If persons, cats and cellphones are not identical to the sums that constitute them, there seems to be a problem with symmetric causal overdetermination: anything the cat causes is also caused by her constitutive sums of microparticles, atoms, molecules, etc. But persons, cats and cellphones are not identical to the sums that constitute them. I argue that the problem of constitutive overdetermination is serious, in particular because of the problem of additivity: if there is constitutive overdetermination, there is a transfer (...) of energy, momentum, or some other conserved quantity from each overdetermining cause to the effect, but each quantity alone is sufficient to bring about the effect. If these conserved quantities are additive, constitutive overdetermination violates the laws. I then argue that constitutive overdetermination is an artifact of a flawed interpretation of the layered model of the world and propose a new interpretation. The argument is developed in the context of a discussion of the relations between objects, but there are obvious connections to debates in philosophy of mind, especially debates concerning mental causation. (shrink)
Among the many philosophers who hold that causal facts1 are to be explained in terms of—or more ambitiously, shown to reduce to—facts about what happens, together with facts about the fundamental laws that govern what happens, the clear favorite is an approach that sees counterfactual dependence as the key to such explanation or reduction. The paradigm examples of causation, so advocates of this approach tell us, are examples in which events c and e—the cause and its effect—both occur, but: had (...) c not occurred, e would not have occurred either. From this starting point ideas proliferate in a vast profusion. But the remarkable disparity among these ideas should not obscure their common foundation. Neither should the diversity of opinion about the prospects for a philosophical analysis of causation obscure their importance. For even those philosophers who see these prospects as dim—perhaps because they suffer post-Quinean queasiness at the thought of any analysis of any concept of interest—can often be heard to say such things as that causal relations among events are somehow “a matter of” the patterns of counterfactual dependence to be found in them. It was not always so. Thirty-odd years ago, so-called “regularity” analyses (so-called, presumably, because they traced back to Hume’s well-known analysis of causation as constant conjunction) ruled the day, with Mackie’s Cement of the Universe embodying a classic statement. But they fell on hard times, both because of internal problems—which we will review in due course—and because dramatic improvements in philosophical understanding of counterfactuals made possible the emergence of a serious and potent rival: a counterfactual analysis of causation resting on foundations firm enough to be repel the kind of philosophical suspicion that had formerly warranted dismissal.. (shrink)
Causation is a deeply intuitive and familiar relation, gripped powerfully by common sense. Or so it seems. But as is typical in philosophy, deep intuitive familiarity has not led to any philosophical account of causation that is at once clean, precise, and widely agreed upon. Not for lack of trying: the last 30 years or so have seen dozens of attempts to provide such an account, and the pace of development is, if anything, accelerating. (See Collins, Hall and Paul 2003a (...) for a comprehensive sampling of the latest work.) It is safe to say that none has yet succeeded. It is also safe to say that the effort put into their development has yielded a wealth of insights into causation. And it is, arguably, from the study of causal preemption—cases that feature multiple competing candidates for the title of “cause” of some given effect—that the greatest such wealth has flowed. These cases come in a number of varieties: so-called early and late preemption, symmetric overdetermination, and trumping preemption. Collectively, they place extremely severe constraints on any philosophical account of causation that can successfully handle them. One of the lessons they have to teach, then, is a lesson about the form that a successful analysis of causation must have. There is a deeper lesson, a lesson about the nature of causation itself, or if you like, about the workings of our causal concept. It emerges from close study of the struggles that extant accounts face in trying to provide even remotely attractive treatments of causal preemption. It is this: There appears to be a significant and perhaps intractable tension between one strand in our thinking about causation—a strand that emphasizes the need for causes to be connected to their effects via intervening processes with the right intrinsic character—and another—one that emphasizes the claim that effects in some sense depend on their causes. By the end of this essay, this tension will be vividly apparent.. (shrink)
A leaf falls to the ground, wafting lazily on the afternoon breeze. Clouds move across the sky, and birds sing. Are these events governed by universal laws of nature, laws that apply everywhere without exception, subsuming events such as the falling of the leaf, the movement of the clouds and the singing of the birds? Are such laws part of a small set of fundamental laws, or descended from such a set, which govern everything there is in the world?
