•  3880
    A Defense of Presentism
    Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 1 47-82. 2004.
    ∗ Apologies to Mark Hinchliff for stealing the title of his dissertation. (See Hinchliff, A Defense of Presentism. As it turns out, however, the version of Presentism defended here is different from the version defended by Hinchliff. See Section 3.1 below.).
  •  2308
    Brutal Composition
    Philosophical Studies 92 (3). 1998.
    According to standard, pre-philosophical intuitions, there are many composite objects in the physical universe. There is, for example, my bicycle, which is composed of various parts - wheels, handlebars, molecules, atoms, etc. Recently, a growing body of philosophical literature has concerned itself with questions about the nature of composition.1 The main question that has been raised about composition is, roughly, this: Under what circumstances do some things compose, or add up to, or form, a …Read more
  •  2022
    A compatibilist version of the theory of agent causation
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 80 (3): 257-277. 1999.
    The problem of freedom and determinism has vexed philosophers for several millennia, and continues to be a topic of lively debate today. One of the proposed solutions to the problem that has received a great deal of attention is the Theory of Agent Causation. While the theory has enjoyed its share of advocates, and perhaps more than its share of critics, the theory’s advocates and critics have always agreed on one thing: the Theory of Agent Causation is an incompatibilist theory. That is, …Read more
  •  1869
    Restricted composition
    In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics, Blackwell. pp. 341--63. 2008.
    Let’s begin with a simple example. Consider two quarks: one near the tip of your nose, the other near the center of Alpha Centauri. Here is a question about these two subatomic particles: Is there an object that has these two quarks as its parts and that has no other parts? According to one view of the matter (a view that is surprisingly endorsed by a great many contemporary philosophers), the answer to this question is Yes. But I think it is fair to say that according to common sense, the answe…Read more
  •  1254
    Agent causation as the solution to all the compatibilist’s problems
    Philosophical Studies 157 (3): 383-398. 2012.
    In a recent paper I argued that agent causation theorists should be compatibilists. In this paper, I argue that compatibilists should be agent causation theorists. I consider six of the main problems facing compatibilism: (i) the powerful intuition that one can't be responsible for actions that were somehow determined before one was born; (ii) Peter van Inwagen's modal argument, involving the inference rule (β); (iii) the objection to compatibilism that is based on claiming that the ability to d…Read more
  •  1235
    What are physical objects?
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (2): 375-395. 2000.
    The concept of a physical object has figured prominently in the history of philosophy, and is probably more important now than it has ever been before. Yet the question What are physical objects?, i.e., What is the correct analysis of the concept of a physical object?, has received surprisingly little attention. The purpose of this paper is to address this question. I consider several attempts at answering the question, and give my reasons for preferring one of them over its rivals. The account …Read more
  •  1188
    Identifying the problem of personal identity
    In Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O'Rourke & Harry Silverstein (eds.), Time and Identity, Mit Press. pp. 129. 2010.
    This paper has two main aims. The first is to propose a new way of characterizing the problem of personal identity. The second is to show that the metaphysical picture that underlies my proposal has important implications for the 3D/4D debate. I start by spelling out several of the old ways of characterizing the problem of personal identity and saying what I think is wrong with each of them. Next I present and motivate some metaphysical principles concerning property instantiations that underlie…Read more
  •  1070
    How fast does time pass?
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (4): 829-844. 1993.
    I believe that time passes. In the last one hundred years or so, many philosophers have rejected this view. Those who have done so have generally been motivated by at least one of three different arguments: (i) McTaggart's argument, (ii) an argument from the theory of relativity, and (iii) an argument concerning the alleged incoherence of talk about the rate of the passage of time. There has been a great deal of literature on McTaggart's argument (although no concensus has been reached).1 There …Read more
  •  1026
    Sideways music
    Analysis (1). 2019.
    There is a popular theory in the metaphysics of time according to which time is one of four similar dimensions that make up a single manifold that is appropriately called spacetime. One consequence of this thesis is that changing an object’s orientation in the manifold does not change its intrinsic features. In this paper I offer a new argument against this popular theory. I claim that an especially good performance of a particularly beautiful piece of music, when oriented within the manifold in…Read more
  •  979
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 76 (2). 1998.
