Causation is at once familiar and mysterious. Neither common sense nor extensive philosophical debate has led us to anything like agreement on the correct analysis of the concept of causation, or an account of the metaphysical nature of the causal relation. Causation: A User's Guide cuts a clear path through this confusing but vital landscape. L. A. Paul and Ned Hall guide the reader through the most important philosophical treatments of causation, negotiating the terrain by taking a set of examples (...) as landmarks. They clarify the central themes of the debate about causation, and cover questions about causation involving omissions or absences, preemption and other species of redundant causation, and the possibility that causation is not transitive. Along the way, Paul and Hall examine several contemporary proposals for analyzing the nature of causation and assess their merits and overall methodological cogency.The book is designed to be of value both to trained specialists and those coming to the problem of causation for the first time. It provides the reader with a broad and sophisticated view of the metaphysics of the causal relation. (shrink)
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.
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 Exploring and understanding the world through metaphysical reflection is obsolete.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, to understand the role of thought experiments involving fictional worlds, and to situate metaphysical realism in a scientifically realist context. (shrink)
It seems natural to choose whether to have a child by reflecting on what it would be like to actually have a child. I argue that this natural approach fails. If you choose to become a parent, and your choice is based on projections about what you think it would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. If you choose to remain childless, and your choice is based upon projections about what you think it (...) would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. This suggests we should reject our ordinary conception of how to make this life-changing decision, and raises general questions about how to rationally approach important life choices. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the spatiotemporalist approach way of modeling the fundamental constituents, structure, and composition of the world has taken a wrong turn. Spatiotemporalist approaches to fundamental structure take the fundamental nature of the world to be spatiotemporal: they take the category of spatiotemporal to be fundamental. I argue that the debates over the nature of the fundamental space in the physics show us that (i) the fact that it is conceivable that the manifest world could be (...) exactly as it appears to us, even though spatiotemporal entities are not fundamental, means that a central premise of spatiotemporalism, that we may assume, given ordinary experience, that the world is fundamentally spatiotemporal, is false. (ii) Spatiotemporalism must be seen as a contingent, a posteriori physical truth. Finally, (iii) I argue that a metaphysically deeper conclusion follows from the debate over the nature of the fundamental space. The debate in physics over which sort of space is the fundamental space suggests that physicists have discovered that, even if a spacetime is an actual constituent of the world-space category, there is a world-space category that is more fundamental than the category of spacetime. (shrink)
I defend a one category ontology: an ontology that denies that we need more than one fundamental category to support the ontological structure of the world. Categorical fundamentality is understood in terms of the metaphysically prior, as that in which everything else in the world consists. One category ontologies are deeply appealing, because their ontological simplicity gives them an unmatched elegance and spareness. I’m a fan of a one category ontology that collapses the distinction between particular and property, replacing it (...) with a single fundamental category of intrinsic characters or qualities. We may describe the qualities as qualitative charactersor as modes, perhaps on the model of Aristotelian qualitative (nonsubstantial) kinds, and I will use the term “properties” interchangeably with “qualities”. The qualities are repeatable and reasonably sparse, although, as I discuss in section 2.6, there are empirical reasons that may suggest, depending on one’s preferred fundamental physical theory, that they include irreducibly intensive qualities. There are no uninstantiated qualities. I also assume that the fundamental qualitative natures are intrinsic, although physics may ultimately suggest that some of them are extrinsic. On my view, matter, concrete objects, abstract objects, and perhaps even spacetime are constructed from mereological fusions of qualities, so the world is simply a vast mixture of qualities, including polyadic properties (i.e., relations). This means that everything there is, including concrete objects like persons or stars, is a quality, a qualitative fusion, or a portion of the extended qualitative fusion that is the worldwhole. I call my view mereological bundle theory. (shrink)
