Imprints in Time: Towards a Moderately Robust Past

Philosophical Studies: 2018


General Relativity tells us that objects gravitationally attract each other by curving the spacetime around them. On this basis I develop a novel theory of time (‘The Imprint’) that says that the past and present exist (in the timeless sense), but where present objects exhibit mass and energy, the past only consists of curved empty regions of spacetime. The Imprint differs from standard Eternalist views on which past objects also exhibit mass and energy. The Imprint therefore accommodates the intuition that there is genuine change better: where standard Eternalist views tell us that there exist dinosaurs, The Imprint tells us that there are none. The Imprint also has greater resources than Presentism—the view that only present objects exist (timelessly)—to ground past-tensed truths. The truth of ‘there were dinosaurs’ is grounded in the fact that there is dinosaur-shaped curvature in past regions of spacetime. The curvature of past regions of spacetime is the imprint that objects leave behind.

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.

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.

Non-Self, Persistence and Prudence

The Non-Self view holds that the ordinary idea of an ‘I’ that we attach so much importance to is illusory, and realizing this can, or should, make us more moral. The Buddhist monk Santideva and recent western philosophers Derek Parfit and Mark Johnston have most famously held this sort of thought.  In contrast to the Non-Self view, I develop a ‘Shifty-Self’ view motivated by a popular permissivist metaphysic of material objects. I argue that the realization that selves are shifty helps to align prudential motivation and morality. Thus, the Non-Self view isn’t the only metaphysically revisionary conception of the self that motivates moral uprightness. I also evaluate crucial prudential differences between the Shifty and Non-Self views, arguing that, in many cases, the Shifty-Self provides greater motivation to perform the morally correct action. I also discuss other ways the Shifty-Self would prudentially alter our outlook on life.

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.

Dualism about Possible Worlds: A Reassessment

Dualism about possible worlds says that merely possible worlds aren’t concrete objects, but the actual world is concrete. This view seems to be the natural one for ersatzers about merely possible worlds to take; yet one is hard-pressed to find any defenders (or even mention) of it in contemporary modal metaphysics. The main reason is that Dualism struggles with the issue of how merely possible worlds could have been actual (or vice versa). I explain that there are two different Dualist strategies that can be taken to address the problem. Furthermore, one or other of these strategies should be plausible to anyone who accepts both Existentialism—which tells us that the existence of singular propositions depends on what they directly refer to—and Serious Actualism—which tells us that things must exist in order to instantiate properties. Though it has long been ignored, Dualism is a live option.

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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