•  981
    Flexible Contextualism about Deontic Modals: A Puzzle about Information-Sensitivity
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 56 (2-3): 149-178. 2013.
    According to a recent challenge to Kratzer's canonical contextualist semantics for deontic modal expressions, no contextualist view can make sense of cases in which such a modal must be information-sensitive in some way. Here I show how Kratzer's semantics is compatible with readings of the targeted sentences that fit with the data. I then outline a general account of how contexts select parameter values for modal expressions and show, in terms of that account, how the needed, contextualist-frie…Read more
  •  390
    Here we focus on two questions: What is the proper semantics for deontic modal expressions in English? And what is the connection between true deontic modal statements and normative reasons? Our contribution towards thinking about the first, which makes up the bulk of our paper, considers a representative sample of recent challenges to a Kratzer-style formal semantics for modal expressions, as well as the rival views—Fabrizio Cariani’s contrastivism, John MacFarlane’s relativism, and Mark Sch…Read more
  •  222
    The physical: Empirical, not metaphysical
    with J. L. Dowell, ,
    Philosophical Studies 131 (1): 25-60. 2006.
    2. The Contingency and A posteriority Constraint: A formulation of the thesis must make physicalism come out contingent and a posteriori. First, physicalism is a contingent truth, if it is a truth. This means that physicalism could have been false, i.e. there are counterfactual worlds in which physicalism is false, for example, counterfactual worlds in which there are miracle -performing angels.[9] Moreover, if physicalism is true, our knowledge of its truth is a posteriori. This is to say that …Read more
  •  183
    Formulating the thesis of physicalism
    Philosophical Studies 131 (1): 1-23. 2006.
    Perhaps more controversial than whether physicalism is true is what exactly would have to be true for physicalism to be true. Everyone agrees that, intuitively at least, physicalism is the thesis that there is nothing over and above the physical. The disagreements arise in how to get beyond this intuitive formulation. Until about ten years ago, participants in this debate were concerned primarily with answering two questions. First, what is it for a property, kind, relation, or individual to be …Read more
  •  180
    Frank Jackson has argued that only if we have a priori knowledge of the extension-fixers for many of our terms can we vindicate the methodological practice of relying on intuitions to decide between philosophical theories. While there has been much discussion of Jackson’s claim that we have such knowledge, there has been comparatively little discussion of this most powerful argument for that claim. Here I defend an alternative explanation of our intuitions about possible cases, one that does not…Read more
  •  176
    A priori entailment and conceptual analysis: Making room for type-c physicalism
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (1). 2008.
    One strategy for blocking Chalmers's overall case against physicalism has been to deny his claim that showing that phenomenal properties are in some sense physical requires an a priori entailment of the phenomenal truths from the physical ones. Here I avoid this well-trodden ground and argue instead that an a priori entailment of the phenomenal truths from the physical ones does not require an analysis in the Jackson/Chalmers sense. This is to sever the dualist's link between conceptual analysis…Read more
  •  171
  •  137
    Serious metaphysics and the vindication of reductions
    Philosophical Studies 139 (1): 91-110. 2008.
    What would be sufficient to show of some apparently higher-level property that it is 'nothing over and above' some complex configuration of more basic properties? This paper defends a new method for justifying reductions by demonstrating its comparative advantages over two methods recently defended in the literature. Unlike its rivals, what I'll call "the semantic method" makes a reduction's truth epistemically transparent without relying on conceptual analyses.
  •  102
    Making it totally explicit
    Philosophical Papers 35 (2): 137-170. 2006.
    This paper begins by isolating the reductive component of Brandom's inferentialism. In order to assess to what extent that reductive component is supported by the considerations Brandom marshals in its defense, I assess the comparative degree of support those considerations provide a non-reductive counterpart of Brandom's original, reductive theory. One of the central claims here is that once the reductive and non-reductive theories are placed side-by-side, it is clear that, save one, all of the…Read more
  •  45
    Discourse Contextualism
    Analysis 78 (3): 562-566. 2018.
    In Discourse Contextualism, Alex Silk defends a new contextualist account of expressions at the centre of recent debates over contextualism versus relativism, namely, gradable adjectives, taste predicates and epistemic and deontic modals ).1 1 The first part of the book, which lays out the view and shows how it explains the phenomena at issue in those debates, focuses on the case of epistemic modals. The second part of the book extends that account with Discourse Contextualist treatments of the …Read more
  •  17
    The Metaethical Insignificance of Moral Twin Earth
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics 11. 2016.
    What considerations place genuine constraints on an adequate semantics for normative and evaluative expressions? Linguists recognize facts about ordinary uses of such expressions and competent speakers’ judgments about which uses are appropriate. The contemporary literature reflects the widespread assumption that linguists don’t rely upon an additional source of data—competent speakers’ judgments about possible disagreement with hypothetical speech communities. We have several good reasons to th…Read more
  •  14
    Finlay’s Methodology: Synthetic, Not Analytic
    Analysis 80 (1): 102-110. 2020.
    Stephen Finlay’s proposed methodology for defending the central theses of his impressive Confusion of Tongues is an underexplored aspect of this work.1 1 His official methodology is analytic : A reduction of normative to non-normative vocabulary. Here, I argue that taking this official line at face-value forces the reader to conclude that the reductions at the heart of that book cannot be correct. In contrast, a philosophical methodology that does not proceed via analyses would better support th…Read more
  •  7
    This chapter discusses three puzzles about practical conditionals and inferences and shows how the flexible, contextualist semantic framework for “ought”. The chapter develops elsewhere resolves all three puzzles more satisfactorily than any of its three most prominent rivals, the relativist account of Niko Kolodny and John MacFarlane, the wide-scoping account of John Broome, and the “trying on” account of James Dreier. The chapter first introduces the puzzle cases and six desiderata for their s…Read more