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Jonathan Schaffer
Rutgers University - New Brunswick
  1. Monism: The Priority of the Whole.Jonathan Schaffer - 2010 - Philosophical Review 119 (1):31-76.
    Consider a circle and a pair of its semicircles. Which is prior, the whole or its parts? Are the semicircles dependent abstractions from their whole, or is the circle a derivative construction from its parts? Now in place of the circle consider the entire cosmos (the ultimate concrete whole), and in place of the pair of semicircles consider the myriad particles (the ultimate concrete parts). Which if either is ultimately prior, the one ultimate whole or its many ultimate parts?
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  2. On What Grounds What.Jonathan Schaffer - 2009 - In David Manley, David J. Chalmers & Ryan Wasserman (eds.), Metametaphysics: New Essays on the Foundations of Ontology. Oxford University Press. pp. 347-383.
    On the now dominant Quinean view, metaphysics is about what there is. Metaphysics so conceived is concerned with such questions as whether properties exist, whether meanings exist, and whether numbers exist. I will argue for the revival of a more traditional Aristotelian view, on which metaphysics is about what grounds what. Metaphysics so revived does not bother asking whether properties, meanings, and numbers exist (of course they do!) The question is whether or not they are fundamental.
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  3. Grounding in the Image of Causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (1):49-100.
    Grounding is often glossed as metaphysical causation, yet no current theory of grounding looks remotely like a plausible treatment of causation. I propose to take the analogy between grounding and causation seriously, by providing an account of grounding in the image of causation, on the template of structural equation models for causation.
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  4. Grounding, Transitivity, and Contrastivity.Jonathan Schaffer - 2012 - In Fabrice Correia & Benjamin Schnieder (eds.), Metaphysical Grounding: Understanding the Structure of Reality. Cambridge University Press. pp. 122-138.
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  5. Is There a Fundamental Level?Jonathan Schaffer - 2003 - Noûs 37 (3):498–517.
    ‘‘Thus I believe that there is no part of matter which is not—I do not say divisible—but actually divided; and consequently the least particle ought to be considered as a world full of an infinity of different creatures.’’ (Leibniz, letter to Foucher).
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  6. The Least Discerning and Most Promiscuous Truthmaker.Jonathan Schaffer - 2010 - Philosophical Quarterly 60 (239):307 - 324.
    I argue that the one and only truthmaker is the world. This view can be seen as arisingfrom (i) the view that truthmaking is a relation of grounding holding between true propositions and fundamental entities, together with (ii) the view that the world is the one and only fundamental entity. I argue that this view provides an elegant and economical account of the truthmakers, while solving the problem of negative existentials, in a way that proves ontologically revealing.
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    Quantum holism: nonseparability as common ground.Jenann Ismael & Jonathan Schaffer - 2020 - Synthese 197 (10):4131-4160.
    Quantum mechanics seems to portray nature as nonseparable, in the sense that it allows spatiotemporally separated entities to have states that cannot be fully specified without reference to each other. This is often said to implicate some form of “holism.” We aim to clarify what this means, and why this seems plausible. Our core idea is that the best explanation for nonseparability is a “common ground” explanation, which casts nonseparable entities in a holistic light, as scattered reflections of a more (...)
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  8. Contrastive Causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2005 - Philosophical Review 114 (3):327-358.
    Causation is widely assumed to be a binary relation: c causes e. I will argue that causation is a quaternary, contrastive relation: c rather than C* causes e rather than E*, where C* and E* are nonempty sets of contrast events. Or at least, I will argue that treating causation as contrastive helps resolve some paradoxes.
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  9. Folk Mereology is Teleological.David Rose & Jonathan Schaffer - 2017 - Noûs 51 (2):238-270.
    When do the folk think that mereological composition occurs? Many metaphysicians have wanted a view of composition that fits with folk intuitions, and yet there has been little agreement about what the folk intuit. We aim to put the tools of experimental philosophy to constructive use. Our studies suggest that folk mereology is teleological: people tend to intuit that composition occurs when the result serves a purpose. We thus conclude that metaphysicians should dismiss folk intuitions, as tied into a benighted (...)