    Since the publication of Peter van Inwagen's book, Material Beings,1 there has been a growing body of philosophical literature on the topic of composition. The main question addressed in both van Inwagen's book and subsequent discussions of the topic is a question that van Inwagen calls "the Special Composition Question." The Special Composition Question is, roughly, the question Under what circumstances do several things compose, or add up to, or form, a single object? For the purposes of formu…Read more
  •  969
    The paradox of the question
    Analysis 57 (2). 1997.
    Once upon a time, during a large and international conference of the world's leading philosophers, an angel miraculously appeared and said, "I come to you as a messenger from God. You will be permitted to ask any one question you want - but only one! - and I will answer that question truthfully. What would you like to ask?" The philosophers were understandably excited, and immediately began a discussion of what would be the best question to ask. But it quickly became obvious that they needed mor…Read more
  •  964
    This paper is about The Truthmaker Problem for Presentism. I spell out a solution to the problem that involves appealing to indeterministic laws of nature and branching semantics for past- and future-tensed sentences. Then I discuss a potential glitch for this solution, and propose a way to get around that glitch. Finally, I consider some likely objections to the view offered here, as well as replies to those objections.
  •  950
    Simples, Stuff, and Simple People
    The Monist 87 (3): 405-428. 2004.
    Here is a question about mereological simples that I raised in a recent paper.
  •  947
    Physical objects are the most familiar of all objects, and yet the concept of a physical object remains elusive. Any six-year-old can give you a dozen examples of physical objects, and most people with at least one undergraduate course in philosophy can also give examples of non-physical objects. But if asked to produce a definition of ‘physical object’ that adequately captures the distinction between the physical and the nonphysical, the average person can offer little more than hand-waving.
  •  899
    A Spatial Approach to Mereology
    In Shieva Keinschmidt (ed.), Mereology and Location, Oxford University Press. 2014.
    When do several objects compose a further object? The last twenty years have seen a great deal of discussion of this question. According to the most popular view on the market, there is a physical object composed of your brain and Jeremy Bentham’s body. According to the second-most popular view on the market, there are no such objects as human brains or human bodies, and there are also no atoms, rocks, tables, or stars. And according to the third-ranked view, there are human bodies, but still no…Read more
  •  849
    Against ontological fundamentalism
    Facta Philosophica 7 (1): 69-83. 2005.
    Suppose you are asked to be the substitute teacher for a high school physics class. Suppose part of your assignment is to explain to the students all about the subatomic structure of a typical macroscopic object, such as a wooden table. Here is a speech that you are likely to find yourself making at some point during your lesson.
  •  621
    Two Arguments from Sider’s Four-Dimensionalism (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 68 (3). 2004.
    In this essay for a PPR book symposium on Theodore Sider's _Four-Dimensionalism<D>, I focus on two of Sider's arguments for four-dimensionalism: (i) his argument from vagueness, and (ii) his argument from time travel. Concerning (i), I first show that Sider's argument commits him to certain strange consequences that many four-dimensionalists may not endorse, and then I discuss an objection that involves appealing to 'brutal composition', the view that there is no informative answer to Peter van …Read more
  •  616
    Two Puzzles About Mercy
    Philosophical Quarterly 63 (251): 269-292. 2013.
    Anslem raised a puzzle about mercy: How can anyone (God, say, or a judge) be both just and merciful at the same time? For it seemed to Anselm that justice requires giving people what they deserve, while being merciful involves treating people less harshly than they deserve. This puzzle has led to a number of analyses of mercy. But a strange thing emerges from discussions of this topic: people seem to have wildly divergent intuitions about putative cases of mercy. Examples that are taken by some …Read more
  •  573
    The Right Stuff
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (4): 665-687. 2015.