Bundle theory takes objects to be bundles of properties. Some bundle theorists take objects to be bundles of instantiated universals, and some take objects to be bundles of tropes. Tropes are instances of properties: some take instantiated universals to be tropes, while others deny the existence of universals and take tropes to be ontologically fundamental. Historically, the bundling relation has been taken to be a primitive relation, not analyzable in terms of or ontologically reducible to some other relation, and has (...) been variously characterized as, e.g., “compresence,” “concurrence,” or “consubstantiation.” Bertrand Russell (1940) defends compresence of universals, and Hector-Neri Castañeda (1974) defends consubstantiation of universals. John Bacon (1995) defends concurrent tropes and Keith Campbell (1990) defends compresent tropes. Jonathan Schaffer (2001) bucks this trend, endorsing compresence understood as co-location in spacetime, but this brings with it undesireable consequences such as the impossibility of distinguishing between objects (such as electrons or other microentities) with the same location. Mereological bundle theory improves upon traditional bundle theory by taking the primitive relation of bundling to be the more familiar relation of fusing or composing, such that objects are fusions of properties or fusions of property instances. Hence, mereological bundle theorists endorse a property mereology: a mereology where properties or property instances can be parts of objects. An advantage of the approach derives from the fact that standard mereologies take composition to be primitive or define it using a different primitive mereological notion (such as primitive parthood). Thus, taking the basic primitive of bundle theory to be composition can reduce the need for.. (shrink)
It seems natural to choose whether to have a child by reflecting on what it would be like to have one. I argue that choosing on this basis is not rational, raising general questions about our ordinary conception of how to make this life-changing decision.
I explore some of the ways that assumptions about the nature of substance shape metaphysical debates about the structure of Reality. Assumptions about the priority of substance play a role in an argument for monism, are embedded in certain pluralist metaphysical treatments of laws of nature, and are central to discussions of substantivalism and relationalism. I will then argue that we should reject such assumptions and collapse the categorical distinction between substance and property.
Critics of contemporary metaphysics argue that it attempts to do the hard work of science from the ease of the armchair. Physics, not metaphysics, tells us about the fundamental facts of the world, and empirical psychology is best placed to reveal the content of our concepts about the world. Exploring and understanding the world through metaphysical reflection is obsolete. In this paper, I will show why this critique of metaphysics fails, arguing that metaphysical methods used to make claims about the (...) world are similar to scientific methods used to make claims about the world, but that the subjects of metaphysics are not the subjects of science. Those who argue that metaphysics uses a problematic methodology to make claims about subjects better covered by natural science get the situation exactly the wrong way around: metaphysics has a distinctive subject matter, not a distinctive methodology. The questions metaphysicians address are different from those of scientists, but the methods employed to develop and select theories are similar. In the first section of the paper, I will describe the sort of subject matter that metaphysics tends to engage with. In the second section of the paper, I will show how metaphysical theories are classes of models and discuss the roles of experience, common sense and thought experiments in the construction and evaluation of such models. Finally, in the last section I will discuss the way these methodological points help us to understand the metaphysical project. Getting the right account of the metaphysical method allows us to better understand the relationship between science and metaphysics, to explain why doing metaphysics successfully involves having a range of different theories (instead of consensus on a single theory), to understand the role of thought experiments involving fictional worlds, and to situate metaphysical realism in a scientifically realist context. (shrink)
Recent work in philosophy could benefit from paying greater attention to empirical results from cognitive science involving judgments about the nature of our ordinary experience. This paper describes the way that experimental and theoretical results about the nature of ordinary judgments could—and should—inform certain sorts of enquiries in contemporary philosophy, using metaphysics as an exemplar, and hence defines a new way for experimental philosophy and cognitive science to contribute to traditional philosophical debates.
The question I want to explore is whether experience supports an antireductionist ontology of time, that is, whether we should take it to support an ontology that includes a primitive, monadic property of nowness responsible for the special feel of events in the present, and a relation of passage that events instantiate in virtue of literally passing from the future, to the present, and then into the past.
