In this paper, I develop Mauricio Suárez’s distinction between denotation, epistemic representation, and faithful epistemic representation. I then outline an interpretational account of epistemic representation, according to which a vehicle represents a target for a certain user if and only if the user adopts an interpretation of the vehicle in terms of the target, which would allow them to perform valid (but not necessarily sound) surrogative inferences from the model to the system. The main difference between the interpretational conception I (...) defend here and Suárez’s inferential conception is that the interpretational account is a substantial account—interpretation is not just a “symptom” of representation; it is what makes something an epistemic representation of a something else. (shrink)
This paper explores the debate between those philosophers who take (fundamental, perfectly natural) properties to be pure powers and those who take them to be powerful qualities. I first consider two challenges for the view that properties are powerful qualities, which I call, respectively, ‘the clarification challenge’ and ‘the explanatory challenge’. I then examine a number of arguments that aim to show that properties cannot be pure powers and find them all wanting. Finally, I sketch what I take to be (...) the most promising argument against pure powers and for powerful qualities. (shrink)
In this paper, I distinguish scientific models in three kinds on the basis of their ontological status—material models, mathematical models and fictional models, and develop and defend an account of fictional models as fictional objects—i.e. abstract objects that stand for possible concrete objects.
Mereological nihilism is the thesis that there are no composite objects—i.e. objects with proper material parts. One of the main advantages of mereological nihilism is that it allows its supporters to avoid a number of notorious philosophical puzzles. However, it seems to offer this advantage only at the expense of certain widespread and deeply entrenched beliefs. In particular, it is usually assumed that mereological nihilism entails eliminativism about ordinary objects—i.e. the counterintuitive thesis that there are no such things as tables, (...) apples, cats, and the like. In this paper, I argue that this assumption is false—mereological nihilists do not need to be eliminativists about tables, apples, or cats. Non-eliminativist nihilists claim that all it takes for there to be a cat is that there are simples arranged cat-wise. More specifically, non-eliminative nihilists argue that expressions such as ‘the cat’ in sentences such as ‘The cat is on the mat’ do not refer to composite objects but only to simples arranged cat-wise and compare this metaphysical discovery to the scientific discovery that ‘water’ refers to dihydrogen oxide. Non-eliminative nihilism, I argue, is not only a coherent position, but it is preferable to its more popular, eliminativist counterpart, as it enjoys the key benefits of nihilism without incurring the prohibitive costs of eliminativism. Moreover, unlike conciliatory strategies adopted by eliminative nihilists, non-eliminative nihilism allow its supporters to account not only for how we can assert something true by saying ‘The cat is on the mat’ but also for how we can believe something true by believing that the cat is on the mat. (shrink)
In this paper, I distinguish between two varieties of actualism—hardcore actualism and softcore actualism—and I critically discuss Ross Cameron’s recent arguments for preferring a softcore actualist account of the truthmakers for modal truths over hardcore actualist ones. In the process, I offer some arguments for preferring the hardcore actualist account of modal truthmakers over the softcore actualist one.
The Simple Counterfactual Analysis (SCA) was once considered the most promising analysis of disposition ascriptions. According to SCA, disposition ascriptions are to be analyzed in terms of counterfactual conditionals. In the last few decades, however, SCA has become the target of a battery of counterexamples. In all counterexamples, something seems to be interfering with a certain object’s having or not having a certain disposition thus making the truth-values of the disposition ascription and of its associated counterfactual come apart. Intuitively, however, (...) it would seem that, if all interferences were absent, the disposition ascription and its associated conditional would have the same truth-value. Although this idea may seem obvious, it is far from obvious how to implement it. In fact, it has become widely assumed that the content of qualifying ceteris paribus clauses (such as ‘if all interferences were absent’) cannot be specified in a clear and non-circular manner. In this paper, I will argue that this assumption is wrong. I will develop an analysis of disposition ascriptions, the Interference-Free Counterfactual Analysis, which relies on a clear and non-circular definition of the notion of interference and avoids the standard counterexamples to SCA while vindicating the intuition that disposition ascriptions and counterfactual conditionals are intimately related. (Please note that an erratum has been issued for the published version of this paper. It is recommended to read the self-archived version of the paper.). (shrink)
My two daughters would love to go tobogganing down the hill by themselves, but they are just toddlers and I am an apprehensive parent, so, before letting them do so, I want to ensure that the toboggan won’t go too fast. But how fast will it go? One way to try to answer this question would be to tackle the problem head on. Since my daughters and their toboggan are initially at rest, according to classical mechanics, their final velocity will (...) be determined by the forces they will be subjected to between the moment the toboggan will be released at the top of the hill and the moment it will reach its highest speed. The problem is that, throughout their downhill journey, my daughters and the toboggan will be subjected to an incredibly large number of forces—from the gravitational pull of any massive object in the universe to the weight of the snowflake that is sitting on the tip of one of my youngest daughter’s hairs—so that any attempt to apply the theory directly to the real-world system in all its complexity seems to be doomed to failure. (shrink)
