•  5267
    Naturalised Modal Epistemology
    In R. Fischer & F. Leon (eds.), Modal Epistemology After Rationalism, Springer. pp. 7-27. 2017.
    The philosophy of necessity and possibility has flourished in the last half-century, but much less attention has been paid to the question of how we know what can be the case and what must be the case. Many friends of modal metaphysics and many enemies of modal metaphysics have agreed that while empirical discoveries can tell us what is the case, they cannot shed much light on what must be the case or on what non-actual possibilities there are. In this paper, in contrast, I discuss and defend na…Read more
  •  1482
    Marriage and its Limits
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy. forthcoming.
    Marriages come in a very wide variety: if the reports of anthropologists and historians are to be believed, an extraordinarily wide variety. This includes some of the more unusual forms, including marriage to the dead; to the gods; and even to plants. This does suggest that few proposed marriage relationships would require 'redefining marriage': but on the other hand, it makes giving a general theory of marriage challenging. So one issue we should face is how accepting we should be of the report…Read more
  •  1335
    Utility Monsters for the Fission Age
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 96 (2): 392-407. 2015.
    One of the standard approaches to the metaphysics of personal identity has some counter-intuitive ethical consequences when combined with maximising consequentialism and a plausible doctrine about aggregation of consequences. This metaphysical doctrine is the so-called ‘multiple occupancy’ approach to puzzles about fission and fusion. It gives rise to a new version of the ‘utility monster’ problem, particularly difficult problems about infinite utility, and a new version of a Parfit-style ‘repug…Read more
  •  1335
    Epistemic Dispositions: Reply to Turri and Bronner
    with Rachel Briggs
    Logos and Episteme 3 (4): 629-636. 2012.
    We reply to recent papers by John Turri and Ben Bronner, who criticise the dispositionalised Nozickian tracking account we discuss in “Mad, Bad and Dangerous to Know.” We argue that the account we suggested can handle the problems raised by Turri and Bronner. In the course of responding to Turri and Bronner’s objections, we draw three general lessons for theories of epistemic dispositions: that epistemic dispositions are to some extent extrinsic, that epistemic dispositions can have manifestatio…Read more
  •  982
    Creationism and cardinality
    Analysis 74 (4): 615-622. 2014.
    Creationism about fictional entities requires a principle connecting what fictions say exist with which fictional entities really exist. The most natural way of spelling out such a principle yields inconsistent verdicts about how many fictional entities are generated by certain inconsistent fictions. Avoiding inconsistency without compromising the attractions of creationism will not be easy
  •  960
    In May 1999, David Lewis sent Timothy Williamson an intriguing letter about knowledge and vagueness. This paper has a brief discussion of Lewis on evidence, and a longer discussion of a distinctive theory of vagueness Lewis puts forward in this letter, one rather different from standard forms of supervaluationism. Lewis's theory enables him to provide distinctive responses to the challenges to supervaluationism famously offered in chapter 5 of Timothy Williamson's 1994 book Vagueness. However th…Read more
  •  799
    Causal Counterfactuals and Impossible Worlds
    In Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock & Huw Price (eds.), Making a Difference, Oxford University Press. pp. 14-32. 2017.
    A standing challenge in the theory of counterfactuals is to solve the “deviation problem”.  Consider ordinary counterfactuals involving an antecedent concerning a difference from the actual course of events at a particular time, and a consequent concerning, at least in part, what happens at a later time.  In the possible worlds framework, the problem is often put in terms of which are the relevant antecedent worlds. Desiderata for the solution include that the relevant antecedent worlds be gover…Read more
  •  721
    Hyperintensional metaphysics
    Philosophical Studies 171 (1): 149-160. 2014.
    In the last few decades of the twentieth century there was a revolution in metaphysics: the intensional revolution. Many metaphysicians rejected the doctrine, associated with Quine and Davidson, that extensional analyses and theoretical resources were the only acceptable ones. Metaphysicians embraced tools like modal and counterfactual analyses, claims of modal and counterfactual dependence, and entities such as possible worlds and intensionally individuated properties and relations. The twenty-…Read more
  •  695
    The Possibilities of History
    Journal of the Philosophy of History 10 (3): 441-456. 2016.
    _ Source: _Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 441 - 456 Several kinds of historical alternatives are distinguished. Different kinds of historical alternatives are valuable to the practice of history for different reasons. Important uses for historical alternatives include representing different sides of historical disputes; distributing chances of different outcomes over alternatives; and offering explanations of why various alternatives did _not_ in fact happen. Consideration of counterfactuals about what …Read more
  •  683
    Cosmic Loops
    In Ricki Bliss & Graham Priest (eds.), Reality and Its Structure, Oxford University Press. pp. 91-106. 2018.
