•  1155
    An Empiricist's Guide to Objective Modality
    In Matthew Slater & Zanja Yudell (eds.), Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science: New Essays, Oxford University Press. pp. 109-125. 2017.
    In this paper, I defend an empiricist account of modality that keeps a substantive account of modal commitment, but throws out the metaphysics. I suggest that if we pair a deflationary attitude toward representation with a substantive account of how scientific models are constructed and put to use, the result is an account that deflates the metaphysics of modal commitment without deflating the content of modal claims.
  •  623
    Probability in deterministic physics
    Journal of Philosophy 106 (2): 89-108. 2009.
    The role of probability is one of the most contested issues in the interpretation of contemporary physics. In this paper, I’ll be reevaluating some widely held assumptions about where and how probabilities arise. Larry Sklar voices the conventional wisdom about probability in classical physics in a piece in the Stanford Online Encyclopedia of Philosophy, when he writes that “Statistical mechanics was the first foundational physical theory in which probabilistic concepts and probabilistic explana…Read more
  •  494
    Doublemindedness: A model for a dual content cognitive architecture
    PSYCHE: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Research On Consciousness 12. 2006.
    The outstanding stumbling blocks to any reductive account of phenomenal consciousness remain the subjectivity of phenomenal properties and cognitive and epistemic gaps that plague the relationship between physical and phenomenal properties. I suggest that a deflationary interpretation of both is available to defenders of self- representational accounts
  •  260
    I propose, in the context of Everett interpretations of quantum mechanics, a way of understanding how there can be genuine uncertainty about the future notwithstanding that the universe is governed by known, deterministic dynamical laws, and notwithstanding that there is no ignorance about initial conditions, nor anything in the universe whose evolution is not itself governed by the known dynamical laws. The proposal allows us to draw some lessons about the relationship between chance and determ…Read more
  •  185
    Quantum mechanics seems to portray nature as nonseparable, in the sense that it allows spatiotemporally separated entities to have states that cannot be fully specified without reference to each other. This is often said to implicate some form of “holism.” We aim to clarify what this means, and why this seems plausible. Our core idea is that the best explanation for nonseparability is a “common ground” explanation, which casts nonseparable entities in a holistic light, as scattered reflections o…Read more
  •  174
    A Modest Proposal about Chance
    Journal of Philosophy 108 (8): 416-442. 2011.
    First para: Before the 17th century, there was not much discussion, and little uniformity in conception, of natural laws. The rise of science in 17th century, Newton’s mathematization of physics, and the provision of strict, deterministic laws that applied equally to the heavens and to the terrestrial realm had a profound impact in transforming the philosophical imagination. A philosophical conception of physical law built on the example of Newtonian Mechanics became quickly entrenched. Be…Read more
  •  165
    What chances could not be
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (1): 79-91. 1996.
    The chance of a physical event is the objective, single-case probability that it will occur. In probabilistic physical theories like quantum mechanics, the chances of physical events play the formal role that the values of physical quantities play in classical (deterministic) physics, and there is a temptation to regard them on the model of the latter as describing intrinsic properties of the systems to which they are assigned. I argue that this understanding of chances in quantum mechanics, des…Read more
  •  164
    Saving the baby: Dennett on autobiography, agency, and the self
    Philosophical Psychology 19 (3): 345-360. 2006.
    Dennett argues that the decentralized view of human cognitive organization finding increasing support in parts of cognitive science undermines talk of an inner self. On his view, the causal underpinnings of behavior are distributed across a collection of autonomous subsystems operating without any centralized supervision. Selves are fictions contrived to simplify description and facilitate prediction of behavior with no real correlate inside the mind. Dennett often uses an analogy with termite c…Read more
  •  163
    Curie's principle
    Synthese 110 (2): 167-190. 1997.
    A reading is given of Curie''s Principle that the symmetry of a cause is always preserved its effects. The truth of the principle is demonstrated and its importance, under the proposed reading, is defended.As far as I see, all a priori statements in physics have their origin in symmetry. (Weyl, Symmetry, p. 126).
  •  162
    Philosophers of mind tend to take it for granted that causal relations are part of the mind-independent, objective fabric of the physical world. In fact, their status has been hotly contested since Russell famously observed that the closest thing to causal relations in physics are timesymmetric dynamical laws relating global time slices of world-history. 1 These bear a distant relationship to the local, asymmetric relations that form the core of the folk notion of cause. Nancy Cartwright, in an …Read more
  •  154
    Closed Causal Loops and the Bilking Argument
    Synthese 136 (3): 305-320. 2003.
    The most potentially powerful objection to the possibility of time travel stems from the fact that it can, under the right conditions, give rise to closed causal loops, and closed causal loops can be turned into self-defeating causal chains; folks killing their infant selves, setting out to destroy the world before they were born, and the like. It used to be thought that such chains present paradoxes; the received wisdom nowadays is that they give rise to physical anomalies in the form of inexpl…Read more
  •  136
    In the general project of trying to reconcile the subjective view of the world (how things seem from the perspective of the embedded agent) with the objective view (the view of the world from the outside, as represented, for example, in our best physics), analytic philosophy, especially in recent years, has been almost solely focused on sensory phenomenology.1 There are two very salient features of the subjective view that haven’t been explored even on the descriptive side but that present prima…Read more
  •  128
    Denial of death We don’t like to think about our deaths, and there are cultural developments – social, technological, economic – that make it easier than ever before to live without constant reminders of our mortality. We hide the evidence of death. We live separately from our old people, and quarantine the dying in hospitals and hospices. It’s impolite to mention death in conversation. We view death not as natural and inevitable stage of life, but as a calamity, a mistake, an accident. This att…Read more
  •  111
    Raid! Dissolving the big, bad bug
    Noûs 42 (2). 2008.
