•  1513
  •  1110
    Debunking Arguments in Metaethics and Metaphysics
    In Alvin Goldman & Brian McLaughlin (eds.), Metaphysics and Cognitive Science, Oxford University Press. pp. 337-363. 2019.
    Evolutionary debunking arguments abound, but it is widely assumed that they do not arise for our perceptual beliefs about midsized objects, insofar as the adaptive value of our object beliefs cannot be explained without reference to the objects themselves. I argue that this is a mistake. Just as with moral beliefs, the adaptive value of our object beliefs can be explained without assuming that the beliefs are accurate. I then explore the prospects for other sorts of vindications of our object be…Read more
  •  1047
    Against Minimalist Responses to Moral Debunking Arguments
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics. forthcoming.
    Moral debunking arguments are meant to show that, by realist lights, moral beliefs are not explained by moral facts, which in turn is meant to show that they lack some significant counterfactual connection to the moral facts (e.g., safety, sensitivity, reliability). The dominant, “minimalist” response to the arguments—sometimes defended under the heading of “third-factors” or “pre-established harmonies”—involves affirming that moral beliefs enjoy the relevant counterfactual connection while gra…Read more
  •  967
    Ordinary objects
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2011.
    An encyclopedia entry which covers various revisionary conceptions of which macroscopic objects there are, and the puzzles and arguments that motivate these conceptions: sorites arguments, the argument from vagueness, the puzzles of material constitution, arguments against indeterminate identity, arguments from arbitrariness, debunking arguments, the overdetermination argument, and the problem of the many.
  •  960
    Strange Kinds, Familiar Kinds, and the Charge of Arbitrariness
    Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 119-144. 2010.
    Particularists in material-object metaphysics hold that our intuitive judgments about which kinds of things there are and are not are largely correct. One common argument against particularism is the argument from arbitrariness, which turns on the claim that there is no ontologically significant difference between certain of the familiar kinds that we intuitively judge to exist (snowballs, islands, statues, solar systems) and certain of the strange kinds that we intuitively judge not to exist (s…Read more
  •  868
    Nihilism is the thesis that no composite objects exist. Some ontologists have advocated abandoning nihilism in favor of deep nihilism, the thesis that composites do not existO, where to existO is to be in the domain of the most fundamental quantifier. By shifting from an existential to an existentialO thesis, the deep nihilist seems to secure all the benefits of a composite-free ontology without running afoul of ordinary belief in the existence of composites. I argue that, while there are well-k…Read more
  •  680
    What externalists should say about dry earth
    Journal of Philosophy 103 (10): 503-520. 2006.
    Dry earth seems to its inhabitants (our intrinsic duplicates) just as earth seems to us, that is, it seems to them as though there are rivers and lakes and a clear, odorless liquid flowing from their faucets. But, in fact, this is an illusion; there is no such liquid anywhere on the planet. I address two objections to externalism concerning the nature of the concept that is expressed by the word 'water' in the mouths of the inhabitants of dry earth. Gabriel Segal presents a dilemma for the exter…Read more
  •  659
    Locke on Substratum: A Deflationary Interpretation
    Locke Studies 10 61-84. 2010.
    I defend an interpretation of Locke’s remarks on substratum according to which substrata not only have sensible qualities but are just familiar things and stuffs: horses, stones, gold, wax, and snow. The supporting relation that holds between substrata and the qualities that they support is simply the familiar relation of having, or instantiating, which holds between a particular substance and its qualities. I address the obvious objection to the interpretation -- namely, that it cannot be recon…Read more
  •  592
    Debunking arguments
    Philosophy Compass 14 (12). 2019.
    Debunking arguments—also known as etiological arguments, genealogical arguments, access problems, isolation objec- tions, and reliability challenges—arise in philosophical debates about a diverse range of topics, including causation, chance, color, consciousness, epistemic reasons, free will, grounding, laws of nature, logic, mathematics, modality, morality, natural kinds, ordinary objects, religion, and time. What unifies the arguments is the transition from a premise about what does or doesn't…Read more
  •  571
    The Metaphysics of Establishments
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 98 (3): 434-448. 2020.