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  10. What Not to Multiply Without Necessity.Jonathan Schaffer - 2015 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (4):644-664.
    The Razor commands us not to multiply entities without necessity. I argue for an alternative principle—The Laser—which commands us not to multiply fundamental entities without necessity.
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  11. The Ground Between the Gaps.Jonathan Schaffer - 2017 - Philosophers' Imprint 17.
    According to a line of thought tracing from Descartes, Leibniz, and Locke through to Kripke, Levine, and Chalmers, there is a special explanatory gap arising between the physical and the phenomenal. I argue that the physical-phenomenal gap is not special but rather that such gaps are pervasive, lurking in the transition from the physical to the chemical and in every concrete transition from more to less fundamental. Correlatively, I argue that such gaps are unproblematic, so long as they are bridged (...)
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  12. Knowledge, Stakes, and Mistakes.Wesley Buckwalter & Jonathan Schaffer - 2015 - Noûs 49 (2):201–234.
    According to a prominent claim in recent epistemology, people are less likely to ascribe knowledge to a high stakes subject for whom the practical consequences of error are severe, than to a low stakes subject for whom the practical consequences of error are slight. We offer an opinionated "state of the art" on experimental research about the role of stakes in knowledge judgments. We draw on a first wave of empirical studies--due to Feltz & Zarpentine (2010), May et al (2010), (...)
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  13. Contrastive Knowledge Surveyed.Jonathan Schaffer & Joshua Knobe - 2012 - Noûs 46 (4):675-708.
    Suppose that Ann says, “Keith knows that the bank will be open tomorrow.” Her audience may well agree. Her knowledge ascription may seem true. But now suppose that Ben—in a different context—also says “Keith knows that the bank will be open tomorrow.” His audience may well disagree. His knowledge ascription may seem false. Indeed, a number of philosophers have claimed that people’s intuitions about knowledge ascriptions are context sensitive, in the sense that the very same knowledge ascription can seem true (...)
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  14. Knowing the Answer.Jonathan Schaffer - 2007 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (2):383-403.
    How should one understand knowledge-wh ascriptions? That is, how should one understand claims such as ‘‘I know where the car is parked,’’ which feature an interrogative complement? The received view is that knowledge-wh reduces to knowledge that p, where p happens to be the answer to the question Q denoted by the wh-clause. I will argue that knowledge-wh includes the question—to know-wh is to know that p, as the answer to Q. I will then argue that knowledge-that includes a contextually (...)
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  15. Spacetime the One Substance.Jonathan Schaffer - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 145 (1):131 - 148.
    What is the relation between material objects and spacetime regions? Supposing that spacetime regions are one sort of substance, there remains the question of whether or not material objects are a second sort of substance. This is the question of dualistic versus monistic substantivalism. I will defend the monistic view. In particular, I will maintain that material objects should be identified with spacetime regions. There is the spacetime manifold, and the fundamental properties are pinned directly to it.
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  16. The Internal Relatedness of All Things.J. Schaffer - 2010 - Mind 119 (474):341-376.
    The argument from internal relatedness was one of the major nineteenth century neo-Hegelian arguments for monism. This argument has been misunderstood, and may even be sound. The argument, as I reconstruct it, proceeds in two stages: first, it is argued that all things are internally related in ways that render them interdependent; second, the substantial unity of the whole universe is inferred from the interdependence of all of its parts. The guiding idea behind the argument is that failure of free (...)
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  17. Epistemic Comparativism: A Contextualist Semantics for Knowledge Ascriptions.Jonathan Schaffer & Zoltan Gendler Szabo - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 168 (2):491-543.