I argue that we can understand the de se by employing the subjective mode of presentation or, if one’s ontology permits it, by defending an abundant ontology of perspectival personal properties or facts. I do this in the context of a discussion of Cappelen and Dever’s recent criticisms of the de se. Then, I discuss the distinctive role of the first personal perspective in discussions about empathy, rational deference, and self-understanding, and develop a way to frame the problem of lacking (...) prospective access to your future self as a problem with your capacity to imaginatively empathize with your future selves. (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. (shrink)
In “What you can’t expect when you’re expecting,” I argue that, if you don’t know what it’s like to be a parent, you cannot make this decision rationally—at least, not if your decision is based on what you think it would be like for you to become a parent. My argument hinges on the idea that becoming a parent is a transformative experience. This unique type of experience often transforms people in a deep and personal sense, and in the process, (...) changes their preferences. In section 1, I will explain transformative experience in terms of radical first-personal epistemic and self change. In section 2, I’ll explain the notion of subjective value that I use to develop the decision problem. In section 3, I will discuss the way we ordinarily combine our introspective assessments with testimony and evidence. In section 4, I will discuss the problems for rational decision-making. In section 5, I will explore the problem of first-personally transformed future selves. In section 6, I will engage with the main themes and arguments and ideas of the authors of the papers contributed to this volume. (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 defence 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)
The self can be understood in objective metaphysical terms as a bundle of properties, as a substance, or as some other kind of entity on our metaphysical list of what there is. Such an approach explores the metaphysical nature of the self when regarded from a suitably impersonal, ontological perspective. It explores the nature and structure of the self in objective reality, that is, the nature and structure of the self from without. This is the objective self. I am taking (...) a different approach. In addition to objective reality, which is usually understood and explored from an impersonal, quasi-observational and metaphysically realist perspective, we can also explore the nature and structure of subjective reality. The nature and structure of subjective reality is defined by the nature and structure of first-personal, conscious experience. Subjective reality is as real as objective reality, and a metaphysical realist such as myself can endorse the existence of both kinds of ontology. The mental states that, as experienced from the first-personal or subjective perspective, capture the nature and structure of subjective reality, are included in objective reality. The questions to explore in a subjective ontology of the self concern the nature and structure of the self from the first-personal or subjective perspective, that is, the nature and structure of the self from within. This is the subjective self. (shrink)
A commitment to truth requires that you are open to receiving new evidence, even if that evidence contradicts your current beliefs. You should be open to changing your mind. However, this truism gives rise to the paradox of empathy. The paradox arises with the possibility of mental corruption through transformative change, and has consequences for how we should understand tolerance, disagreement, and the ability to have an open mind. I close with a discussion of how understanding this paradox provides a (...) new explanation for a certain kind of standoff between the believer and the skeptic with regard to religious belief. (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.
I summarize the main argument of Transformative Experience (OUP 2014). The book develops familiar examples from classical philosophical debates, as well as original examples, to argue that an agent’s decision to undergo a transformative experience—an experience constituted by radical personal and epistemic change for the agent—must either be authentic or irrational, but not both. The Precis of Transformative Experience walks the reader through the main ideas involved in epistemically and personally transformative experiences, the problems they pose for rational decision-making, and (...) discusses a number of key original examples of transformative experiences. (shrink)
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.
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)
Our best philosophical and scientific pictures of the world organize material objects into a hierarchy or levels or layers- microparticles at the bottom, molecules, cells, and persons at higher layers. Are objects at higher layers identical to the sums of objects at lower layers that constitute them? (Note that this question is different from the question of whether composition- as opposed to constitution- is identity.).
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.
