Question #2: How many dimensions does space have, according to quantum mechanics? If quantum mechanics were a true theory of the world, then the answer to Question #2 would be the same as the answer to Question #1. But quantum mechanics is not true, and so the answers need not be the same.
I defend Pascal's Wager from a particular way of evading it, the mixed strategy approach. The mixed strategies approach suggests that Pascal's Wager does not obligate one to believe in God, because one can get the same infinite expected utility from other strategies besides the strategy of believing in God. I will show that while there's nothing technically wrong with the mixed strategy approach, rationality requires it to be applied in such a way that Pascal's Wager doesn't lose any force.
Metaphysicians sometimes appeal to physics to establish claims about the fundamental nature of the world. But given the current state of inquiry in physics, where there are two most fundamental theories that are incompatible, such arguments of physics-based metaphysics are problematic. I support this line of thought by focussing on two sorts of problematic arguments, special-relativity-based arguments against presentism and big-bang-based arguments in favor of the existence of God. I am not arguing that physics-based metaphysics can’t be done; I am (...) just arguing that extant examples of physics-based metaphysics are flawed. I close by considering various ways that future versions of physics-based metaphysics could potentially be successful. (shrink)
In reply to the problem of evil, some suggest that God created an infinite number of universes—for example, that God created every universe that contains more good than evil. I offer two objections to these multiverse theodicies. First, I argue that, for any number of universes God creates, he could have created more, because he could have created duplicates of universes. Next, I argue that multiverse theodicies can’t adequately account for why God would create universes with pointless suffering, and hence (...) they don’t solve the problem of evil. (shrink)
Bas van Fraassen endorses both common-sense realism — the view, roughly, that the ordinary macroscopic objects that we take to exist actually do exist — and constructive empiricism — the view, roughly, that the aim of science is truth about the observable world. But what happens if common-sense realism and science come into conflict? I argue that it is reasonable to think that they could come into conflict, by giving some motivation for a mental monist solution to the measurement problem (...) of quantum mechanics. I then consider whether, in a situation where science favors the mental monist interpretation, van Fraassen would want to give up common-sense realism or would want to give up science. 1. The Potential Tension Bas van Fraassen is a common-sense realist: Constructive empiricism. (shrink)
This paper delves into McTaggart’s metaphysical account of reality without time, and compares and contrasts McTaggart’s account with the account of reality given by modern physics. This comparison is of interest, because there are suggestions from contemporary physics that there is no time at the fundamental level. Physicists and philosophers of physics recognize that we do not have a good understanding of how the world could be such that time is unreal. I argue that, from the perspective of one who (...) is trying to understand modern physics, McTaggart’s metaphysical views do provide some insight into how reality can be timeless at the fundamental level, but the insight that they provide is limited. (shrink)
How are inferences to design affected when one makes the (plausible) assumption that the universe is spatially infinite? I will show that arguments for the existence of God based on the improbable development of life don’t go through. I will also show that the model of design inferences promulgated by William Dembski is flawed. My model for design inferences has the (desirable) consequence that there are circumstances where a seeming miracle can count as evidence for the existence of God, even (...) if one would expect that type of event to naturalistically occur in a spatially infinite universe. (shrink)
We discuss the cable guy paradox, both as an object of interest in its own right and as something which can be used to illuminate certain issues in the theories of rational choice and belief. We argue that a crucial principle—The Avoid Certain Frustration (ACF) principle—which is used in stating the paradox is false, thus resolving the paradox. We also explain how the paradox gives us new insight into issues related to the Reflection principle. Our general thesis is that principles (...) that base your current opinions on your current opinions about your future opinions need not make reference to the particular times in the future at which you believe you will have those opinions, but they do need to make reference to the particular degrees of belief you believe you will have in the future. (shrink)
In this paper, we show that presentism?the view that the way things are is the way things presently are?is not undermined by the objection from being-supervenience. This objection claims, roughly, that presentism has trouble accounting for the truth-value of past-tense claims. Our demonstration amounts to the articulation and defence of a novel version of presentism. This is brute past presentism, according to which the truth-value of past-tense claims is determined by the past understood as a fundamental aspect of reality different (...) from things and how things are. (shrink)
There are interesting parallels between some of McTaggart’s metaphysical views and developments from contemporary physics. Can McTaggart’s positive metaphysical views provide guidance in understanding how reality can be timeless at the fundamental level? I argue that the guidance McTaggart actually provides is limited – though not by any means useless.