    Knowledge ascriptions seem context sensitive. Yet it is widely thought that epistemic contextualism does not have a plausible semantic implementation. We aim to overcome this concern by articulating and defending an explicit contextualist semantics for ‘know,’ which integrates a fairly orthodox contextualist conception of knowledge as the elimination of the relevant alternatives, with a fairly orthodox “Amherst” semantics for A-quantification over a contextually variable domain of situations. Whatever problems epistemic contextualism might face, lack of an orthodox semantic implementation is not (...)
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  18. From Contextualism to Contrastivism.Jonathan Schaffer - 2004 - Philosophical Studies 119 (1-2):73-104.
    Contextualism treats ‘knows’ as an indexical that denotes different epistemic properties in different contexts. Contrastivism treats ‘knows’ as denoting a ternary relation with a slot for a contrast proposition. I will argue that contrastivism resolves the main philosophical problems of contextualism, by employing a better linguistic model. Contextualist insights are best understood by contrastivist theory.
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  19. Deterministic Chance?J. Schaffer - 2007 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 58 (2):113-140.
    Can there be deterministic chance? That is, can there be objective chance values other than 0 or 1, in a deterministic world? I will argue that the answer is no. In a deterministic world, the only function that can play the role of chance is one that outputs just Os and 1s. The role of chance involves connections from chance to credence, possibility, time, intrinsicness, lawhood, and causation. These connections do not allow for deterministic chance.
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  20. From Nihilism to Monism.Jonathan Schaffer - 2007 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2):175 – 191.
    Mereological nihilism is the view that all concrete objects are simple. Existence monism is the view that the only concrete object is one big simple: the world. I will argue that nihilism culminates in monism. The nihilist demands the simplest sufficient ontology, and the monist delivers it.
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  21. Knowledge Entails Dispositional Belief.David Rose & Jonathan Schaffer - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 166 (S1):19-50.
    Knowledge is widely thought to entail belief. But Radford has claimed to offer a counterexample: the case of the unconfident examinee. And Myers-Schulz and Schwitzgebel have claimed empirical vindication of Radford. We argue, in defense of orthodoxy, that the unconfident examinee does indeed have belief, in the epistemically relevant sense of dispositional belief. We buttress this with empirical results showing that when the dispositional conception of belief is specifically elicited, people’s intuitions then conform with the view that knowledge entails (dispositional) (...)
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  22. Contrastive Knowledge.Jonathan Schaffer - 2005 - In Tamar Szabo Gendler & John Hawthorne (eds.), Oxford Studies in Epistemology 1. Oxford University Press. pp. 235.
    Does G. E. Moore know that he has hands? Yes, says the dogmatist: Moore’s hands are right before his eyes. No, says the skeptic: for all Moore knows he could be a brain-in-a-vat. Yes and no, says the contrastivist: yes, Moore knows that he has hands rather than stumps; but no, Moore does not know that he has hands rather than vat-images of hands. The dogmatist and the skeptic suppose that knowledge is a binary, categorical relation: s knows that p. (...)
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  23. Quantum Holism: Nonseparability as Common Ground.Jenann Ismael & Jonathan Schaffer - manuscript
    Quantum mechanics seems to portray nature as nonseparable, in the sense that it allows spatiotemporally separated entities to have states that cannot be fully specified without reference to each other. This is often said to implicate some form of “holism.” We aim to clarify what this means, and why this seems plausible. Our core idea is that the best explanation for nonseparability is a “common ground” explanation, which casts nonseparable entities in a holistic light, as scattered reflections of a more (...)
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  24. Quiddistic Knowledge.Jonathan Schaffer - 2005 - Philosophical Studies 123 (1-2):1-32.
    Is the relation between properties and the causal powers they confer necessary, or contingent? Necessary, says Sydney Shoemaker, on pain of skepticism about the properties. Contingent, says David Lewis, swallowing the skeptical conclusion. I shall argue that Lewis is right about the metaphysics, but that Shoemaker and Lewis are wrong about the epistemology. Properties have intrinsic natures (quiddities), which we can know.
