Research

Publications

Relativity and the Causal Efficacy of Abstract Objects,” American Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 57, no. 3 (2020): 269-282.

Abstract Objects, Causal Efficacy, and Causal Exclusion,” Erkenntnis, vol. 83, no. 4 (2018): 805-827.

Reviews

Review of Joshua Mozersky, Time, Language, and Ontology: The World from the B-theoretic Perspective” Dialogue, vol. 55 no. 3 (September, 2016): 574-576. 

Works in Progress/Under Review (*)

Drafts available upon request.

A paper on artworks, artifacts, and physical modification*
I argue that (1) artworks are necessarily artifacts because (2) artifacts can be created through appropriation—they need not be the result of physical modification. This shows that standard counterexamples to (1) such as a piece of driftwood being moved from a beach to an art gallery without otherwise being altered is in fact an artifact and also an artwork.

A paper on function essentialism about artifacts*
I explicitly formulate function essentialism about artifacts, the view that artifacts are essentially functional objects and that artifact kinds are united by a shared function. I offer counterexamples to both component claims of function essentialism and consider—and reject—various ways of resisting them. I then consider a weaker version of function essentialism that restricts its scope to so-called technical artifacts, but argue that this renders the view trivial and uninteresting. Thus, while function is often central to determining both whether something is an artifact and what artifact kind a thing belongs to, in neither case is this essential.

A paper which raises a puzzle about what it takes to be a token of a given word or musical work-type*
I consider three intuitive claims about tokens of certain types such as words and works of music: (1) that to be a token requires having certain intrinsic properties constitutive of the type, (2) that to be a token requires being produced in the right sort of way, and (3) that some tokens can be malformed or improper tokens of their respective types. I then argue that the combination of (1) and (3), as adopted by Julian Dodd and Nicholas Wolterstorff, leads to naturally produced tokens which are proper tokens of some types and simultaneously improper tokens of many others. I argue that biting the bullet in such a case leads to some implausible and unintuitive consequences, so Dodd and Wolterstorff need to reject either (1) or (3). I argue that on balance, rejecting (1) in favour of (2) and (3) is the best course of action since it respects our intuitions that such types and their tokens are artifacts.

A paper which explores the difficulties of fitting the claim that abstracta are causally efficacious into our existing theories of causation
I assume the increasingly common view that abstract objects are causally efficacious and then ask what theory of causation could accommodate such an unorthodox claim. I consider energy transfer and connection/process accounts, counterfactual theories, causal primitivism, causation by abstracta as a kind of sui generis causation, and causal pluralism. In all cases, substantial and often controversial commitments are required. While I don’t offer a knockdown argument against the causal efficacy of abstracta, I show how the view doesn’t sit easily with any account of causation. The defender of the causal efficacy of abstracta needs to recognize such commitments, which count as a cost of the view, and decide which theoretical burdens they would be willing to bear. I argue that they should either adopt causal pluralism or some version of the counterfactual theory or alternatively that they should construe causation by abstracta as a kind of formal, rather than efficient, causation, thereby avoiding the burdens altogether.

A paper on the nature and role of intuitions in philosophy
Recent discussion in epistemology has questioned the role of intuitions in philosophical practice. Two distinct questions arise: what are intuitions and are intuitions evidence in philosophy? Earlenbaugh and Molyneux have argued that intuitions are inclinations to believe and that they are not used as evidence in philosophy. Recently, Climenhaga has raised an objection to their no-evidence view by arguing that several features of philosophical practice can only best be explained by taking intuitions to be evidence. I respond to Climenhaga’s objections by showing how the no-evidence theorists can account for these features at least as well as the evidence theorist can. The explanations I advance rely on taking intuitions to be inclinations to believe. Thus, I show how the no-evidence view can respond to Climenhaga’s objections and suggest that if one favours the no-evidence view, then one has reason to construe intuitions as inclinations to believe.

Dissertation

My dissertation explores the nature of artifacts – things like chairs, tables, and pinball machines – and addresses the question of whether there is anything essential to being an artifact and a member of a particular artifact kind. My dissertation offers new arguments against both the anti-essentialist and current essentialist proposals. Roughly put, the view is that artifacts are successful products of an intention to make something with certain features constitutive of an artifact kind. The constitutive features are often functional features, but may include structural, material, aesthetic, historical, or other features. I further explore the ways in which artifacts are mind-dependent and I argue that this dependence is disjunctive. Not only do they depend on the singular intentions of their makers, but they often also depend on social groups or public norms. Thus, there is an important social dimension to being an artifact. I also explore the question of what makes a kind an artifact kind, in what ways artifacts are normative, and how artifact kind terms refer.