This paper is an investigation of the general logic of "identifications", claims such as 'To be a vixen is to be a female fox', 'To be human is to be a rational animal', and 'To be just is to help one's friends and harm one's enemies', many of which are of great importance to philosophers. I advocate understanding such claims as expressing higher-order identity, and discuss a variety of different general laws which they might be thought to obey. [New version: (...) Nov. 4th, 2016]. (shrink)
Lewis's notion of a "natural" property has proved divisive: some have taken to the notion with enthusiasm, while others have been sceptical. However, it is far from obvious what the enthusiasts and the sceptics are disagreeing about. This paper attempts to articulate what is at stake in this debate.
We defend the thesis that every necessarily true proposition is always true. Since not every proposition that is always true is necessarily true, our thesis is at odds with theories of modality and time, such as those of Kit Fine and David Kaplan, which posit a fundamental symmetry between modal and tense operators. According to such theories, just as it is a contingent matter what is true at a given time, it is likewise a temporary matter what is true at (...) a given possible world; so a proposition that is now true at all worlds, and thus necessarily true, may yet at some past or future time be false in the actual world, and thus not always true. We reconstruct and criticize several lines of argument in favor of this picture, and then argue against the picture on the grounds that it is inconsistent with certain sorts of contingency in the structure of time. (shrink)
Region R Question: How many objects — entities, things — are contained in R? Ignore the empty space. Our question might better be put, 'How many material objects does R contain?' Let's stipulate that A, B and C are metaphysical atoms: absolutely simple entities with no parts whatsoever besides themselves. So you don't have to worry about counting a particle's top half and bottom half as different objects. Perhaps they are 'point-particles', with no length, width or breadth. Perhaps they are (...) extended in space without possessing spatial parts (if that is possible). Never mind. We stipulate that A, B and C are perfectly simple. We also stipulate that they are connected as follows. A and B are stuck together in such a way that when a force is applied to one of them, they move together 'as a unit'. Moreover, the two of them together exhibit behavior that neither would exhibit on its own — Perhaps they emit a certain sound, or glow in the dark — whereas C is.. (shrink)
In this paper I attempt two things. First, I argue that one can coherently imagine different communities using languages structurally similar to English, but in which the meanings of the quantifiers vary, so that the answers to ontological questions, such as ‘Under what circumstances do some things compose something?’, are different. Second, I argue that nevertheless, one can make sense of the idea that of the various possible assignments of meanings to the quantifiers, one is especially fundamental, so that there (...) is still room for genuine debate as regards the answers to ontological questions construed in the fundamental way. My attempt to explain what is distinctive about the fundamental senses of the quantifiers involves a generalisation of the idea that claims of existence are never analytic.<br>. (shrink)
Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, … ’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, … ’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals as expressing propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or group. This paper (...) develops an explanation of the puzzling facts about embedding within an orthodox framework. (shrink)
Most meanings we express belong to large families of variant meanings, among which it would be implausible to suppose that some are much more apt for being expressed than others. This abundance of candidate meanings creates pressure to think that the proposition attributing any particular meaning to an expression is modally plastic: its truth depends very sensitively on the exact microphysical state of the world. However, such plasticity seems to threaten ordinary counterfactuals whose consequents contain speech reports, since it is (...) hard to see how we could reasonably be confident in a counterfactual whose consequent can be true only if a certain very finely tuned microphysical configuration obtains. This essay develops the foregoing puzzle and explores several possible solutions. (shrink)
In general, a given object could have been different in certain respects. For example, the Great Pyramid could have been somewhat shorter or taller; the Mona Lisa could have had a somewhat different pattern of colours; an ordinary table could have been made of a somewhat different quantity of wood. But there seem to be limits. It would be odd to suppose that the Great Pyramid could have been thimble-sized; that the Mona Lisa could have had the pattern of colours (...) that actually characterizes The Scream; or that the table could have been made of the very quantity of wood that in fact made some other table. However, there are puzzling arguments that purport to show that so long as an object is capable of being somewhat different in some respect, it is capable of being radically different in that respect. These arguments rely on two tempting thoughts: first, that an object’s capacity for moderate variation is a non-contingent matter, and second, that what is possibly possible is simply possible. This book systematically investigates competing strategies for resolving these puzzles, and defends one of them. Along the way it engages with foundational questions about the metaphysics of modality. (shrink)
