El Camino College
  • Philosophical theories often hinge on claims about what is necessary or possible. But what are possibilities and necessities, and how could we come to know about them? This book aims to help demystify the methodology of philosophy, by treating such claims not as attempted descriptions of strange facts or distant 'possible worlds', but rather as ways of expressing rules or norms.
  • Cartesian Clarity
    Philosophers' Imprint 20 (19): 1-28. 2020.
    Clear and distinct perception is the centrepiece of Descartes’s philosophy — it is the source of all certainty — but what does he mean by ‘clear’ and ‘distinct’? According to the prevailing approach, what it means for a perception to be clear is that its content has a certain objective property, like truth. I argue instead that clarity is at least partly a subjective, phenomenal quality whereby a content is presented as true to the perceiving subject. Clarity comes in degrees. Any weak degree 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
  • Hume and the Independent Witnesses
    Mind 124 (496): 1013-1044. 2015.
    The Humean argument concerning miracles says that one should always think it more likely that anyone who testifies to a miracle is lying or deluded than that the alleged miracle actually occurred, and so should always reject any single report of it. A longstanding and widely accepted objection is that even if this is right, the concurring and non-collusive testimony of many witnesses should make it rational to believe in whatever miracle they all report. I argue that on the contrary, even multip…Read more
  • The Inductive Route Towards Necessity
    Acta Analytica 35 (2): 147-163. 2020.
    It is generally assumed that relations of necessity cannot be known by induction on experience. In this paper, I propose a notion of situated possibilities, weaker than nomic possibilities, that is compatible with an inductivist epistemology for modalities. I show that assuming this notion, not only can relations of necessity be known by induction on our experience, but such relations cannot be any more underdetermined by experience than universal regularities. This means that any one believing …Read more
  • Symmetric Dependence
    Elizabeth Barnes
    In Ricki Leigh Bliss & Graham Priest (eds.), Reality and Its Structure. pp. 50-69. 2018.
    Metaphysical orthodoxy maintains that the relation of ontological dependence is irreflexive, asymmetric, and transitive. The goal of this paper is to challenge that orthodoxy by arguing that ontological dependence should be understood as non- symmetric, rather than asymmetric. If we give up the asymmetry of dependence, interesting things follow for what we can say about metaphysical explanation— particularly for the prospects of explanatory holism.
  • Proponents of the “negative program” in experimental philosophy have argued that judgements in philosophical cases, also known as case judgements, are unreliable and that the method of cases should be either strongly constrained or even abandoned. Here we put one of the main proponent’s account of why philosophical cases may cause the unreliability of case judgements to the test. We conducted our test with thought experiments from physics, which exhibit the exact same supposedly “disturbing char…Read more
  • According to ecological psychology, animals perceive not just the qualities of things in their environment, but their affordances: in James Gibson’s words, ’what things furnish, for good or ill’. I propose a metaphysics for affordances that fits into a contemporary anti-Humean metaphysics of powers or potentialities. The goal is to connect two debates, one in the philosophy of perception and one in metaphysics, that stand to gain much from each other.
  • Beyond Resemblance
    Philosophical Review 122 (2): 215-287. 2013.
    What is it for a picture to depict a scene? The most orthodox philosophical theory of pictorial representation holds that depiction is grounded in resemblance. A picture represents a scene in virtue of being similar to that scene in certain ways. This essay presents evidence against this claim: curvilinear perspective is one common style of depiction in which successful pictorial representation depends as much on a picture's systematic differences with the scene depicted as on the similarities; …Read more
  • Some mental states seem to be "of" or "about" things, or to "say" something. For example, a thought might represent that grass is green, and a visual experience might represent a blue cup. This is intentionality. The aim of this book is to explain this phenomenon. Once we understand intentionality as a phenomenon to be explained, rather than a posit in a theory explaining something else, we can see that there are glaring empirical and in principle difficulties with currently popular tracking and…Read more