•  548
    In a famous paper in Noûs in 1979, John Perry points out that action depends on indexical beliefs. In addition to “third-person” information about her environment, an agent need “first-person” information about where, when and who she is. This conclusion is widely interpreted as a reason for thinking that tensed claims cannot be translated without loss into untensed language; but not as a reason for realism about tensed facts. In another famous paper in the same volume of Noûs, Nancy Cartwright a…Read more
  •  480
    Causation as a secondary quality
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (2): 187-203. 1993.
    In this paper we defend the view that the ordinary notions of cause and effect have a direct and essential connection with our ability to intervene in the world as agents.1 This is a well known but rather unpopular philosophical approach to causation, often called the manipulability theory. In the interests of brevity and accuracy, we prefer to call it the agency theory.2 Thus the central thesis of an agency account of causation is something like this: an event A is a cause of a distinct event B…Read more
  •  391
    Toy Models for Retrocausality
    Studies in Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 39 (4): 752-761. 2008.
    A number of writers have been attracted to the idea that some of the peculiarities of quantum theory might be manifestations of 'backward' or 'retro' causality, underlying the quantum description. This idea has been explored in the literature in two main ways: firstly in a variety of explicit models of quantum systems, and secondly at a conceptual level. This note introduces a third approach, intended to complement the other two. It describes a simple toy model, which, under a natural interpreta…Read more
  •  334
    Metaphysics after Carnap : the ghost who walks?
    In David Chalmers, David Manley & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology, Oxford University Press. pp. 320--46. 2009.
    To appear in David Chalmers, Ryan Wasserman and David Manley, eds., Metametaphysics (OUP, 2009).
  •  313
    The time-asymmetry of causation
    In Helen Beebee, Peter Menzies & Christopher Hitchcock (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Causation, Oxford University Press. 2008.
    One of the most striking features of causation is that causes typically precede their effects – the causal arrow is strongly aligned with the temporal arrow. Why should this be so? We offer an opinionated guide to this problem, and to the solutions currently on offer. We conclude that the most promising strategy is to begin with the de facto asymmetry of human deliberation, characterised in epistemic terms, and to build out from there. More than any rival, this subjectivist approach promises to …Read more
  •  273
    Metaphysical pluralism
    Journal of Philosophy 89 (8): 387-409. 1992.
  •  266
    New Slant on the EPR-Bell Experiment
    with Peter Evans and Ken Wharton
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 64 (2): 297-324. 2013.
    The best case for thinking that quantum mechanics is nonlocal rests on Bell's Theorem, and later results of the same kind. However, the correlations characteristic of Einstein–Podolsky–Rosen (EPR)–Bell (EPRB) experiments also arise in familiar cases elsewhere in quantum mechanics (QM), where the two measurements involved are timelike rather than spacelike separated; and in which the correlations are usually assumed to have a local causal explanation, requiring no action-at-a-distance (AAD). It i…Read more
  •  266
    Boltzmann’s Time Bomb
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 53 (1): 83-119. 2002.
    Since the late nineteenth century, physics has been puzzled by the time-asymmetry of thermodynamic phenomena in the light of the apparent T-symmetry of the underlying laws of mechanics. However, a compelling solution to this puzzle has proved elusive. In part, I argue, this can be attributed to a failure to distinguish two conceptions of the problem. According to one, the main focus of our attention is a time-asymmetric lawlike generalisation. According to the other, it is a particular fact abou…Read more
  •  261
    Pragmatism, quasi-realism, and the global challenge
    In Cheryl Misak (ed.), New Pragmatists, Oxford University Press. pp. 91-121. 2007.
    William James said that sometimes detailed philosophical argument is irrelevant. Once a current of thought is really under way, trying to oppose it with argument is like planting a stick in a river to try to alter its course: “round your obstacle flows the water and ‘gets there just the same’”. He thought pragmatism was such a river. There is a contemporary river that sometimes calls itself pragmatism, although other titles are probably better. At any rate it is the denial of differences, the ce…Read more
  •  261
    Naturalism without representationalism
    In Mario De Caro & David Macarthur (eds.), Naturalism in Question, Harvard University Press. pp. 71--88. 2004.
  •  251
    "Click!" Bait for Causalists
    with Yang Liu
    In Arif Ahmed (ed.), Newcomb's Problem, Cambridge University Press. pp. 160-179. 2018.
