•  778
    Dispositions, rules, and finks
    Philosophical Studies 140 (2). 2007.
    This paper discusses the prospects of a dispositional solution to the Kripke–Wittgenstein rule-following puzzle. Recent attempts to employ dispositional approaches to this puzzle have appealed to the ideas of finks and antidotes—interfering dispositions and conditions—to explain why the rule-following disposition is not always manifested. We argue that this approach fails: agents cannot be supposed to have straightforward dispositions to follow a rule which are in some fashion masked by other, c…Read more
  •  586
    Antidotes all the way down?
    Theoria 19 (3). 2004.
    Dispositions are related to conditionals. Typically a fragile glass will break if struck with force. But possession of the disposition does not entail the corresponding simple (subjunctive or counterfactual) conditional. The phenomena of finks and antidotes show that an object may possess the disposition without the conditional being true. Finks and antidotes may be thought of as exceptions to the straightforward relation between disposition and conditional. The existence of these phenomena are …Read more
  •  412
    Necessarily, salt dissolves in water
    Analysis 61 (4). 2001.
    In this paper I aim to show that a certain law of nature, namely that common salt (sodium chloride) dissolves in water, is metaphysically necessary. The importance of this result is that it conflicts with a widely shared intuition that the laws of nature (most if not all) are contingent. There have been debates over whether some laws, such as Newton’s second law, might be definitional of their key terms and hence necessary. But the law that salt dissolves in water is not that kind of law. The law …Read more
  •  411
    What is scientific progress?
    Noûs 41 (1). 2007.
    I argue that scientific progress is precisely the accumulation of scientific knowledge.
  •  400
    Essences and natural kinds
    In Robin Le Poidevin (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Metaphysics, Routledge. pp. 497--506. 2009.
    Essentialism as applied to individuals is the claim that for at least some individuals there are properties that those individuals possess essentially. What it is to possess a property essentially is a matter of debate. To possess a property essentially is often taken to be akin to possessing a property necessarily, but stronger, although this is not a feature of Aristotle’s essentialism, according to which essential properties are those thing could not lose without ceasing to exist. Kit Fine (1…Read more
  •  396
    Kuhn and Philosophy of Science in the Twentieth Century
    Annals of the Japan Association for Philosophy of Science 12 (2): 61-74. 2004.
    Thomas Kuhn was undoubtedly the strongest influence on the philosophy of science in the last third of the twentieth century. Yet today, at the beginning of the twenty-first century it is unclear what his legacy really is. In the philosophy of science there is no characteristically Kuhnian school. This could be because we are all Kuhnians now. But it might also be because Kuhn’s thought, although revolutionary in its time, has since been superseded. In a sense both may be true. We are all Coperni…Read more
  •  385
    Explanation and laws
    Synthese 120 (1): 1--18. 1999.
    In this paper I examine two aspects of Hempel’s covering-law models of explanation. These are (i) nomic subsumption and (ii) explication by models. Nomic subsumption is the idea that to explain a fact is to show how it falls under some appropriate law. This conception of explanation Hempel explicates using a pair of models, where, in this context, a model is a template or pattern such that if something fits it, then that thing is an explanation. A range of well-known counter-examples to Hempel’s …Read more
  •  377
    The dispositionalist conception of laws
    Foundations of Science 10 (4): 353-70. 2005.
    This paper sketches a dispositionalist conception of laws and shows how the dispositionalist should respond to certain objections. The view that properties are essentially dispositional is able to provide an account of laws that avoids the problems that face the two views of laws (the regularity and the contingent nomic necessitation views) that regard properties as categorical and laws as contingent. I discuss and reject the objections that (i) this view makes laws necessary whereas they are co…Read more
  •  358
    I show that Armstrong’s view of laws as second-order contingent relations of ‘necessitation’ among categorical properties faces a dilemma. The necessitation relation confers a relation of extensional inclusion (‘constant conjunction’) on its relata. It does so either necessarily or contingently. If necessarily, it is not a categorical relation (in the relevant sense). If contingently, then an explanation is required of how it confers extensional inclusion. That explanation will need to appeal to…Read more
  •  351
    The metaphysics of natural kinds
    Synthese 195 (4): 1397-1426. 2018.
    This paper maps the landscape for a range of views concerning the metaphysics of natural kinds. I consider a range of increasingly ontologically committed views concerning natural kinds and the possible arguments for them. I then ask how these relate to natural kind essentialism, arguing that essentialism requires commitment to kinds as entities. I conclude by examining the homeostatic property cluster view of kinds in the light of the general understanding of kinds developed.