This paper explores the socio-epistemic practice of shopping for experts. I argue that expert shopping is particularly likely to occur on what Thi Nguyen calls cognitive islands. To support my argument, I focus on macroeconomics. First, I make a prima-facie case for thinking that macroeconomics is a cognitive island. Then, I argue that ordinary people are particularly likely to engage in expert shopping when it comes to macroeconomic matters. In particular, I distinguish between two kinds of expert shopping, which I (...) call cynical and wishful, and introduce the notion of assisted expert shopping, which occurs when people or organizations shop for experts on behalf of other people. I argue that assisted expert shopping can sometime result in what I call a propagandistic use of expertise. Finally, I critically examine some possible reasons for optimism and find them wanting. I conclude by suggesting that that much of what I said about shopping for macroeconomic experts might also apply mutatis mutandis to other policy-relevant domains of expertise. (shrink)
In this paper, I distinguish three general approaches to public trust in science, which I call the individual approach, the semi-social approach, and the social approach, and critically examine their proposed solutions to what I call the problem of harmful distrust. I argue that, despite their differences, the individual and the semi-social approaches see the solution to the problem of harmful distrust as consisting primarily in trying to persuade individual citizens to trust science and that both approaches face two general (...) problems, which I call the problem of overidealizing science and the problem of overburdening citizens. I then argue that in order to avoid these problems we need to embrace a (thoroughly) social approach to public trust in science, which emphasizes the social dimensions of the reception, transmission, and uptake of scientific knowledge in society and the ways in which social forces influence both positively and negatively the trustworthiness of science. (shrink)
Fictionalism and deflationism are two moderate meta-ontological positions that try to occupy a middle ground between the extremes of heavy-duty realism and hard-line eliminativism. Deflationists believe that the existence of certain entities (e.g.: numbers) can be established by means of ‘easy’ arguments—arguments that, supposedly, rely solely on uncontroversial premises and trivial inferences. Fictionalists, however, find easy arguments unconvincing. Amie Thomasson has recently argued that, in their criticism of easy arguments, fictionalists beg the question against deflationism and that the fictionalist alternative (...) interpretation of easy arguments is untenable. In this paper, I argue that both charges are unsubstantiated. Properly understood, the fictionalist’s objection to ‘easy’ arguments takes the form of a dilemma—either the premises of ‘easy’ arguments are not truly uncontroversial or the inferences on which they rely are not truly trivial. Moreover, I argue not only that, contrary to what Thomasson claims, the fictionalist’s interpretation of easy argument is tenable but that the fictionalist might, in fact, have a better explanation of the seemingly trivial nature of the inferences involved in easy arguments than the deflationist’s. (shrink)
According to power theorists, properties are powers—i.e. they necessarily confer on their bearers certain dispositions. Although the power theory is increasingly gaining popularity, a vast majority of analytic metaphysicians still favors what I call ‘the nomic theory’—i.e. the view according to which what dispositions a property confers on its bearers is contingent on what the laws of nature happen to be. This paper argues that the nomic theory is inconsistent, for, if it were correct, then properties would not confer any (...) dispositions on their bearers—they would only appear to do so (just like how, in cases of mimicking, objects do not really have the relevant dispositions, they merely appear to have them). If my arguments are sound, then the nomic theory is incoherent and ultimately collapses into what I call ‘neo-occasionalism’ and powers turns out to be the only available option for those who believe that properties genuinely confer dispositions on their bearers. (shrink)
This paper offers a conditional defence of a minimalist theory of appropriation. The conclusion of its main argument is that, if people do enjoy a natural right to appropriate unappropriated resources, then that right is best understood as a derivative right that stems from a more fundamental natural right to self-preservation. If this conclusion is correct, then insofar as people have a natural right to appropriation, it is much more limited than it is usually assumed, as the minimalist theory places (...) very stringent restrictions on both the amount of unappropriated resources each person has a right to appropriate and the use they can make of those appropriated resources. The conclusion of my argument can be either used as a premise in a modus tollens argument to be used against natural-right theories of property rights or as a premise in a modus ponens argument in favour of a broadly left-libertarian theory. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that, contrary to the constructive empiricist’s position, observability is not an adequate criterion as a guide to ontological commitment in science. My argument has two parts. First, I argue that the constructive empiricist’s choice of observability as a criterion for ontological commitment is based on the assumption that belief in the existence of unobservable entities is unreasonable because belief in the existence of an entity can only be vindicated by its observation. Second, I argue that (...) the kind of ontological commitment that is under consideration when accepting a scientific theory is commitment to what I call theoretical kinds and that observation can vindicate commitment to kinds only in exceptional cases. (shrink)
