• Inferences from Utterance to Belief
    Philosophical Quarterly. forthcoming.
    If Amelia utters ‘Brad ate a salad in 2005’ assertorically, and she is speaking literally and sincerely, then I can infer that Amelia believes that Brad ate a salad in 2005. This paper discusses what makes this kind of inference truth-preserving. According to the baseline picture, my inference is truth-preserving because, if Amelia is a competent speaker, she believes that the sentence she uttered means that Brad ate a salad in 2005; thus, if Amelia believes that that sentence is true, then she …Read more
  • Living with Absurdity: A Nobleman’s Guide
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. forthcoming.
    In A Confession, a memoir of his philosophical midlife crisis, Tolstoy recounts falling into despair after coming to believe that his life, and for that matter all human life, is meaningless and absurd. Although Tolstoy’s account of the origin and phenomenology of his crisis is widely regarded as illuminating, his response to the crisis – namely, embracing a religious tradition that he had previously dismissed as “irrational,” “incomprehensible,” and “mingled with falsehood” – seems unpromising,…Read more
  • Identity and Indiscernibility
    Mind 118 (469): 101-119. 2009.
    Putative counterexamples to the Principle of Identity of Indiscernibles (PII) are notoriously inconclusive. I establish ground rules for debate in this area, offer a new response to such counterexamples for friends of the PII, but then argue that no response is entirely satisfactory. Finally, I undermine some positive arguments for PII
  • What explains the outcomes of chance processes? We claim that their setups do. Chances, we think, mediate these explanations of outcome by setup but do not feature in them. Facts about chances do feature in explanations of a different kind: higher-order explanations, which explain how and why setups explain their outcomes. In this paper, we elucidate this ‘mediator view’ of chancy explanation and defend it from a series of objections. We then show how it changes the playing field in four metaphy…Read more
  • Grounding Grounding
    Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 10. 2017.
    The Problem of Iterated Ground is to explain what grounds truths about ground: if Γ grounds φ, what grounds that Γ grounds φ? This paper develops a novel solution to this problem. The basic idea is to connect ground to explanatory arguments. By developing a rigorous account of explanatory arguments we can equip operators for factive and non-factive ground with natural introduction and elimination rules. A satisfactory account of iterated ground falls directly out of the resulting logic: non- fac…Read more
  • Why do the Laws Support Counterfactuals?
    Erkenntnis 87 (2): 545-566. 2022.
    This paper aims to explain why the laws of nature are held fixed in counterfactual reasoning. I begin by highlighting three salient features of counterfactual reasoning: it is conservative, nomically guided, and it uses hindsight. I then present a rationale for our engagement in counterfactual reasoning that aims to make sense of these features. In particular, I argue that counterfactual reasoning helps us evaluate the evidential relations between unanticipated pieces of evidence and various hyp…Read more
  • Is a human more conscious than an octopus? In the science of consciousness, it’s oftentimes assumed that some creatures (or mental states) are more conscious than others. But in recent years, a number of philosophers have argued that the notion of degrees of consciousness is conceptually confused. This paper (1) argues that the most prominent objections to degrees of consciousness are unsustainable, (2) examines the semantics of ‘more conscious than’ expressions, (3) develops an analysis of what…Read more
  • On Mereology and Metricality
    Philosophers' Imprint. forthcoming.
    This article motivates and develops a reductive account of the structure of certain physical quantities in terms of their mereology. That is, I argue that quantitative relations like "longer than" or "3.6-times the volume of" can be analyzed in terms of necessary constraints those quantities put on the mereological structure of their instances. The resulting account, I argue, is able to capture the intuition that these quantitative relations are intrinsic to the physical systems they’re called u…Read more
  • Genericity generalized
    Philosophical Studies 1-21. forthcoming.
    In his Between Logic and the World, in the course of presenting his theory of generics, Nickel argues for a theory of characteristicness, or “genericity”, which states that a property is characteristic for a kind if and only if its presence among the members of that kind is explicable by some explanatory domain that recognizes the existence of that kind in the course of engaging the explanatory strategies made available by that explanatory domain. I argue that this notion of genericity is too na…Read more
  • In her paper, “The Non-Governing Conception of Laws,” Helen Beebee argues that it is not a conceptual truth that laws of nature govern, and thus that one need not insist on a metaphysical account of laws that makes sense of their governing role. I agree with the first point but not the second. Although it is not a conceptual truth, the fact that laws govern follows straightforwardly from an important (though under-appreciated) principle of scientific theory choice combined with a highly plausibl…Read more
  • Experiencing left and right in a non‐orientable world
    Analytic Philosophy 62 (3): 201-222. 2021.