  •  334
    Resemblance nominalism and counterparts
    Analysis 63 (3). 2003.
    In his (2002) Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra provides a powerful articulation of the claim that Resemblance Nominalism provides the best answer to the so-called Problem of Universals. Resemblance Nominalism has not been popular for some time, and one influential reason for this is the widespread belief that Resemblance Nominalism cannot dispense with all universals. The realist critics appeal to what is known as Russell’s Regress (cf. Russell 1997). If properties are to be explained in terms of one ob…Read more
  •  301
    The epistemology of science—a bird’s-eye view
    Synthese 175 (S1): 5-16. 2010.
    In this paper I outline my conception of the epistemology of science, by reference to my published papers, showing how the ideas presented there fit together. In particular I discuss the aim of science, scientific progress, the nature of scientific evidence, the failings of empiricism, inference to the best (or only) explanation, and Kuhnian psychology of discovery. Throughout, I emphasize the significance of the concept of scientific knowledge
  •  277
    The regress of pure powers?
    Philosophical Quarterly 57 (229). 2007.
    Dispositional monism is the view that natural properties and relations are ‘pure powers’. It is objected that dispositional monism involves some kind of vicious or otherwise unpalatable regress or circularity. I examine ways of making this objection precise. The most pressing interpretation is that is fails to make the identities of powers determinate. I demonstrate that this objection is in error. It does however puts certain constraints on what the structure of fundamental properties is like. …Read more
  •  268
    Dispositions and antidotes
    Philosophical Quarterly 48 (191): 227-234. 1998.
    In ‘Finkish Dispositions’1 David Lewis proposes an analysis of dispositions which improves on the simple conditional analysis. In this paper I show that Lewis’ analysis still fails. I also argue that repairs are of no avail, and suggest why this is so.
  •  266
    Lange and laws, kinds, and counterfactuals
    In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O'Rourke & Matthew H. Slater (eds.), Carving Nature at its Joints, Mit Press. 2011.
    In this paper I examine and question Marc Lange’s account of laws, and his claim that the law delineating the range of natural kinds of fundamental particle has a lesser grade of necessity that the laws connecting the fundamental properties of those kinds with their derived properties.
  •  261
    Explanation and Metaphysics
    Synthese 143 (1-2): 89-107. 2005.
    Is the nature of explanation a metaphysical issue? Or has it more to do with psychology and pragmatics? To put things in a different way: what are primary relata in an explanation? What sorts of thing explain what other sorts of thing? David Lewis identifies two senses of ‘explanation’ (Lewis 1986, 217–218). In the first sense, an explanation is an act of explaining. I shall call this the subjectivist sense, since its existence depends on some subject doing the explaining. Hence it is people who, …Read more
  •  261
    Laws and essences
    Ratio 18 (4). 2005.
    Those who favour an ontology based on dispositions are thereby able to provide a dispositional essentialist account of the laws of nature. In part 1 of this paper I sketch the dispositional essentialist conception of properties and the concomitant account of laws. In part 2, I characterise various claims about the modal character of properties that fall under the heading ‘quidditism’ and which are consequences of the categoricalist view of properties, which is the alternative to the dispositiona…Read more
  •  254
    What are natural kinds?1
    Philosophical Perspectives 25 (1): 205-221. 2011.
    We articulate a view of natural kinds as complex universals. We do not attempt to argue for the existence of universals. Instead, we argue that, given the existence of universals, and of natural kinds, the latter can be understood in terms of the former, and that this provides a rich, flexible framework within which to discuss issues of indeterminacy, essentialism, induction, and reduction. Along the way, we develop a 'problem of the many' for universals.
  •  252
    I present an argument that encapsulates the view that theory is underdetermined by evidence. I show that if we accept Williamson's equation of evidence and knowledge, then this argument is question-begging. I examine ways of defenders of underdetermination may avoid this criticism. I also relate this argument and my critique to van Fraassen's constructive empiricism.
  •  252
    Illocutionary silencing
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 83 (1). 2002.
    Rae Langton and Jennifer Hornsby have argued that pornography might create a climate whereby a woman’s ability to refuse sex is literally silenced or removed. Their central argument is that a failure of ‘uptake’ of the woman’s intention means that the illocutionary speech act of refusal has not taken place. In this paper, I challenge the claims from the Austinian philosophy of language which feature in this argument. I argue that uptake is not in general required for illocution, nor is it requir…Read more
  •  242
    Kuhn, nominalism, and empiricism
    Philosophy of Science 70 (4): 690-719. 2003.
