•  384
    And This All Men Call God
    Faith and Philosophy 21 (4): 417-435. 2004.
    Philosophical discussion of theistic arguments mainly focus on their first (existence) stage, which argues for the existence of something having some very general, if suggestive, feature. I shall instead consider only the second (identification) stage of one such argument, the cosmologic al argument from contingency. Taking for granted the existence of an absolutely necessary being, I develop an extended line of argument that supports the..
  •  344
    In what follows, I will contend that the commonsense view of ourselves as fundamental causal agents - for which some have used the term “unmoved movers" but which I think might more accurately be expressed as “not wholly moved movers” - is theoretically understandable, internally consistent, and consistent with what we have thus far come to know about the nature and workings of the natural world. In the section that follows, I try to show how the concept of ‘agent’ causation can be understood as…Read more
  •  319
    Persons and Causes: The Metaphysics of Free Will
    Oxford University Press USA. 2000.
    This provocative book refurbishes the traditional account of freedom of will as reasons-guided "agent" causation, situating its account within a general metaphysics. O'Connor's discussion of the general concept of causation and of ontological reductionism v. emergence will specially interest metaphysicians and philosophers of mind.
  •  291
    The metaphysics of emergence
    Noûs 39 (4): 658-678. 2005.
    The objective probability of every physical event is fixed by prior physical events and laws alone. (This thesis is sometimes expressed in terms of explanation: In tracing the causal history of any physical event, one need not advert to any non-physical events or laws. To the extent that there is any explanation available for a physical event, there is a complete explanation available couched entirely in physical vocabulary. We prefer the probability formulation, as it should be acceptable to an…Read more
  •  288
    Reasons Explanation And Agent Control: In Search Of An Integrated Account
    with John Ross Churchill
    Philosophical Topics 32 (1): 241-256. 2004.
    Many philosophers judge that typical agent-causal accounts of freedom improperly sacrifice the possibility of rational explanation of the action for the sake of securing control, while others judge that the reverse shortcoming plagues typical event causal accounts. (Of course, many philosophers make both these judgments.) After briefly rehearsing the reasons for these verdicts on the two traditional strategies, we undertake an extended examination of Randolph Clarke's recent attempt to meet the …Read more
  •  265
    Causality, mind, and free will
    Noûs 34 (s14): 105-117. 2000.
    One familiar affirmative answer to this question holds that these facts suffice to entail that Descartes' picture of the human mind must be mistaken. On Descartes' view, our mind or soul (the only essential part of ourselves) has no spatial location. Yet it directly interacts with but one physical object, the brain of that body with which it is, 'as it were, intermingled,' so as to 'form one unit.' The radical disparity posited between a nonspatial mind, whose intentional and conscious propertie…Read more
  •  263
    In this paper, I examine some main threads of the identification stage of Scotus's project in the fourth chapter of De Primo, where he tries to show that a first efficient cause must have the attributes of simplicity, intellect, will, and infinity. Many philosophers are favorably disposed towards one or another argument such as Scotus's (e.g., the cosmological argument from contingency) purporting to show that there is an absolutely first efficient cause. How far can Scotus take us from this sta…Read more
  •  261
    Indeterminism and free agency: Three recent views
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 53 (3): 499-26. 1993.
    It is a commonplace of philosophy that the notion of free will is a hard nut to crack. A simple, compelling argument can be made to show that behavior for which an agent is morally responsible cannot be the outcome of prior determining causal factors.1 Yet the smug satisfaction with which we incompatibilists are prone to trot out this argument has a tendency to turn to embarrassment when we're asked to explain just how it is that morally responsible action might obtain under the assumption of in…Read more
  •  242
    Emergent properties
    American Philosophical Quarterly 31 (2): 91-104. 1994.
    All organised bodies are composed of parts, similar to those composing inorganic nature, and which have even themselves existed in an inorganic state; but the phenomena of life, which result from the juxtaposition of those parts in a certain manner, bear no analogy to any of the effects which would be produced by the action of the component substances considered as mere physical agents. To whatever degree we might imagine our knowledge of the properties of the several ingredients of a living bod…Read more
  •  224
    Simplicity and Creation
    Faith and Philosophy 16 (3): 405-412. 1999.
    According to many philosophical theologians, God is metaphysically simple: there is no real distinction among His attributes or even between attribute and existence itself. Here, I consider only one argument against the simplicity thesis. Its proponents claim that simplicity is incompatible with God’s having created another world, since simplicity entails that God is unchanging across possible worlds. For, they argue, different acts of creation involve different willings, which are distinct intr…Read more
  •  216
    Causing Actions
    with Georg Theiner
    Philosophical Review 111 (2): 291-294. 2002.
    Review of Paul Pietroski, Causing Actions
  •  213
    Freedom With a Human Face
    Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29 (1): 207-227. 2005.
