•  1654
    On what grounds what
    In David Manley, David J. Chalmers & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology, Oxford University Press. pp. 347-383. 2009.
    On the now dominant Quinean view, metaphysics is about what there is. Metaphysics so conceived is concerned with such questions as whether properties exist, whether meanings exist, and whether numbers exist. I will argue for the revival of a more traditional Aristotelian view, on which metaphysics is about what grounds what. Metaphysics so revived does not bother asking whether properties, meanings, and numbers exist (of course they do!) The question is whether or not they are fundamental.
  •  1504
    Monism: The Priority of the Whole
    Philosophical Review 119 (1): 31-76. 2010.
    Consider a circle and a pair of its semicircles. Which is prior, the whole or its parts? Are the semicircles dependent abstractions from their whole, or is the circle a derivative construction from its parts? Now in place of the circle consider the entire cosmos (the ultimate concrete whole), and in place of the pair of semicircles consider the myriad particles (the ultimate concrete parts). Which if either is ultimately prior, the one ultimate whole or its many ultimate parts?
  •  1328
    Contrastive Knowledge Surveyed
    Noûs 46 (4): 675-708. 2012.
    Suppose that Ann says, “Keith knows that the bank will be open tomorrow.” Her audience may well agree. Her knowledge ascription may seem true. But now suppose that Ben—in a different context—also says “Keith knows that the bank will be open tomorrow.” His audience may well disagree. His knowledge ascription may seem false. Indeed, a number of philosophers have claimed that people’s intuitions about knowledge ascriptions are context sensitive, in the sense that the very same knowledge ascription …Read more
  •  966
    The deflationary metaontology of Thomasson's ordinary objects
    Philosophical Books 50 (3): 142-157. 2009.
    In Ordinary Objects, Thomasson pursues an integrated conception of ontology and metaontology. In ontology, she defends the existence of shoes, ships, and other ordinary objects. In metaontology, she defends a deflationary view of ontological inquiry, designed to suck the air out of arguments against ordinary objects. The result is an elegant and insightful defense of a common sense worldview. I am sympathetic—in spirit if not always in letter—with Thomasson’s ontology. But I am skeptical of her …Read more
  •  859
    The Internal Relatedness of All Things
    Mind 119 (474): 341-376. 2010.
    The argument from internal relatedness was one of the major nineteenth century neo-Hegelian arguments for monism. This argument has been misunderstood, and may even be sound. The argument, as I reconstruct it, proceeds in two stages: first, it is argued that all things are internally related in ways that render them interdependent; second, the substantial unity of the whole universe is inferred from the interdependence of all of its parts. The guiding idea behind the argument is that failure of …Read more
  •  845
    Is there a fundamental level?
    Noûs 37 (3). 2003.
    ‘‘Thus I believe that there is no part of matter which is not—I do not say divisible—but actually divided; and consequently the least particle ought to be considered as a world full of an infinity of different creatures.’’ (Leibniz, letter to Foucher).
  •  808
    Contrastive causation
    Philosophical Review 114 (3): 327-358. 2005.
    Causation is widely assumed to be a binary relation: c causes e. I will argue that causation is a quaternary, contrastive relation: c rather than C* causes e rather than E*, where C* and E* are nonempty sets of contrast events. Or at least, I will argue that treating causation as contrastive helps resolve some paradoxes.
  •  765
    Grounding in the image of causation
    Philosophical Studies 173 (1): 49-100. 2016.
    Grounding is often glossed as metaphysical causation, yet no current theory of grounding looks remotely like a plausible treatment of causation. I propose to take the analogy between grounding and causation seriously, by providing an account of grounding in the image of causation, on the template of structural equation models for causation
  •  685
    Contrastive knowledge
    In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology 1, Oxford University Press. pp. 235. 2005.
    Does G. E. Moore know that he has hands? Yes, says the dogmatist: Moore’s hands are right before his eyes. No, says the skeptic: for all Moore knows he could be a brain-in-a-vat. Yes and no, says the contrastivist: yes, Moore knows that he has hands rather than stumps; but no, Moore does not know that he has hands rather than vat-images of hands. The dogmatist and the skeptic suppose that knowledge is a binary, categorical relation: s knows that p. The contrastivist says that knowledge is a tern…Read more
  •  642
    David Lewis’s semantics for counterfactuals remains the standard view. Yet counter-examples have emerged, which suggest a need to invoke causal independence, and thus threaten conceptual circularity. I will review some of these counter-examples (§§1–2), illustrate how causal independence proves useful (§3), and suggest that any resulting circularity is unproblematic (§4).