Physicist J. Richard Gott has given an argument that, if good, allows one to make accurate predictions for the future longevity of a process, based solely on its present age. We show that there are problems with some of the details of Gott’s argument, but we defend the crucial insight: in many circumstances, the greater the present age of a process, the more likely a longer future duration.
The fundamental constants that are involved in the laws of physics which describe our universe are finely tuned for life, in the sense that if some of the constants had slightly different values life could not exist. Some people hold that this provides evidence for the existence of God. I will present a probabilistic version of this fine-tuning argument which is stronger than all other versions in the literature. Nevertheless, I will show that one can have reasonable opinions such that (...) the fine-tuning argument doesn't lead to an increase in one's probability for the existence of God. The fine-tuning argument Objective versus subjective probability Observational selection effects The problem of old evidence Against the fine-tuning argument Many universes. (shrink)
In the case of Kitzmiller et al. v. Dover Area School District, et al., Judge Jones ruled that a pro-intelligent design disclaimer cannot be read to public school students. In his decision, he gave demarcation criteria for what counts as science, ruling that intelligent design fails these criteria. I argue that these criteria are flawed, with most of my focus on the criterion of methodological naturalism. The way to refute intelligent design is not by declaring it unscientific, but by showing (...) that the empirical evidence for design is not there. (shrink)
There is a philosophical tradition of arguing against presentism, the thesis that only presently existing things exist, on the basis of its incompatibility with fundamental physics. I grant that presentism is incompatible with special and general relativity, but argue that presentism is not incompatible with quantum gravity, because there are some theories of quantum gravity that utilize a fixed foliation of spacetime. I reply to various objections to this defense of presentism, and point out a flaw in Gödel's modal argument (...) for the ideality of time. This paper provides an interesting case study of the interplay between physics and philosophy. (shrink)
It is argued that, given certain reasonable premises, an infinite number of qualitatively identical but numerically distinct minds exist per functioning brain. The three main premises are (1) mental properties supervene on brain properties; (2) the universe is composed of particles with nonzero extension; and (3) each particle is composed of continuum many point-sized bits of particle-stuff, and these points of particlestuff persist through time.
The physicist J. Richard Gott has given an argument which, if good, allows one to make accurate predictions for the future longevity of a process, based solely on its present age. We show that there are problems with some of the details of Gott's argument, but we defend the core thesis: in many circumstances, the greater the present age of a process, the more likely a longer future duration.
One's inaccuracy for a proposition is defined as the squared difference between the truth value (1 or 0) of the proposition and the credence (or subjective probability, or degree of belief) assigned to the proposition. One should have the epistemic goal of minimizing the expected inaccuracies of one's credences. We show that the method of minimizing expected inaccuracy can be used to solve certain probability problems involving information loss and self-locating beliefs (where a self-locating belief of a temporal part of (...) an individual is a belief about where or when that temporal part is located). We analyze the Sleeping Beauty problem, the duplication version of the Sleeping Beauty problem, and various related problems. (shrink)
It seems improbable that life would exist in a naturalistic universe. But if the universe were spatially infinite, then seemingly improbable events would be expected to happen; life would be expected to exist. It follows that the existence of life provides evidence that the universe is spatially infinite.
Did God create life? Or did life arise via naturalistic processes, along the lines of random mutation and natural selection as suggested by Darwin? Intelligent design proponents attempt to use William Dembski’s design inference to argue that the existence of intelligent life is due to design. I will argue that the design inference is flawed, because it does not take into account the fact that the universe is spatially infinite.