    As good a definition as any of a _philosophical_ conundrum is a problem all of whose possible solutions are unsatisfactory. The problem of understanding the springs of action for morally responsible agents is commonly recognized to be such a problem. The origin, nature, and explanation of freely-willed actions puzzle us today as they did the ancients Greeks, and for much the same reasons. However, one can carry this ‘perennial-puzzle’ sentiment too far. The unsatisfactory nature of philosophical…Read more
  •  211
    Emergent individuals
    Philosophical Quarterly 53 (213): 540-555. 2003.
    We explain the thesis that human mental states are ontologically emergent aspects of a fundamentally biological organism. We then explore the consequences of this thesis for the identity of a human person over time. As these consequences are not obviously independent of one's general ontology of objects and their properties, we consider four such accounts: transcendent universals, kind-Aristotelianism, immanent universals, and tropes. We suggest there are reasons for emergentists to favor the l…Read more
  •  210
    Why Agent Causation?
    Philosophical Topics 24 (2): 143-158. 1996.
    I Introduction The question of this paper is, what would it be to act with freedom of the will? What kind of control is inchoately in view when we speak, pretheoretically, of being ‘self- determining’ beings, of ‘freely making choices in view of consciously considered reasons’ (pro and con) - of its being ‘up to us’ how we shall act? My question here is not whether we have (or have any reason to think we have) such freedom, or what is the most robust account of our freedom compatible with late t…Read more
  •  190
    An Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism?
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 24 (4): 527-539. 1994.
    In his recently published two-volume work in epistemology,1 Alvin Plantinga rounds out the discussion (in characteristic fashion) with a subtle and ingenious argument for a striking claim: in this case, his conclusion is that belief in evolutionary naturalism is irrational. Now this claim is not of itself so very surprising; the tantalizing feature here lies rather in the nature of the argument itself. Plantinga contends that taking seriously the hypothesis of evolutionary naturalism [hereafter,…Read more
  •  188
    Emergent individuals and the resurrection
    European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 2 (2). 2010.
    We present an original emergent individuals view of human persons, on which persons are substantial biological unities that exemplify metaphysically emergent mental states. We argue that this view allows for a coherent model of identity-preserving resurrection from the dead consistent with orthodox Christian doctrine, one that improves upon alternatives accounts recently proposed by a number of authors. Our model is a variant of the “falling elevator” model advanced by Dean Zimmerman that, unlik…Read more
  •  173
    Agent-Causal Theories
    In Robert Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will: Second Edition, Oxford University Press. pp. 309-328. 2011.
    This essay will canvass recent philosophical discussion of accounts of human (free) agency that deploy a notion of agent causation . Historically, many accounts have only hinted at the nature of agent causation by way of contrast with the causality exhibited by impersonal physical systems. Likewise, the numerous criticisms of agent causal theories have tended to be highly general, often amounting to no more that the bare assertion that the idea of agent causation is obscure or mysterious. But in…Read more
  •  171
    Degrees of freedom
    Philosophical Explorations 12 (2). 2009.
    I propose a theory of freedom of choice on which it is a variable quality of individual conscious choices that has several dimensions that admit of degrees, even though - as many theorists have traditionally supposed - it also has as a necessary condition the possession of a capacity that is all or nothing. I argue that the proposed account better fits the phenomenology of ostensibly free actions, as well as empirical findings in the human sciences
  •  158
    Agent-causal power
    In Toby Handfield (ed.), Dispositions and Causes, Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press ;. 2009.
    In what follows, I shall presuppose the ecumenical core of the causal powers metaphysics. The argument of this paper concerns what may appear at first to be a wholly unrelated matter, the metaphysics of free will. However, an adequate account of freedom requires, in my judgment, a notion of a distinctive variety of causal power, one which tradition dubs ‘agent-causal power’. I will first develop this notion and clarify its relationship to other notions. I will then respond to a number of objecti…Read more
  •  156
    Agents, Causes, and Events: Essays on Indeterminism and Free Will (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 1995.
    Many philosophers are persuaded by familiar arguments that free will is incompatible with causal determinism. Yet, notoriously, past attempts to articulate how the right type of indeterminism might secure the capacity for autonomous action have generally been regarded as either demonstrably inadequate or irremediably obscure. This volume gathers together the most significant recent discussions concerning the prospects for devising a satisfactory indeterministic account of freedom of action. Thes…Read more
  •  147
    Dualist and agent-causal theories
    In Robert H. Kane (ed.), Oxford Handbook on Free Will, Oxford University Press. 2001.
