Research

Publications

Artifactualization without Physical Modification,” Res Philosophica, forthcoming.

Artifacts and Mind-Dependence,” Synthese, (2021): https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-021-03204-6.

Function Essentialism about Artifacts,” Philosophical Studies, (2021): https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-020-01594-w.

Good ‘Cat’, Bad ‘Act’,” Philosophia, vol. 49 no. 3 (2021): 1007-1019.

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 the reference of artifact kind terms
I defend a hybrid causal-descriptivist version of the reference for artifact kind terms. Reference for artifact kind terms functions analogously to natural kind terms like ‘water’. I defend the standard Kripke-Putnam account by showing that we just need an account of artifact essences, which in turn secures the indexicality and rigidity of artifact kind terms like ‘chair’. I reject arguments from Irene Olivero and Diego Marconi that no such essences can be found. I then rebut hybrid descriptivist challenges in the form of the qua-problem from Amie Thomasson, and argue that while some descriptive content is needed to fix the reference of our kind terms, whether natural or artifactual, it doesn’t involve any analytic entailments between the description associated with the term and its referent.

A paper on the realism/antirealism debate about artifact kinds
I explore the realism/antirealism debate about artifact kinds and the various realist proposals for the essential natures of artifacts and artifact kinds given by Elder, Lowe, Soavi, and Franssen and Kroes, among others. I argue that realist approaches to artifacts are misguided and privilege metaphysical principles over our actual artifact practices resulting in unacceptably revisionary accounts of artifacts and artifact kinds. I argue that the fundamental realist assumptions, in particular about mind-dependence, should be rejected as mind-dependence isn’t metaphysically problematic. Accounts of natural kinds are being inappropriately foisted wholesale onto artifacts, yielding these revisionary and unintuitive accounts. Instead, I propose a different methodological approach that takes our artifact practices as a starting point, including their mind-dependence, and argue that an account of artifacts should be developed from there.

A paper on the social dimensions of artifacts and artifact kinds
I explore the distinctive ways that ordinary artifacts like chairs, salad forks, and cellphones involve a particular kind of social or group mind-dependence by building on previous suggestions by Dipert, Thomasson, and Scheele. I combine these insights into a disjunctive account of artifact mind-dependence whereby they can either depend on the singular intentions of their makers or they can also depend on the collective acceptance of a social group and the concomitant social norms such groups establish. I then argue that each disjunct applies to individual artifacts rather than artifact kinds by appeal to Robinson Crusoe cases and rebut several objections before suggesting what properties the dependence relations for each disjunct exhibit. I thereby develop an account of the mind-dependence of artifacts that is distinctly social but still maintains a principled difference between artifacts and institutional kinds like money or marriage.

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.

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.