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    Cause Without Default.Thomas Blanchard & Jonathan Schaffer - 2017 - In Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock & Huw Price (eds.), Making a Difference. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 175-214.
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  26. Derivative Properties in Fundamental Laws.Michael Townsen Hicks & Jonathan Schaffer - 2017 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 68 (2).
    Orthodoxy has it that only metaphysically elite properties can be invoked in scientifically elite laws. We argue that this claim does not fit scientific practice. An examination of candidate scientifically elite laws like Newton’s F = ma reveals properties invoked that are irreversibly defined and thus metaphysically non-elite by the lights of the surrounding theory: Newtonian acceleration is irreversibly defined as the second derivative of position, and Newtonian resultant force is irreversibly defined as the sum of the component forces. We (...)
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  27. Laws for Metaphysical Explanation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2017 - Philosophical Issues 27 (1):302-321.
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  28. Necessitarian Propositions.Jonathan Schaffer - 2012 - Synthese 189 (1):119-162.
    Kaplan (drawing on Montague and Prior, inter alia) made explicit the idea of world and time neutral propositions, which bear truth values only relative to world and time parameters. There was then a debate over the role of time. Temporalists sided with Kaplan in maintaining time neutral propositions with time relative truth values, while eternalists claimed that all propositions specify the needed time information and so bear the same truth value at all times. But there never was much of a (...)
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  29. Social Construction as Grounding; Or: Fundamentality for Feminists, a Reply to Barnes and Mikkola.Jonathan Schaffer - 2017 - Philosophical Studies 174 (10):2449-2465.
    Feminist metaphysics is guided by the insight that gender is socially constructed, yet the metaphysics behind social construction remains obscure. Barnes and Mikkola charge that current metaphysical frameworks—including my grounding framework—are hostile to feminist metaphysics. I argue that not only is a grounding framework hospitable to feminist metaphysics, but also that a grounding framework can help shed light on the metaphysics behind social construction. By treating social construction claims as grounding claims, the feminist metaphysician and the social ontologist both gain (...)
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  30. Monism.Jonathan Schaffer - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    This entry focuses on two of the more historically important monisms: existence monism and priority monism . Existence monism targets concrete objects and counts by tokens. This is the doctrine that exactly one concrete object exists. Priority monism also targets concrete objects, but counts by basic tokens. This is the doctrine that exactly one concrete object is basic, which will turn out to be the classical doctrine that the whole is prior to its parts.
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  31. Truthmaker Commitments.Jonathan Schaffer - 2008 - Philosophical Studies 141 (1):7-19.
    On the truthmaker view of ontological commitment [Heil (From an ontological point of view, 2003); Armstrong (Truth and truthmakers, 2004); Cameron (Philosophical Studies, 2008)], a theory is committed to the entities needed in the world for the theory to be made true. I argue that this view puts truthmaking to the wrong task. None of the leading accounts of truthmaking—via necessitation, supervenience, or grounding—can provide a viable measure of ontological commitment. But the grounding account does provide a needed constraint on (...)
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  32. The Irrelevance of the Subject: Against Subject-Sensitive Invariantism.Jonathan Schaffer - 2006 - Philosophical Studies 127 (1):87-107.
    Does what you know depend on what is at stake for you? That is, is the knowledge relation sensitive to the subject’s practical interests? Subject sensitive invariantists (Fantl and McGrath, 2002; Hawthorne, 2004, ch. 4; Stanley, forthcoming) say that the answer is yes. They claim to capture the contextualist data without the shifty semantics. I will argue that the answer is no. The knowledge relation is sensitive to what is in question for the attributor, rather than what is at stake (...)
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  33. Causation by Disconnection.Jonathan Schaffer - 2000 - Philosophy of Science 67 (2):285-300.
