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Robert Williams
University of Leeds
  1. A Theory of Metaphysical Indeterminacy.Elizabeth Barnes & J. Robert G. Williams - 2011 - In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics volume 6. Oxford University Press. pp. 103-148.
    If the world itself is metaphysically indeterminate in a specified respect, what follows? In this paper, we develop a theory of metaphysical indeterminacy answering this question.
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  2. Decision-Making Under Indeterminacy.J. Robert G. Williams - 2014 - Philosophers' Imprint 14.
    Decisions are made under uncertainty when there are distinct outcomes of a given action, and one is uncertain to which the act will lead. Decisions are made under indeterminacy when there are distinct outcomes of a given action, and it is indeterminate to which the act will lead. This paper develops a theory of (synchronic and diachronic) decision-making under indeterminacy that portrays the rational response to such situations as inconstant. Rational agents have to capriciously and randomly choose how to resolve (...)
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  3. The Cognitive Role of Fictionality.J. Robert G. Williams & Richard Woodward - forthcoming - Wiley: Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  4. Ontic Vagueness and Metaphysical Indeterminacy.J. Robert G. Williams - 2008 - Philosophy Compass 3 (4):763-788.
    Might it be that world itself, independently of what we know about it or how we represent it, is metaphysically indeterminate? This article tackles in turn a series of questions: In what sorts of cases might we posit metaphysical indeterminacy? What is it for a given case of indefiniteness to be 'metaphysical'? How does the phenomenon relate to 'ontic vagueness', the existence of 'vague objects', 'de re indeterminacy' and the like? How might the logic work? Are there reasons for postulating (...)
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  5. Eligibility and Inscrutability.J. Robert G. Williams - 2007 - Philosophical Review 116 (3):361-399.
    Inscrutability arguments threaten to reduce interpretationist metasemantic theories to absurdity. Can we find some way to block the arguments? A highly influential proposal in this regard is David Lewis’ ‘ eligibility ’ response: some theories are better than others, not because they fit the data better, but because they are framed in terms of more natural properties. The purposes of this paper are to outline the nature of the eligibility proposal, making the case that it is not ad hoc, but (...)
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  6. Normative Reference Magnets.J. Robert G. Williams - 2018 - Philosophical Review 127 (1):41-71.
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  7. Defending Conditional Excluded Middle.J. Robert G. Williams - 2010 - Noûs 44 (4):650-668.
    Lewis (1973) gave a short argument against conditional excluded middle, based on his treatment of ‘might’ counterfactuals. Bennett (2003), with much of the recent literature, gives an alternative take on ‘might’ counterfactuals. But Bennett claims the might-argument against CEM still goes through. This turns on a specific claim I call Bennett’s Hypothesis. I argue that independently of issues to do with the proper analysis of might-counterfactuals, Bennett’s Hypothesis is inconsistent with CEM. But Bennett’s Hypothesis is independently objectionable, so we should (...)
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  8. Indeterminate Oughts.J. Robert G. Williams - 2017 - Ethics 127 (3):645-673.
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  9. Illusions of Gunk.J. Robert G. Williams - 2006 - Philosophical Perspectives 20 (1):493–513.
    Worlds where things divide forever ("gunk" worlds) are apparently conceivable. The conceivability of such scenarios has been used as an argument against "nihilist" or "near-nihilist" answers to the special composition question. I argue that the mereological nihilist has the resources to explain away the illusion that gunk is possible.
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  10. Nonclassical Minds and Indeterminate Survival.J. Robert G. Williams - 2014 - Philosophical Review 123 (4):379-428.
    Revisionary theories of logic or truth require revisionary theories of mind. This essay outlines nonclassically based theories of rational belief, desire, and decision making, singling out the supervaluational family for special attention. To see these nonclassical theories of mind in action, this essay examines a debate between David Lewis and Derek Parfit over what matters in survival. Lewis argued that indeterminacy in personal identity allows caring about psychological connectedness and caring about personal identity to amount to the same thing. The (...)
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  11.  7
    The Cognitive Role of Fictionality.J. Robert G. Williams & Richard Woodward - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, EarlyView.
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  12. Gradational Accuracy and Nonclassical Semantics.J. Robert G. Williams - 2012 - Review of Symbolic Logic 5 (4):513-537.
    Joyce (1998) gives an argument for probabilism: the doctrine that rational credences should conform to the axioms of probability. In doing so, he provides a distinctive take on how the normative force of probabilism relates to the injunction to believe what is true. But Joyce presupposes that the truth values of the propositions over which credences are defined are classical. I generalize the core of Joyce’s argument to remove this presupposition. On the same assumptions as Joyce uses, the credences of (...)
