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Profile: Gabriele Contessa (Carleton University)
  1. Gabriele Contessa, Disentangling Scientific Representation.
    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 (...)
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  2. Gabriele Contessa, Scientific Representation, Smilarity and Prediction.
    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 (...)
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  3. Gabriele Contessa (forthcoming). Only Powers Can Confer Dispositions. Philosophical Quarterly.
    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 (...)
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  4. Gabriele Contessa (2014). One's a Crowd: Mereological Nihilism Without Ordinary‐Object Eliminativism. Analytic Philosophy 54 (4):199-221.
    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, (...)
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  5. Gabriele Contessa (2013). Dispositions and Interferences. Philosophical Studies 165 (2):401-419.
    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, (...)
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  6. Gabriele Contessa (2013). Does Your Metaphysics Need Structure? Analysis 73 (4):715-721.
    This paper is part of a book symposium on Theodore Sider's Writing the Book of the World.
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  7. Gabriele Contessa (2012). Do Extrinsic Dispositions Need Extrinsic Causal Bases? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (3):622-638.
    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 (...)
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  8. Gabriele Contessa (2012). Sweet Nothings. Analysis 72 (2):354-366.
    This paper is part of a book symposium on Jody Azzouni's Talking about Nothing: Numbers, Hallucinations, and Fictions.
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  9. Gabriele Contessa (2012). The Junk Argument: Safe Disposal Guidelines for Mereological Universalists. Analysis 72 (3):455-457.
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  10. Gabriele Contessa (2011). Scientific Models and Representation. In Steven French & Juha Saatsi (eds.), The Continuum Companion to the Philosophy of Science. Continuum Press. 120--137.
    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 (...)
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  11. Sheldon Steed, Gabriele Contessa & Nancy Cartwright (2011). Keeping Track of Neurath's Bill: Abstract Concepts, Stock Models, and the Unity of Classical Physics. In Olga Pombo, John Symons & Juan Manuel Torres (eds.), Otto Neurath and the Unity of Science. Kluwer.
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  12. Gabriele Contessa (2010). Empiricist Structuralism, Metaphysical Realism, and the Bridging Problem. Analysis 70 (3):514-524.
    This paper is part of a book symposium on Bas van Fraassen's Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective (OUP, 2010).
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  13. Gabriele Contessa (2010). Introduction. Synthese 172 (2):193-195.
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  14. Gabriele Contessa (2010). Modal Truthmakers and Two Varieties of Actualism. Synthese 174 (3):341 - 353.
    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.
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  15. Gabriele Contessa (2010). Scientific Models and Fictional Objects. Synthese 172 (2):215 - 229.
    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.
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  16. Gabriele Contessa (2009). Review of Bas C. Van Fraassen, Scientific Representation: Paradoxes of Perspective. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (3).
  17. Gabriele Contessa (2009). Who is Afraid of Imaginary Objects? In Nicholas Griffin & Dale Jacquette (eds.), Russell Vs. Meinong: The Legacy of "On Denoting". Routledge.
    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 (...)
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  18. Gabriele Contessa (2008). A Note on the Nomic Possibility of a Dynamic Shift. Erkenntnis 68 (2):187 - 190.
    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.
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  19. Gabriele Contessa (2007). Representing Reality: The Ontology of Scientific Models and Their Representational Function. Dissertation, University of London
    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 (...)
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  20. Gabriele Contessa (2007). Scientific Representation, Interpretation, and Surrogative Reasoning. Philosophy of Science 74 (1):48-68.
    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 (...)
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  21. Gabriele Contessa (2007). There Are Kinds and Kinds of Kinds: Ben-Yami on the Semantics of Kind Terms. Philosophical Studies 136 (2):217-248.
    Hanoch Ben-Yami has argued that the theory of the semantics of natural kind terms proposed by Kripke and Putnam is false and has proposed an allegedly novel account of the semantics of kind terms. In this article, I critically examine Ben-Yami’s arguments. I will argue that Ben-Yami’s objections do not show that Kripke and Putnam’s theory is false, but at most that the specific versions of it held by Kripke and Putnam have some weaknesses. Moreover, I will argue that Ben-Yami’s (...)
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  22. Gabriele Contessa (2006). Constructive Empiricism, Observability, and Three Kinds of Ontological Commitment. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science 37 (4):454–468.
    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 (...)
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  23. Gabriele Contessa (2006). On the Supposed Temporal Asymmetry of Counterfactual Dependence; Or: It Wouldn't Have Taken a Miracle! Dialectica 60 (4):461–473.
    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 (...)
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  24. Gabriele Contessa (2006). Scientific Models, Partial Structures and the New Received View of Theories. [REVIEW] Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 37 (2):370-377.