Bryan Frances Fordham University
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  • Faculty, Fordham University
  • PhD, University of Minnesota, 1998.

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  • None specified

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About me
I'm a philosophy professor at Fordham University. I have worked in several areas: the epistemology of disagreement, skepticism, philosophy of time, vagueness, material composition, and content externalism. I started out in physics. I was never any good at it, but I did get an MA degree. Then I got a PhD in philosophy and became a professor. But I'm not good at philosophy either. (Most people aren't, even philosophers.) The best I can do, I suspect, is explain the difficulty in offering plausible and informative answers to certain philosophical questions. Despite all that, philosophy is extremely rewarding in some hard-to-define way.
My works
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  1. Bryan Frances (forthcoming). Philosophical Renegades. In Jennifer Lackey & David Christensen (eds.), The Epistemology of Disagreement: New Essays. OUP.
    If you retain your belief upon learning that a large number and percentage of your recognized epistemic superiors disagree with you, then what happens to the epistemic status of your belief? I investigate that theoretical question as well has the applied case of philosophical disagreement—especially disagreement regarding purely philosophical error theories, theories that do not have much empirical support and that reject large swaths of our most commonsensical beliefs. I argue that even if all those error theories are false, either (...)
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  2. Bryan Frances (forthcoming). Religious Disagreement. In Graham Oppy (ed.), Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy of Religion. Acumen.
    In this essay I try to motivate and formulate the main epistemological questions to ask about the phenomenon of religious disagreement. I will not spend much time going over proposed answers to those questions. I address the relevance of the recent literature on the epistemology of disagreement. I start with some fiction and then, hopefully, proceed with something that has at least a passing acquaintance with truth.
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  3. Bryan Frances (2014). Disagreement. Polity.
  4. Bryan Frances (2014). Disagreement. Polity.
  5. Bryan Frances (2012). Discovering Disagreeing Epistemic Peers and Superiors. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 20 (1):1 - 21.
    Suppose you know that someone is your epistemic peer regarding some topic. You admit that you cannot think of any relevant epistemic advantage you have over her when it comes to that topic; you admit that she is just as likely as you to get P's truth-value right. Alternatively, you might know that she is your epistemic superior regarding the topic. And then after learning this about her you find out that she disagrees with you about P. In those situations (...)
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  6. Bryan Frances (2011). Kripke. In Barry Lee (ed.), Key Thinkers in the Philosophy of Language. Continuum.
    This chapter introduces Kripke's work to advanced undergraduates, mainly focussing on his "A Puzzle About Belief" and "Wittgenstein on Rules and Private Language".
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  7. Bryan Frances (2010). Disagreement. In Duncan Pritchard & Sven Bernecker (eds.), Routledge Companion to Epistemology. Routledge.
    This is a short essay that presents what I take to be the main questions regarding the epistemology of disagreement.
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  8. Bryan Frances (2010). The Reflective Epistemic Renegade. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (2):419 - 463.
    Philosophers often find themselves in disagreement with contemporary philosophers they know full well to be their epistemic superiors on the topics relevant to the disagreement. This looks epistemically irresponsible. I offer a detailed investigation of this problem of the reflective epistemic renegade. I argue that although in some cases the renegade is not epistemically blameworthy, and the renegade situation is significantly less common than most would think, in a troublesome number of cases in which the situation arises the renegade is (...)
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  9. Bryan Frances (2008). Live Skeptical Hypotheses. In John Greco (ed.), Oxford Handbook of Skepticism. Oxford.
    Those of us who take skepticism seriously typically have two relevant beliefs: (a) it’s plausible (even if false) that in order to know that I have hands I have to be able to epistemically neutralize, to some significant degree, some skeptical hypotheses, such as the brain-in-a-vat (BIV) one; and (b) it’s also plausible (even if false) that I can’t so neutralize those hypotheses. There is no reason for us to also think (c) that the BIV hypothesis, for instance, is plausible (...)
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  10. Bryan Frances (2008). Spirituality, Expertise, and Philosophers. In Jon Kvanvig (ed.), Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. Oxford. 44-81.
    We all can identify many contemporary philosophy professors we know to be theists of some type or other. We also know that often enough their nontheistic beliefs are as epistemically upstanding as the non-theistic beliefs of philosophy professors who aren’t theists. In fact, the epistemic-andnon-theistic lives of philosophers who are theists are just as epistemically upstanding as the epistemic-and-non-theistic lives of philosophers who aren’t theists. Given these and other, similar, facts, there is good reason to think that the pro-theistic beliefs (...)
