Older Published Papers

1 Quantum mechanics, symmetry and other philosophy of physics

2 Time

3 Probability

4 The self, Reflexivity, Immunity to Error, and related topics

5 Causation, Laws of Nature and Modality

6 Miscellaneous


1 Quantum mechanics, symmetry and other philosophy of physics

Quantum Holism: Nonseparability as Common Ground With Jonathan Schaffer

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Could Statistical Mechanical Probabilities Have a Quantum Mechanical Grounding? Assessing Albert’s Proposalin volume of specially commissioned essays on David Albert’s Time and Chance, edited by Erik Winsberg and Brad Weslake, Oxford University Press, forthcoming, 2014

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Review of the Emergent Multiverse with Guido BacciagaluppiPhilosophy of Science, forthcoming, 2014

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A Philosopher’s Introduction to Quantum MechanicsThe Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2014 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2014/entries/qm/

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How to Combine Chance and Determinism: Thinking About the Future in an Everett UniversePhilosophy of Science. 2003. 70(4), 776-790.

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Symmetry as a Guide to Superfluous Theoretical Structure With Bas van FraassenIn Symmetries in Physics: Philosophical Reflections, ed. Elena Castellani and Katherine Brading. Cambridge University Press, 2003, pp. 371-392

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Curie’s PrincipleSynthese: An International Journal for Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science. F 97. 110(2), 167-190.

A reading is given of Curie’s principle that the symmetry of a cause is always preserved in its effects. The truth of the principle is demonstrated and its importance under the proposed reading is defended.

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2 Time

Passage, Flow, and the Logic of Temporal Perspectivesin The Nature of Time, The Time of Nature, University of Chicago Press, edited by Christophe Bouton and Philippe Hunemann, forthcoming

I try to inject a little formal precision into the discussion of passage. Instead of talking about the quality of temporal experience, I’m going to talk about the content. And I argue that we can resolve a good many of the issues with an examination of the logic of temporal perspectives.

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On Whether the Atemporal Conception of the World is also AmodalAnalytic Philosophy, forthcoming

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From Physical Time to Human TimeCosmological and Psychological Time, Springer, edited by Yuval Abrams, forthcoming

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Decision and the Open FutureIn The Future of the Philosophy of Time, Adrian Bardon (ed), Routledge, 2011.

The familiar image of an open future that is in the process of coming into being remains shrouded in darkness, notwithstanding that it is part of most people’s pre-theoretic conception of time. This paper is an attempt to understand the source of these ideas and to see if they can be given literal content.

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Temporal ExperienceIn Oxford Handbook on Time, ed. Craig Callender, Oxford University Press, 2010.

The experience of time has been a mainstay of discussion in the phenomenological tradition. This is my first foray into the discussion of the quality and content of temporal experience.

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Time is But a Dream With Huw Pricehttp://theconversation.com/time-is-but-a-dream-or-is-it-928

This is a short popular piece cowritten with Huw Price about the conflict between the Parmenidean and Heraclitian conception of time that was written as an entry piece for an art show.

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3 Probability

In Defense of the Chance-Mixing Principle: Response to PettigrewNous, Dec 2013 | DOI: 10.1111/nous.12057

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A Modest Proposal About ChanceJournal of Philosophy, 108 (8), p. 416-442, 2011

There has been a push from a number of quarters in the philosophy of physics and the special sciences to recognize a form of probability in deterministic contexts. The probability in question takes the form of a general objective measure Pr(A/B), where A and B are (states or properties represented by) finite volumes of phase space and Pr is the probability that a random pick from systems in B will yield a system that is in A. Here, I show how to use such probabilities to provide an interpretation of the objective single-case probabilities known as chances. The proposal unifies quantum- and statistical-mechanical probabilities, explains the epistemic role of chances, and resolves familiar difficulties attaching to their interpretation.