    The physical and/or intrinsic connection approach to causation has become prominent in the recent literature, with Salmon, Dowe, Menzies, and Armstrong among its leading proponents. I show that there is a type of causation, causation by disconnection, with no physical or intrinsic connection between cause and effect. Only Hume-style conditions approaches and hybrid conditions-connections approaches appear to be able to handle causation by disconnection. Some Hume-style, extrinsic, absence-relating, necessary and/or sufficient condition component of the causal relation proves to be needed.
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  34. Folk Teleology Drives Persistence Judgments.David Rose, Jonathan Schaffer & Kevin Tobia - forthcoming - Synthese:1-19.
    Two separate research programs have revealed two different factors that feature in our judgments of whether some entity persists. One program—inspired by Knobe—has found that normative considerations affect persistence judgments. For instance, people are more inclined to view a thing as persisting when the changes it undergoes lead to improvements. The other program—inspired by Kelemen—has found that teleological considerations affect persistence judgments. For instance, people are more inclined to view a thing as persisting when it preserves its purpose. Our goal (...)
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  35. Causes Need Not Be Physically Connected to Their Effects: The Case for Negative Causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2004 - In Christopher Read Hitchcock (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Science. Blackwell. pp. 197--216.
    Negative causation occurs when an absence serves as cause, effect, or causal intermediary. Negative causation is genuine causation, or so I shall argue. It involves no physical connection between cause and effect. Thus causes need not be physically connected to their effects.
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  36. Overdetermining Causes.Jonathan Schaffer - 2003 - Philosophical Studies 114 (1-2):23 - 45.
    When two rocks shatter the window at once, what causes the window to shatter? Is the throwing of each individual rock a cause of the window shattering, or are the throwings only causes collectively? This question bears on the analysis of causation, and the metaphysics of macro-causation. I argue that the throwing of each individual rock is a cause of the window shattering, and generally that individual overdeterminers are causes.
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    Anchoring as Grounding: On Epstein’s the Ant Trap.Jonathan Schaffer - 2019 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 99 (3):749-767.
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, Volume 99, Issue 3, Page 749-767, November 2019.
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  38. Perspective in Taste Predicates and Epistemic Modals.Jonathan Schaffer - 2009 - In Andy Egan & B. Weatherson (eds.), Epistemic Modality. Oxford University Press.
    Imagine that Ann, asked to name her favorite treat, answers: 1. Licorice is tasty Imagine that Ben, having hidden some licorice in the cupboard, whispers to Ann: 2. There might be licorice in the cupboard. What if any role is played by perspective—whom the licorice is tasty to, whose evidence allows for licorice in the cupboard—in the semantics of such sentences?
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  39. Closure, Contrast, and Answer.Jonathan Schaffer - 2007 - Philosophical Studies 133 (2):233-255.
    How should the contrastivist formulate closure? That is, given that knowledge is a ternary contrastive state Kspq (s knows that p rather than q), how does this state extend under entailment? In what follows, I will identify adequacy conditions for closure, criticize the extant invariantist and contextualist closure schemas, and provide a contrastive schema based on the idea of extending answers. I will conclude that only the contrastivist can adequately formulate closure.
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  40. Counterfactuals, Causal Independence and Conceptual Circularity.Jonathan Schaffer - 2004 - Analysis 64 (4):299–308.
    David Lewis’s semantics for counterfactuals remains the standard view. Yet counter-examples have emerged, which suggest a need to invoke causal independence, and thus threaten conceptual circularity. I will review some of these counter-examples (§§1–2), illustrate how causal independence proves useful (§3), and suggest that any resulting circularity is unproblematic (§4).
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  41. Trumping Preemption.Jonathan Schaffer - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):165-181.
    Extant counterfactual accounts of causation (CACs) still cannot handle preemptive causation. I describe a new variety of preemption, defend its possibility, and use it to show the inadequacy of extant CACs. Imagine that it is a law of nature that the first spell cast on a given day match the enchantment that midnight.
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  42. The Action of the Whole.Jonathan Schaffer - 2013 - Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 87 (1):67-87.