Consider a statue made of a piece of clay. Call the statue “Statue” and the piece of clay “Clay.” Clay materially constitutes Statue. What is this relation? A standard way to ask this question is to ask whether Clay is strictly identical to Statue. Or is Clay numerically distinct from Statue? The more general way to ask the question is to ask what it means for an object to materially constitute another. Is constitution simply identity? If not, what are the (...) features of this relation? Some contemporary metaphysicians argue that material constitution is simply identity. In other words, when Statue is materially constituted by Clay, Statue just is Clay.1 Fine 2003 calls this view monism. Others follow the lead of what seem to be intuitive judgments about the natures, essences and sorts of objects and defend pluralism about material constitution, denying that constitution is identity. When Clay materially constitutes Statue, Clay is not identical to Statue.2 After all, it seems as though Statue and Clay differ in their properties. Statue is essentially statue-shaped, but Clay is not. Clay could be shaped into a vase, but Statue would not persist through this change. Statue represents beauty and grace incarnate. Clay does not. Clay has its molecules essentially, while Statue could persist even if a few fragments were chipped off. If Statue and Clay do not share all of their properties they cannot be identical, for if a and b are the same object, a has exactly the same properties as b.3 Why be monist? Given the difference in properties, isn’t it just obvious that Statue cannot be identical to Clay? No, for monists can deny there are any real differences in essence or other properties. According to the monist, the seeming differences in essential and other properties are just differences in description. Statue is just Clay called by a.. (shrink)
If an object has a property essentially, it has that property in every possible world according to which it exists.2 If an object has a property accidentally, it does not have that property in every possible world according to which it exists. Claims about an object’s essential or accidental properties are de re modal claims, and essential and accidental properties are de re modal properties. Take an object’s modal profile to specify its essential properties and the range of its accidental (...) properties. Note that “world” as I am using it is a term of art: a modal realist believes that there are many concrete worlds, while the actualist believes in only one concrete world, the actual world. The ersatzist is an actualist who takes nonactual possible worlds and their contents to be abstracta. Essentialism is the view that objects have properties essentially, but one should distinguish deep essentialism from shallow essentialism. Deep essentialists take the (nontrivial) essential properties of an object to determine its nature— such properties give sense to the idea that an object has a unique and distinctive character, and make it the case that an object has to be a certain way in order for it to be at all.3 As Stephen Yablo (1987, 297) describes it, the essence of a thing is “an assortment of properties in virtue of which it is the entity in question,” as well as “a measure of what is required for it to be that thing.” Intuitively, on the deep essentialist picture, an ordinary object has essential properties, and it must have its essential properties in order for it to exist. On this view, objects’ essential properties are absolute, i.e., are not determined by contexts of describing (or thinking, etc.) about the object, and truths about such properties are absolute truths.4 Shallow essentialists oppose deep essentialists: they reject the view that objects can be said to have essential properties independently of contexts of description or evaluation, and so substitute context-dependent truths for the deep essentialist’s context-independent ones.. (shrink)
I address two related questions: first, what is the best theory of how objects have de re modal properties? Second, what is the best defense of essentialism given the variability of our modal intuitions? I critically discuss several theories of how objects have their de re modal properties and address the most threatening antiessentialist objection to essentialism: the variability of our modal intuitions. Drawing on linguistic treatments of vagueness and ambiguity, I show how essentialists can accommodate the variability of modal (...) intuitions while holding that objects have their modal properties independently of contexts. (shrink)
While skiing, Suzy falls and breaks her right wrist. The next day, she writes a philosophy paper. Her right wrist is broken, so she writes her paper using her left hand. (Assume, as seems plausible, that she isn’t dexterous enough to write it any other way, e.g., with her right foot.) She writes the paper, sends it off to a journal, and it is subsequently published. Is Suzy’s accident a cause of the publication of the paper?2 Of course not. Below, (...) I will show that none of the major contenders for a theory of events coupled with a theory of causation succeeds against examples like that of Suzy’s accident, and that the reason for this derives from an underlying tension between our beliefs about events and our goals for theories of causation. I will then argue that property instances should be taken, in the first instance, as the causal relata, and propose an analysis of causation that I call aspect causation. (shrink)
Counterfactual analyses of causation can provide elegant analyses of many cases of causation. However, they fail to give intuitively correct analyses of cases involving a commonplace variety of late preemptive causation. I argue that a small emendation can solve the problem.
In response to counterexamples involving late preemption, David Lewis (1986) revised his original (1973) counterfactual analysis of causation to include the notion of quasi-dependence. Jonardon Ganeri, Paul Noordhof and Murali Ramachandran (1998) argue that their ‘PCA*-analysis’ of causation solves the problem of late preemption and is superior to Lewis’s analysis. I show that neither quasi-dependence nor the PCA*-analysis solves the problem of late preemption.
Quentin Smith has argued that the new tenseless theory of time is faced with insurmountable problems and should be abandoned in favour of the tensed theory of time. Smith;s main argument attacks the fundamental premise of the tenseless theory: that tenseless truth conditions for tokens of tensed sentences adequately capture the meaning of tensed sentences. His position is that tenseless truth conditions cannot explain the logical relations between tensed sentences, thus the tensed theory must be accepted. Against Smith, this paper (...) adopts an alternative approach to the explanation of the entailment relations between sentences which contain indexicals. The approach drops the reliance upon tokens and instead relies on the evaluation of sentence types with respect to a context rather than upon actual or possible utterances of tokens of the types. This (new) version of the tenseless theory of time can adequately explain the relevant entailment relations between tensed sentences. (shrink)