•  438
    This paper has as its topic two recent philosophical disputes. One of these disputes is internal to the project known as decision theory, and while by now familiar to many, may well seem to be of pressing concern only to specialists. It has been carried on over the last twenty years or so, but by now the two opposing camps are pretty well entrenched in their respective positions, and the situation appears to many observers (as well as to some of the parties involved) to have reached a sort of st…Read more
  •  403
    The big bad bug: What are the humean's chances?
    with John Bigelow and Robert Pargetter
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44 (3): 443-462. 1993.
    Humean supervenience is the doctrine that there are no necessary connections in the world. David Lewis identifies one big bad bug to the programme of providing Humean analyses for apparently non-Humean features of the world. The bug is chance. We put the bug under the microscope, and conclude that chance is no special problem for the Humean.
  •  398
    A counterfactual is a conditional statement in the subjunctive mood. For example: If Suzy hadn’t thrown the rock, then the bottle wouldn’t have shattered. The philosophical importance of counterfactuals stems from the fact that they seem to be closely connected to the concept of causation. Thus it seems that the truth of the above conditional is just what is required for Suzy’s throw to count as a cause of the bottle’s shattering. If philosophers were reluctant to exploit this idea prior to 1970…Read more
  •  382
    Newcomb’s problem is a decision puzzle whose difficulty and interest stem from the fact that the possible outcomes are probabilistically dependent on, yet causally independent of, the agent’s options. The problem is named for its inventor, the physicist William Newcomb, but first appeared in print in a 1969 paper by Robert Nozick [12]. Closely related to, though less well-known than, the Prisoners’ Dilemma, it has been the subject of intense debate in the philosophical literature. After three de…Read more
  •  322
    Knowledge entails the truth of the proposition known; that which is merely believed may be false. If I have beliefs about your beliefs, then I may believe that some of your beliefs are false. I may believe, for example, that you mistakenly believe that it is now raining outside. This is a coherent belief for me, though not for you. You cannot coherently believe that you believe falsely that it is raining, and this despite the fact that your having that false belief is clearly a logical possibili…Read more
  •  251
    Unsharpenable Vagueness
    with Achille C. Varzi
    Philosophical Topics 28 (1): 1-10. 2000.
    A plausible thought about vagueness is that it involves semantic incompleteness. To say that a predicate is vague is to say (at the very least) that its extension is incompletely specified. Where there is incomplete specification of extension there is indeterminacy, an indeterminacy between various ways in which the specification of the predicate might be completed or sharpened. In this paper we show that this idea is bound to founder by presenting an argument to the effect that there are vague …Read more
  •  244
    Counterfactuals and causation: history, problems, and prospects
    with Ned Hall and L. A. Paul
    In John Collins, Ned Hall & Laurie Paul (eds.), Causation and Counterfactuals, Mit Press. pp. 1--57. 2004.
    Among the many philosophers who hold that causal facts1 are to be explained in terms of—or more ambitiously, shown to reduce to—facts about what happens, together with facts about the fundamental laws that govern what happens, the clear favorite is an approach that sees counterfactual dependence as the key to such explanation or reduction. The paradigm examples of causation, so advocates of this approach tell us, are examples in which events c and e— the cause and its effect— both occur, but: ha…Read more
  •  244
    Rationalizations of deliberation often make reference to two kinds of mental state, which we call belief and desire. It is worth asking whether these kinds are necessarily distinct, or whether it might be possible to construe desire as belief of a certain sort — belief, say, about what would be good. An expected value theory formalizes our notions of belief and desire, treating each as a matter of degree. In this context the thesis that desire is belief might amount to the claim that the degree …Read more
  •  212
    Causation and Counterfactuals (edited book)
    with Ned Hall and Laurie Paul
    MIT Press. 2004.
    Thirty years after Lewis's paper, this book brings together some of the most important recent work connecting—or, in some cases, disputing the connection ...
  •  178
    Review: Ignorance of Language (review)
    Mind 116 (462): 416-423. 2007.
  •  162
    Methodology, not metaphysics: Against semantic externalism
    Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 83 (1): 53-69. 2009.
    Borg (2009) surveys and rejects a number of arguments in favour of semantic internalism. This paper, in turn, surveys and rejects all of Borg's anti-internalist arguments. My chief moral is that, properly conceived, semantic internalism is a methodological doctrine that takes its lead from current practice in linguistics. The unifying theme of internalist arguments, therefore, is that linguistics neither targets nor presupposes externalia. To the extent that this claim is correct, we should be i…Read more
  •  132
    Faculty disputes
    Mind and Language 19 (5): 503-33. 2004.
      Jerry Fodor, among others, has maintained that Chomsky's language faculty hypothesis is an epistemological proposal, i.e. the faculty comprises propositional structures known (cognized) by the speaker/hearer. Fodor contrasts this notion of a faculty with an architectural (directly causally efficacious) notion of a module. The paper offers an independent characterisation of the language faculty as an abstractly specified nonpropositional structure of the mind/brain that mediates between sound a…Read more
  •  126
    Cuts and Clouds
    Analysis 72 (1): 138-145. 2012.