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Probability in Deterministic PhysicsJournal of Philosophy, CVI, 2, February 2009

In a deterministic theory, one can deduce the state of the universe at any one time from the dynamical laws that govern its evolution and its state at any other time. In particular, one can deduce from the conditions that obtained at some early boundary condition for the universe, its state at all subsequent times. It is a piece of well-received philosophical common sense that there is no room in a deterministic theory for objective probabilities. In this paper, I argue that this piece of philosophical common sense is mistaken, and that a probability measure over the space of physically possible trajectories is an indispensable component of any theory—deterministic or otherwise— that can be used as a basis for prediction or receive confirmation from the evidence.

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Raid! The Big, Bad Bug DissolvedNous. Je 2008. 42(2), 292-307.

In 1980 David Lewis wrote a paper pointing out that a very broad class of accounts of the nature of chance apparently lead to a contradiction when combined with a principle that expresses the role of chance in guiding belief. There is still no settled agreement on the proper response to the Lewis problem. I propose a general recipe for using information about chance to guide belief that does not require conditionalization on a theory of chance and for which Lewis’ problem doesn’t arise.

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An Objectivist Argument for Thirdism With the OSCAR seminarAnalysis 68 (2):149-155, 2008.

The literature on the Sleeping Beauty problem has been dominated by Bayesians. Even those authors who are not Bayesians have addressed the problem without using much of the rich machinery available to objective probability theorists. We show that the objective probability theorist has a very simple argument for thirdism.

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What Chances Could Not BeBritish Journal for the Philosophy of Science. Mr 96. 47(1), 79-91.

In probabilistic physical theories like quantum mechanics, the chances of physical events play the formal role that the values of physical quantities play in classical (deterministic) physics, and there is a temptation to regard them as describing intrinsic properties of the systems to which they are assigned. I argue that this understanding of chances is incompatible with a very wide range of metaphysical views about the nature of chance.

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On Being Some-Onein Surrounding Free Will, edited by A. Mele, Oxford University Press, 2014

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Immunity to Error as an Artefact of Transition Between Representational MediaIn Possner (ed), New Essays on Immunity to Error, Cambridge University Press, 2012.

It is often claimed that there is a range of self-ascriptions that are immune to error through misidentification relative to the first-person pronoun (IEM for short). There’s been an enormous amount written on the topic. It is connected to issues about self-knowledge, consciousness, Descartes’ arguments for dualism, and the tendency to think of the self as a special sort of private object. In this paper, I explain this phenomenon as an artefact of the interaction between representational media with different invariance classes. The explanation deflates some of the metaphysical conclusions that have been drawn from IEM.

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Reflexivity, Fixed points, and Semantic Descent; How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love ReflexivityActa Analytica: International Periodical for Philosophy in the Analytical Tradition. Wint 2011. 26(4), 295-310.

For most of the major philosophers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, human cognition was understood as involving the mind’s reflexive grasp of its own contents. But other important figures have described the very idea of a reflexive thought as incoherent. Ryle notably likened the idea of a reflexive thought to an arm that grasps itself. Recent work in philosophy, psychology, and the cognitive sciences has greatly clarified the special epistemic and semantic properties of reflexive thought. This article is an attempt to give an explicit characterization of the structure of reflexive thoughts that explains those properties and avoids the complaints of its critics.

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Me, AgainIn Topics in Contemporary Philosophy, Volume 6: Time and Identity, Keirn-Campbell, O’Rourke and Shier (eds.), Cambridge, MIT Press. 2008.

Thought about the self raises some very special problems. Some of these concern indexical reference quite generally, but there is one having to do with identity over time that seems to be unique to the self. I use an historical exchange between Anscombe and Descartes to bring out the problem, and propose a resolution that casts light both on why self-directed thought presents a unique epistemic predicament and where Descartes’ cogito may have gone wrong.

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Doublemindedness; a model for a dual-content cognitive architecturePsyche, July 2006, 1-11.

