•  169
    Relativized Metaphysical Modality (RMM: Murray and Wilson, 'Relativized metaphysical modality', Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, 2012; Murray, Perspectives on Modal Metaphysics, 2017) exploits 'two-dimensionalist' resources to metaphysical, rather than epistemological, ends: the second dimension offers perspective-dependence without contingency, diverting attacks on 'Classical' analyses of modals (in effect, analyses validating S5 and the Barcan Formulae). Here, we extend the RMM program in two di…Read more
  •  281
    Grounding-based formulations of physicalism
    Topoi 37 (3): 495-512. 2016.
    I problematize Grounding-based formulations of physicalism. More specifically, I argue, first, that motivations for adopting a Grounding-based formulation of physicalism are unsound; second, that a Grounding-based formulation lacks illuminating content, and that attempts to imbue Grounding with content by taking it to be a strict partial order are unuseful and problematic ; third, that conceptions of Grounding as constitutively connected to metaphysical explanation conflate metaphysics and epist…Read more
  •  35
    On Mary Shepherd's Essay upon the Relation of Cause and Effect
    In Eric Schliesser (ed.), Neglected Classics of Philosophy, II, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    Mary Shepherd (1777–1847) was a fierce and brilliant critic of Berkeley and Hume, who moreover offered strikingly original positive views about the nature of reality and our access to it which deserve much more attention (and credit, since she anticipates many prominent views) than they have received thus far. By way of illustration, I focus on Shepherd's 1824 Essay Upon the Relation of Cause and Effect, Controverting the Doctrine of Mr. Hume, Concerning the Nature of that Relation (ERCE). After…Read more
  •  48
    Morris’s book is a valuable contribution. For the reasons below, I don’t think his case against NRP succeeds, and his version of EP faces a serious difficulty. Even so, this is an admirably clear, subtle, and well-informed brief, and philosophers interested in the structure of natural reality have much to gain from Morris’s insightful discussion and argumentation.
  •  66
    Metaphysical Emergence
    Oxford University Press. 2021.
    Both the special sciences and ordinary experience suggest that there are metaphysically emergent entities and features: macroscopic goings-on (including mountains, trees, humans, and sculptures, and their characteristic properties) which depend on, yet are distinct from and distinctively efficacious with respect to, lower-level physical configurations and features. These appearances give rise to two key questions. First, what is metaphysical emergence, more precisely? Second, is there any metaph…Read more
  •  38
    Review of Douglas Ehring, Tropes (review)
    Mind 1-12. 2020.
    Tropes is a systematic investigation into the metaphysics of properties, aiming to motivate and defend trope theory, and more specifically Natural Class Trope Nominalism (NCTN). Ehring’s book treats an impressive span of relevant positions, considerations, debates and objections with charity and clarity; it’s also a real page-turner, at least if one has (as I do) a taste for analytic twists and turns.
  •  52
    Between Scientism and Abstractionism in the Metaphysics of Emergence
    In Sophie Gibb, Robin Hendry & Tom Lancaster (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Emergence, Routledge. pp. 157-176. 2019.
    I discuss certain representative accounts of metaphysical emergence falling into three broad categories, assessing their prospects for satisfying certain criteria; the ensuing dialectic has a bit of the Goldilocks fable about it. At one end of the spectrum are what I call ‘scientistic’ accounts, which characterize metaphysical emergence by appeal to one or another specific feature commonly registered in scientific descriptions of seeming cases of emergence; such accounts, I argue, typically fail…Read more
  •  345
    Comments on Making Things Up
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (2): 497-506. 2019.
    These comments are part of a book symposium on Karen Bennett's book, _Making Things Up_.
  •  49
    This correction reflects that I forgot to cite Stephan Leuenberger's unpublished work in the paragraph beginning "More promising, perhaps, is the orthodox view ..." in Section 5. The overall argument of Section 5 is a development of an argument I gave in footnote 27 of 'No Work for a Theory of Grounding' (Inquiry, 2014). At issue in the relevant sections of 'No Work...' and 'Grounding-based Formulations...' is whether a proponent of Grounding has resources to accommodate strongly emergent phenom…Read more
  •  91
    Abduction versus conceiving in modal epistemology
    Synthese 198 (Suppl 8): 2045-2076. 2019.
    How should modal reasoning proceed? Here we compare abduction-based and conceiving-based modal epistemologies, and argue that an abduction-based approach is preferable, and by a wide margin.
  •  345
    A determinable-based account of metaphysical indeterminacy
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 56 (4): 359-385. 2013.
