•  954
    The Inconceivable Popularity of Conceivability Arguments
    Philosophical Quarterly 67 (267): 223-240. 2017.
    Famous examples of conceivability arguments include (i) Descartes’ argument for mind-body dualism, (ii) Kripke's ‘modal argument’ against psychophysical identity theory, (iii) Chalmers’ ‘zombie argument’ against materialism, and (iv) modal versions of the ontological argument for theism. In this paper, we show that for any such conceivability argument, C, there is a corresponding ‘mirror argument’, M. M is deductively valid and has a conclusion that contradicts C's conclusion. Hence, a proponent…Read more
  •  476
    This paper concerns the three great modal dichotomies: (i) the necessary/contingent dichotomy; (ii) the a priori/empirical dichotomy; and (iii) the analytic/synthetic dichotomy. These can be combined to produce a tri-dichotomy of eight modal categories. The question as to which of the eight categories house statements and which do not is a pivotal battleground in the history of analytic philosophy, with key protagonists including Descartes, Hume, Kant, Kripke, Putnam and Kaplan. All parties to t…Read more
  •  336
    Does the solar system compute the laws of motion?
    with Yi Yang
    Synthese 198 (4): 3203-3220. 2019.
    The counterfactual account of physical computation is simple and, for the most part, very attractive. However, it is usually thought to trivialize the notion of physical computation insofar as it implies ‘limited pancomputationalism’, this being the doctrine that every deterministic physical system computes some function. Should we bite the bullet and accept limited pancomputationalism, or reject the counterfactual account as untenable? Jack Copeland would have us do neither of the above. He att…Read more
  •  254
    Against Lewis on ‘Desire as Belief’
    Polish Journal of Philosophy 11 (1): 17-28. 2017.
    David Lewis describes, then attempts to refute, a simple anti-Humean theory of desire he calls ‘Desire as Belief’. Lewis’ critics generally accept that his argument is sound and focus instead on trying to show that its implications are less severe than appearances suggest. In this paper I argue that Lewis’ argument is unsound. I show that it rests on an essential assumption that can be straightforwardly proven false using ideas and principles to which Lewis is himself committed.
  •  193
    On the Authenticity of De-Extinct Organisms, and the Genesis Argument
    Animal Studies Journal 6 (1): 61-79. 2017.
    Are the methods of synthetic biology capable of recreating authentic living members of an extinct species? An analogy with the restoration of destroyed natural landscapes suggests not. The restored version of a natural landscape will typically lack much of the aesthetic value of the original landscape because of the different historical processes that created it—processes that involved human intentions and actions, rather than natural forces acting over millennia. By the same token, it would app…Read more
  •  145
    Why Katz is Wrong: A Lab-Created Creature Can Still Have an Ancient Evolutionary History
    Ethics, Policy and Environment 25 (2): 109-112. 2022.
    Katz denies that organisms created in a lab as part of a de-extinction attempt will be authentic members of the extinct species, on the basis that they will lack the original species’ defining biological and evolutionary history. Against Katz, I note that an evolutionary lineage is conferred on an organism through its inheriting genes from forebears already possessed of such a lineage, and that de-extinction amounts to a delayed, human-assisted reproductive process, in which genes are inherited …Read more
  •  116
    Not so distinctively mathematical explanations: topology and dynamical systems
    with Aditya Jha, Clemency Montelle, and Phillip L. Wilson
    Synthese 200 (3): 1-40. 2022.
    So-called ‘distinctively mathematical explanations’ (DMEs) are said to explain physical phenomena, not in terms of contingent causal laws, but rather in terms of mathematical necessities that constrain the physical system in question. Lange argues that the existence of four or more equilibrium positions of any double pendulum has a DME. Here we refute both Lange’s claim itself and a strengthened and extended version of the claim that would pertain to any n-tuple pendulum system on the ground tha…Read more
  •  98
    Doxastic desire and Attitudinal Monism
    Synthese 195 (3): 1139-1161. 2018.
    How many attitudes must be posited at the level of reductive bedrock in order to reductively explain all the rest? Motivational Humeans hold that at least two attitudes are indispensable, belief and desire. Desire-As-Belief theorists beg to differ. They hold that the belief attitude can do the all the work the desire attitude is supposed to do, because desires are in fact nothing but beliefs of a certain kind. If this is correct it has major implications both for the philosophy of mind, with reg…Read more
  •  88
    The title of Beth Shapiro’s ‘How to Clone a Mammoth’ contains an implicature: it suggests that it is indeed possible to clone a mammoth, to bring extinct species back from the dead. But in fact Shapiro both denies this is possible, and denies there would be good reason to do it even if it were possible. The de-extinct ‘mammoths’ she speaks of are merely ecological proxies for mammoths—elephants re-engineered for cold-tolerance by the addition to their genomes of a few mammoth genes. Shapiro’s de…Read more
  •  85
    The Fragmentation of Being
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (3): 634-635. 2019.