There has been a confluence of interest in recent years in self- representational accounts of phenomenal consciousness. But the outstanding stumbling blocks to any reductive account of phenomenal consciousness remain the subjectivity of phenomenal properties and cognitive and epistemic gaps that plague the relationship between physical and phenomenal properties. I show how a self-representational account elucidates subjectivity and explains the source of those gaps. I remain, however, critical of self- representational accounts that aim to provide analyses of what it is to be conscious.

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Saving the Baby: Dennett on AutobiographyPhilosophical Psychology. Je 2006. 19(3), 345-360.

Dennett argues that the decentralized view of human cognitive organization finding increasing support in parts of cognitive science undermines talk of an inner self. On his view, the causal underpinnings of behavior are distributed across a collection of autonomous subsystems operating without any centralized supervision. Selves are fictions contrived to simplify description and facilitate prediction of behavior with no real correlate inside the mind. I examine the cognitive organization of a system steering by an internal model of self and environment (what I call elsewhere a “Self-Governing System”, and argue that it provides a model that lies between the image of mind as termite colony and a naive Cartesianism that views the self as inner substance.

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Nolipsism: So You Think You Exist, Do You? With John PollockIn Knowlege and Reality: Essays in Honor of Alvin Plantinga (Kluwer), eds. Thomas Crisp, Matthew Davidson, David Vander Laan. Springer Verlag, 2004.

We investigate the functional role of “I” (and also “here” and “now”) in cognition, arguing that the use of such non-descriptive “reflexive” designators is essential for making sophisticated cognition work in a general-purpose cognitive agent. Simple arguments based upon how “I” works in reasoning lead to the conclusion that it cannot designate the body or part of the body. However, for the purpose of making the reasoning work correctly, it makes no difference whether “I” actually designates anything. Why should we think we are any different? (This paper was written in a collaborative voice and a provocative spirit. Although I still accept much of the argument, in my view “I” does refer. It doesn’t refer to the brain or the body, but to something whose principle of unity is non-material. See my “Unity of Mind”).

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5 Causation, Laws of Nature and Modality

How to be HumeanIn The Philosophy of David Lewis, Oxford University Press, Barry Loewer and Johnathan Schaffer (eds.), forthcoming.

David Lewis famously said in the introduction to his second volume of Philosophical Papers that he saw a lot of his career in retrospect as being devoted to the defense of Humean Supervenience. The research program as he conceived it was to provide truth conditions for all contingent truths in terms of what he came to call the Humean mosaic. I have become increasingly confused over the years about what Humean analyses are supposed to achieve. I argue in this paper that if they are supposed to provide content-preserving reductions, they fail for one reason. If, on the other hand, they are supposed to tell us what it is in the realm of Being, according to the Humean, that our beliefs about various things – laws, chances, the value of a dollar bill, or the beauty of a sunset – refer to, they fail for different reasons. I suggest a significant shift in how the Humean research program is conceived. (These are issues that challenge assumptions about the way that content-level structure relates to structures at the level of Being built into practices in analytic metaphysics that are discussed also in “Metaphysics on the Sydney Plan”.)

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How Do Causes Depend on Us? The many faces of perspectivalismSynthese, Vol. 193, Issue 1, 2016

Huw Price has argued that on an interventionist account of cause the distinction is perspectival, and the claim prompted some interesting responses from interventionists and in particular an exchange with Woodward that raises questions about what it means to say that one or another structure is perspectival. I’ll introduce his reasons for claiming that the distinction between cause and effect on an interventionist account is perspectival. Then I’ll introduce a distinction between different ways in which a class of concepts can be said to depend on facts about their users Three importantly different forms of dependence will emerge from the discussion: (1) Pragmatic dependence on us: truth conditions for x-beliefs can be given by a function f0 of more fundamental physical structures making no explicit reference to human agents. But there are any other number of functions (f2…fn) ontologically on a par with x and what explains the distinguish role f plays in our practical and epistemic lives are facts about us. (2) Implicit relativization: truth conditions for x-beliefs are relative to agent or context. The context supplies the value of a hidden parameter (’hidden’ in the sense that it is not explicitly represented in the surface syntax) that determines the truth of x-beliefs. (3) Indexicals: like implicit relativization except that the surface syntax contains a term whose semantic value is context-dependent I suggest that Price’s insights are best understood in the first way. This will draw a crucial disanalogy with his central examples of perspectival concepts, but it will refine the thesis in a way that is more faithful to what his arguments show. The refined thesis will also support generalization to other concepts, and clarify the foundations of the quite distinctive research program that Price has been developing for a number of years.

