•  2842
    Introduction: Lessons from the Scientific Butchery
    In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O'Rourke & Matthew H. Slater (eds.), Carving Nature at its Joints: Natural Kinds in Metaphysics and Science, Mit Press. 2013.
    Good chefs know the importance of maintaining sharp knives in the kitchen. What’s their secret? A well-worn Taoist allegory offers some advice. The king asks about his butcher’s impressive knifework. “Ordinary butchers,” he replied “hack their way through the animal. Thus their knife always needs sharpening. My father taught me the Taoist way. I merely lay the knife by the natural openings and let it find its own way through. Thus it never needs sharpening” (Kahn 1995, vii; see also Watson 2003,…Read more
  •  571
    A pragmatic approach to the possibility of de-extinction
    Biology and Philosophy 33 (1-2): 4. 2018.
    A number of influential biologists are currently pursuing efforts to restore previously extinct species. But for decades, philosophers of biology have regarded “de-extinction” as conceptually incoherent. Once a species is gone, it is gone forever. We argue that a range of metaphysical, biological, and ethical grounds for opposing de-extinction are at best inconclusive and that a pragmatic stance that allows for its possibility is more appealing.
  •  509
    Denialism as Applied Skepticism: Philosophical and Empirical Considerations
    with Joanna K. Huxster, Julia E. Bresticker, and Victor LoPiccolo
    Erkenntnis 85 (4): 871-890. 2020.
    The scientific community, we hold, often provides society with knowledge—that the HIV virus causes AIDS, that anthropogenic climate change is underway, that the MMR vaccine is safe. Some deny that we have this knowledge, however, and work to undermine it in others. It has been common to refer to such agents as “denialists”. At first glance, then, denialism appears to be a form of skepticism. But while we know that various denialist strategies for suppressing belief are generally effective, littl…Read more
  •  482
    Where No Mind Has Gone Before: Exploring Laws in Distant and Lonely Worlds
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 23 (3): 265-276. 2009.
    Do the laws of nature supervene on ordinary, non-nomic matters of fact? Lange's criticism of Humean supervenience (HS) plays a key role in his account of natural laws. Though we are sympathetic to his account, we remain unconvinced by his criticism. We focus on his thought experiment involving a world containing nothing but a lone proton and argue that it does not cast sufficient doubt on HS. In addition, we express some concern about locating the lawmakers in an ontology of primitive subjunctiv…Read more
  •  416
    Understanding and Trusting Science
    with Joanna K. Huxster and Julia E. Bresticker
    Journal for General Philosophy of Science / Zeitschrift für Allgemeine Wissenschaftstheorie 50 (2): 247-261. 2019.
    Science communication via testimony requires a certain level of trust. But in the context of ideologically-entangled scientific issues, trust is in short supply—particularly when the issues are politically ‘entangled’. In such cases, cultural values are better predictors than scientific literacy for whether agents trust the publicly-directed claims of the scientific community. In this paper, we argue that a common way of thinking about scientific literacy—as knowledge of particular scientific fa…Read more
  •  346
    Understanding “Understanding” in Public Understanding of Science
    with Joanna K. Huxster, Jason Leddington, Victor LoPiccolo, Jeffrey Bergman, Mack Jones, Caroline McGlynn, Nicolas Diaz, Nathan Aspinall, Julia Bresticker, and Melissa Hopkins
    Public Understanding of Science 28 1-16. 2017.
    This study examines the conflation of terms such as “knowledge” and “understanding” in peer-reviewed literature, and tests the hypothesis that little current research clearly distinguishes between importantly distinct epistemic states. Two sets of data are presented from papers published in the journal Public Understanding of Science. In the first set, the digital text analysis tool, Voyant, is used to analyze all papers published in 2014 for the use of epistemic success terms. In the second set…Read more
  •  316
    Trust in the scientific enterprise — in science as an institution — is arguably important to individuals’ and societies’ well-being. Although some measures of public trust in science exist, the recipients of that trust are often ambiguous between trusting individual scientists and the scientific community at large. We argue that more precision would be beneficial — specifically, targeting public trust of the scientific community at large — and describe the development and validation of such an i…Read more
  •  306
    Macromolecular Pluralism
    Philosophy of Science 76 (5): 851-863. 2009.
