In section 96 of Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit offers his now familiar tripartite distinction among candidates for ‘what matters’: (1) Relation R with its normal cause; (2) R with any reliable cause; (3) R with any cause. He defends option (3). This paper tries to show that there is important ambiguity in this distinction and in Parfit's defence of his position. There is something strange about Parfit's way of dividing up the territory: I argue that those who have followed (...) him in viewing the choice among (1)–(3) as the (or an) important question in thinking about ‘what matters’ are mistaken, and that they bypass what seems to be a more important, even crucial, set of options and considerations. I am less concerned with what he does say than with what he ought to say, given his intuitions and arguments, and the general framework within which he is working. And I am particularly concerned to show that whether or not I am correct about what he is doing with his tripartite distinction, it is a distinction with which we should not be particularly concerned in the analysis either of what matters or of psychological continuity. (shrink)
A not-unpopular position in the metaphysics of material objects (Ted Sider's, for instance) combines realism about what objects there are and the conditions of objecthood with conventionalism about de re modality. I argue that this is not a coherent combination of views: one must go fully conventionalist, or fully realist. The central argument displays the difficulty for the modal conventionalist/object realist in specifying the object that satisfies de re modal predicates. I argue that if this is a mind-independent object, contradictions (...) arise when we consider the possibility or actuality of non-equivalent conventions both applying to 'the same object'. (shrink)
The idea that disputes which are heated, and apparently important, may nonetheless be 'merely verbal' or 'just semantic' is surely no stranger to any philosopher. I urge that many disputes, both in and out of philosophy, are indeed plausibly considered verbal, and that it would repay us to more frequently consider whether they are so or not. Asking this question is what I call ‘The Method of Verbal Dispute’. Neither the notion nor the method of verbal dispute is new. What (...) I do here is to urge its wider application, to suggest how widespread is the phenomenon of verbal disputes, and to clarify certain misconceptions about what is, or needs to be, involved in a verbal dispute. One central claim is that verbal disputes need not be ‘merely’ verbal disputes – that often, there is a real disagreement to be had, but it is not the one suggested by the surface form of the disagreement. I also discuss the relation between verbal disputes, relativism and cases in which ‘there is no fact of the matter’. (shrink)
I argue (1) that metaphysical views of material objects should be understood as 'packages', rather than individual claims, where the other parts of the package include how the theory addresses 'recalcitant data' (such as - the denier of artifacts has to account, somehow, for the seeming truth of 'there are three pencils on my table'), and (2) that when the packages meet certain general desiderata - which all of the currently competing views *can* meet - there is nothing in the (...) world that could make one of the theories true as opposed to any of the others. (shrink)
This paper defends the traditional view that the laws of nature are contingent, or, if some of them are necessary, this is due to analytic principles for the individuation of the law-governed properties. Fundamentally, I argue that the supposed explanatory purposes served by taking the laws to be necessary (at least, understood metaphysically, as opposed to semantically)--showing how laws support counterfactuals, how properties are individuated, or how we have knowledge of properties--are in fact undermined by the continued possibility of the (...) imagined scenarios--this time, described neutrally--which seemed to disprove the claim to necessity in the first place. I speculate that this will be true for any proposed necessary a posteriori truths, and is a basis for rejecting their supposed metaphysical significance. (shrink)
I offer an understanding of what it is for a term to be rigid which makes no serious metaphysical commitments to or about identity across possible worlds. What makes a term rigid is not that it 'refers to the same object(property) with respect to all worlds' - rather (roughly) it is that the criteria of application for the term with respect to other worlds, when combined with the criteria of identity associated with the term, ensure that whatever meets the criteria (...) of identity also meets the criteria of application and vice versa - in the simplest case, the criteria of application just are the criteria of identity - but things can be more complex to allow for the necessary a posteriori. This makes rigidity a non-metaphysically loaded semantic matters, and allows us to see that the phenomenon of and involving rigidity - especially the necessary a posteriori - are of no metaphysical significance on their own. (shrink)
Some relations - like supervenience and composition - can appear very much like identity. Sometimes, the relata differ only in modal, or modally-involved features. Yet, in some cases, we judge the pairs to be identical (water/H2O; Hesperus/Phosphorus), while in others, many judge one of the weaker relations to hold (c-fiber firing/pain; statues/lumps). Given the seemingly same actual properties these pairs have, what can justify us in sometimes believing identity is the relation, and sometimes something weaker? I argue that it can (...) only be knowledge of differences of individuative criteria that we know a priori because they are built into the meanings of the words/concepts involved. Possible metaphysical conclusions are considered. (shrink)
A reply to Arda Denkel's argument that it is not possible to have matter without objects. I argue that the argument assumes that having a 'form' is being sufficient for the existence of an object, which the opponent should not be thought to grant.