    ABSTRACT Many phenomena appear to be indeterminate, including material macro-object boundaries and certain open future claims. Here I provide an account of indeterminacy in metaphysical, rather than semantic or epistemic, terms. Previous accounts of metaphysical indeterminacy have typically taken this to involve its being indeterminate which of various determinate states of affairs obtain. On my alternative account, MI involves its being determinate that an indeterminate state of affairs obtains…Read more
  •  2004
    No Work for a Theory of Grounding
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 57 (5-6): 535-579. 2014.
    It has recently been suggested that a distinctive metaphysical relation— ‘Grounding’—is ultimately at issue in contexts in which some goings-on are said to hold ‘in virtue of’’, be ‘metaphysically dependent on’, or be ‘nothing over and above’ some others. Grounding is supposed to do good work in illuminating metaphysical dependence. I argue that Grounding is also unsuited to do this work. To start, Grounding alone cannot do this work, for bare claims of Grounding leave open such basic questions …Read more
  •  193
    Quantum metaphysical indeterminacy
    Philosophical Studies 176 (10). 2019.
    On many currently live interpretations, quantum mechanics violates the classical supposition of value definiteness, according to which the properties of a given particle or system have precise values at all times. Here we consider whether either metaphysical supervaluationist or determinable-based approaches to metaphysical indeterminacy can accommodate quantum metaphysical indeterminacy (QMI). We start by discussing the standard theoretical indicator of QMI, and distinguishing three seemingly …Read more
  •  165
    Three Barriers to Philosophical Progress
    In Russell Blackford & Damien Broderick (eds.), Philosophy's Future: The Problem of Philosophical Progress, Wiley Blackwell. pp. 91--104. 2017.
    I argue that the present (if not insuperable) lack of fixed standards in philosophy is associated with three barriers to philosophical progress, pertaining to intra-disciplinary siloing, sociological rather than philosophical determinants of philosophical attention, and the encouraging of bias.
  •  191
    Must strong emergence collapse?
    Philosophica 91 49--104. 2017.
    Some claim that the notion of strong emergence as involving ontological or causal novelty makes no sense, on grounds that any purportedly strongly emergent features or associated powers 'collapse', one way or another, into the lower-level base features upon which they depend. Here we argue that there are several independently motivated and defensible means of preventing the collapse of strongly emergent features or powers into their lower-level bases, as directed against a conception of strongly…Read more
  •  457
    Fundamental determinables
    Philosophers' Imprint 12. 2012.
    Contemporary philosophers commonly suppose that any fundamental entities there may be are maximally determinate. More generally, they commonly suppose that, whether or not there are fundamental entities, any determinable entities there may be are grounded in, hence less fundamental than, more determinate entities. So, for example, Armstrong takes the physical objects constituting the presumed fundamental base to be “determinate in all respects” (1961, 59), and Lewis takes the properties characte…Read more
  •  302
    The unity and priority arguments for Grounding
    In Ken Aizawa & Carl Gillett (eds.), Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Ground, Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 171-204. 2016.
    Grounding, understood as a primitive posit operative in contexts where metaphysical dependence is at issue, is not able on its own to do any substantive work in characterizing or illuminating metaphysical dependence---or so I argue in 'No Work for a Theory of Grounding' (Inquiry, 2014). Such illumination rather requires appeal to specific metaphysical relations---type or token identity, functional realization, the determinable-determinate relation, the mereological part-whole relation, and so o…Read more
  •  363
    Essence and dependence
    In Mircea Dumitru (ed.), Metaphysics, Meaning, and Modality: Themes from Kit Fine, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    I first discuss Kit Fine's distinctive 'schema-based' approach to metaphysical theorizing, which aims to identify general principles accommodating any intelligible application of the notion(s), by attention to his accounts of essence and dependence. I then raise some specific concerns about the general principles Fine takes to schematically characterize these notions. In particular, I present various counterexamples to Fine's essence-based account of ontological dependence. The problem, roughly…Read more
  •  453
    Supervenience-based formulations of physicalism
    Noûs 39 (3): 426-459. 2005.
    The physicalist thesis that all entities are nothing over and above physical entities is often interpreted as appealing to a supervenience-based account of "nothing over and aboveness”, where, schematically, the A-entities are nothing over and above the B-entities if the A-entities supervene on the B-entities. The main approaches to filling in this schema correspond to different ways of characterizing the modal strength, the supervenience base, or the supervenience connection at issue. I conside…Read more
  •  327
    Non-reductive realization and the powers-based subset strategy
    The Monist (Issue on Powers) 94 (1): 121-154. 2011.
    I argue that an adequate account of non-reductive realization must guarantee satisfaction of a certain condition on the token causal powers associated with (instances of) realized and realizing entities---namely, what I call the 'Subset Condition on Causal Powers' (first introduced in Wilson 1999). In terms of states, the condition requires that the token powers had by a realized state on a given occasion be a proper subset of the token powers had by the state that realizes it on that occasion. …Read more
  •  186
    Causal powers, forces, and superdupervenience
    Grazer Philosophische Studien 63 (1): 53-77. 2002.