    Different chemical species are often cited as paradigm examples of structurally delimited natural kinds. While classificatory monism may thus seem plausible for simple molecules, it looks less attractive for complex biological macromolecules. I focus on the case of proteins that are most plausibly individuated by their functions. Is there a single, objective count of proteins? I argue that the vagaries of function individuation infect protein classification. We should be pluralists about macromo…Read more
  •  296
    The primary aim of this paper is to argue that the value of understanding derives in part from a kind of subjective stability of belief that we call epistemic resilience. We think that this feature of understanding has been overlooked by recent work, and we think it’s especially important to the value of understanding for social cognitive agents such as us. We approach the concept of epistemic resilience via the idea of the experience of epistemic ownership and argue that the former concept has …Read more
  •  278
    Anchoring in Ecosystemic Kinds
    Synthese 195 (4): 1487-1508. 2018.
    The world contains many different types of ecosystems. This is something of a commonplace in biology and conservation science. But there has been little attention to the question of whether such ecosystem types enjoy a degree of objectivity—whether they might be natural kinds. I argue that traditional accounts of natural kinds that emphasize nomic or causal–mechanistic dimensions of “kindhood” are ill-equipped to accommodate presumptive ecosystemic kinds. In particular, unlike many other kinds, …Read more
  •  248
    Natural Kindness
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 66 (2): 375-411. 2015.
    Philosophers have long been interested in a series of interrelated questions about natural kinds. What are they? What role do they play in science and metaphysics? How do they contribute to our epistemic projects? What categories count as natural kinds? And so on. Owing, perhaps, to different starting points and emphases, we now have at hand a variety of conceptions of natural kinds—some apparently better suited than others to accommodate a particular sort of inquiry. Even if coherent, this situ…Read more
  •  223
    Are there natural kinds of things around which our theories cut? The essays in this volume offer reflections by a distinguished group of philosophers on a series of intertwined issues in the metaphysics and epistemology of classification.
  •  218
    The Necessity of Time Travel (On Pain of Indeterminacy)
    The Monist 88 (3): 362-369. 2005.
    There is a tension between the “growing block” account of time (closed past, open future) and the possibility of backwards time travel. If Tim the time traveler can someday travel backwards through time, then he has (in a certain sense) already been. He might discover this fact before (in another sense) he goes. Hence a dilemma: it seems that either Tim’s future is determined in an odd way or cases of (temporary) ontic indeterminate identity are possible. Either Tim cannot avoid heading for the …Read more
  •  173
    Pluto and the Platypus: An Odd Ball and an Odd Duck — On Classificatory Norms
    Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 61 1-10. 2017.
    Some astronomers believe that we have discovered that Pluto is not a planet. I contest this assessment. Recent discoveries of trans-Neptunian Pluto-sized objects do not require that we exclude Pluto from the planets. But the obvious alternative, that classificatory revision is a matter of arbitrary choice, is also unpalatable. I argue that this classificatory controversy — which I compare to the controversy about the classification of the platypus — illustrates how our classificatory practices a…Read more
  •  164
    Attempts to Prime Intellectual Virtues for Understanding of Science: Failures to Inspire Intellectual Effort
    with Joanna Huxster, Melissa Hopkins, Julia Bresticker, and Jason Leddington
    Philosophical Psychology 30 (8): 1141-1158. 2017.
    Strategies for effectively communicating scientific findings to the public are an important and growing area of study. Recognizing that some complex subjects require recipients of information to take a more active role in constructing an understanding, we sought to determine whether it was possible to increase subjects’ intellectual effort via “priming” methodologies. In particular, we asked whether subconsciously priming “intellectual virtues”, such as curiosity, perseverance, patience, and dil…Read more
  •  148
    A Novel Exercise for Teaching the Philosophy of Science
    Philosophy of Science 81 (5): 1184-1196. 2014.
    We describe a simple, flexible exercise that can be implemented in the philosophy of science classroom: students are asked to determine the contents of a closed container without opening it. This exercise has revealed itself as a useful platform from which to examine a wide range of issues in the philosophy of science and may, we suggest, even help us think about improving the public understanding of science
  •  110
    Cell Types as Natural Kinds
    Biological Theory 7 (2): 170-179. 2013.
    Talk of different types of cells is commonplace in the biological sciences. We know a great deal, for example, about human muscle cells by studying the same type of cells in mice. Information about cell type is apparently largely projectible across species boundaries. But what defines cell type? Do cells come pre-packaged into different natural kinds? Philosophical attention to these questions has been extremely limited [see e.g., Wilson (Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays, pp 187–207, 1999; …Read more
  •  91
    Recent Texts in Metaphysics (review)
    Teaching Philosophy 32 (3): 285-296. 2009.
    A teacher of analytic metaphysics faces a bewildering array of textbook and anthology options. Which should one choose? Thisdepends, of course, on one’s course and goals as instructor. This comparative book review will survey several options—both longstanding and recent to press—from a pedagogical perspective. The options are not exclusive. Many are natural complements and would work nicely with other collections or single-author texts. I shall focus my attention here on six texts (in this order…Read more
  •  68
    A Reflection on our Freedom
    Philosophia 38 (2): 327-330. 2010.
