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: 2019

 

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.

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