This three-part chapter explores a higher-order logic we call ‘Classicism’, which extends a minimal classical higher-order logic with further axioms which guarantee that provable coextensiveness is sufficient for identity. The first part presents several different ways of axiomatizing this theory and makes the case for its naturalness. The second part discusses two kinds of extensions of Classicism: some which take the view in the direction of coarseness of grain (whose endpoint is the maximally coarse-grained view that coextensiveness is sufficient for (...) identity), and some which take the view in the direction of fineness of grain (whose endpoint is the maximally fine-grained theory containing all distinctness claims compatible with Classicism). The third part introduces some techniques for constructing models of Classicism, and uses them to prove the consistency of many of the extensions of Classicism introduced in the second part. (shrink)
This paper considers how counterfactuals should be evaluated on the assumption that determinism is true. I argue against Lewis's influential view that the actual laws of nature would have been false if something had happened that never actually happened, and in favour of the competing view that history would have been different all the way back. I argue that we can do adequate justice to our ordinary practice of relying on a wide range of historical truths in evaluating counterfactuals by (...) saying that, in typical cases, history would have been only *very slightly* different until shortly before the relevant time. The paper also draws some connections between the puzzle about counterfactuals under determinism and the debate about whether determinism entails that no-one can ever do otherwise than they in fact do. (shrink)
I explicate and defend the claim that, fundamentally speaking, there are no numbers, sets, properties or relations. The clarification consists in some remarks on the relevant sense of ‘fundamentally speaking’ and the contrasting sense of ‘superficially speaking’. The defence consists in an attempt to rebut two arguments for the existence of such entities. The first is a version of the indispensability argument, which purports to show that certain mathematical entities are required for good scientific explanations. The second is a speculative (...) reconstruction of Armstrong's version of the One Over Many argument, which purports to show that properties and relations are required for good philosophical explanations, e.g. of what it is for one thing to be a duplicate of another. (shrink)
We argue that all gradable expressions in natural language obey a principle that we call Comparability: if x and y are both F to some degree, then either x is at least as F as y or y is at least as F as x. This principle has been widely rejected among philosophers, especially by ethicists, and its falsity has been claimed to have important normative implications. We argue that Comparability is needed to explain the goodness of several patterns of (...) inference that seem manifestly valid, that the purported failures of Comparability would have absurd consequences, and that the influential arguments against Comparability are less compelling than they may have initially seemed. (shrink)
Presupposing that most predicates do not correspond directly to genuine relations, I argue that all genuine relations are symmetric. My main argument depends on the premise that there are no brute necessities, interpreted so as to require logical and metaphysical necessity to coincide for sentences composed entirely of logical vocabulary and primitive predicates. Given this premise, any set of purportedly primitive predicates by which one might hope to express the facts about non-symmetric relations order their relata will generate an objectionable (...) multiplication of possibilities. In the final section I give a different argument, based on the weaker premise that brute necessities should not be multiplied without necessity. (shrink)
We defend three controversial claims about preference, credence, and choice. First, all agents (not just rational ones) have complete preferences. Second, all agents (again, not just rational ones) have real-valued credences in every proposition in which they are confident to any degree. Third, there is almost always some unique thing we ought to do, want, or believe.
Argues for the "thirder" solution to the Sleeping Beauty puzzle. The argument turns on an analogy with a variant case, in which a coin-toss on Monday night determines whether one's memories of Monday are permanently erased, or merely suspended in such a way that they will return some time after one wakes up on Tuesday.
This paper defends the claim that although ‘Superman is Clark Kent and some people who believe that Superman flies do not believe that Clark Kent flies’ is a logically inconsistent sentence, we can still utter this sentence, while speaking literally, without asserting anything false. The key idea is that the context-sensitivity of attitude reports can be - and often is - resolved in different ways within a single sentence.
David Builes presents a paradox concerning how confident you should be that any given member of an infinite collection of fair coins landed heads, conditional on the information that they were all flipped and only finitely many of them landed heads. We argue that if you should have any conditional credence at all, it should be 1/2.
We develop a Bayesian framework for thinking about the way evidence about the here and now can bear on hypotheses about the qualitative character of the world as a whole, including hypotheses according to which the total population of the world is infinite. We show how this framework makes sense of the practice cosmologists have recently adopted in their reasoning about such hypotheses.