The debate over the temporal arrow is a debate over what fundamental ontology is needed for the temporal asymmetry of the universe, which determines the fact that time seems to be oriented or directed from earlier to later. This temporal asymmetry underlies (or, as some might argue, is the same as) the asymmetrical fact that the past is fixed while the future is open, as well as the global asymmetries of counterfactual, causal and agential direction. I explore the metaphysics of (...) the temporal direction within the context of empirical work in psychology and cognitive science. I argue that, in our debate over the metaphysics of the temporal arrow, we need to explore some of the deep connections between our cognitive response to the world and our metaphysical theory of the temporal direction. (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)
This chapter presents an opinionated account of how to understand the contributions of experience, especially with respect to the role of cognitive science, in developing and assessing metaphysical theories of reality. I develop a methodological basis for the idea that, independently of work in experimental philosophy focused on explications of concepts, contemporary metaphysical theories with a role for experiential evidence can be fruitfully connected to empirical work in psychology, especially cognitive science. My argument is not that cognitive science should replace (...) the metaphysician’s use of a priori theorizing and ordinary experience as a guide to metaphysical reality. Rather, we should enrich our perspective on a priori theorizing and ordinary experience as a guide to metaphysical reality by drawing on any relevant work in cognitive science. (shrink)
Contemporary social-scientific research seeks to identify specific causal mechanisms for outcomes of theoretical interest. Experiments that randomize populations to treatment and control conditions are the “gold standard” for causal inference. We identify, describe, and analyze the problem posed by transformative treatments. Such treatments radically change treated individuals in a way that creates a mismatch in populations, but this mismatch is not empirically detectable at the level of counterfactual dependence. In such cases, the identification of causal pathways is underdetermined in a (...) previously unrecognized way. Moreover, if the treatment is indeed transformative it breaks the inferential structure of the experimental design. Transformative treatments are not curiosities or “corner cases,” but are plausible mechanisms in a large class of events of theoretical interest, particularly ones where deliberate randomization is impractical and quasi-experimental designs are sought instead. They cast long-running debates about treatment and selection effects in a new light, and raise new methodological challenges. (shrink)
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.
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?
In 1976, Hilary Putnam set forth his model-theoretic argument, claiming that it showed that the semantic realist’s program1 was ‘unintelligible’, since it implied, contra the realist view, that reference is radically indeterminate. Although I find the conclusion that reference is indeterminate unattractive, I argue that the descriptivist position needs to be supplemented with a premise about the sorts of kinds or structure that our world includes. The need for this premise gives a counterintuitive result: the descriptivist account of reference makes (...) the very possibility of determinate reference contingent upon the kinds that happen to make up the world. The need for this premise paves the way towards a new kind of skepticism about what we may and may not assume about the nature of the world. (shrink)
There are, by now, many rival, sophisticated philosophical accounts of causation that qualify as ‘metaphysically reductive’. This is a good thing: these collective efforts have vastly improved our understanding of causation over the last 30 years or so. They also put us in an excellent position to reflect on some central methodological questions: What exactly is the point of offering a metaphysical reduction of causation? What philosophical scruples ought to guide the pursuit of such a reduction? Finally, how should answers (...) to these latter questions affect one’s assessment of the main contemporary approaches? That’s what we investigate in this essay. Section 1 lays out our presuppositions. Section 2 reviews a sample of philosophical accounts. Then comes the main event: Section 3 looks in detail at the foregoing methodological questions, closing with a reconsideration of our sample accounts, in light of what we’ve found. (shrink)
Phenomenal character is the what-it's-likeness of subjective experience. I develop an ontology of phenomenal feel as process. My being in some phenomenal state R is the process of my instantiating R’s neurological correlate. The ontology explains why we have asymmetric epistemic access to phenomenal characters: the ontological ground for the subjective or first-personal stance is different from the ontological ground for the objective or third-personal stance. I end by situating my account in debates about physicalism.
I claim that Mill has a theory of poetry which he uses to reconcile nineteenth century associationist psychology, the tendency of the intellect to dissolve associations, and the need for educated members of society to desire utilitarian ends. The heart of the argument is that Mill thinks reading poetry encourages us to feel the feelings of others, and thus to develop pleasurable associations with the pleasurable feelings of others and painful associations with the painful feelings of others. Once the associations (...) are developed, they are supported and maintained by our natural capacity for sympathy and by external elements in society, and provide motivation for the pursuit of utilitarian ends. Further, the additional support causes the associations to be strengthened to the extent that they come to be seen as ‘natural and necessary’, and as such are immune from the dissolving force of the intellect. (shrink)