    No Abstract
  •  109
    Precis of The Situated Self
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (3): 733-758. 2011.
    The riddle posed by the double nature of the ego certainly lies beyond [the limits of science]. On the one hand, I am a real individual man, born by a mother anddestined to carrying out real and psychical acts. On the other hand, I am "vision" open toreason, a self-penetrating light, immanent sense-giving consciousness, or how ever you may call it, and as such unique.
  •  107
    Huw Price has argued that on an interventionist account of cause the distinction is perspectival, and the claim prompted some interesting responses from interventionists and in particular an exchange with Woodward that raises questions about what it means to say that one or another structure is perspectival. I’ll introduce his reasons for claiming that the distinction between cause and effect on an interventionist account is perspectival. Then I’ll introduce a distinction between different ways …Read more
  •  97
    Quantum mechanics
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
    Quantum mechanics is, at least at first glance and at least in part, a mathematical machine for predicting the behaviors of microscopic particles — or, at least, of the measuring instruments we use to explore those behaviors — and in that capacity, it is spectacularly successful: in terms of power and precision, head and shoulders above any theory we have ever had. Mathematically, the theory is well understood; we know what its parts are, how they are put together, and why, in the mechanical sen…Read more
  •  93
    So you think you exist? — In defense of nolipsism
    with John L. Pollock
    In Thomas M. Crisp, Matthew Davidson & David Vander Laan (eds.), Knowledge and Reality: Essays in Honor of Alvin Plantinga, Springer. 2006.
    Human beings think of themselves in terms of a privileged non-descriptive designator — a mental “I”. Such thoughts are called “_de se_” thoughts. The mind/body problem is the problem of deciding what kind of thing I am, and it can be regarded as arising from the fact that we think of ourselves non-descriptively. Why do we think of ourselves in this way? We investigate the functional role of “I” (and also “here” and “now”) in cognition, arguing that the use of such non-descriptive “reflexive” des…Read more
  •  89
    Science and the phenomenal
    Philosophy of Science 66 (3): 351-69. 1999.
    The Hard Problem of the mind is addressed and it is argued that physical-phenomenal property identities have the same status as the identification of an ostended bit of physical space and the coordinates assigned the spot on a map of the terrain. It is argued, that is to say, that such identities are, or follow from, stipulations which interpret the map
  •  86
    For most of the major philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, human cognition was understood as involving the mind’s reflexive grasp of its own contents. But other important figures have described the very idea of a reflexive thought as incoherent. Ryle notably likened the idea of a reflexive thought to an arm that grasps itself. Recent work in philosophy, psychology, and the cognitive sciences has greatly clarified the special epistemic and semantic properties of reflexive tho…Read more
  •  82
    The Situated Self
    Oxford University Press. 2007.
    J. T. Ismael's monograph is an ambitious contribution to metaphysics and the philosophy of language and mind. She tackles a philosophical question whose origin goes back to Descartes: What am I? The self is not a mere thing among things--but if so, what is it, and what is its relationship to the world? Ismael is an original and creative thinker who tries to understand our problematic concepts about the self and how they are related to our use of language in particular
  •  68
    Human beings think of themselves in terms of a privileged non-descriptive designator — a mental “I”. Such thoughts are called “de se” thoughts. The mind/body problem is the problem of deciding what kind of thing I am, and it can be regarded as arising from the fact that we think of ourselves non-descriptively. Why do we think of ourselves in this way? We investigate the functional role of “I” (and also “here” and “now”) in cognition, arguing that the use of such non-descriptive “reflexive” desig…Read more
  •  64
    There’s a long history of discussion of probability in philosophy, but objective chance separated itself off and came into its own as a topic with the advent of a physical theory - quantum mechanics - in which chances play a central, and apparently ineliminable, role. In 1980 David Lewis wrote a paper pointing out that a very broad class of accounts of the nature of chance apparently lead to a contradiction when combined with a principle that expresses the role of chance in guiding belief. There…Read more
  •  64
    Quantum holism: nonseparability as common ground
    Synthese 197 (10): 4131-4160. 2020.
    Quantum mechanics seems to portray nature as nonseparable, in the sense that it allows spatiotemporally separated entities to have states that cannot be fully specified without reference to each other. This is often said to implicate some form of “holism.” We aim to clarify what this means, and why this seems plausible. Our core idea is that the best explanation for nonseparability is a “common ground” explanation, which casts nonseparable entities in a holistic light, as scattered reflections o…Read more
  •  62
  •  57
    Descartes begins his discussion in the Meditations with the question ‘what am I?’ and concludes, famously, that he is a non-material substance. His reasoning turns on the thesis that nothing can be true of his..
  •  54
    Responses to Symposiasts (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82 (3): 780-787. 2011.
  •  54
    Self-Organization and Self-Governance
    Philosophy of the Social Sciences 41 (3): 327-351. 2011.
    The intuitive difference between a system that choreographs the motion of its parts in the service of goals of its own formulation and a system composed of a collection of parts doing their own thing without coordination has been shaken by now familiar examples of self-organization. There is a broad and growing presumption in parts of philosophy and across the sciences that the appearance of centralized information-processing and control in the service of system-wide goals is mere appearance, i.…Read more