Papers

Perdurantism, Fecklessness and the Veil of Ignorance

Philosophical Studies: Forthcoming

 

There has been a growing charge that perdurantism—with its bloated ontology of very person-like objects that coincide persons—implies the repugnant conclusion that we are morally obliged to be feckless. I argue that this charge critically overlooks the epistemic situation—what I call the ‘veil of ignorance’—that perdurantists find themselves in. Though the veil of ignorance still requires an alteration of our commonsense understanding of the demands on action, I argue for two conclusions. The first is that the alteration that is required isn’t a moral one, but rather an alteration of prudential reasoning. Second, and more importantly, this alteration isn’t necessarily a repugnant one. In fact, given that it prudentially pushes one towards greater impartiality, it may be seen as a point in favor of perdurantism.

Existentialism, Aliens and Referentially Unrestricted Worlds

Synthese: Forthcoming

 

Existentialism claims that propositions that directly refer to individuals depend on those individuals for their existence. I argue that recent accounts of Existentialism run into difficulties with a particular possibility—they can’t accommodate the possibility of there being a single alien electron. This problem is distinct from one of the more famous alien problems—concerning iterated modal properties of aliens—and requires a separate solution. My suggested solution to the single alien electron problem is that we accept the existence of possible worlds that directly refer to individuals that don’t exist in those worlds. I show how to formulate an Existentialist view that is consistent with this solution.

Imprints in Time: Towards a Moderately Robust Past

Philosophical Studies: 2018

 

Presentism says that only present objects exist (timelessly). But the view has trouble grounding past-tensed truths like "dinosaurs existed". Standard Eternalism grounds those truths by positing the (timeless) existence of past objectslike dinosaurs. But Standard Eternalism conflicts with the intuition that there is genuine changethe intuition that there once were dinosaurs and no longer are any. I offer a novel theory of time'The Imprint'that does a better job preserving both the grounding and genuine change intuitions. The Imprint says that the past and present exist (in the timeless sense), but where the present exhibits mass-energy, the past only consists of curved empty regions of spacetime. We therefore avoid saying that there are dinosaurs, since there is no mass-energy in the past; but the curvature of the past gives us a way to ground the truth that "dinosuaurs existed".

Non-Concrete Parts of Material Objects

Synthese: 2018

 

This article offers a novel solution to the problem of material constitution: by including non-concrete objects among the parts of material objects, we can avoid having a statue and its constituent piece of clay composed of all the same proper parts. Non-concrete objects—objects that aren’t concrete, but possibly are—have been used (by Bernard Linsky, Ed Zalta and Timothy Williamson) in defense of the claim that everything necessarily exists. But the account offered shows that non-concreta are independently useful in other domains as well. The resulting view falls under a ‘non-material partist’ class of views that includes, in particular, Laurie Paul’s and Kathrin Koslicki’s constitution views; ones where material objects have properties or structures as parts respectively. The article gives reasons for preferring the non-concretist solution over these other non-material partist views and defends it against objections.

Creation Ex Deo: A Theory

The idea that God creates out of himself is a seductive one. Much as we are compelled to say that a temporally finite universe has a cause (say, God), so we are compelled to say that there’s pre-existent stuff out of which that universe is created—and what could that stuff be but part of God? Though seductive, the idea of creation ex deo hasn’t been taken seriously by theistic philosophers. Perhaps this is because it seems too vague—‘could anything enlightening be said about what those parts are?’—or objectionable—‘wouldn’t creating out of those parts lessen or destroy God?’ Drawing from Stephen Kosslyn and Michael Tye’s work on the ontology of mental images, I respond by developing a theory on which God creates the universe out of his mental imagery.

An Indeterminately Existing Future Unmotivated

I defend the Growing Block theory from recent objections by Elizabeth Barnes and Ross Cameron. Where the Growing Block says that the metaphysical openness of the future should be understood in terms of there not being any future objects or events, Barnes and Cameron give three reasons to think the openness should be understood as indeterminacy in whether there exist future objects or events. I explain why their reasons aren’t compelling. And since the notion of “indeterminate existence” suffers conceptual problems, the Growing Block is the preferable view.

Against Anti-Existentialism

Anti-Existentialism claims that propositions that directly refer to individuals can exist even if the individuals do not. Trenton Merricks is a recent defender of Anti-Existentialism who responds to the Direct Reference argument against Anti-Existentialism. I respond to Merricks by differentiating between a strong and weak form of Anti-Existentialism. I argue that the Direct Reference argument succeeds against the strong form. And I present distinct objections that are aimed at the weaker forms.

Discovering Mind-Independent Modal Properties

This paper’s first goal is to defend Rea’s claim that naturalists cannot discover the mind-independent modal properties of material objects (“MIMPs”). Responses are given to Witmer—who thinks naturalists can use pragmatic arguments to discover MIMPs—and Thomasson—who thinks conceptual analysis provides the solution. The second goal is to challenge the further consequences that Rea draws from it: that naturalists must think these modal properties are mind-dependent, and, even furthermore, that naturalists should think there are immaterial minds. This paper shows how naturalists might believe there are MIMPs without discovering any. This reveals the argument’s implicit assumption that naturalists should believe that there is no external material reality.

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