    Horgan (1993) proposed that "superdupervenience" - supervenience preserving physicalistic acceptability - is a matter of robust explanation. I argued against him (1999) that (as nearly all physicalist and emergentist accounts reflect) superdupervenience is a matter of Condition on Causal Powers (CCP): every causal power bestowed by the supervenient property is identical with a causal power bestowed by its base property. Here I show that CCP is, as it stands, unsatisfactory,for on the usual under…Read more
  •  196
    Nonlinearity and metaphysical emergence
    In Stephen Mumford & Matthew Tugby (eds.), Metaphysics and Science, . 2013.
    The nonlinearity of a composite system, whereby certain of its features (including powers and behaviors) cannot be seen as linear or other broadly additive combinations of features of the system's composing entities, has been frequently seen as a mark of metaphysical emergence, coupling the dependence of a composite system on an underlying system of composing entities with the composite system's ontological autonomy from its underlying system. But why think that nonlinearity is a mark of emerge…Read more
  •  149
    The Question of Metaphysics
    The Philosophers' Magazine 90-96. 2016.
    I address the question of whether there is any role for metaphysics to play on which it is both non-redundant and capable of genuinely illuminating whatever subject matter is at issue. I first argue that metaphysical methodology itself obliges metaphysicians to take this question seriously. I then argue that the currently popular “hands-off” conception of metaphysical theorizing is unable to provide a satisfactory answer to the question of metaphysics. Third, I present my preferred “embedded” c…Read more
  •  94
    Review of Gonzalo Rodriguez-Pereyra's Resemblance Nominalism: A Solution to the Problem of Universals (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72 (1): 241--246. 2006.
    As Rodriguez-Pereyra understands the Problem of Universals, solving it requires specifying the truthmakers of attributions of sparse properties to particulars, so as to resolve the “Many over One”—the puzzle of how the same particular can be different ways. According to Rodriguez-Pereyra, these truthmakers need not involve irreducible properties ; resemblances between particulars will do. Here I’ll set out Rodriguez-Pereyra’s version of resemblance nominalism and note certain of its problems, so…Read more
  •  743
    Metaphysical emergence: Weak and Strong
    In Tomasz Bigaj & Christian Wuthrich (eds.), Metaphysics in Contemporary Physics, Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities. pp. 251-306. 2015.
    Motivated by the seeming structure of the sciences, metaphysical emergence combines broadly synchronic dependence coupled with some degree of ontological and causal autonomy. Reflecting the diverse, frequently incompatible interpretations of the notions of dependence and autonomy, however, accounts of emergence diverge into a bewildering variety. Here I argue that much of this apparent diversity is superficial. I first argue, by attention to the problem of higher-level causation, that two and on…Read more
  •  213
    The a priority of abduction
    Philosophical Studies 174 (3): 735-758. 2017.
    Here we challenge the orthodoxy according to which abduction is an a posteriori mode of inference. We start by providing a case study illustrating how abduction can justify a philosophical claim not justifiable by empirical evidence alone. While many grant abduction's epistemic value, nearly all assume that abductive justification is a posteriori, on grounds that our belief in abduction's epistemic value depends on empirical evidence about how the world contingently is. Contra this assumption, w…Read more
  •  236
    Free will and mental quausation
    Journal of the American Philosophical Association 2 (2): 310-331. 2016.
    Free will, if such there be, involves free choosing: the ability to mentally choose an outcome, where the outcome is 'free' in being, in some substantive sense, up to the agent of the choice. As such, it is clear that the questions of how to understand free will and mental causation are connected, for events of seemingly free choosing are mental events that appear to be efficacious vis-a-vis other mental events as well as physical events. Nonetheless, the free will and mental causation debates …Read more
  •  475
    The regress argument against Cartesian skepticism
    Analysis 72 (4): 668-673. 2012.
    I argue that Cartesian skepticism about the external world leads to a vicious regress of skeptical attitudes, the only principled and unproblematic response to which requires refraining from taking the very first skeptical step.
  •  371
    On characterizing the physical
    Philosophical Studies 131 (1): 61-99. 2006.
    How should physical entities be characterized? Physicalists, who have most to do with the notion, usually characterize the physical by reference to two components: 1. The physical entities are the entities treated by fundamental physics with the proviso that 2. Physical entities are not fundamentally mental (that is, do not individually possess or bestow mentality) Here I explore the extent to which the appeals to fundamental physics and to the NFM (“no fundamental mentality”) constraint are app…Read more
  •  163
    Force
    In Borchert (ed.), Philosophy of Science, Macmillan. 2006.
    This is an encyclopedia entry on the notion of force as entering into physical science.