In this paper, I distinguish two often-conflated theses—the thesis that all dispositions are intrinsic properties and the thesis that the causal bases of all dispositions are intrinsic properties—and argue that the falsity of the former does not entail the falsity of the latter. In particular, I argue that extrinsic dispositions are a counterexample to first thesis but not necessarily to the second thesis, because an extrinsic disposition does not need to include any extrinsic property in its causal basis. I conclude (...) by drawing some general lessons about the nature of dispositions and their relation to their causal bases. (shrink)
According to the Simple Conditional Analysis of disposition ascriptions, disposition ascriptions are to be analyzed in terms of counterfactual conditionals. The Simple Conditional Analysis is notoriously vulnerable to counterexamples. In this paper, I introduce a new sort of counterexample to the Simple Conditional Analysis of disposition ascriptions, which I call ‘tricks’. I then explore a number of possible strategies to modify the Simple Conditional Analysis so as to avoid tricks and conclude that, in order to avoid tricks, the associated counterfactual (...) should be evaluated at the closest possible world at which the manifestation of the disposition does not obtain. (shrink)
People often use expressions such as ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and ‘Pegasus’ that appear to refer to imaginary objects. In this paper, I consider the main attempts to account for apparent reference to imaginary objects available in the literature and argue that all fall short of being fully satisfactory. In particular, I consider the problems of two main options to maintain that imaginary objects are real and reference to them is genuine reference: possibilist and abstractist account. According to the former, imaginary objects (...) are possible concrete objects. According to the latter, imaginary objects are actual abstract objects. I will then propose an account, the dualist account, which, I argue, combines the respective advantages of both accounts without sharing any of their respective disadvantages. According to this account, imaginary objects are not fully reducible to either abstract objects or possible objects: they are abstract artefacts that, in some contexts, stand for possible objects. (shrink)
The last couple of decades have witnessed a renewed interest in the notion of inductive risk among philosophers of science. However, while it is possible to find a number of suggestions about the mitigation of inductive risk in the literature, so far these suggestions have been mostly relegated to vague marginal remarks. This paper aims to lay the groundwork for a more systematic discussion of the mitigation of inductive risk. In particular, I consider two approaches to the mitigation of inductive (...) risk—the individualistic approach, which maintains that individual scientists are primarily responsible for the mitigation of inductive risk, and the socialized approach, according to which the responsibility for the mitigation of inductive risk should be more broadly distributed across the scientific community or, even more broadly, across society. I review some of the argument for and against the two approaches and introduce two new problems for the individualistic approach, which I call the problem of precautionary cascades and the problem of exogenous inductive risk, and I argue that a socialized approach might alleviate each of these problems. (shrink)
This paper has two goals. The first is to fill a gap in the literature on inductive risk by exploring the relevance of the notion of inductive risk to macroeconomics and monetary policy. The second goal is to draw some general lessons about inductive risk from the case discussed. The most important of these lessons is that the notion of inductive risk is no less relevant to the relationship between the proximate and distal goals of policy than it is to (...) the relationship between policies and their goals. (shrink)
The thesis that a temporal asymmetry of counterfactual dependence characterizes our world plays a central role in Lewis’s philosophy, as. among other things, it underpins one of Lewis most renowned theses—that causation can be analyzed in terms of counterfactual dependence. To maintain that a temporal asymmetry of counterfactual dependence characterizes our world, Lewis committed himself to two other theses. The first is that the closest possible worlds at which the antecedent of a counterfactual conditional is true is one in which (...) a small miracle occurs—i.e. one whose laws differ from the actual laws in a small spatiotemporal region. The second is that our world is characterized by a temporal asymmetry of miracles. In this paper, I will argue, first, that the latter thesis is either false or incompatible with the picture of the relations among temporal asymmetries endorsed by Lewis and, second, that former thesis conflicts with some of the intuitions which seem to guide us when engaging in counterfactual reasoning. If there is any fact of the matter as to which possible worlds in which the antecedent of a counterfactual conditional is true are closest to the actual world, these are not worlds at which a small miracle occurs. (shrink)
In this note, I argue that a dynamically shifted world—i.e. a world identical to our own except for a fixed constant difference in the absolute acceleration of each object—is nomically impossible in a Newtonian world populated by finitely many objects. A dynamic shift however seems to be nomically possible in a world populated by infinitely many objects, but only in a broad sense of nomic possibility.