    I present two puzzles about the metaphysics of stores, restaurants, and other such establishments. I defend a solution to the puzzles, according to which establishments are not material objects and...
  •  524
    Eliminativism and the challenge from folk belief
    Noûs 43 (2): 242-264. 2009.
    Virtually everyone agrees that, even after having presented the arguments for their positions, proponents of revisionary philosophical theories are required to provide some sort of account of the conflict between their theories and what the folk believe. I examine various strategies for answering the challenge from folk belief. The examination proceeds as a case study, whose focus is eliminativism about ordinary material objects. I critically assess eliminativist attempts to explain folk belief …Read more
  •  470
    Easy Ontology without Deflationary Metaontology
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (1): 236-243. 2019.
    This is a contribution to a symposium on Amie Thomasson’s Ontology Made Easy (2015). Thomasson defends two deflationary theses: that philosophical questions about the existence of numbers, tables, properties, and other disputed entities can all easily be answered, and that there is something wrong with prolonged debates about whether such objects exist. I argue that the first thesis (properly understood) does not by itself entail the second. Rather, the case for deflationary metaontology rests l…Read more
  •  425
    Why Care About What There Is?
    In Javier Cumpa (ed.), The Question of Ontology: The Contemporary Debate, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    There’s the question of what there is, and then there’s the question of what ultimately exists. Many contend that, once we have this distinction clearly in mind, we can see that there is no sensible debate to be had about whether there are such things as properties or tables or numbers, and that the only ontological question worth debating is whether such things are ultimate (in one or another sense). I argue that this is a mistake. Taking debates about ordinary objects as a case study, I show t…Read more
  •  388
    Our aim here is to explore the prospects of a relativist response to moral debunking arguments. We begin by clarifying the relativist thesis under consideration, and we explain why relativists seem well-positioned to resist the arguments in a way that avoids the drawbacks of existing responses. We then show that appearances are deceiving. At bottom, the relativist response is no less question-begging than standard realist responses, and – when we turn our attention to the strongest formulation o…Read more
  •  377
    Debunking Perceptual Beliefs about Ordinary Objects
    Philosophers' Imprint 14. 2014.
    Debunking arguments are arguments that aim to undermine some range of beliefs by showing that those beliefs are not appropriately connected to their subject matter. Arguments of this sort rear their heads in a wide variety of domains, threatening beliefs about morality, mathematics, logic, color, and the existence of God. Perceptual beliefs about ordinary objects, however, are widely thought to be invulnerable to such arguments. I will show that this is a mistake. I articulate a debunking argume…Read more
  •  365
    The Naive Conception of Material Objects: A Defense
    Dissertation, University of Texas at Austin. 2007.
    Chapter 1: “Ordinary Objects and the Argument from Strange Concepts.” Chapter 2: “Restricted Composition Without Sharp Cut-Offs.” Chapter 3: “Three Solutions to the Grounding Problem for Coincident Objects.” Chapter 4: “Ordinary Objects Without Overdetermination.” Chapter 5: “Eliminativism and the Challenge from Folk Belief.” Chapter 6: “Unrestricted Composition and Restricted Quantification.”.
  •  347
    Law necessitarianism and the importance of being intuitive
    Philosophical Quarterly 55 (221). 2005.
    The counterintuitive implications of law necessitarianism pose a far more serious threat than its proponents recognize. Law necessitarians are committed to scientific essentialism, the thesis that there are metaphysically necessary truths which can be known only a posteriori. The most frequently cited arguments for this position rely on modal intuitions. Rejection of intuition thus threatens to undermine it. I consider ways in which law necessitarians might try to defend scientific essentialism …Read more
  •  335
    Defining Textual Entailment
    with Eric Mack, Jacob Jett, and Allen H. Renear
    Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology. forthcoming.
