•  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
  •  33
    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
  •  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
  •  742
    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.
  •  257
    The causal argument against component forces
    Dialectica 63 (4): 525-554. 2009.
    Do component forces exist in conjoined circumstances? Cartwright (1980) says no; Creary (1981) says yes. I'm inclined towards Cartwright's side in this matter, but find several problems with her argumentation. My primary aim here is to present a better, distinctly causal, argument against component forces: very roughly, I argue that the joint posit of component and resultant forces in conjoined circumstances gives rise to a threat of causal overdetermination, avoidance of which best proceeds via…Read more
  •  518
    Epistemic two-dimensional semantics, advocated by Chalmers and Jackson, among others, aims to restore the link between necessity and a priority seemingly broken by Kripke, by showing how armchair access to semantic intensions provides a basis for knowledge of necessary a posteriori truths. The most compelling objections to E2D are that, for one or other reason, the requisite intensions are not accessible from the armchair. As we substantiate here, existing versions of E2D are indeed subject to s…Read more
  •  90
    Review of John Perry's Knowledge, Possibility, and Consciousness (review)
    Philosophical Review 111 (4): 598-601. 2002.
    Perry, in this lucid, deep, and entertaining book , supposes that type-identity physicalism is antecedently plausible, and that rejecting this thesis requires good reason (this is
  •  191
    Naturalist Metaphysics
    Michigan Philosophy News. 2003.
    This newsletter contribution advances Wilson's naturalistic approach to the doing of metaphysics.
  •  135
    Causality
    In Jessica Pfeifer & Sahotra Sarkar (eds.), The Philosophy of Science: An Encyclopedia, Routledge. pp. 90--100. 2006.
    Arguably no concept is more fundamental to science than that of causality, for investigations into cases of existence, persistence, and change in the natural world are largely investigations into the causes of these phenomena. Yet the metaphysics and epistemology of causality remain unclear. For example, the ontological categories of the causal relata have been taken to be objects (Hume 1739), events (Davidson 1967), properties (Armstrong 1978), processes (Salmon 1984), variables (Hitchcock 1993…Read more
  •  312
    Hume's Dictum and the asymmetry of counterfactual dependence
    In Alastair Wilson (ed.), Chance and Temporal Asymmetry, Oxford University Press. pp. 258-279. 2014.
    Why believe Hume's Dictum, according to which there are, roughly speaking, no necessary connections between wholly distinct entities? Schaffer suggests that HD, at least as applied to causal or nomological connections, is motivated as required by the best account of of counterfactuals---namely, a similarity-based possible worlds account, where the operative notion of similarity requires 'miracles'---more specifically, worlds where entities of the same type that actually exist enter into differen…Read more