  •  642
    The least discerning and most promiscuous truthmaker
    Philosophical Quarterly 60 (239). 2010.
    I argue that the one and only truthmaker is the world. This view can be seen as arisingfrom (i) the view that truthmaking is a relation of grounding holding between true propositions and fundamental entities, together with (ii) the view that the world is the one and only fundamental entity. I argue that this view provides an elegant and economical account of the truthmakers, while solving the problem of negative existentials, in a way that proves ontologically revealing
  •  604
    Review: Andreas Hüttemann: what's wrong with microphysicalism? (review)
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 59 (2): 253-257. 2008.
    In What’s Wrong With Microphysicalism?, Andreas H üttemann argues against the ontological priority of the microphysical, in favour of a ‘pluralism’ that accepts physical systems of all scales as interdependent equals. This is thoughtful and original work, deploying an understanding of the relevant physics to mount a serious challenge to the dominant microphysicalist view.
  •  587
    Spacetime the one substance
    Philosophical Studies 145 (1). 2009.
    What is the relation between material objects and spacetime regions? Supposing that spacetime regions are one sort of substance, there remains the question of whether or not material objects are a second sort of substance. This is the question of dualistic versus monistic substantivalism. I will defend the monistic view. In particular, I will maintain that material objects should be identified with spacetime regions. There is the spacetime manifold, and the fundamental properties are pinned dire…Read more
  •  567
    From contextualism to contrastivism
    Philosophical Studies 119 (1-2): 73-104. 2004.
    Contextualism treats ‘knows’ as an indexical that denotes different epistemic properties in different contexts. Contrastivism treats ‘knows’ as denoting a ternary relation with a slot for a contrast proposition. I will argue that contrastivism resolves the main philosophical problems of contextualism, by employing a better linguistic model. Contextualist insights are best understood by contrastivist theory.
  •  546
    Trumping preemption
    Journal of Philosophy 97 (4): 165-181. 2000.
    Extant counterfactual accounts of causation (CACs) still cannot handle preemptive causation. I describe a new variety of preemption, defend its possibility, and use it to show the inadequacy of extant CACs. Imagine that it is a law of nature that the first spell cast on a given day match the enchantment that midnight.
  •  542
    From nihilism to monism
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2). 2007.
    Mereological nihilism is the view that all concrete objects are simple. Existence monism is the view that the only concrete object is one big simple: the world. I will argue that nihilism culminates in monism. The nihilist demands the simplest sufficient ontology, and the monist delivers it
  •  526
    Disconnection and Responsibility
    Legal Theory 18 (4): 399-435. 2012.
    Michael Moore’s Causation and Responsibility offers an integrated conception of the law, morality, and metaphysics, centered on the notion of causation, grounded in a detailed knowledge of case law, and supported on every point by cogent argument. This is outstanding work. It is a worthy successor to Harte and Honoré’s classic Causation in the Law, and I expect that it will guide discussion for many years to come.
  •  522
    Two conceptions of sparse properties
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 85 (1). 2004.
    Are the sparse properties drawn from all the levels of nature, or only the fundamental level? I discuss the notion of sparse property found in Armstrong and Lewis, show that there are tensions in the roles they have assigned the sparse properties, and argue that the sparse properties should be drawn from all the levels of nature.
  •  510
    Writing the Book of the World (review)
    Philosophical Review 123 (1): 125-129. 2014.
  •  495
    The irrelevance of the subject: Against subject-sensitive invariantism
    Philosophical Studies 127 (1): 87-107. 2006.
    Does what you know depend on what is at stake for you? That is, is the knowledge relation sensitive to the subject’s practical interests? Subject sensitive invariantists (Fantl and McGrath, 2002; Hawthorne, 2004, ch. 4; Stanley, forthcoming) say that the answer is yes. They claim to capture the contextualist data without the shifty semantics. I will argue that the answer is no. The knowledge relation is sensitive to what is in question for the attributor, rather than what is at stake for the sub…Read more
  •  492
    Skepticism, Contextualism, and Discrimination
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (1). 2004.