    This paper explores a special kind of loop of grounding: cosmic loops. A cosmic loop is a loop that intuitively requires us to go "around" the entire universe to come back to the original ground. After describing several kinds of cosmic loop scenarios, I will discuss what we can learn from these scenarios about constraints on grounding; the conceivability of cosmic loops; the possibility of cosmic loops; and the prospects for salvaging local reflexivity, asymmetry and transitivity of grounding…Read more
  •  601
    Impossibility and Impossible Worlds
    In Otavio Bueno & Scott Shalkowski (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Modality, Routledge Press. pp. 40-48. 2021.
    Possible worlds have found many applications in contemporary philosophy: from theories of possibility and necessity, to accounts of conditionals, to theories of mental and linguistic content, to understanding supervenience relationships, to theories of properties and propositions, among many other applications. Almost as soon as possible worlds started to be used in formal theories in logic, philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and elsewhere, theorists started to wonder wheth…Read more
  •  561
    Conditionals and Curry
    Philosophical Studies 173 (10): 2629-2647. 2016.
    Curry's paradox for "if.. then.." concerns the paradoxical features of sentences of the form "If this very sentence is true, then 2+2=5". Standard inference principles lead us to the conclusion that such conditionals have true consequents: so, for example, 2+2=5 after all. There has been a lot of technical work done on formal options for blocking Curry paradoxes while only compromising a little on the various central principles of logic and meaning that are under threat. Once we have a sense o…Read more
  •  561
    Moral fictionalism versus the rest
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (3). 2005.
    In this paper we introduce a distinct metaethical position, fictionalism about morality. We clarify and defend the position, showing that it is a way to save the 'moral phenomena' while agreeing that there is no genuine objective prescriptivity to be described by moral terms. In particular, we distinguish moral fictionalism from moral quasi-realism, and we show that fictionalism possesses the virtues of quasi-realism about morality, but avoids its vices.
  •  539
    Platitudes and metaphysics
    In David Braddon-Mitchell & Robert Nola (eds.), Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism, Mit Press. 2009.
    One increasingly popular technique in philosophy might be called the "platitudes analysis": a set of widely accepted claims about a given subject matter are collected, adjustments are made to the body of claims, and this is taken to specify a “role” for the phenomenon in question. (Perhaps the best-known example is analytic functionalism about mental states, where platitudes about belief, desire, intention etc. are together taken to give us a "role" for states to fill if they are to count as men…Read more
  •  493
    Contemporary Metaphysicians and Their Traditions
    Philosophical Topics 35 (1-2): 1-18. 2007.
    When invited to consider the methodology of contemporary metaphysics, quite a number of procedures spring to mind as part of the metaphysician's toolkit. These include: eliciting and relying on intuitions; solving location problems and using “conceptual analysis”; inference to the best theory, both on internal metaphysical grounds and drawing from the theoretical reaches of the sciences; working on topics clearly close to, or even overlapping, those of other areas of inquiry using techniques of …Read more
  •  489
    As is well known, Aristotelian natural philosophy, and many other systems of natural philosophy since, have relied heavily on teleology and teleological causation. Somehow, the purpose or end of an obj ect can be used to predict and explain what that object does: once you know that the end of an acorn is to become an oak, and a few things about what sorts of circumstances are conducive to the attainment of this end, you can predict a lot about the sprouting of the acorn and the subsequent behavi…Read more
  •  454
    The extent of metaphysical necessity
    Philosophical Perspectives 25 (1): 313-339. 2011.
    A lot of philosophers engage in debates about what claims are “metaphysically necessary”, and a lot more assume with little argument that some classes of claims have the status of “metaphysical necessity”. I think we can usefully replace questions about metaphysical necessity with five other questions which each capture some of what people may have had in mind when talking about metaphysical necessity. This paper explains these five other questions, and then discusses the question “how much of m…Read more
  •  406
    Impossible Worlds: A Modest Approach
    Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic 38 (4): 535-572. 1997.
    Reasoning about situations we take to be impossible is useful for a variety of theoretical purposes. Furthermore, using a device of impossible worlds when reasoning about the impossible is useful in the same sorts of ways that the device of possible worlds is useful when reasoning about the possible. This paper discusses some of the uses of impossible worlds and argues that commitment to them can and should be had without great metaphysical or logical cost. The paper then provides an account of …Read more
  •  406
    Fictionalist Attitudes about Fictional Matters
    In Mark Eli Kalderon (ed.), Fictionalism in Metaphysics, Clarendon Press. pp. 204. 2005.