    I Introduction This essay will canvass recent philosophical accounts of human agency that deploy a notion of 'self' (or 'agent') causation. Some of these accounts try to explicate this notion, whereas others only hint at its nature by way of contrast with the causality exhibited by impersonal physical systems. In these latter theories, the authors' main argumentative burden is that the apparent fundamental differences between personal and impersonal causal activity strongly suggest mind-body dua…Read more
  •  137
    Theism and the Scope of Contingency
    Oxford Studies in the Philosophy of Religion 1 134-149. 2008.
    According to classical theism, contingent beings find the ultimate explanation for their existence in a maximally perfect, necessary being who transcends the natural world and wills its acts in accordance with reasons. I contend that if this thesis is true, it is likely that contingent reality is vastly greater than what current scientific theory or even speculation fancies. After considering the implications of this contention for the extent of divine freedom, I go on to discuss its relevance t…Read more
  •  135
    Pastoral counsel for the anxious naturalist: Daniel Dennett's
    Metaphilosophy 36 (4): 436-448. 2005.
    The church-going philosopher who settles in for an extended reading of Dan Dennett’s new book will find himself in a familiar circumstance. What one confronts is a lot more like an extended sermon than it is a typical philosophical treatise. And, whatever one’s Sunday morning habits, one can’t help but admire the preaching skills artfully displayed. The delivery is powerful and assured; the argument is streamlined, peppered with evocative and delightful illustrations that will be recalled long a…Read more
  •  133
    Agent causation in a neo-Aristotelian metaphysics
    In Sophie C. Gibb & Rögnvaldur Ingthorsson (eds.), Mental Causation and Ontology, Oxford University Press. 2013.
    Freedom and moral responsibility have one foot in the practical realm of human affairs and the other in the esoteric realm of fundamental metaphysics—or so we believe. This has been denied, especially in the metaphysics-bashing era occupying the first two-thirds or so of the twentieth century, traces of which linger in the present day. But the reasons for this denial seem to us quite implausible. Certainly, the argument for the general bankruptcy of metaphysics has been soundly discredited. Argu…Read more
  •  128
    A Companion to the Philosophy of Action (edited book)
    Wiley-Blackwell. 2010.
    A Companion to the Philosophy of Action offers a comprehensive overview of the issues and problems central to the philosophy of action. The first volume to survey the entire field of philosophy of action (the central issues and processes relating to human actions). Brings together specially commissioned chapters from international experts. Discusses a range of ideas and doctrines, including rationality, free will and determinism, virtuous action, criminal responsibility, Attribution Theory, and …Read more
  •  127
    Libertarian views: Dualist and agent-causal theories
    In Robert H. Kane (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Free Will, Oxford University Press. 2002.
    This essay will canvass recent philosophical accounts of human agency that deploy a notion of “self” (or “agent”) causation. Some of these accounts try to explicate this notion, whereas others only hint at its nature in contrast with the causality exhibited by impersonal physical systems. In these latter theories, the authors’ main argumentative burden is that the apparent fundamental differences between persona and impersonal causal activity strongly suggest mind-body dualism. I begin by noting…Read more
  •  124
    Fyodor Dostoevsky understood this practical dimension well, and it is embodied in his literary treatment of the problem of evil in his masterpiece, The Brothers' Karamazov.1 In what follows, I will interpret the powerful existential repudiation of Christianity based on the facts of human suffering voiced by the antagonist, Ivan. After noting some similarities of Ivan’s case to that given by the French existentialist philosopher Albert Camus in his novel, The Plague, I then turn to Dostoevsky’s r…Read more
  •  122
    Is it all just a matter of luck?
    Philosophical Explorations 10 (2). 2007.
    A central argument of Alfred Mele's Free Will and Luck (2006) is that the problem of luck poses essentially the same problem for all the main indeterministic accounts of free will. Consequently, there is no advantage is certain theories (notably, agent-causal theories) in their capacity to respond to the problem of luck. I argue that Mele has not made a persuasive case for these claims
  •  121
    The emergence of group cognition
    In A. Corradini & T. O'Connor (eds.), Emergence in Science and Philosophy, Routledge. pp. 6--78. 2010.
    What drives much of the current philosophical interest in the idea of group cognition is its appeal to the manifestation of psychological properties—understood broadly to include states, processes, and dispositions—that are in some important yet elusive sense emergent with respect to the minds of individual group members. Our goal in this paper is to address a set of related, conditional questions: If human mentality is real yet emergent in a modest metaphysical sense only, then: (i) What woul…Read more
  •  115
    The impossibility of middle knowledge
    Philosophical Studies 66 (2). 1992.
    A good deal of attention has been given in recent philosophy of religion to the question of whether we can sensibly attribute to God a form of knowledge which the 16th-century Jesuit theologian Luis de Molina termed "middle knowledge". Interest in the doctrine has been spurred by a recognition of its intimate connection to certain conceptions of providence, prophecy, and response to petitionary prayer. According to defenders of the doctrine, which I will call "Molinism", the objects of middle kn…Read more