I motivate and briefly sketch a linguistic theory of vagueness, on which the notion of indeterminacy is understood in terms of the conventions of language: a sentence is indeterminate iff the conventions of language either forbid asserting it and forbid asserting its negation, under the circumstances, or permit asserting either. I then consider an objection that purports to show that if this theory (or, as far as I can see, any other theory of vagueness that deserved the label "linguistic" were (...) true, there would be no such thing as indeterminacy. I respond to this objection by arguing on independent grounds against its main premise, the widely-accepted claim that if it is indeterminate whether P, no human being knows whether P. I defend an alternative view according to which, when it is indeterminate whether P, it is often also indeterminate whether we know that P. (shrink)
According to a tradition stemming from Quine and Putnam, we have the same broadly inductive reason for believing in numbers as we have for believing in electrons: certain theories that entail that there are numbers are better, qua explanations of our evidence, than any theories that do not. This paper investigates how modal theories of the form ‘Possibly, the concrete world is just as it in fact is and T’ and ‘Necessarily, if standard mathematics is true and the concrete world (...) is just as it in fact is, then T’ bear on this claim. It concludes that, while analogies with theories that attempt to eliminate unobservable concrete entities provide good reason to regard theories of the former sort as explanatorily bad, this reason does not apply to theories of the latter sort. (shrink)
Ladyman, Ross and their collaborators (Spurrett is a co-author of two chapters, Collier of one) begin their book with a ferocious attack on "analytic metaphysics", as it is currently practiced. Their opening blast claims that contemporary analytic metaphysics 'contributes nothing to human knowledge': its practitioners are 'wasting their talents', and the whole enterprise, although 'engaged in by some extremely intelligent and morally serious people, fails to qualify as part of the enlightened pursuit of objective truth, and should be discontinued' (vii). (...) They set out on a 'mission of disciplinary rescue' in the spirit of Hume and the logical positivists, in which a fair proportion of philosophy as currently practiced -- as they realize, their critique applies far beyond the boundaries of metaphysics proper -- will be consigned to the flames. (shrink)
Even if non-cognitivists about some subject-matter can meet Geach’s challenge to explain how there can be valid implications involving sentences which express non-cognitive attitudes, they face a further problem. I argue that a non-cognitivist cannot explain how, given a valid argument whose conclusion expresses a belief and at least one of whose premises expresses a non-cognitive attitude, it could be reasonable to infer the conclusion from the premises.
The Eternal Coin is a fair coin has existed forever, and will exist forever, in a region causally isolated from you. It is tossed every day. How confident should you be that the Coin lands heads today, conditional on (i) the hypothesis that it has landed Heads on every past day, or (ii) the hypothesis that it will land Heads on every future day? I argue for the extremely counterintuitive claim that the correct answer to both questions is 1.
This paper investigates the form a modal realist analysis of possibility and necessity should take. It concludes that according to the best version of modal realism, the notion of a world plays no role in the analysis of modal claims. All contingent claims contain some de re element; the effect of modal operators on these elements is described by a counterpart theory which takes the same form whether the de re reference is to a world or to something else. This (...) fully general counterpart theory can validate orthodox modal logic, including the logic of 'actually'. (shrink)
Suppose a sentence of the following form is true in a certain context: ‘Necessarily, whenever one believes that the F is uniquely F if anything is, and x is the F, one believes that x is uniquely F if anything is’. I argue that almost always, in such a case, the sentences that result when both occurrences of ‘believes’ are replaced with ‘has justification to believe’, ‘knows’, or ‘knows a priori’ will also be true in the same context. I also (...) argue that many sentences of the relevant form are true in ordinary contexts, and conclude that a priori knowledge of contingent de re propositions is a common and unmysterious phenomenon. However, because of the pervasive context-sensitivity of propositional attitude ascriptions, the question what it is possible to know a priori concerning a given object will have very different answers in different contexts. (shrink)
Timothy Williamson has shown that the B axiom for 'definitely' (α → Δ¬Δ¬α) guarantees that if a sentence is second-order vague in a Kripke model, it is nth order vague for every n. More recently, Anna Mahtani has argued that Williamson's epistemicist theory of vagueness does not support the B axiom, and conjectured that if we consider models in which the “radius of accessibility” varies between different points, we will be able to find sentences that are nth-order vague but (n+1)th-order (...) precise, for any n. This paper bolsters Mahtani's argument, shows her conjecture to be true, and shows that imposing certain further natural constraints on "variable radius" models does not change the situation. (shrink)