    Causalists and Evidentialists can agree about the right course of action in an (apparent) Newcomb problem, if the causal facts are not as initially they seem. If declining $1,000 causes the Predictor to have placed $1m in the opaque box, CDT agrees with EDT that one-boxing is rational. This creates a difficulty for Causalists. We explain the problem with reference to Dummett's work on backward causation and Lewis's on chance and crystal balls. We show that the possibility that the causal facts …Read more
  •  250
    Truth as convenient friction
    Journal of Philosophy 100 (4): 167--190. 2003.
    In a recent paper, Richard Rorty begins by telling us why pragmatists such as himself are inclined to identify truth with justification: ‘Pragmatists think that if something makes no difference to practice, it should make no difference to philosophy. This conviction makes them suspicious of the distinction between justification and truth, for that distinction makes no difference to my decisions about what to do.’ (1995, p. 19) Rorty goes on to discuss the claim, defended by Crispin Wright, that …Read more
  •  243
    Why ‘Not’?
    Mind 99 (394): 221-238. 1990.
  •  239
    This volume brings together fourteen major essays by one of contemporary philosophy's most challenging thinkers. Huw Price links themes from Quine, Carnap, Wittgenstein and Rorty, to craft a powerful critique of contemporary naturalistic metaphysics. He offers a new positive program for philosophy, cast from a pragmatist mould.
  •  236
    Carnap, Quine and the Fate of Metaphysics
    Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy 5 (1). 1997.
    [1] Imagine a well-trained mid-century American philosopher, caught in a rare traffic jam on the New Jersey Turnpike one warm summer afternoon in the early 1950s. He dozes in his warm car ... and awakes in the same spot on a chill Fall evening in the late 1990s, remembering nothing of the intervening years. It is as if he has been asleep at the wheel for almost half a century!
  •  233
    Many areas of philosophy employ a distinction between factual and non-factual (descriptive/non-descriptive, cognitive/non-cognitive, etc) uses of language. This book examines the various ways in which this distinction is normally drawn, argues that all are unsatisfactory, and suggests that the search for a sharp distinction is misconceived. The book develops an alternative approach, based on a novel theory of the function and origins of the concept of truth. The central hypothesis is that the ma…Read more
  •  227
    The Flow of Time
    In Craig Callender (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Time, Oxford University Press. 2009.
    I distinguish three views, a defence of any one of which would go some way towards vindicating the view that there is something objective about the passage of time: the view that the present moment is objectively distinguished; the view that time has an objective direction – that it is an objective matter which of two non-simultaneous events is the earlier and which the later; the view that there is something objectively dynamic, flux-like, or "flow-like" about time. I argue that each of these vie…Read more
  •  224
    Is semantics in the plan?
    In David Braddon-Mitchell & Robert Nola (eds.), Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism, Mit Press. pp. 159--82. 2009.
    The so-called Canberra Plan is a grandchild of the Ramsey-Carnap treatment of theoretical terms. In its original form, the Ramsey-Carnap approach provided a method for analysing the meaning of scientific terms, such as “electron”, “gene” and “quark”—terms whose meanings could plausibly be delineated by their roles within scientific theories. But in the hands of David Lewis (1970, 1972), the original approach begat a more ambitious descendant, generalised and extended in two distinct ways: first,…Read more
  •  215
    Against causal decision theory
    Synthese 67 (2). 1986.
    Proponents of causal decision theories argue that classical Bayesian decision theory (BDT) gives the wrong advice in certain types of cases, of which the clearest and commonest are the medical Newcomb problems. I defend BDT, invoking a familiar principle of statistical inference to show that in such cases a free agent cannot take the contemplated action to be probabilistically relevant to its causes (so that BDT gives the right answer). I argue that my defence does better than those of Ellery Ee…Read more
  •  208
    How to stand up for non-cognitivists
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74 (2): 275-292. 1996.
    Is non-cognitivism compatible with minimalism about truth? A contemporary argument claims not, and therefore that moral realists, for example, should take heart from the popularity of semantic minimalism. The same is said to apply to cognitivism about other topics—conditionals, for example—for the argument depends only on the fact that ordinary usage applies the notions of truth and falsity to utterances of the kind in question. Given this much, minimalism about truth is said to leave no room fo…Read more
  •  206
    Heart of DARCness
    with Yang Liu
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97 (1): 136-150. 2019.
