meet this condition, and so are more similar than they seem.
Philosophical Quarterly (1999) 49:33--52

Shorter things

5. Martin's The Mind in Nature Mind (2010) 119:503--511
4. Rodriguez-Pereyra's Resemblance Nominalism Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2006) 72:241--246
3. Force Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2006):690--692 (addendum to Max Black's entry)
2. Causality The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia (2006):90--100
1. Perry's Knowledge, Possibility, and Consciousness The Philosophical Review (2002) 111(4):598--601

Wilsonic!

Jessica at Topkapi Palace, Istanbul, 2014

PhilPapers profile
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