This paper lays out a novel proposal about the metaphysical foundations of (non-relativistic) quantum mechanics, which has some elements in common with Everett's “Many Worlds” interpretation and some elements in common with Bohm's ”Pilot Wave” interpretation. The view agrees with the Everettians that the quantum wavefunction can be interpreted be interpreted as a <em>complete</em> description of the world in fundamental terms. But it holds that this truth of this description suffices for the existence of an <em>uncountable</em> plurality of “worlds” of (...) ordinary, non-fundamental objects, where each such “world” corresponds to a mapping of points of time to points of configuration space that obeys that Bohmian “Guidance Equation”. (shrink)
Argument that Q∃ expresses more than one proposition: (1) Q∃ expresses the proposition that Q∃ expresses some proposition that isn’t true. ((E)) (2) If Q ∃ expresses only true propositions, then the proposition that Q ∃ expresses some proposition that isn’t true is true. ((1)) (3) If Q∃ expresses only true propositions, then some proposition expressed by Q∃ is not true. (2, T) (4) Some proposition expressed by Q ∃ is not true. ((3)) (5) The proposition that Q ∃ expresses (...) some proposition that isn’t true is true. (4, T) (6) Q∃ expresses at least one true proposition. (1,5) (7) Q∃ expresses at least two propositions. (3, 6) (A parallel argument shows that Q∀ expresses both true and false propositions. (shrink)
Let me regale you with yet another variant of the story of Sleeping Beauty. In this one, the experiment takes place in a room with a skylight, so that Beauty can see what the weather is like outside as soon as she wakes up. The weather can be in any one of n different states on any given day. Beauty regards each of these states as equiprobable; moreover, she takes there to be no correlation between the weather on Monday and (...) the weather on Tuesday, or between the weather on either day and the coin-toss. The rest of the story works as usual: Beauty will be awoken on Monday, after which a coin will be tossed; if it lands Tails, she will be woken again on Tuesday having had her memories of the Monday awakening erased; otherwise, she will stay asleep until Wednesday.1 The weather is the only source of variation in her wakings, so if it should happen that the weather is the same on Monday and Tuesday, her total evidence will be exactly the same on both wakings. (shrink)
I explore some ways in which one might base an account of the fundamental metaphysics of geometry on the mathematical theory of Linear Structures recently developed by Tim Maudlin (2010). Having considered some of the challenges facing this approach, Idevelop an alternative approach, according to which the fundamental ontology includes concrete entities structurally isomorphic to functions from space-time points to real numbers.
A discussion of a view, defended by Robert Adams and Boris Kment, according to which contingent existence requires rejecting many standard principles of propositional modal logic involving iterated modal operators.
The conclusion of this chapter is that higher-order vagueness is universal: no sentence whatsoever is definitely true, definitely definitely true, definitely definitely definitely true, and so on ad infinitum. The argument, of which there are several versions, turns on the existence of Sorites sequences of possible worlds connecting the actual world to possible worlds where a given sentence is used in such a way that its meaning is very different. The chapter attempts to be neutral between competing accounts of the (...) nature of vagueness and definiteness. (shrink)
In 1950, Quine inaugurated a strange new way of talking about philosophy. The hallmark of this approach is a propensity to take ordinary colloquial sentences that all of us utter routinely when we are not thinking about philosophy, or (more often) other sentences that very directly and obviously logically entail such sentences, and treat those sentences (i) as having a clear content, calling for little or no elucidation, and (ii) as proper objects of philosophical controversy. Questions like ‘are there numbers?’ (...) and ‘are there tables?’ were now placed on a par with questions like ‘are there immaterial souls?’ and ‘are there sense-data?’. Of course philosophers have always had a propensity to say things that sound odd to vulgar ears. What was new with Quine was a systematic policty of privileging these kinds of formulations over more distinctively philosophical idioms. Jargon which had been central to the practice of metaphysics—’logical construction’, ’nothing over and above’, ‘reduce’, ‘ground’, ‘in virtue of’, ‘fundamental’, ‘consist in’...—were shifted to a much more peripheral role. The tradition inaugurated by Quine raises some hard interpretative questions for anyone who, like me and Dave, thinks that there is a range of different propositions that people brought up as English-speakers might be tempted to try to get across by uttering one of these sentences. On the one hand, Dave and I agree that the propositions that any ordinary, unphilosophical use of a sentence like ‘there are some free tables at the back of the café’ would be intended to get across are (in many cases) extremely obvious. The idea that when ontologists assert ‘there are no tables’, or treat this claim as calling for serious debate, they are intending to call into question propositions as obvious as that seems implausibly uncharitable. On the other hand, it is also a hallmark of the Quinean tradition that it claims to be using words in their ordinary sense, at least to the extent that (unlike its founder) it is willing to trafﬁc in talk of meanings at all.. (shrink)