    This paper argues for including stuff in one's ontology. The distinction between things and stuff is first clarified, and then three different ontologies of the physical universe are spelled out: a pure thing ontology, a pure stuff ontology, and a mixed ontology of both things and stuff. Eleven different reasons for including stuff in one's ontology are given. Then five objections to positing stuff are considered and rejected
  •  537
    The open past
    Philosophical Studies 79 (1). 1995.
    This paper is about the open future response to fatalistic arguments. I first present a typical fatalistic argument and then spell out the open future response as a response to that argument. Then I raise the question of how the open future response can be independently justified. I consider some possible ways in which the response might be defended, and I try to show that none of these is a plausible, non-question-begging defense. Next I formulate what I take to be the only plausible, nonquesti…Read more
  •  430
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2010.
    Discussions of the nature of time, and of various issues related to time, have always featured prominently in philosophy, but they have been especially important since the beginning of the 20th Century. This article contains a brief overview of some of the main topics in the philosophy of time — Fatalism; Reductionism and Platonism with respect to time; the topology of time; McTaggart's arguments; The A Theory and The B Theory; Presentism, Eternalism, and The Growing Universe Theory; time travel…Read more
  •  426
    In a recent Analysis article, Quentin Smith argues that classical theism is inconsistent with certain consequences of Stephen Hawking's quantum cosmology.1 Although I am not a theist, it seems to me that Smith's argument fails to establish its conclusion. The purpose of this paper is to show what is wrong with Smith's argument. According to Smith, Hawking's cosmological theory includes what Smith calls "Hawking's wave function law." Hawking's wave function law (hereafter, "HL") apparently has, a…Read more
  •  407
    The 3d/4d controversy and non-present objects
    Philosophical Papers 23 (3): 243-249. 1994.
    Worlds, Lewis says this: Let us say that something persists iff, somehow or other, it exists at various times; this is the neutral word. Something perdures iff it persists by having different temporal parts, or stages, at different times, though no one part of it is wholly present at more than one time; whereas it endures iff it persists by being wholly present at more than one time. Perdurance corresponds to the way a road persists through space; part of it is here, and part of it is there, and…Read more
  •  292
    Soc it to me? Reply to McDaniel on maxcon simples
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (2). 2004.
    I raised the following question in a recent paper: What are the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions for an object's being a simple? And I proposed and defended this answer (which I called 'MaxCon'): Necessarily, x is a simple iff x is a maximally continuous object. In a more recent paper, Kris McDaniel raises several objections to MaxCon, including, in particular, two objections based on a principle about the supervenience of constitution that he calls 'SoC'. The purpose of the present p…Read more
  •  282
    Review of Peter Ludlow, Semantics, Tense, and Time (review)
    Journal of Philosophy 98 (6): 325-329. 2001.
    This is not your typical book about the A-theory/B-theory controversy in metaphysics. Peter Ludlow attempts something that few philosophers have tried in the last thirty years: he actually argues from linguistic premises for metaphysical conclusions. The relevant linguistic premises have to do with the nature of language, a general theory of semantics, the proper analysis of tense, and various technical theses involving the treatment of temporal indexicals and temporal anaphora. The metaphysical…Read more
  •  265
    Some people think that pastness, presentness and futurity (and their metric variants, such as being two days past) are genuine propeties of times and events. These putative properties are sometimes called “A properties” and the philosopers who believe in them are often called “A Theorists.” Other philosophers don’t believe in the reality of A properties, but instead say that talk that appears to be about such properties is really about “B relations” – two-place temporal relations like earlier th…Read more
  •  250
    Sorensen's argument against vague objects
    Philosophical Studies 97 (1): 1-9. 2000.
    In his fascinating and provocative paper, "Sharp Boundaries for Blobs," Roy Sorensen gives several arguments against the possibility of "vague objects," or objects with indeterminate boundaries.1 In what follows, I will examine the main argument given by Sorensen in his paper. This argument has a great deal of initial plausibility. Moreover, I happen to sympathize with its conclusion. Nevertheless, it seems to me that Sorensen's argument fails to establish that conclusion. The purpose of this pa…Read more