•  7
    Quantum indeterminacy and the double-slit experiment
    Philosophical Studies 178 (10): 3291-3317. 2021.
  •  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
  •  283
    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.
  •  70
    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
  •  39
    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
  •  348
    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.
  •  346
    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
  •  2009
    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
  •  196
    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.
  •  192
    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
  •  541
    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
  •  314
    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
  •  844
    What is Hume's Dictum, and why believe it?
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 80 (3). 2010.
    Hume's Dictum (HD) says, roughly and typically, that there are no metaphysically necessary connections between distinct, intrinsically typed, entities. HD plays an influential role in metaphysical debate, both in constructing theories and in assessing them. One should ask of such an influential thesis: why believe it? Proponents do not accept Hume's arguments for his dictum, nor do they provide their own; however, some have suggested either that HD is analytic or that it is synthetic a priori (t…Read more
  •  181
    Carnap, the necessary a priori, and metaphysical anti-realism
    In Stephen Blatti & Sandra Lapointe (eds.), Ontology after Carnap, . pp. 81-104. 2016.
    In Meaning and Necessity (1947/1950), Carnap advances an intensional semantic framework on which modal claims are true in virtue of semantical rules alone, and so are a priori. In 'Empiricism, Semantics, and Ontology' (1950), Carnap advances an epistemic-ontological framework on which metaphysical claims are either trivial or meaningless, since lacking any means of substantive confirmation. Carnap carried out these projects two decades before Kripke influentially argued, in Naming and Necessity …Read more
  • Physicalism, Emergentism, and Fundamental Forces
    Dissertation, Cornell University. 2001.
    Physicalism is the thesis that all entities are nothing over and above physical entities. Here I investigate into whether and how physicalism might be formulated so as to substantively contrast with its best traditional rivals---including and especially emergentism. Formulating physicalism requires making sense of both the physical/non-physical distinction and the nothing/something over and above distinction. It has been argued that no distinction between the physical and the non-physical exists…Read more
  •  195
    From constitutional necessities to causal necessities
    In Helen Beebee & Nigel Sabbarton-Leary (eds.), The Semantics and Metaphysics of Natural Kinds, Routledge. 2010.
    Humeans and non-Humeans reasonably agree that there may be necessary connections between entities that are identical or merely partly distinct—between, e.g., sets and their individual members, fusions and their individual parts, instances of determinates and determinables, members of certain natural kinds and certain of their intrinsic properties, and (especially among physicalists) certain physical and mental states. Humeans maintain, however, that as per “Hume’s Dictum”, there are no necessary…Read more
  •  283
    In what does philosophical progress consist? 'Vertical' progress corresponds to development within a specific paradigm/framework for theorizing (of the sort associated, revolutions aside, with science); 'horizontal' progress corresponds to the identification and cultivation of diverse paradigms (of the sort associated, conservativism aside, with art and pure mathematics). Philosophical progress seems to involve both horizontal and vertical dimensions, in a way that is somewhat puzzling: philos…Read more
  •  165
    Are There Indeterminate States of Affairs? Yes
    In Elizabeth Barnes (ed.), Current Controversies in Metaphysics, Taylor & Francis. pp. 105-125. 2017.
    Here I compare two accounts of metaphysical indeterminacy (MI): first, the 'meta-level' approach described by Elizabeth Barnes and Ross Cameron in the companion to this paper, on which every state of affairs (SOA) is itself precise/determinate, and MI is a matter of its being indeterminate which determinate SOA obtains; second, my preferred 'object-level' determinable-based approach, on which MI is a matter of its being determinate---or just plain true---that an indeterminate SOA obtains, where …Read more
  •  180
    Hume argued that experience could not justify commonly held beliefs in singular causal effcacy, according to which individual or singular causes produce their effects or make their effects happen. Hume's discussion has been influential, as motivating the view that Causal reductionism (denying that causal efficacy is an irreducible feature of natural reality) requires Causal generalism (according to which causal relations are metaphysically constituted by patterns of events). Here I argue that ca…Read more
  •  346
    Non-reductive physicalism and degrees of freedom
    British Journal for Philosophy of Science 61 (2): 279-311. 2010.
    Some claim that Non- reductive Physicalism is an unstable position, on grounds that NRP either collapses into reductive physicalism, or expands into emergentism of a robust or ‘strong’ variety. I argue that this claim is unfounded, by attention to the notion of a degree of freedom—roughly, an independent parameter needed to characterize an entity as being in a state functionally relevant to its law-governed properties and behavior. I start by distinguishing three relations that may hold between …Read more
  •  271
    Could experience disconfirm the propositions of arithmetic?
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 30 (1): 55--84. 2000.
    Alberto Casullo ("Necessity, Certainty, and the A Priori", Canadian Journal of Philosophy 18, 1988) argues that arithmetical propositions could be disconfirmed by appeal to an invented scenario, wherein our standard counting procedures indicate that 2 + 2 != 4. Our best response to such a scenario would be, Casullo suggests, to accept the results of the counting procedures, and give up standard arithmetic. While Casullo's scenario avoids arguments against previous "disconfirming" scenarios, it f…Read more