• 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. forthcoming.
    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
  • 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 has shifted ground, moving away from necessity and possibility as the lens through which we look at things. Ted Sider shapes the agenda for the subject by exploring how this shift transforms the project of understanding the objects, properties, and quantities of the universe, and the relations between them, in terms of structures.
  • 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.
  • Theories as recipes: third-order virtue and vice
    Michaela Markham McSweeney
    Philosophical Studies 177 (2): 391-411. 2020.
    A basic way of evaluating metaphysical theories is to ask whether they give satisfying answers to the questions they set out to resolve. I propose an account of “third-order” virtue that tells us what it takes for certain kinds of metaphysical theories to do so. We should think of these theories as recipes. I identify three good-making features of recipes and show that they translate to third-order theoretical virtues. I apply the view to two theories—mereological universalism and plenitudinous …Read more
  • The Essences of Fundamental Properties
    Metaphysics 2 (1): 40-54. 2019.
    There is a puzzle concerning the essences of fundamental entities that arises from considerations about essence, on one hand, and fundamentality, on the other. The Essence-Dependence Link (EDL) says that if x figures in the essence of y, then y is dependent upon x. EDL is prima facie plausible in many cases, especially those involving derivative entities. But consider the property negative charge. A negatively charged object exhibits certain behaviors that a positively charged object does not: i…Read more
  • How to Be a Substantivalist Without Getting Shifty About It
    Philosophical Issues 27 (1): 223-249. 2017.
    According to substantivalism, spacetime points and regions are real entities whose existence is not dependent on matter. In this paper, I motivate and defend a version of substantivalism which takes the totality of spacetime as fundamental, and show how this position avoids certain problem cases, in particular the objection from static Leibniz shifts, and better conforms to how we think about space in physics. I argue that, even though the static Leibniz shifts do not show ordinary substantivali…Read more
  • Communication and indifference
    Mind and Language 36 (1): 81-107. 2021.
    The propositional view of communication states that every literal assertoric utterance of an indicative sentence expresses a proposition, and the audience understands those utterances only if she entertains the proposition(s) the speaker expressed. According to an important objection due to Ray Buchanan, the propositional view is ill‐equipped to handle meaning underdeterminacy. Using resources from situation semantics and MacFarlane's nonindexical contextualism, this article develops a view of l…Read more
  • The Truth About Deception
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (1): 147-166. 2019.
    The prohibition on lying is often thought to be very stringent. Some have even been tempted to think that it is absolute. In contrast, the prohibition on other forms of deception seems to be looser. This paper explores the relationship between the duty not to deceive and the duty not to lie. This discussion is situated in the context of a broadly Kantian account of morality. Kant himself infamously claimed that one ought not lie to a murderer at the door about the location of his intended victim…Read more
  • Fundamentality without Foundations
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 93 (3): 607-626. 2016.
    A commonly held view is that a central aim of metaphysics is to give a fundamental account of reality which refers only to the fundamental entities. But a puzzle arises. It is at least a working hypothesis for those pursuing the aim that, first, there must be fundamental entities. But, second, it also seems possible that the world has no foundation, with each entity depending on others. These two claims are inconsistent with the widely held third claim that the fundamental just is the foundation…Read more
  • Against Conservatism in Metaphysics
    Maegan Fairchild and John Hawthorne
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 82 45-75. 2018.
    In his recent book, Daniel Korman contrasts ontological conservatives with permissivists and eliminativists about ontology. Roughly speaking, conservatives admit the existence of ‘ordinary objects' like trees, dogs, and snowballs, but deny the existence of ‘extraordinary objects', like composites of trees and dogs. Eliminativists, on the other hand, deny many or all ordinary objects, while permissivists accept both ordinary and extraordinary objects. Our aim in this paper is to outline some of o…Read more
  • Debunking Logical Ground: Distinguishing Metaphysics from Semantics
    Journal of the American Philosophical Association 6 (2): 156-170. 2020.
    Many philosophers take purportedly logical cases of ground ) to be obvious cases, and indeed such cases have been used to motivate the existence of and importance of ground. I argue against this. I do so by motivating two kinds of semantic determination relations. Intuitions of logical ground track these semantic relations. Moreover, our knowledge of semantics for first order logic can explain why we have such intuitions. And, I argue, neither semantic relation can be a species of ground even on…Read more
  • Sideways music
    Analysis (1). 2019.
    There is a popular theory in the metaphysics of time according to which time is one of four similar dimensions that make up a single manifold that is appropriately called spacetime. One consequence of this thesis is that changing an object’s orientation in the manifold does not change its intrinsic features. In this paper I offer a new argument against this popular theory. I claim that an especially good performance of a particularly beautiful piece of music, when oriented within the manifold in…Read more