The question of how to interpret spontaneous collapse theories of quantum mechanics is an open one. One issue involves what link one should use to go from wave function talk to talk of ordinary macroscopic objects. Another issue involves whether that link should be taken ontologically seriously. In this paper, I ague that the link should be taken ontologically seriously; I argue against an ontology consisting solely of the wave function. I then consider three possible links: the fuzzy link, the (...) accessible mass density link, and the mass density simpliciter link. I show that the first two links have serious anomalies which render them unacceptable. I show that the mass density simpliciter link, in contrast, is viable. (shrink)
Presentists believe that only presently existing things exist. In a Newtonian framework of three spatial dimensions, for example, presentists would say that all that exists is a three-dimensional spatial manifold, and the events in that manifold change with time. Eternalists, by contrast, believe that past, present, and future things all exist. In the Newtonian framework, eternalists believe in a four-dimensional space-time manifold, where events are scattered throughout this four-dimensional ‘block universe’. It is often thought that presentism is incompatible with time (...) travel. William Godfrey-Smith (1980: 72), for example, says that ‘the metaphysical picture which underlies time travel talk is that of the block universe.’ In an informal survey of philosophers, the predominant answer to my question ‘Is presentism compatible with time travel?’ was ‘No’. Simon Keller and Michael Nelson (2001: 334) also report that this is the common view. I will argue that this common view is incorrect. Speciﬁcally, I will argue that presentism is compatible with some stories that involve closed timelike curves, and that some of these stories are time-travel stories.1 A closed timelike curve is a special case of a causal loop. A causal loop exists when there is a causal chain such that event A causes event B, event B causes event … , where the chain eventually links back to event A. Prima facie, at least, causal loops are compatible with presentism: just have all the events in the loop occur at the same time. A timelike causal connection.. (shrink)
The Carter-Leslie Doomsday argument, as standardly presented, relies on the assumption that you have knowledge of your approximate birth rank. I demonstrate that the Doomsday argument can still be given in a situation where you have no knowledge of your birth rank. This allows one to reply to Bostrom's defense of the Doomsday argument against the refutation based on the idea that your existence makes it more likely that many observers exist.
James Ladyman has argued that constructive empiricism entails modal realism, and that this renders constructive empiricism untenable. We maintain that constructive empiricism is compatible with modal nominalism. Although the central term 'observable' has been analyzed in terms of counterfactuals, and in general counterfactuals do not have objective truth conditions, the property of being observable is not a modal property, and hence there are objective, non-modal facts about what is observable. Both modal nominalism and constructive empiricism require clarification in the face (...) of Ladyman's argument. But we also argue that, even if Ladyman were right that constructive empiricism entails modal realism, this would not be a problem for constructive empiricism. (shrink)
James Ladyman has argued that constructive empiricism entails modal realism, and that this renders constructive empiricism untenable. We maintain that constructive empiricism is compatible with modal nominalism. Although the central term ‘observable’ has been analyzed in terms of counterfactuals, and in general counterfactuals do not have objective truth conditions, the property of being observable is not a modal property, and hence there are objective, non-modal facts about what is observable. Both modal nominalism and constructive empiricism require clarification in the face (...) of Ladyman's argument. But we also argue that, even if Ladyman were right that constructive empiricism entails modal realism, this would not be a problem for constructive empiricism. 1 Introduction 2 Concerning (A) ‘The entire view is stated in modal discourse’ 3 Concerning (B) ‘The central term "observable" is a modal term’ 3.1 A devastating argument? 3.2 Critique of the argument 4 The objectivity of ‘observable’ 4.1 A specific empirical question 4.2 Viewing ourselves as our own measuring instruments 5 Concerning (C) ‘Scientific theories involve irreducible modality’ 6 Serious tension at the motivational level? (shrink)
1. Consider the case of Sleeping Beauty: on Sunday she is put to sleep, and she knows that on Monday experimenters will wake her up, and then put her to sleep with a memory-erasing drug that causes her to forget that waking-up. The researchers will then ﬂip a fair coin; if the result is Heads, they will allow her to continue to sleep, and if the result is Tails, they will wake her up again on Tuesday. Thus, when she is (...) awakened, she will not know whether it is Monday or Tuesday. On Sunday, she assigns probability 1/2 to the proposition H that the coin lands Heads. What probability should she assign to H on Monday, when she wakes up? Adam Elga (2000) argues that the answer is 1/3. As Elga (citing Ned Hall) points out, though, this answer violates Bas van Fraassen’s (1984, 1995a) Reﬂection Principle, which entails that.. (shrink)