    A pressing problem for many non-realist1 theories concerning various specific subject matters is the challenge of making sense of our ordinary propositional attitude claims related to the subject in question. Famously in the case of ethics, to take one example, we have in ordinary language prima facie ascriptions of beliefs and desires involving moral properties and relationships. In the case, for instance, of “Jason believes that Kylie is virtuous”, we appear to have a belief which takes Kylie …Read more
  •  364
    In Jenkins’s groundbreaking analysis of flirtation (Jenkins 2006), she suggests that an act is an act of flirtation if, and only if, the following two conditions are satisfied: “First, the flirter should act with the intention to raise flirter/flirtee romance and/or sex to salience, in a knowing yet playful way. Second, he or she should believe that the flirtee can respond is in some significant way”. Jenkins also draws the useful distinction between flirtation proper and “flirtatious behaviour”…Read more
  •  353
    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Abstract Metaphysics
    Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 9 61-88. 2015.
    In Metaphysics A, Aristotle offers some objections to Plato’s theory of Forms to the effect that Plato’s Forms would not be explanatory in the right way, and seems to suggest that they might even make the explanatory project worse. One interesting historical puzzle is whether Aristotle can avoid these same objections to his own theory of universals. The concerns Aristotle raises are, I think, cousins of contemporary concerns about the usefulness and explanatoriness of abstract objects, some of…Read more
  •  338
    Methodological Naturalism in Metaethics
    In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics, Routledge. pp. 659-673. 2017.
    Methodological naturalism arises as a topic in metaethics in two ways. One is the issue of whether we should be methodological naturalists when doing our moral theorising, and another is whether we should take a naturalistic approach to metaethics itself. Interestingly, these can come apart, and some naturalist programs in metaethics justify a non-scientific approach to our moral theorising. This paper discusses the range of approaches that fall under the general umbrella of methodological natur…Read more
  •  331
    Chance and Necessity
    Philosophical Perspectives 30 (1): 294-308. 2016.
    A principle endorsed by many theories of objective chance, and practically forced on us by the standard interpretation of the Kolmogorov semantics for chance, is the principle that when a proposition P has a chance, any proposition Q that is necessarily equivalent to P will have the same chance as P. Call this principle SUB (for the substitution of necessary equivalents into chance ascriptions). I will present some problems for a theory of chance, and will argue that the best way to resolve th…Read more
  •  328
    Finite Quantities
    Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 108 (1pt1): 23-42. 2008.
    Quantum Mechanics, and apparently its successors, claim that there are minimum quantities by which objects can differ, at least in some situations: electrons can have various “energy levels” in an atom, but to move from one to another they must jump rather than move via continuous variation: and an electron in a hydrogen atom going from -13.6 eV of energy to -3.4 eV does not pass through states of -10eV or -5.1eV, let along -11.1111115637 eV or -4.89712384 eV
  •  314
    Bob Hale in Hale 1995b posed a dilemma for modal fictionalism (more specifically, Rosen's version of modal fictionalism). A modal fictionalist who maintains the version outlined in Rosen 1990 believes that the fiction of possible worlds (PW, to use Rosen and Hale's abbreviation) is not literally true. The question arises, however, about its modal status. Is it necessarily false, or contingently false? In either case, Hale argues, the modal fictionalist is in trouble. Should the modal fictionalis…Read more
  •  314
    Stalnaker's 1975 motivates an account of the truth conditions of indicative conditionals that seems in tension with the truth-conditions he offers. This paper discusses how best to resolve this tension.
  •  313
    Truthmakers and Predication
    Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 4 171-192. 2008.
    To what extent do true predications correspond to truthmakers in virtue of which those predications are true? One sort of predicate which is often thought to not be susceptible to an ontological treatment is a predicate for instantiation, or some corresponding predication (trope-similarity or set-membership, for example). This paper discusses this question, and argues that an "ontological" approach is possible here too: where this ontological approach goes beyond merely finding a truthmaker for …Read more
  •  302
    Mad, bad and dangerous to know
    Analysis 72 (2): 314-316. 2012.
    Tracking accounts of knowledge formulated in terms of counterfactuals suffer from well known problems. Examples are provided, and it is shown that moving to a dispositional tracking theory of knowledge avoids three of these problems
  •  300
    Vagueness, multiplicity and parts
    Noûs 40 (4). 2006.
    There’s an argument around from so-called “linguistic theories of vagueness”, plus some relatively uncontroversial considerations, to powerful metaphysical conclusions. David Lewis employs this argument to support the mereological principle of unrestricted composition, and Theodore Sider employs a similar argument not just for unrestricted composition but also for the doctrine of temporal parts. This sort of argument could be generalised, to produce a lot of other less palatable metaphysical con…Read more