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  13. Generalized Probabilism: Dutch Books and Accuracy Domi- Nation.J. Robert G. Williams - 2012 - Journal of Philosophical Logic 41 (5):811-840.
    Jeff Paris proves a generalized Dutch Book theorem. If a belief state is not a generalized probability then one faces ‘sure loss’ books of bets. In Williams I showed that Joyce’s accuracy-domination theorem applies to the same set of generalized probabilities. What is the relationship between these two results? This note shows that both results are easy corollaries of the core result that Paris appeals to in proving his dutch book theorem. We see that every point of accuracy-domination defines a (...)
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  14.  60
    Chances, Counterfactuals, and Similarity.J. Robert G. Williams - 2008 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77 (2):385-420.
    John Hawthorne in a recent paper takes issue with Lewisian accounts of counterfactuals, when relevant laws of nature are chancy. I respond to his arguments on behalf of the Lewisian, and conclude that while some can be rebutted, the case against the original Lewisian account is strong. I develop a neo-Lewisian account of what makes for closeness of worlds. I argue that my revised version avoids Hawthorne's challenges. I argue that this is closer to the spirit of Lewis's first (non-chancy) (...)
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  15. Conversation and Conditionals.J. Robert G. Williams - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 138 (2):211 - 223.
    I outline and motivate a way of implementing a closest world theory of indicatives, appealing to Stalnaker's framework of open conversational possibilities. Stalnakerian conversational dynamics helps us resolve two outstanding puzzles for a such a theory of indicative conditionals. The first puzzle -- concerning so-called 'reverse Sobel sequences' -- can be resolved by conversation dynamics in a theoryneutral way: the explanation works as much for Lewisian counterfactuals as for the account of indicatives developed here. Resolving the second puzzle, by contrast, (...)
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  16. Degree Supervaluational Logic.J. Robert G. Williams - 2011 - Review of Symbolic Logic 4 (1):130-149.
    Supervaluationism is often described as the most popular semantic treatment of indeterminacy. There???s little consensus, however, about how to fill out the bare-bones idea to include a characterization of logical consequence. The paper explores one methodology for choosing between the logics: pick a logic that norms belief as classical consequence is standardly thought to do. The main focus of the paper considers a variant of standard supervaluational, on which we can characterize degrees of determinacy. It applies the methodology above to (...)
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  17. Rational Illogicality.J. Robert G. Williams - 2018 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 96 (1):127-141.
    Many accounts of structural rationality give a special role to logic. This paper reviews the problem case of clear-eyed logical uncertainty. An account of rational norms on belief that does not give a special role to logic is developed: doxastic probabilism.
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  18. The Possibility of Onion Worlds: Rebutting an Argument for Structural Universals.J. Robert G. Williams - 2007 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2):193 – 203.
    Some argue that theories of universals should incorporate structural universals, in order to allow for the metaphysical possibility of worlds of 'infinite descending complexity' ('onion worlds'). I argue that the possibility of such worlds does not establish the need for structural universals. So long as we admit the metaphysical possibility of emergent universals, there is an attractive alternative description of such cases.
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  19. Requirements on Reality.J. Robert G. Williams - 2012 - In Fabrice Correia Benjamin Schnieder (ed.), Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality. Cambridge University Press. pp. 165-185.
    There are advantages to thrift over honest toil. If we can make do without numbers we avoid challenging questions over the metaphysics and epistemology of such entities; and we have a good idea, I think, of what a nominalistic metaphysics should look like. But minimizing ontology brings its own problems; for it seems to lead to error theory— saying that large swathes of common-sense and best science are false. Should recherche philosophical arguments really convince us to give all this up? (...)
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  20. Part‐Intrinsicality.J. Robert G. Williams - 2013 - Noûs 47 (3):431-452.
    In some sense, survival seems to be an intrinsic matter. Whether or not you survive some event seems to depend on what goes on with you yourself —what happens in the environment shouldn’t make a difference. Likewise, being a person at a time seems intrinsic. The principle that survival seems intrinsic is one factor which makes personal fission puzzles so awkward. Fission scenarios present cases where if survival is an intrinsic matter, it appears that an individual could survive twice over. (...)
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  21.  40
    Response to Eklund.Elizabeth Barnes & J. Robert G. Williams - 2011 - In Karen Bennett & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Volume 6. Oxford University Press.
  22.  99
    Representational Scepticism: The Bubble Puzzle.J. Robert G. Williams - 2016 - Philosophical Perspectives 30 (1):419-442.
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  23. Response to Eklund 1.Elizabeth Barnes & J. Robert G. Williams - 2011 - Oxford Studies in Metaphysics 6.
    This chapter defends the account of metaphysical indeterminacy of Barnes and Williams against Eklund's objections.