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  11. Bryan Frances (2007). Externalism, Physicalism, Statues, and Hunks. Philosophical Studies 133 (2):199-232.
    Content externalism is the dominant view in the philosophy of mind. Content essentialism, the thesis that thought tokens have their contents essentially, is also popular. And many externalists are supporters of such essentialism. However, endorsing the conjunction of those views either (i) commits one to a counterintuitive view of the underlying physical nature of thought tokens or (ii) commits one to a slightly different but still counterintuitive view of the relation of thought tokens to physical tokens as well as a (...)
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  12. Bryan Frances (2007). Varieties of Things: Foundations of Contemporary Metaphysics—Cynthia MacDonald. International Philosophical Quarterly 47 (3):380-382.
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  13. Bryan Frances (2006). The New Leibniz's Law Arguments for Pluralism. Mind 115 (460):1007-1022.
    For years philosophers argued for the existence of distinct yet materially coincident things by appealing to modal and temporal properties. For instance, the statue was made on Monday and could not survive being flattened; the lump of clay was made months before and can survive flattening. Such arguments have been thoroughly examined. Kit Fine has proposed a new set of arguments using the same template. I offer a critical evaluation of what I take to be his central lines of reasoning.
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  14. Bryan Frances (2005). Preface to 'Scepticism Comes Alive'. OUP.
    I once overheard a telling conversation between two of my colleagues. One asked the other about a new book on a topic of some importance to both of them. He asked whether they would have to do anything different because of the book. The second colleague said not, so the first colleague said he would not read the book. The conversation encapsulates an excellent test of the worth of a philosophical work: an idea is important if as a result of (...)
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  15. Bryan Frances (2005). Scepticism Comes Alive. OUP.
    Not only is the argument schema novel, but the sceptical consequences are entirely unexpected.
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  16. Bryan Frances (2005). When a Skeptical Hypothesis is Live. Noûs 39 (4):559–595.
    I’m going to argue for a set of restricted skeptical results: roughly put, we don’t know that fire engines are red, we don’t know that we sometimes have pains in our lower backs, we don’t know that John Rawls was kind, and we don’t even know that we believe any of those truths. However, people unfamiliar with philosophy and cognitive science do know all those things. The skeptical argument is traditional in form: here’s a skeptical hypothesis; you can’t epistemically neutralize (...)
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  17. Bryan Frances (2002). A Test for Theories of Belief Ascription. Analysis 62 (2):116–125.
    These days the two most popular approaches to belief ascription are Millianism and Contextualism. The former approach is inconsistent with the existence of ordinary Frege cases, such as Lois believing that Superman flies while failing to believe that Clark Kent flies. The Millian holds that the only truth-conditionally relevant aspect of a proper name is its referent or extension. Contextualism, as I will define it for the purposes of this essay, includes all theories according to which ascriptions of the form (...)
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  18. Bryan Frances (2000). Disquotation and Substitutivity. Mind 109 (435):519-25.
    Millianism is reasonable; that is, it is reasonable to think that all there is to the semantic value of a proper name is its referent. But Millianism appears to be undermined by the falsehood of Substitutivity, the principle that interchanging coreferential proper names in an intentional context cannot change the truth value of the resulting belief report. Mary might be perfectly rational in assenting to ‘Twain was a great writer’ as well as ‘Clemens was not a great writer’. Her confusion (...)
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  19. Bryan Frances (1999). Contradictory Belief and Epistemic Closure Principles. Mind and Language 14 (2):203–226.
    Kripke’s puzzle has puts pressure on the intuitive idea that one can believe that Superman can fly without believing that Clark Kent can fly. If this idea is wrong then many theories of belief and belief ascription are built from faulty data. I argue that part of the proper analysis of Kripke’s puzzle refutes the closure principles that show up in many important arguments in epistemology, e.g., if S is rational and knows that P and that P entails Q, then (...)
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  20. Bryan Frances (1999). Defending the Defense. Mind 108 (431):563-566.
    My hunch has always been that in the end, Fregeanism will defeat Millianism. So I suspect that my (1998) arguments on behalf of Millianism are flawed. Peter Graham (1999) is confident he has found the flaws, but he has not. I hope that some clarification will enccurage others to reveal the errors.