  •  97
    Proxytypes and linguistic nativism
    Synthese 153 (1): 69-104. 2006.
    Prinz (Perceptual the Mind: Concepts and Their Perceptual Basis, MIT Press, 2002) presents a new species of concept empiricism, under which concepts are off-line long-term memory networks of representations that are ‘copies’ of perceptual representations – proxytypes. An apparent obstacle to any such empiricism is the prevailing nativism of generative linguistics. The paper critically assesses Prinz’s attempt to overcome this obstacle. The paper argues that, prima facie, proxytypes are as incapa…Read more
  •  96
    Cutting it (too) fine
    Philosophical Studies 169 (2): 143-172. 2014.
    It is widely held that propositions are structured entities. In The Nature and Structure of Content (2007), Jeff King argues that the structure of propositions is none other than the syntactic structure deployed by the speaker/hearers who linguistically produce and consume the sentences that express the propositions. The present paper generalises from King’s position and claims that syntax provides the best in-principle account of propositional structure. It further seeks to show, however, that …Read more
  •  87
    Impossible Words Again: Or Why Beds Break but Not Make
    Mind and Language 26 (2): 234-260. 2011.
    Do lexical items have internal structure that contributes to, or determines, the stable interpretation of their potential hosts? One argument in favour of the claim that lexical items are so structured is that certain putative verbs appear to be ‘impossible’, where the intended interpretation of them is apparently precluded by the character of their internal structure. The adequacy of such reasoning has recently been debated by Fodor and Lepore and Johnson, but to no apparent resolution. The pre…Read more
  •  81
    The paper outlines the evolution of on-going meta-philosophical debates about intuitions, explains different notions of 'intuition' employed in these debates, and argues for the philosophical relevance of intuitions in an aetiological sense taken from cognitive psychology. On this basis, it advocates a new kind of methodological naturalism which it finds implicit, for instance, in the warrant project in experimental philosophy: a meta-philosophical naturalism that promotes the use of scientific…Read more
  •  76
    Robert Hanna (Rationality and logic. MIT Press, Cambridge, 2006) articulates and defends the thesis of logical cognitivism, the claim that human logical competence is grounded in a cognitive faculty (in Chomsky’s sense) that is not naturalistically explicable. This position is intended to steer us between the Scylla of logical Platonism and the Charybdis of logical naturalism (/psychologism). The paper argues that Hanna’s interpretation of Chomsky is mistaken. Read aright, Chomsky’s position off…Read more
  •  76
    Vagueness and degrees of truth by Nicholas J. J. Smith (review)
    Philosophical Quarterly 60 (239): 422-424. 2010.
    No Abstract
  •  74
    Desire-as-belief implies opinionation or indifference
    with Horacio Costa and Isaac Levi
    Analysis 55 (1): 2-5. 1995.
    The anti- Humean proposal of constructing desire as belief about what would be good must be abandoned on pain of triviality. Our central result shows that if an agent's belief- desire state is represented by Jeffrey's expected value theory enriched with the Desire as Belief Thesis (DAB), then, provided that three pairwise inconsistent propositions receive non- zero probability, the agent must view with indifference any proposition whose probability is greater than zero. Unlike previous results a…Read more
  •  57
    Neophobia
    Res Philosophica 92 (2): 283-300. 2015.
  •  56
    The Unity of Linguistic Meaning
    Oxford University Press. 2011.
    John Collins presents a new analysis of the problem of the unity of the proposition-how propositions can be both single things and complexes at the same time. He surveys previous investigations of the problem and offers his own novel and uniquely satisfying solution, which is defended from both philosophical and linguistic perspectives.
  •  55
    Experimental philosophy is one of the most exciting and controversial philosophical movements today. This book explores how it is reshaping thought about philosophical method. Experimental philosophy imports experimental methods and findings from psychology into philosophy. These fresh resources can be used to develop and defend both armchair methods and naturalist approaches, on an empirical basis. This outstanding collection brings together leading proponents of this new meta-philosophical nat…Read more
  •  53
    Knowledge of Language Redux
    Croatian Journal of Philosophy 8 (1): 3-43. 2008.
    The article takes up a range of issues concerning knowledge of language in response to recent work of Rey, Smith, Matthews and Devitt. I am broadly sympathetic with the direction of Rey, Smith, and Matthews. While all three are happy with the locution ‘knowledge of language’, in their different ways they all reject the apparent role for a substantive linguistic epistemology in linguistic explanation. I concur but raise some friendly concerns over even a deflationary notion of knowledge of langua…Read more
  •  49
  •  48
    Language: a Biological Model? Ruth Garrett Millikan (review)
    Philosophical Quarterly 57 (226): 142-145. 2007.