    This is a review of Kris McDaniel's book, 'The Fragmentation of Being'. In the book McDaniel defends ontological pluralism -- the doctrine that there are multiple 'ways of being' (i.e., multiple modes, or degrees, or orders, or levels, or gradations of existence). In defending ontological pluralism, McDaniel must reject the rival, Quinean position that there is at root just one generic way for a thing to exist: viz., by its falling in the domain of unrestricted quantification. McDaniel argues a…Read more
  •  79
    Ethical Arguments For and Against De-extinction
    with Patrick Michael Whittle
    In Resurrecting Extinct Species Ethics and Authenticity, Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 87-124. 2017.
    This chapter surveys and critically evaluates all the main arguments both for and against de-extinction. It presents a qualified defence of the claim that conservationists should embrace de-extinction. It ends with a list of do’s and don’ts for conservationist de-extinction projects.
  •  69
    In this paper I argue that human beings should reason, not in accordance with classical logic, but in accordance with a weaker ‘reticent logic’. I characterize reticent logic, and then show that arguments for the existence of fundamental Gödelian limitations on artificial intelligence are undermined by the idea that we should reason reticently, not classically.
  •  62
    Resurrecting Extinct Species: Ethics and Authenticity
    with Patrick Michael Whittle
    Palgrave Macmillan. 2017.
    This book is about the philosophy of de-extinction. CHAPTER 1 introduces the two main philosophical questions that are raised by the prospect of extinct species being brought back from the dead—namely, the ‘Authenticity Question’ and the ‘Ethical Question’. It distinguishes the many different types and methods of de-extinction. Finally, it examines the aims of wildlife conservation with a view to whether they are compatible with de-extinction, or not. CHAPTER 2 examines three prime candidates f…Read more
  •  58
    An unknown process is generating a sequence of symbols, drawn from an alphabet, A. Given an initial segment of the sequence, how can one predict the next symbol? Ray Solomonoff’s theory of inductive reasoning rests on the idea that a useful estimate of a sequence’s true probability of being outputted by the unknown process is provided by its algorithmic probability (its probability of being outputted by a species of probabilistic Turing machine). However algorithmic probability is a “semimeasure…Read more
  •  53
    In Radicalizing Enactivism, D. D. Hutto and E. Myin develop a theory of mind they call ‘Radical Enactive (or Embodied) Cognition’ (REC). They argue that extant enactivist and embodied theories of mind are, although pretty radical, not radical enough, because such theories buy into the representationalist doctrine that perceptual experience (along with other forms of ‘basic’ mentality) possesses representational content. REC denies this doctrine. It implies that perceptual experience lacks refere…Read more
  •  41
    Real or Fake? The Authenticity Question
    with Patrick Michael Whittle
    In Resurrecting Extinct Species: Ethics and Authenticity, Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 49-86. 2017.
    Is the resurrection of an extinct species genuinely possible, or not? Will organisms produced by de-extinction technology be authentic new members of the species that died out, or just convincing fakes? We seek to answer these questions in this chapter. Critics of de-extinction have offered many reasons for thinking that the products of de-extinction will be inauthentic. The bulk of the chapter is taken up with surveying their arguments. We attempt to show that none are convincing. We end the ch…Read more
  •  41
    Conservation in a Brave New World
    with Patrick Michael Whittle
    In Resurrecting Extinct Species: Ethics and Authenticity, Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 1-28. 2017.
    This chapter introduces the two main philosophical questions that are raised by the prospect of extinct species being brought back from the dead—namely, the ‘Authenticity Question’ and the ‘Ethical Question’. It distinguishes different types of de-extinction, and different methods by which de-extinction can be accomplished. Finally, it examines the aims of wildlife conservation with a view to whether they are compatible with de-extinction, or not.
  •  27
    This chapter examines three prime candidates for de-extinction—namely, the aurochs, the woolly mammoth, and the passenger pigeon. It will be about what these animals were like, why people want to resurrect them, and the methods by which their resurrections could be accomplished.