    The skeptic says that "knowledge" is an absolute term, whereas the contextualist says that 'knowledge" is a relationally absolute term. Which is the better hypothesis about "knowledge"? And what implications do these hypotheses about "knowledge" have for knowledge? I argue that the skeptic has the better hypothesis about "knowledge", but that both hypotheses about "knowledge" have deeply anti-skeptical implications for knowledge, since both presuppose our capacity for epistemically salient discr…Read more
  •  486
    Causation by disconnection
    Philosophy of Science 67 (2): 285-300. 2000.
    The physical and/or intrinsic connection approach to causation has become prominent in the recent literature, with Salmon, Dowe, Menzies, and Armstrong among its leading proponents. I show that there is a type of causation, causation by disconnection, with no physical or intrinsic connection between cause and effect. Only Hume-style conditions approaches and hybrid conditions-connections approaches appear to be able to handle causation by disconnection. Some Hume-style, extrinsic, absence-relati…Read more
  •  482
    Knowing the Answer
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2): 383-403. 2007.
    How should one understand knowledge-wh ascriptions? That is, how should one understand claims such as ‘‘I know where the car is parked,’’ which feature an interrogative complement? The received view is that knowledge-wh reduces to knowledge that p, where p happens to be the answer to the question Q denoted by the wh-clause. I will argue that knowledge-wh includes the question—to know-wh is to know that p, as the answer to Q. I will then argue that knowledge-that includes a contextually implicit …Read more
  •  476
    Knowledge ascriptions seem context sensitive. Yet it is widely thought that epistemic contextualism does not have a plausible semantic implementation. We aim to overcome this concern by articulating and defending an explicit contextualist semantics for ‘know,’ which integrates a fairly orthodox contextualist conception of knowledge as the elimination of the relevant alternatives, with a fairly orthodox “Amherst” semantics for A-quantification over a contextually variable domain of situations. Wh…Read more
  •  475
    Causes as probability raisers of processes
    Journal of Philosophy 98 (2): 75-92. 2001.
    Causation, according to David Hume, is one of the three fundamental conceptual relations (along with resemblance and contiguity), and is the foundation of all reasoning concerning matters of fact. Causation, according to various contemporary philosophers, is required for the analysis of metaphysical concepts such as persistence, scientific concepts such as explanation and disposition, epistemic concepts such as perception and warrant, ethical concepts such as action and responsibility, legal con…Read more
  •  465
    Truth and fundamentality: On Merricks's truth and ontology
    Philosophical Books 49 (4): 302-316. 2008.
    Truth and Ontology is a lively book, brimming with arguments, and drawing the reader towards the radical conclusion that what is true does not depend on what there is. If there is a central line of argument, it is that the best account of truthmaking requires truths to be about their truthmakers, but negative existentials, modals, and claims about the past and future are not about what is, but rather about what is not, what might be, and what was and will be
  •  462
    Truthmaker commitments
    Philosophical Studies 141 (1): 7-19. 2008.
    On the truthmaker view of ontological commitment [Heil (From an ontological point of view, 2003); Armstrong (Truth and truthmakers, 2004); Cameron (Philosophical Studies, 2008)], a theory is committed to the entities needed in the world for the theory to be made true. I argue that this view puts truthmaking to the wrong task. None of the leading accounts of truthmaking—via necessitation, supervenience, or grounding—can provide a viable measure of ontological commitment. But the grounding account…Read more
  •  450
    Closure, Contrast, and Answer
    Philosophical Studies 133 (2): 233-255. 2007.
    How should the contrastivist formulate closure? That is, given that knowledge is a ternary contrastive state Kspq (s knows that p rather than q), how does this state extend under entailment? In what follows, I will identify adequacy conditions for closure, criticize the extant invariantist and contextualist closure schemas, and provide a contrastive schema based on the idea of extending answers. I will conclude that only the contrastivist can adequately formulate closure.
  •  446
    Grounding, transitivity, and contrastivity
    In Fabrice Correia & Benjamin Schnieder (eds.), Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality, Cambridge University Press. pp. 122-138. 2012.
  •  435
    Quiddistic Knowledge
    Philosophical Studies 123 (1-2): 1-32. 2005.
    Is the relation between properties and the causal powers they confer necessary, or contingent? Necessary, says Sydney Shoemaker, on pain of skepticism about the properties. Contingent, says David Lewis, swallowing the skeptical conclusion. I shall argue that Lewis is right about the metaphysics, but that Shoemaker and Lewis are wrong about the epistemology. Properties have intrinsic natures (quiddities), which we can know.