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  21. Bryan Frances (1999). On the Explanatory Deficiencies of Linguistic Content. Philosophical Studies 93 (1):45-75.
    The Burge-Putnam thought experiments have generated the thesis that beliefs are not fixed by the constitution of the body. However, many philosophers have thought that if this is true then there must be another content-like property. Even if the contents of our attitudes such as the one in ‘believes that aluminum is a light metal’, do not supervene on our physical makeups, nevertheless people who are physical duplicates must be the same when it comes to evaluating their rationality and explaining (...)
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  22. Bryan Frances (1998). Arguing for Frege's Fundamental Principle. Mind and Language 13 (3):341–346.
    Saul Kripke's puzzle about belief demonstrates the lack of soundness of the traditional argument for the Fregean fundamental principle that the sentences 'S believes that a is F' and 'S believes that b is F' can differ in truth value even if a = b. This principle is a crucial premise in the traditional Fregean argument for the existence of semantically relevant senses, individuative elements of beliefs that are sensitive to our varying conceptions of what the beliefs are about. Joseph (...)
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  23. Bryan Frances (1998). Defending Millian Theories. Mind 107 (428):703-728.
    In this article I offer a three-pronged defense of Millian theories, all of which share the rough idea that all there is to a proper name is its referent, so it has no additional sense. I first give what I believe to be the first correct analysis of Kripke’s puzzle and its anti-Fregean lessons. The main lesson is that the Fregean’s arguments against Millianism and for the existence of semantically relevant senses (that is, individuative elements of propositions or belief contents (...)
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  24. Bryan Frances, Twin Earth Thought Experiments.
    Suppose that you had always had a physical twin, Chris, who on a different planet went through life having physical characteristics, sensory experiences, utterances, and brain processes exactly the same as yours in every physical and sensory respect. Chris.
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  25. Bryan Frances (1996). Plato's Response to the Third Man Argument in the Paradoxical Exercise of the Parmenides. Ancient Philosophy 16 (1):47-64.
  26. Bryan Frances, A Philosophically Inexpensive Introduction to Twin-Earth.
    I say that it’s philosophically inexpensive because I think it is more convincing than any other Twin-Earth thought experiment in that it sidesteps many of the standard objections to the usual thought experiments. I also briefly discuss narrow contents and give an analysis of Putnam’s original argument.
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  27. Bryan Frances, How to Write a Good, or Really Bad, Philosophy Essay.
    This is an essay written for students regarding how to write a philosophy paper.
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  28. Bryan Frances, Introduction to the Semantic Paradoxes.
    In this essay (for undergraduates) I introduce three of the famous semantic paradoxes: the Liar, Grelling’s, and the No-No. Collectively, they seem to show that the notion of truth is highly paradoxical, perhaps even contradictory. They seem to show that the concept of truth is a bit akin to the concept of a married bachelor—it just makes no sense at all. But in order to really understand those paradoxes one needs to be very comfortable thinking about how lots of interesting (...)
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  29. Bryan Frances, “Please Explain What a Rigid Designator Is”.
    This is an essay written for undergraduates who are confused about what a rigid designator is.
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  30. Bryan Frances, Skeptical Stories: Introduction to Live Skepticism.
    The epistemological consequences of paradox are paradoxical. They can be usefully generated by telling a series of once-upon-a-time stories that make various philosophical points, starting out innocent and ending up, well, paradoxical.
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  31. Bryan Frances, The Four Puzzles.
    This is an essay for undergraduates. I present the basic problems of reference for descriptions and names.
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  32. Bryan Frances, The Material Composition Problem.
    This is an essay for undergraduates. I set out the statue/clay problem and Tibbles/Tib in rich detail. I also present, with less detail, some other puzzles about material composition.
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  33. Bryan Frances, The Offer Paradox.
    This is one of those "fun" examples of a semantic paradox, written for undergraduates.
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  34. Bryan Frances, Why I Think Research in Non-Applied, Non-Interdisciplinary, Non-Historical Philosophy is Worthwhile.
    On occasion, someone will ask you why you’re a philosopher and not a scientist or some other, more obviously respectable, intellectual. Or a high and mighty philosopher will dismiss all of philosophy with the exception of the history of philosophy. Others will restrict philosophy’s importance to applied philosophy or philosophy with obvious interdisciplinary features. Or someone from a different discipline might be respectful of the philosophical profession but in need of an explanation of why research in philosophy that is not (...)
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