    I discuss an argument for the monistic idea that the cosmos is the one and only fundamental thing, drawing on the idea that the cosmos is the one and only thing that evolves by the fundamental laws.
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  43. Skepticism, Contextualism, and Discrimination.Jonathan Schaffer - 2004 - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 69 (1):138 - 155.
    The skeptic says that "knowledge" is an absolute term, whereas the contextualist says that 'knowledge" is a relationally absolute term. Which is the better hypothesis about "knowledge"? And what implications do these hypotheses about "knowledge" have for knowledge? I argue that the skeptic has the better hypothesis about "knowledge", but that both hypotheses about "knowledge" have deeply anti-skeptical implications for knowledge, since both presuppose our capacity for epistemically salient discrimination.
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  44. The Metaphysics of Causation.Jonathan Schaffer - 2008 - Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
    Questions about the metaphysics of causation may be usefully divided as follows. First, there are questions about the nature of the causal relata, including (1.1) whether they are in spacetime immanence), (1.2) how fine grained they are individuation), and (1.3) how many there are adicity). Second, there are questions about the metaphysics of the causal relation, including (2.1) what is the difference between causally related and causally unrelated sequences connection), (2.2) what is the difference between sequences related as cause to (...)
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  45. Causal Contextualisms.Jonathan Schaffer - 2012 - In Martijn Blaauw (ed.), Contrastivism in Philosophy: New Perspectives. Routledge.
    Causal claims are context sensitive. According to the old orthodoxy (Mackie 1974, Lewis 1986, inter alia), the context sensitivity of causal claims is all due to conversational pragmatics. According to the new contextualists (Hitchcock 1996, Woodward 2003, Maslen 2004, Menzies 2004, Schaffer 2005, and Hall ms), at least some of the context sensitivity of causal claims is semantic in nature. I want to discuss the prospects for causal contextualism, by asking why causal claims are context sensitive, what they are sensitive (...)
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  46. The Debasing Demon.J. Schaffer - 2010 - Analysis 70 (2):228-237.
    What knowledge is imperilled by sceptical doubt? That is, what range of beliefs may be called into doubt by sceptical nightmares like the Cartesian demon hypothesis? It is generally thought that demons have limited powers, perhaps only threatening a posteriori knowledge of the external world, but at any rate not threatening principles like the cogito. I will argue that there is a demon – the debasing demon – with unlimited powers, which threatens universal doubt. Rather than deceiving us with falsities, (...)
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  47. Knowledge in the Image of Assertion.Jonathan Schaffer - 2008 - Philosophical Issues 18 (1):1-19.
    How must knowledge be formed, if made in the image of assertion? That is, given that knowledge plays the normative role of governing what one may assert, what can be inferred about the structure of the knowledge relation from this role? I will argue that what one may assert is sensitive to the question under discussion, and conclude that what one knows must be relative to a question. In short, knowledge in the image of assertion is question-relative knowledge.
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  48. Disconnection and Responsibility.Jonathan Schaffer - 2012 - Legal Theory 18 (4):399-435.
    Michael Moore’s Causation and Responsibility offers an integrated conception of the law, morality, and metaphysics, centered on the notion of causation, grounded in a detailed knowledge of case law, and supported on every point by cogent argument. This is outstanding work. It is a worthy successor to Harte and Honoré’s classic Causation in the Law, and I expect that it will guide discussion for many years to come.
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  49. Causation and Laws of Nature : Reductionism.Jonathon Schaffer - 2008 - In Theodore Sider, John Hawthorne & Dean W. Zimmerman (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Metaphysics. Blackwell. pp. 82-107.
    Causation and the laws of nature are nothing over and above the pattern of events, just like a movie is nothing over and above the sequence of frames. Or so I will argue. The position I will argue for is broadly inspired by Hume and Lewis, and may be expressed in the slogan: what must be, must be grounded in what is.
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  50.  37
    Trumping Preemption.Jonathan Schaffer - 2000 - Journal of Philosophy 97 (4):165.
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