The main aim of this paper is to disentangle three senses in which we can say that a model represents a system—denotation epistemic representation, and successful epistemic representation--and to individuate what questions arise from each sense of the notion of representation as used in this context. Also, I argue that a model is an epistemic representation of a system only if a user adopts a general interpretation of the model in terms of a system. In the process, I hope to (...) clarify where those who, following Craig Callander and Jonathan Cohen, claim that there is no special problem about scientific representation go wrong. In the terminology adopted here, even if scientific representation is only an instance of epistemic representation, scientific representation should not be confounded with denotation. (shrink)
Today most philosophers of science believe that models play a central role in science and that one of the main functions of scientific models is to represent systems in the world. Despite much talk of models and representation, however, it is not yet clear what representation in this context amounts to nor what conditions a certain model needs to meet in order to be a representation of a certain system. In this thesis, I address these two questions. First, I will (...) distinguish three senses in which something, a vehicle, can be said to be a representation of something else, a target—which I will call respectively denotation, epistemic representation, and faithful epistemic representation—and I will argue that the last two senses are the most important in this context. I will then outline a general account of what makes a vehicle an epistemic representation of a certain target for a certain user—which, according to the account I defend, is the fact that a user adopts what I call an interpretation of the vehicle in terms of the target—and of what makes an epistemic representation of a certain target a faithful epistemic representation of it—which, according to the account I defend, is a specific sort of structural similarity between the vehicle and the target. (shrink)
This book defends a two-tiered account of epistemic representation--the sort of representation relation that holds between representations such as maps and scientific models and their targets. It defends a interpretational account of epistemic representation and a structural similarity account of overall faithful epistemic representation.
In this paper, I consider how different versions of the similarity account of scientific representation might apply to a simple case of scientific representation, in which a model is used to predict the behaviour of a system. I will argue that the similarity account is potentially susceptible to the problem of accidental similarities between the model and the system and that, if it is to avoid this problem, one has to specify which similarities have to hold between a model and (...) a system for the model to be a faithful representation of that system. The sort of similarity that needs to hold between the model and the system, I argue, is a “second-order” similarity rather than simply a “first-order” similarity. This will not only avoid the problem but hopefully will contribute to dispelling the impression that an account of representation based on similarity is hopelessly vague. (shrink)
Erratum to: Philos Stud 165:401–419 DOI 10.1007/s11098-012-9957-9 Throughout the paper, all occurrences of ‘not- and … and In)’, ‘not- and I and … and In)’, ‘not-’, and ‘not- and I1 and … and In)’ should be replaced by, respectively, ‘not- or … or In)’, ‘not- or I or … or In)’, ‘not-’, and ‘not- or I1 or … or In)’.In particular, the definitions of and on pp. 407–408 should read, respectively:x interferes with o’s being intrinsically disposed to M when S (...) iff:I1 and … and Ik and … and In and … and In’),it is nomically possible that not- or … or In),it is not the case that, if it were the case that S, then o would M,for each Ij , even if it were the case that not- or I or … or I .. (shrink)
The thesis that a temporal asymmetry of counterfactual dependence characterizes our world plays a central role in Lewis’s philosophy, as, among other things, it underpins one of Lewis most renowned theses – that causation can be analyzed in terms of counterfactual dependence. To maintain that a temporal asymmetry of counterfactual dependence characterizes our world, Lewis committed himself to two other theses. The first is that the closest possible worlds at which the antecedent of a counterfactual conditional is true is one (...) in which a small miracle occurs – i.e. one whose laws differ from the actual laws in a small spatiotemporal region. The second is that our world is characterized by a temporal asymmetry of miracles. In this paper, I will argue, first, that the latter thesis is either false or incompatible with the picture of the relations among temporal asymmetries endorsed by Lewis and, second, that former thesis conflicts with some of the intuitions which seem to guide us when engaging in counterfactual reasoning. If there is any fact of the matter as to which possible worlds in which the antecedent of a counterfactual conditional is true are closest to the actual world, these are not worlds at which a small miracle occurs. (shrink)