    Analytic Philosophy, Volume 62, Issue 3, Page 201-222, September 2021.
  • Marc Lange has recently raised three objections to the account of minimal model explanations offered by Robert Batterman and Collin Rice. In this article, I suggest that these objections are misguided. I suggest that the objections raised by Lange stem from a misunderstanding of the what it is that minimal model explanations seek to explain. This misunderstanding, I argue, consists in Lange’s seeing minimal model explanations as relating special types of models to particular target systems rathe…Read more
  • This paper is an investigation into the metaphysics of social objects such as political borders, states, and organizations. I articulate a metaphysical puzzle concerning such objects and then propose a novel account of social objects that provides a solution to the puzzle. The basic idea behind the puzzle is that under appropriate circumstances, seemingly concrete social objects can apparently be created by acts of agreement, decree, declaration, or the like. Yet there is reason to believe that …Read more
  • The Contingency of Creation and Divine Choice
    Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion 10 289-300. 2022.
    According to the Principle of Sufficient Reason (‘PSR’), every fact has an explanation for why it obtains. If the PSR is true, there must be a sufficient reason for why God chose to create our world. But a sufficient reason for God’s choice plausibly necessitates that choice. It thus seems that God could not have done otherwise, and that our world exists necessarily. We therefore appear forced to pick between the PSR, and the contingency of creation and divine choice. I show that a third option …Read more
  • High‐Fidelity Metaphysics: Ideological Parsimony in Theory Choice
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 102 (4): 613-632. 2021.
    Many metaphysicians utilize the virtue‐driven methodology. According to this methodology, one theory is more worthy of endorsement than another insofar as it is more virtuous. In this paper, I show how a theory's overall virtue is shaped by its ideological parsimony – parsimony with respect to the terminology employed in stating the theory. I distinguish between a theory's truth and its fidelity (‘joint‐carvingness’) and the corresponding epistemic and fidelic virtues. I argue that ideological p…Read more
  • The governance of laws of nature: guidance and production
    Philosophical Studies 178 (3): 909-933. 2021.
    Realists about laws of nature and their Humean opponents disagree on whether laws ‘govern’. An independent commitment to the ‘governing conception’ of laws pushes many towards the realist camp. Despite its significance, however, no satisfactory account of governance has been offered. The goal of this article is to develop such an account. I base my account on two claims. First, we should distinguish two notions of governance, ‘guidance’ and ‘production’, and secondly, explanatory phenomena other…Read more
  • The Counteridentical Account of Explanatory Identities
    Journal of Philosophy 118 (2): 57-78. 2021.
    Many explanations rely on identity facts. In this paper, I propose an account of how identity facts explain: roughly, the fact that A is identical to B explains another fact whenever that other fact depends, counterfactually, on A being identical to B. As I show, this account has many virtues. It avoids several problems facing accounts of explanatory identities, and when precisified using structural equations, it can be used to defend interventionist accounts of causation against an objection.
  • Diamonds are Forever
    Noûs 54 (3): 632-665. 2020.
    We defend the thesis that every necessarily true proposition is always true. Since not every proposition that is always true is necessarily true, our thesis is at odds with theories of modality and time, such as those of Kit Fine and David Kaplan, which posit a fundamental symmetry between modal and tense operators. According to such theories, just as it is a contingent matter what is true at a given time, it is likewise a temporary matter what is true at a given possible world; so a propositi…Read more
  • According to the Kripke-Putnam orthodoxy, a term like 'water' refers to samples of the same substance as the items on the basis of which the term was introduced. However, observations due to Needham and Leslie cast doubt on the idea that there is a uniquely privileged notion of substance relevant to the determination of reference, in which case it would seem at best indeterminate what the word `water' refers to. In response to this problem, Gómez-Torrente has argued that there is a privileged no…Read more
  • From Essence to Necessity via Identity
    Mind 130 (519): 887-908. 2021.
    An essentialist theory of modality claims that the source of possibility and necessity lies in essence, where essence is then not to be defined in terms of necessity. Hence such theories owe us an account of why it is that the essences of things give rise to necessities in the way required. A new approach to understanding essence in terms of the notion of generalized identity promises to answer this challenge by appeal to the necessity of identity. I explore the prospects for this approach, and …Read more
  • Vagueness: A Global Approach
    Oxford University Press. 2020.