I argue that the wave function ontology for quantum mechanics is an undesirable ontology. This ontology holds that the fundamental space in which entities evolve is not three-dimensional, but instead 3N-dimensional, where N is the number of particles standardly thought to exist in three-dimensional space. I show that the state of three-dimensional objects does not supervene on the state of objects in 3N-dimensional space. I also show that the only way to guarantee the existence of the appropriate mental states in (...) the wave function ontology has undesirable metaphysical baggage: either mind/body dualism is true, or circumstances which we take to be logically possible turn out to be logically impossible.While our theory can be extended formally in a logically consistent way by introducing the concept of a wave in a 3N-dimensional space, it is evident that this procedure is not really acceptable in a physical theory... (Bohm 1957, 117). (shrink)
We argue that any superluminal theory Tis empirically equivalent to a non-superluminaltheory T , with thefollowing constraints onT : T preservesthe spacetime intervals between events as entailedby T, T is naturalistic (as longas T is), and all the events which have causesaccording to T also have causes according toT. Tim Maudlin (1996) definesstandard interpretations of quantum mechanicsas interpretations `according to which there wasa unique set of outcomes in Aspect's laboratory,which outcomes occurred at spacelike separation, andMaudlin claims that standard interpretations must (...) benon-local in the sense that there are superluminalinfluences. We show (even assuming Aspect's experimentis ideal) that Maudlin's claim is false. (shrink)
Physicist J. Richard Gott uses the Copernican principle that “we are not special” to make predictions about the future lifetime of the human race, based on how long the human race has been in existence so far. We show that the predictions which can be derived from Gott’s argument are less strong than one might be inclined to believe, that Gott’s argument illegitimately assumes that the human race will not last forever, that certain versions of Gott’s argument are incompatible with (...) Bayesian conditionalization, and that Gott’s argument is self-refuting. (shrink)
Dualistic interpretations attempt to solve the measurement problem of quantum mechanics by postulating the existence of non-physical minds, and by giving a suitable dynamical equation for how these minds evolve. I consider the relative merits of three extant dualistic interpretations (Albert and Loewer’s single-mind and many-minds interpretations, and Squires’ interpretation), and I defend Squires’ interpretation as preferable to the Albert/Loewer interpretations. I also argue that, for all three of these interpretations, the minds evolve independently of the physical universe, (...) and hence render the physical universe otiose; the interpretations are better viewed as supporting not dualism, but mental monism. (shrink)
Peter Lewis () has recently argued that the wavefunction collapse theory of GRW (Ghirardi, Rimini and Weber ) can only solve the problem of wavefunction tails at the expense of predicting that arithmetic does not apply to ordinary macroscopic objects. More specifically, Lewis argues that the GRW theory must violate the enumeration principle: that 'if marble 1 is in the box and marble 2 is in the box and so on through marble n, then all n marbles are in the (...) box' (, p. 321). Ghirardi and Bassi () have replied that it is meaningless to say that the enumeration principle is violated because the wavefunction Lewis uses to exhibit the violation cannot persist, according to the GRW theory, for more than a split second (, p. 709). On the contrary, we argue that Lewis's argument survives Ghirardi and Bassi' s criticism unscathed. We then go on to show that, while the enumeration principle can fail in the GRW theory, the theory itself guarantees that the principle can never be empirically falsified, leaving the applicability of arithmetical reasoning to both micro- and macroscopic objects intact. (shrink)
Ruetsche (1996) has argued that van Fraassen's (1991) Copenhagen Variant of the Modal Interpretation (CVMI) gives unsatisfactory accounts of measurement and of state preparation. I defend the CVMI against Ruetsche's first argument by using decoherence to show that the CVMI does not need to account for the measurement scenario which Ruetsche poses. I then show, however, that there is a problem concerning preparation, and the problem is more serious than the one Ruetsche focuses on. The CVMI makes no substantive predictions (...) for the everyday processes we take to be measurements. (shrink)
This paper addresses the question: how should the traditional doxastic attitude of agnosticism be represented in a Bayesian framework? Bas van Fraassen has one proposal: a Bayesian is agnostic about a proposition if her opinion about the proposition is represented by a probability interval with zero as the lower limit. I argue that van Fraassen's proposal is not adequate. Mark Kaplan claims that this leads to a problem with constructive empiricism; I show that Kaplan's claim is incorrect.