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?
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.
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.
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.
‘‘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).
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.
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 (...) by substantive principles of metaphysical grounding. So I articulate a form of physicalism — “ground physicalism” — on which the physical grounds the chemical, the biological, and the psychological, and explain how ground physicalism resolves explanatory gap worries. (shrink)
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 (...) in one conversational context but false in another. This purported fact about people’s intuitions serves as one of the main pieces of evidence for epistemic contextualism. (shrink)
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 (...) implicit question. I will conclude that knowledge is a question-relative state. Knowing is knowing the answer, and whether one knows the answer depends (in part) on the question. (shrink)
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), (...) and Buckwalter (2010)--which cast doubt on folk stakes sensitivity, and a second wave of empirical studies--due to Pinillos (2012) and Sripada & Stanley (2012)--said to vindicate it, as well as new studies of our own. We conclude that the balance of evidence to date best supports Folk stakes insensitivity, or that all else equal, stakes do not affect knowledge ascription. (shrink)
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.
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.
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.
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. (...) The contrastivist says that knowledge is a ternary, contrastive relation: s knows that p rather than q. (shrink)
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) (...) belief. (shrink)
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.
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 (...) unified underlying reality. (shrink)
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 (...) for the subject. There is no substitute for the contextualist semantics. (shrink)
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.
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 (...) teleological view of nature. (shrink)
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 (...) what is fundamental. So I conclude that truthmaker commitments are not a rival to quantifier commitments, but a needed complement. The quantifier commitments are what a theory says exists, while the truthmaker commitments are what a theory says is fundamental. (shrink)
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 (...) parallel debate over the role of worlds. Let contingentism be the view (parallel to temporalism) that sides with Kaplan in maintaining world neutral propositions with world relative truth values, and let necessitarianism be the view (parallel to eternalism) that propositions specify the needed world information and so bear the same truth value at all worlds. This is the story of how the debate between the contingentists and the necessitarians might begin. (shrink)
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).
ABSTRACTNatural language semantics is heir to two formalisms. There is the extensional machinery of explicit variables traditionally used to model reference to individuals, and the intensional machinery of implicit index parameters traditionally used to model reference to worlds and times. I propose instead a simple and unified extensional formalism – explicit semantics – on which all sentences include explicit individual, world and time variables. No implicit index parameters are needed.
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.
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.
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.
Knowledge ascriptions are contrast-sensitive. One natural explanation for this is that the knowledge relation is contrastive ( s knows that p rather than q ). But can the binary view of knowledge ( s knows that p ) explain contrast-sensitivity? I review some of the linguistic data supporting contrast-sensitivity, and critique the three main binary explanations for contrast-sensitivity. I conclude that the contrast-sensitivity of knowledge ascriptions shows that knowledge is a contrastive relation.
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 (...) among them. (shrink)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Truth and Ontology is a lively book, brimming with arguments, and drawing the reader towards the radical conclusion that what is true does not depend on what there is. If there is a central line of argument, it is that the best account of truthmaking requires truths to be about their truthmakers, but negative existentials, modals, and claims about the past and future are not about what is, but rather about what is not, what might be, and what was and (...) will be. (shrink)
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 (...) a way to integrate social construction claims into a general metaphysics, while accounting for the inferential connections between social construction and attendant notions such as dependence and explanation. So I conclude that a grounding framework can be helpful for feminist metaphysics and social ontology. (shrink)
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 (...) in this paper is to determine what causes persistence judgments. Across four studies, we pit normative considerations against teleological considerations. And using causal modeling procedures, we find a consistent, robust pattern with teleological and not normative considerations directly causing persistence judgments. Our findings put teleology in the driver’s seat, while at the same time shedding further light on our folk notion of an object. (shrink)
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 (...) to, and where they are sensitive to it. (shrink)
In Ordinary Objects, Thomasson pursues an integrated conception of ontology and metaontology. In ontology, she defends the existence of shoes, ships, and other ordinary objects. In metaontology, she defends a deflationary view of ontological inquiry, designed to suck the air out of arguments against ordinary objects. The result is an elegant and insightful defense of a common sense worldview. I am sympathetic—in spirit if not always in letter—with Thomasson’s ontology. But I am skeptical of her deflationary metaontology.
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.
A tropel is a particular property: the redness of a rose, the roundness of the moon. It is generally supposed that tropes are individuated by primitive quantity: this redness, that roundness. I argme that the trope theorist is far better served by individuating tropes by spatiotemporal relation: here redness, there roundness. In short, tropes are not this-suches but here-suches.
Much of the extant discussion focuses on the question of whether contextualism resolves skeptical paradoxes. Understandably. Yet there has been less discussion as to the internal structure of contextualist theories. Regrettably. Here, for instance, are two questions that could stand further discussion: (i) what is the linguistic basis for contextualism and (ii) what is the parameter that shifts with context?
In "Knowing the Answer" I argued that knowledge-wh is question-relative. For example, to know when the movie starts is to know the answer p to the question Q of when the movie starts. Berit Brogaard and Jesper Kallestrup have each responded with insightful critiques of my argument, and novel accounts of knowledge-wh. I am grateful to them both for continuing the discussion in so thoughtful a way.