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Against Globalism About LawsExperimentation and the Philosophy of Science, Bas van Fraassen and Isabelle Peschard (eds.), University of Chicago Press, forthcoming

There was a time when science was thought of as wholly devoted to the investigation of the causal structure of the world. With the mathematicization of science and the triumph of Newtonian theory, causal vocabulary disappeared from the most fundamental level of physical description. It became the norm to present a fundamental theory as a set of mathematical equations describing global laws of temporal evolution. Since then philosophers of science have struggled to understand how and where causal ideas enter into the description of Nature. The most developed research programs assume that global laws of temporal evolution are the most fundamental nomic generalizations, and try to derive causal facts from these together with initial conditions. This orthodoxy has been challenged by philosophers that dispute the descriptive completeness of fundamental physics. I now think that even fundamentalists about physics should recognize causal structure as more basic than global laws. I will say why, and assess the philosophical impact of this reversal in the order of priority.

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An Empiricist's Guide to Objective Modalityin Metaphysics and the Philosophy of Science , Oxford University Press, ed. Z. Yudall and M. Slater, forthcoming

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Causation, Free Will, and NaturalismIn Scientific Metaphysics, Kincaid, H., Ladyman, J. and Ross, D. (eds.),Oxford University Press, (forthcoming).

I address a threat to freedom based specifically on the worry that actions are causally necessitated antecedent conditions. Starting with a discussion of the folk notion of cause, I chronicle recent developments in the scientific understanding of causal concepts, showing how those developments undermine the threat from causal antecedents.

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Freedom, Compulsion, and CausationPsyche, 13/1, April, 2007.

Hume famously argued that the compulsion we associate with causal notions is borrowed from experience and illegitimately projected onto regularities in the world. Exploiting the interventionist analysis of causal relations, together with an insight about the degeneracy of one’s epistemic relations to one’s own actions, I defend a Humean position about the source of the idea of causal compulsion.

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Closed Causal Loops and the Bilking ArgumentSynthese: An International Journal for Epistemology, Methodology and Philosophy of Science. S 03. 136(3), 305-320.

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6 Miscellaneous

Naturalism on the Sydney Planin Naturalism, ed. Mathew Haug, Oxford University Press, forthcoming

The most influential self-proclaimed naturalistic approach in the contemporary philosophical literature is Metaphysics on the Canberra Plan. On the Canberra plan, questions of what the world is like are left to physics. It falls to metaphysics to say what feature of the world described by physics various classes of everyday belief represent. I will contrast this with naturalistic metaphysics on the Sydney Plan. The Sydney Plan is a style of naturalism that brings together different strands of pragmatism increasingly prevalent in the philosophical community.

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Self-Organization and Self-Governance, Philosophy of the Social SciencesPhilosophy of the Social Sciences. S 2011. 41(3), 327-351.

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The Ethical Importance of DeathIn Death And Anti-Death, Volume 4: Twenty Years After De Beauvoir, Thirty Years After Heidegger, ed. Charles Tandy, Palo Alto: Ria University Press, 2006, p. 181-198.

The paper is an attempt to grapple with the significance death has for how we live our lives. Should we fear death? What sort of loss occurs when someone dies? If death is a final and unequivocal end to existence, does that render life meaningless? What kind of value is possible in a life that inevitably ends? Would immortality be preferable?

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Science and the PhenomenalPhilosophy of Science, Vol. 66, No. 3 (Sep., 1999), pp. 351-369

A reading is given of Curie’s principle that the symmetry of a cause is always preserved in its effects. The truth of the principle is demonstrated and its importance under the proposed reading is defended.

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