    Many Compatibilists seem to suppose that discover that we lived in a deterministic world would not unseat our confidence that many of our actions are nevertheless free. Here's a short story about such confidence becoming unseated.
  •  68
    Monism on the one hand, pluralism on the other
    Philosophy of Science 72 (1): 22-42. 2005.
    In this paper, I consider ways of responding to critiques of natural kinds monism recently suggested from the pluralist camp. Even if monism is determined to be untenable in certain domains (say, about species), it might well be tenable in others. Chemistry is suggested to be such a monist‐friendly domain. Suggestions of trouble for chemical kinds can be defused by attending to the difference between monism as a metaphysical thesis and as a claim about classification systems. Finally, I consider…Read more
  •  43
    Richard Boyd has long campaigned for a view of natural kinds he calls the Homeostatic Property Cluster account. This account has been particularly exciting for philosophers of biology unhappy with traditional essentialism about natural kinds and the views that biological kinds are, in one way or another, “historical entities”. Though defenders of HPC kinds have done much to further articulate the view, many questions about the account remain. One pressing question concerns the way in which HPC k…Read more
  •  38
    A Contextualist Reply to the Direct Argument
    Philosophical Studies 125 (1): 115-137. 2005.
    The Direct Argument for the incompatibility of moral responsibility and determinism is designed to side-step complaints given by compatibilist critiques of the so-called Transfer Argument. I argue that while it represents an improvement over the Transfer Argument, it loses some of its plausibility when we reflect on some metalogical issues about normal modal modeling and the semantics of natural language. More specifically, the crucial principle on which the Direct Argument depends appears doubt…Read more
  •  36
    How to Justify Teaching False Science
    Science Education 92 (3): 526-542. 2008.
    We often knowingly teach false science. Such a practice conflicts with a prima facie pedagogical value placed on teaching only what’s true. I argue that only a partial dissolution of the conflict is possible: the proper aim of instruction in science is not to provide an armory of facts about what things the world contains, how they interact, and so on, but rather to contribute to an understanding of how science as a human endeavor works and what sorts of facts about the world science aims to pro…Read more
  •  30
    Reference and Referring: Topics in Contemporary Philosophy, Volume 10 (edited book)
    with Bill Kabasenche and Michael O'Rourke
    MIT Press. 2012.
    These fifteen original essays address the core semantic concepts of reference and referring from both philosophical and linguistic perspectives. After an introductory essay that casts current trends in reference and referring in terms of an ongoing dialogue between Fregean and Russellian approaches, the book addresses specific topics, balancing breadth of coverage with thematic unity. The contributors, all leading or emerging scholars, address trenchant neo-Fregean challenges to the direct refer…Read more
  •  27
    Achille Varzi [2000] has suggested a nice response to the familiar argument purporting to establish the existence of perfectly coinciding objects – objects which, if they existed, would trouble mereological extensionality and the “Minimalist View” of ontology. The trick is to defend Minimalism without tarnishing its status as a meta-principle: that is, without making any firstorder ontological claims. Varzi’s response, though seeming to allow for a comfortable indifference about metaphysical mat…Read more
  •  20
    The Environment: Philosophy, Science, and Ethics (edited book)
    with William P. Kabasenche and Michael O'Rourke
    MIT Press. 2012.
    Philosophical reflections on the environment began with early philosophers' invocation of a cosmology that mixed natural and supernatural phenomena. Today, the central philosophical problem posed by the environment involves not what it can teach us about ourselves and our place in the cosmic order but rather how we can understand its workings in order to make better decisions about our own conduct regarding it. The resulting inquiry spans different areas of contemporary philosophy, many of which…Read more
  •  14
    Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science: New Essays (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2017.
    This volume of new essays, written by leading philosophers of science, explores a broadly methodological question: what role should metaphysics play in our philosophizing about science? The essays address this question both through ground-level investigations of particular issues in the metaphysics of science and by more general methodological investigations.
  •  11
    Introduction: Framing the problems of time and identity
    In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O.'Rourke & Harry Silverstein (eds.), Time and Identity, Mit Press. 2010.
    The hard questions regarding identity, explicitly or implicitly, involve questions of time, therefore inheriting the complexities involved in the discussion of the concept of time. This book begins the discussion of the philosophy of time by posing the question of whether time exists or not. In ancient times, the reality of time was presupposed even if the concept did not have a clear-cut definition. Ironically, it was during the time when physicists seemed to gain a better scientific understand…Read more