    The book is about the problem of vagueness. It begins by discussing some of the existing views on vagueness and then explains why they have not been thought to be satisfactory. It then outlines a new account of vagueness, based on the general idea that vagueness is a global rather than a local phenomenon. In other words, the vagueness of an expression or object is not an intrinsic feature of the object or an expression but a matter of how it relates to other objects and expression. The developme…Read more
  • Induction and the Glue of the World
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 99 (2): 319-333. 2021.
    Views which deny that there are necessary connections between distinct existences have often been criticized for leading to inductive skepticism. If there is no glue holding the world together then there seems to be no basis on which to infer from past to future. However, deniers of necessary connections have typically been unconcerned. After all, they say, everyone has a problem with induction. But, if we look at the connection between induction and explanation, we can develop the problem of in…Read more
  • Humeanism about laws of nature
    Philosophy Compass 15 (8): 1-10. 2020.
    Humeanism about laws of nature is, roughly, the view that the laws of nature are just patterns, or ways of describing patterns, in the mosaic of events. In this paper I survey some of the (many!) objections that have been raised to Humeanism, considering how the Humean might respond. And I consider how we might make a positive case for Humeanism. The common thread running through all this is that the viability of the Humean view relies on the Humean having an importantly different conception of…Read more
  • From theism to idealism to monism: a Leibnizian road not taken
    Philosophical Studies 178 (4): 1143-1162. 2021.
    This paper explores a PSR-connected trail leading from theistic idealism to a form of substance monism. In particular, I argue that the same style of argument available for a Leibnizian form of metaphysical idealism actually leads beyond idealism to something closer to Spinozistic monism. This path begins with a set of theological commitments about the nature and perfection of God that were widely shared among leading early modern philosophers. From these commitments, there arises an interesting…Read more
  • Explaining contingent facts
    Philosophical Studies 178 (4): 1163-1181. 2021.
    I argue against a principle that is widely taken to govern metaphysical explanation. This is the principle that no necessary facts can, on their own, explain a contingent fact. I then show how this result makes available a response to a longstanding objection to the Principle of Sufficient Reason—the objection that the Principle of Sufficient Reason entails that the world could not have been otherwise.
  • Physicalism and the Identity of Identity Theories
    Samuel Elgin
    Erkenntnis 1-20. forthcoming.
    It is often said that there are two varieties of identity theory. Type-identity theorists interpret physicalism as the claim that every property is identical to a physical property, while token-identity theorists interpret it as the claim that every particular is identical to a physical particular. The aim of this paper is to undermine the distinction between the two. Drawing on recent work connecting generalized identity to truth-maker semantics, I demonstrate that these interpretations are log…Read more
  • Metaphysics is sensitive to the conceptual tools we choose to articulate metaphysical problems. Those tools are a lens through which we view metaphysical problems; the same problems look different when we change the lens. There has recently been a shift to "postmodal" conceptual tools: concepts of ground, essence, and fundamentality. This shift transforms the debate over structuralism in the metaphysics of science and philosophy of mathematics. Structuralist theses say that patterns are "pr…Read more
  • Varieties of plenitude
    Philosophy Compass 15 (3). 2020.
    Material Plenitude is the view that there is an abundance of coincident objects wherever there is any material object. Although plenitude has garnered increased attention from metaphysicians in recent years, it has yet to be well‐understood beyond its slogan from. The goal of this article is to explore a few places for puzzlement about plenitude; in particular, how we ought to motivate and formulate the target view. I'll suggest along the way that an investigation of plenitude is not merely of i…Read more
  • Counterfactuals, Overdetermination and Mental Causation
    Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 111 (3pt3): 469-477. 2011.
    The Exclusion Problem for mental causation suggests that there is a tension between the claim that the mental causes physical effects, and the claim that the mental does not overdetermine its physical effects. In response, Karen Bennett puts forward an extra necessary condition for overdetermination : if one candidate cause were to occur but the other were not to occur, the effect would still occur. She thus denies one of the assumptions of EP, the assumption that if an effect has two sufficient…Read more
  • Against Parthood
    Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 8. 2013.
    Mereological nihilism says that there do not exist (in the fundamental sense) any objects with proper parts. A reason to accept it is that we can thereby eliminate 'part' from fundamental ideology. Many purported reasons to reject it - based on common sense, perception, and the possibility of gunk, for example - are weak. A more powerful reason is that composite objects seem needed for spacetime physics; but sets suffice instead.