    Textual entailment is a relationship that obtains between fragments of text when one fragment in some sense implies the other fragment. The automation of textual entailment recognition supports a wide variety of text-based tasks, including information retrieval, information extraction, question answering, text summarization, and machine translation. Much ingenuity has been devoted to developing algorithms for identifying textual entailments, but relatively little to saying what textual entailmen…Read more
  •  318
    The Vagueness Argument Against Abstract Artifacts
    Philosophical Studies 167 (1): 57-71. 2014.
    Words, languages, symphonies, fictional characters, games, and recipes are plausibly abstract artifacts— entities that have no spatial location and that are deliberately brought into existence as a result of creative acts. Many accept that composition is unrestricted: for every plurality of material objects, there is a material object that is the sum of those objects. These two views may seem entirely unrelated. I will argue that the most influential argument against restricted composition—the v…Read more
  •  241
    The Failure of Trust-Based Retributivism
    Law and Philosophy 22 (6): 561-575. 2003.
    Punishment stands in need of justification because it involves intentionally harming offenders. Trust-based retributivists attempt to justify punishment by appeal to the offender’s violation of the victim’s trust, maintaining that the state is entitled to punish offenders as a means of restoring conditions of trust to their pre-offense levels. I argue that trust-based retributivism fails on two counts. First, it entails the permissibility of punishing the legally innocent and fails to justify th…Read more
  •  235
    Material Constitution
    Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy. 2019.
    An annotated bibliography of important works on material constitution.
  •  216
    Ontology without Borders (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. 2018.
    A review of Jody Azzouni's "Ontology without Borders". Azzouni defends "ontological projectivism", a variety of ontological nihilism according to which "ontological borders" are not "worldly". I raise some questions about the view and about his master argument for it.
  •  202
    Conservatism, Counterexamples and Debunking
    Analysis 80 (3): 558-574. 2020.
    A symposium on my *Objects: Nothing Out of the Ordinary* (2015). In response to Wallace, I attempt to clarify the dialectical and epistemic role that my arguments from counterexamples were meant to play, I provide a limited defense of the comparison to the Gettier examples, and I embrace the comparison to Moorean anti-skeptical arguments. In response to deRosset, I provide a clearer formulation of conservatism, explain how a conservative should think about the interaction between intuition and s…Read more
  •  143
    Austere Realism (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. 2008.
    The main focus of the review is Horgan and Potrč’s strategy for reconciling austere ontologies -- like their own, which includes exactly one concrete particular: “the blobject” -- with ordinary discourse about tables and the like. I try to show that, once we accept their ontological conclusions, there is no reason to prefer their conciliatory ontological-cum-semantic package to a more straightforward error-theoretic package on which we simply say lots of false things in ordinary discourse about …Read more
  •  140
    Objects: Nothing Out of the Ordinary
    Oxford University Press UK. 2015.
    One of the central questions of material-object metaphysics is which highly visible objects there are right before our eyes. Daniel Z. Korman defends a conservative view, according to which our ordinary, natural judgments about which objects there are are more or less correct. He begins with an overview of the arguments that have led people away from the conservative view, into revisionary views according to which there are far more objects than we ordinarily take there to be or far fewer. Korma…Read more
  •  131
    Form, Matter, Substance (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. 2019.
    In Form, Matter, Substance, Kathrin Koslicki articulates and defends her preferred brand of hylomorphism, weighing in on how we should conceive of the matter and the form of such compounds, and on how they can qualify as fundamental “substances” despite being ontologically dependent on their components. I review Koslicki’s principal claims and conclusions (§1), and then raise some concerns about her master argument for “individual forms” (§2) and her criticism of standard essentialist accounts o…Read more
  •  63
    Précis for a book symposium, with contributions from Meg Wallace, Louis deRosset, and Chris Tillman and Joshua Spencer.
  •  45
    The Double Lives of Objects (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. 2015.