    In this paper I draw a connection between Kuhn and the empiricist legacy, specifically between his thesis of incommensurability, in particular in its later taxonomic form, and van Fraassen's constructive empiricism. I show that if it is the case the empirically equivalent but genuinely distinct theories do exist, then we can expect such theories to be taxonomically incommensurable. I link this to Hacking's claim that Kuhn was a nominalist. I also argue that Kuhn and van Fraassen do not differ as…Read more
  •  238
    Justified judging
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1). 2007.
    When is a belief or judgment justified? One might be forgiven for thinking the search for single answer to this question to be hopeless. The concept of justification is required to fulfil several tasks: to evaluate beliefs epistemically, to fill in the gap between truth and knowledge, to describe the virtuous organization of one’s beliefs, to describe the relationship between evidence and theory (and thus relate to confirmation and probabilification). While some of these may be held to overlap, …Read more
  •  231
    Nature’s metaphysics
    Oxford University Press. 2007.
    Professional philosophers and advanced students working in metaphysics and the philosophy of science will find this book both provocative and stimulating.
  •  231
    Naturalizing Kuhn
    Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 105 (1): 99-117. 2005.
    I argue that the naturalism of Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions," which he himself later ignored, is worthy of rehabilitation. A naturalistic conception of paradigms is ripe for development with the tools of cognitive science. As a consequence a naturalistic understanding of world-change and incommensurability is also viable.
  •  229
    Abductive knowledge and Holmesian inference
    In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology, Oxford University Press. pp. 1--31. 2005.
    The usual, comparative, conception of inference to the best explanation (IBE) takes it to be ampliative. In this paper I propose a conception of IBE ('Holmesian inference') that takes it to be a species of eliminative induction and hence not ampliative. This avoids several problems for comparative IBE (for example, how could it be reliable enough to generate knowledge?). My account of Holmesian inference raises the suspicion that it could never be applied, on the grounds that scientific hypothes…Read more
  •  228
    Scepticism and contrast classes
    Analysis 61 (2). 2001.
    1. Contextualism seeks to acknowledge the power of sceptical arguments while permitting to be true at least some of the assertions of knowledge and justification we commonly make. It seems to me now just as if I am in an office in Edinburgh. According to the sceptic the claim that I am in fact in an office in Edinburgh is unjustified, since there is no reason I can give for this belief that is not also consistent with (or undermined by) the alternative hypothesis that I am in fact on a beach in Hawa…Read more
  •  223
    Laws and criteria
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 32 (4): 511-42. 2002.
    Debates concerning the analysis of the concept of law of nature must address the following problem. On the one hand, our grasp of laws of nature is via our knowledge of their instances. And this seems not only an epistemological truth but also a semantic one. The concept of a law of nature must be explicated in terms of the things that instantiate the law. It is not simply that a piece of metal that conducts electricity is evidence for a law that metals conduct electricity. It is also the case t…Read more
  •  220
    A Posteriori Knowledge of Natural Kind Essences: A Defense
    Philosophical Topics 35 (1/2): 293-312. 2007.
    I defend this claim that some natural essences can be known (only) a pos- teriori against two philosophers who accept essentialism but who hold that essences are known a priori: Joseph LaPorte, who argues from the use of kind terms in science, and E. J. Lowe, who argues from general metaphysical and epistemological principles
  •  219
    We talk as if there are natural kinds and in particular we quantify over them. We can count the number of elements discovered by Sir Humphrey Davy, or the number of kinds of particle in the standard model. Consequently, it looks at first sight at least, that natural kinds are entities of a sort. In the light of this we may ask certain questions: is the apparent existence of natural kinds real or an illusion? And if real, what sort of entity are natural kinds? Are they sui generis? Or can they be…Read more
  •  218
    Unexpected a posteriori necessary laws of nature
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (4). 2005.
    In this paper I argue that it is not a priori that all the laws of nature are contingent. I assume that the fundamental laws are contingent and show that some non-trivial, a posteriori, non-basic laws may nonetheless be necessary in the sense of having no counterinstances in any possible world. I consider a law LS (such as 'salt dissolves in water') that concerns a substance S. Kripke's arguments concerning constitution show that the existence of S requires that a certain deeper level law or var…Read more