    There is a long-standing disagreement in the philosophy of probability and Bayesian decision theory about whether an agent can hold a meaningful credence about an upcoming action, while she deliberates about what to do. Can she believe that it is, say, 70% probable that she will do A, while she chooses whether to do A? No, say some philosophers, for Deliberation Crowds Out Prediction (DCOP), but others disagree. In this paper, we propose a valid core for DCOP, and identify terminological causes …Read more
  •  198
    One of the outstanding achievements of recent cosmology has been to offer some prospect of a unified explanation of temporal asymmetry. The explanation is in two main parts, and runs something like this. First, the various asymmetries we observe are all thermodynamic in origin – all products of the fact that we live in an epoch in which the universe is far from thermodynamic equilibrium. Second, this thermodynamic disequilibrium is associated with the condition of the universe very soon after th…Read more
  •  197
    Does time-symmetry imply retrocausality? How the quantum world says “Maybe”?
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part B: Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 43 (2): 75-83. 2012.
    It has often been suggested that retrocausality offers a solution to some of the puzzles of quantum mechanics: e.g., that it allows a Lorentz-invariant explanation of Bell correlations, and other manifestations of quantum nonlocality, without action-at-a-distance. Some writers have argued that time-symmetry counts in favour of such a view, in the sense that retrocausality would be a natural consequence of a truly time-symmetric theory of the quantum world. Critics object that there is complete t…Read more
  •  194
    Mind and World
    with John McDowell
    Philosophical Books 38 (3): 169-181. 1994.
    How do rational minds make contact with the world? The empiricist tradition sees a gap between mind and world, and takes sensory experience, fallible as it is, to provide our only bridge across that gap. In its crudest form, for example, the traditional idea is that our minds consult an inner realm of sensory experience, which provides us with evidence about the nature of external reality. Notoriously, however, it turns out to be far from clear that there is any viable conception of experience w…Read more
  •  180
    Expressivism for Two Voices
    In Pragmatism, Science and Naturalism , Peter Lang. pp. 87-113. 2011.
    I discuss the relationship between the two forms of expressivism defended by Robert Brandom, on one hand, and philosophers in the Humean tradition, such as Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard, on the other. I identify three apparent points of difference between the two programs, but argue that all three are superficial. Both projects benefit from the insights of the other, and the combination is in a natural sense a global expressivism
  •  175
    Causation, Intervention and Agency—Woodward on Menzies and Price
    In Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock & Huw Price (eds.), Making a Difference, . pp. 73-98. 2017.
    In his influential book 'Making Things Happen' and in other places, Jim Woodward has noted some affinities between his own account of causation and that of Menzies and Price, but argued that the latter view is implausibly ‘subjective’. In this piece I discuss Woodward’s criticisms. I argue that the Menzies and Price view is not as different from Woodward’s own account as he believes, and that in so far as it is different, it has some advantages whose importance Woodward misses; but also that the…Read more
  •  172
    Burbury's Last Case: The Mystery of the Entropic Arrow
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 50 19-56. 2002.
    Does not the theory of a general tendency of entropy to diminish [sic] take too much for granted? To a certain extent it is supported by experimental evidence. We must accept such evidence as far as it goes and no further. We have no right to supplement it by a large draft of the scientific imagination.
  •  168
    Causal perspectivalism
    In Huw Price & Richard Corry (eds.), Causation, Physics, and the Constitution of Reality: Russell's Republic Revisited, Oxford University Press. 2005.
    Concepts employed in folk descriptions of the world often turn out to be more perspectival than they seem at first sight, involving previously unrecognised sensitivity to the viewpoint or 'situation' of the user of the concept in question. Often, it is progress in science that reveals such perspectivity, and the deciding factor is that we realise that other creatures would apply the same concepts with different extension, in virtue of differences between their circumstances and ours. In this pap…Read more
  •  165
    Decisions, Decisions, Decisions: Can Savage salvage Everettian probability?
    In Simon Saunders, Jonathan Barrett, Adrian Kent & David Wallace (eds.), Many Worlds?: Everett, Quantum Theory & Reality, Oxford University Press. 2008.
    [Abstract and PDF at the Pittsburgh PhilSci Archive] A slightly shorter version of this paper is to appear in a volume edited by Jonathan Barrett, Adrian Kent, David Wallace and Simon Saunders, containing papers presented at the [email protected] conference in Oxford in July 2007, and the Many [email protected] meeting at the Perimeter Institute in September 2007. The paper is based on my talk at the latter meeting (audio, video and slides of which are accessible here).