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  24. Permutations and Foster Problems: Two Puzzles or One?J. Robert G. Williams - 2008 - Ratio 21 (1):91–105.
    How are permutation arguments for the inscrutability of reference to be formulated in the context of a Davidsonian truth-theoretic semantics? Davidson takes these arguments to establish that there are no grounds for favouring a reference scheme that assigns London to “Londres”, rather than one that assigns Sydney to that name. We shall see, however, that it is far from clear whether permutation arguments work when set out in the context of the kind of truth-theoretic semantics which Davidson favours. The principle (...)
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  25. Vagueness as Indecision.J. Robert G. Williams - 2016 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 90 (1):285-309.
    This essay explores the thesis that for vague predicates, uncertainty over whether a borderline instance x of red/large/tall/good is to be understood as practical uncertainty over whether to treat x as red/large/tall/good. Expressivist and quasi-realist treatments of vague predicates due to John MacFarlane and Daniel Elstein provide the stalking-horse. It examines the notion of treating/counting a thing as F , and links a central question about our attitudes to vague predications to normative evaluation of plans to treat a thing as (...)
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  26.  10
    An Argument for the Many.J. Robert G. Williams - 2006 - Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (Paperback) 106 (3):409-417.
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  27. Counterfactual Triviality: A Lewis-Impossibility Result for Counterfactuals.J. Robert G. Williams - 2012 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 85 (3):648-670.
    I formulate a counterfactual version of the notorious ‘Ramsey Test’. Even in a weak form, this makes counterfactuals subject to the very argument that Lewis used to persuade the majority of the philosophical community that indicative conditionals were in hot water. I outline two reactions: to indicativize the debate on counterfactuals; or to counterfactualize the debate on indicatives.
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  28. Counterfactual Desire as Belief.J. Robert G. Williams - manuscript
    Bryne & Hajek (1997) argue that Lewis’s (1988; 1996) objections to identifying desire with belief do not go through if our notion of desire is ‘causalized’ (characterized by causal, rather than evidential, decision theory). I argue that versions of the argument go through on certain assumptions about the formulation of decision theory. There is one version of causal decision theory where the original arguments cannot be formulated—the ‘imaging’ formulation that Joyce (1999) advocates. But I argue this formulation is independently objectionable. (...)
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  29.  66
    Chancy Counterfactuals, Redux.J. Robert G. Williams - 2012 - Analytic Philosophy 53 (4):352-361.
  30.  94
    Tenable Conditionals.J. Robert G. Williams - manuscript
    *This is a project I hope to come back to one day. It stalled, a bit, on the absence of a positive theory of update I could be satisfied with* When should we believe a indicative conditional, and how much confidence in it should we have? Here’s one proposal: one supposes actual the antecedent; and sees under that supposition what credence attaches to the consequent. Thus we suppose that Oswald did not shot Kennedy; and note that under this assumption, Kennedy (...)
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  31.  73
    Incomplete Fictions and Imagination.J. Robert G. Williams - unknown
    *Note that this project is now being developed in joint work with Rich Woodward* -/- Some things are left open by a work of fiction. What colour were the hero’s eyes? How many hairs are on her head? Did the hero get shot in the final scene, or did the jailor complete his journey to redemption and shoot into the air? Are the ghosts that appear real, or a delusion? Where fictions are open or incomplete in this way, we can (...)
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  32.  60
    Supposition and Desire in a Non-Classical Setting.J. Robert G. Williams - unknown
    *These notes were folded into the published paper "Probability and nonclassical logic*. Revising semantics and logic has consequences for the theory of mind. Standard formal treatments of rational belief and desire make classical assumptions. If we are to challenge the presuppositions, we indicate what is kind of theory is going to take their place. Consider probability theory interpreted as an account of ideal partial belief. But if some propositions are neither true nor false, or are half true, or whatever—then it’s (...)
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  33. Chancy Counterfactuals, Redux: Response to Dodd.J. Robert G. Williams - unknown
    Chancy counterfactuals are a headache. Dylan Dodd (2009) presents an interesting argument against a certain general strategy for accounting for them, instances of which are found in the appendices to Lewis (1979) and in Williams (2008). I will argue (i) that Dodd’s understates the counterintuitiveness of the conclusions he can reach; (ii) that the counterintuitiveness can be thought of as an instance of more general oddities arising when we treat vagueness and indeterminacy in a classical setting; and (iii) the underlying (...)
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  34. The Metaphysics of Representation.J. Robert G. Williams - 2020 - Oxford University Press.
    How do thought and language manage to be 'about' aspects of the world? J. Robert G. Williams investigates how representation arises out of a fundamentally non-representational world, showing the explanatory relations between the representational properties of language, of thought, and of perception and intention.
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