I am primarily interested in Metaphysics and Philosophy of Language. I am particularly interested in the metaphysics of material objects, space, time, fundamentality, modality and meaning. Below, you will find my CV along with a list of published or soon to be published papers. When available through the publisher, I have linked to online versions of my papers. If you would like to read one of my papers and cannot find a copy through your local library, please feel free to write to me.
Strong Composition as Identity is the thesis that necessarily, for any xs and any y, those xs compose y iff those xs are non-distributively identical to y. Some have argued against this view as follows: if some many things are non-distributively identical to one thing, then what’s true of the many must be true of the one. But since the many are many in number whereas the one is not, the many cannot be identical to the one. Hence is mistaken. Although I am sympathetic to this objection, in this paper, I present two responses on behalf of the theorist. I also show that once the defender of accepts one of these two responses, that defender will be able to answer The Special Composition Question.
“The problem of empty names and Russellian Plenitude“, Canadian Journal of Philosophy (2016)
‘Ahab is a whaler’ and ‘Holmes is a whaler’ express different propositions, even though neither ‘Ahab’ nor ‘Holmes’ has a referent. This seems to constitute a theoretical puzzle for the Russellian view of propositions. In this paper, I develop a variant of the Russellian view, Plenitudinous Russellianism. I claim that ‘Ahab is a whaler’ and ‘Holmes is a whaler’ express distinct gappy propositions. I discuss key metaphysical and semantic differences between Plenitudinous Russellianism and Traditional Russellianism and respond to objections that stem from those differences.
“Two Thoughts on ‘A Tale of Two Parts‘”, Res Philosophica (2014)
In “A Tale of Two Simples,” I presented an argument against the possibility of extended heterogeneous simples that relied on the possibility of extended atomic regions of space. Andrew Jaeger has presented a parody of one part of my argument for a clearly absurd conclusion. In this short paper, I defend my argument by showing that there is a significant disanalogy between my support for a key premise in my argument and Jaeger’s support for the corresponding premise in his parody argument. Also, in opposition to my previous position, I present a case against the possibility of extended atomic regions of space.
“Unnecessary Existents”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy (2014)
Timothy Williamson has argued for the radical conclusion that everything necessarily exists. In this paper, I assume that the conclusion of Williamson’s argument is more incredible than the denial of his premises. Under the assumption that Williamson is mistaken, I argue for the claim that there are some structured propositions which have constituents that might not have existed. If those constituents had not existed, then the propositions would have had an unfilled role; they would have been gappy. This gappy propositions view allows for a plausible response to Williamson’s argument. Additionally, a slight variant of the gappy propositions view allows for plausible defense of Linguistic Ersatzism from the problem of contingent non-existents (also known as the problem of aliens).
“What time travelers cannot not do (but are responsible for anyway)”, Philosophical Studies (2013)
The Principle of Alternative Possibilities is the intuitive idea that someone is morally responsible for an action only if she could have done otherwise. Harry Frankfurt has famously presented putative counterexamples to this intuitive principle. In this paper, I formulate a simple version of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities that invokes a course-grained notion of actions. After warming up with a Frankfurt-Style Counterexample to this principle, I introduce a new kind of counterexample based on the possibility of time travel. At the end of the paper, I formulate a more sophisticated version of the Principle of Alternative Possibilities that invokes a certain fine grained notion of actions. I then explain how this new kind of counterexample can be augmented to show that even the more sophisticated principle is false.
“Composition as Identity and Simplicity”, Erkenntnis (2013)
The General Composition Question asks “what are the necessary and jointly sufficient conditions any xs and any y must satisfy in order for it to be true that those xs compose that y?” Although this question has received little attention, there is an interesting and theoretically fruitful answer. Namely, Strong Composition as Identity (SCAI): Necessarily, for any xs and any y, those xs compose y iff those xs are identical to y. SCAI is theoretically fruitful because if it is true, then there is an answers to one of the most difficult and intractable questions of mereology (The Simple Question). In this paper, I introduce the Identity Account of Simplicity and argue that if SCAI is true then this Identity Account of Simplicity is as well. I consider an objection to The Identity Account of Simplicity. Ultimately, I find this objection unsuccessful.
“Semantic Stipulation and Knowledge De Re” (With Chris Tillman), Topics in Contemporary Philosophy (2012)
Kripke’s discussion in Naming and Necessity strongly suggests that we can come to have de re knowledge simply by reflecting on our acts of semantic stipulation. For example, if we say “Let ‘L’ name the location of the tallest tree in Washington State” then we can come to know that the tallest tree in Washington is at L simply by reflecting on how we introduced the name. We believe that we can have de re thoughts about the location of the tallest tree in Washington as a result of our semantic sipulation. However those thoughts are nothing to worry about because they are informationally isolated.
“All Things Must Pass Away”, Oxford Studies in Metaphysics (2012)
Some people believe that there are some things that are all things. That is, there are some things that are such that any thing whatsoever is among them. However, this is inconsistent with certain liberal metaphysical views. For example, it is inconsistent with the view that for any things, there is a proposition about just those things. In this paper, I discuss the ramifications of this inconsistency.
“Ways of Being”, Philosophy Compass (2012)
Ontological pluralism, the view that there is more than one way of being, is enjoying a revival in contemporary metaphysics. it seems that there are numbers, fictional characters, impossible things, and holes. But, these things don’t exist in the same sense as cars and human beings. If they exist or have being at all, then they have different ways of being. What are ways of being? Why should be believe in them and what should we believe about them? This short essay provides an overview of the recent revival of ways of being and explores some of the surrounding issues.
Typos: Page 913, the two instances of “ways of believing” should be “ways of being”
Musical Materialism is the thesis that musical works are more like material objects than abstract objects. On one way of taking this view, musical works are either fusions of their concrete manifestations (performances) or coincide with those manifestations. Some believe that if Musical Materialism is true, then musical works inherit various problematic features from their concrete manifestations. We disagree.
“A Tale of Two Simples”, Philosophical Studies (2010)
An extended simple is an extended object that has no proper parts. Can an extended simple have intrinsic variation across its surface? In this paper, I argue that extended simples that occupy extended regions that have no proper subregions cannot have intrinsic variation across their surfaces. Moreover, if those simples cannot have intrinsic variations, then neither can extended simple that occupy regions that do have proper subregions.
“Holes as Regions of Spacetime” (with Andrew Wake and Greg Fowler), The Monist (July 2007)
We discuss the view that a hole is identical to the region of spacetime at which it is located. This view is more parsimonious than the view that holes are sui generus entities located at those regions surrounded by their hosts and it is more plausible than the view that there are no holes. We defend the spacetime view from several objections.
“Two Mereological Arguments Against the Possibility of an Omniscient Being”, Philo (Spring/Summer 2006)
Is it possible for there to be an omniscient being? Not if unrestricted composition is true. If unrestricted composition is true, then there are just too many things to know.
“Introduction to Ontology by Nikk Effingham” Teaching Philosophy (2014)
This is a review of Nikk Effingham’s textbook from a pedagogical perspective.
“Talking about Nothing: Numbers, Hallucinations, and Fictions by Jodi Azzouni” Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2011).
This is a review of Jodi Azzouni’s book.
Works in Progress
I did two talks for the Young Philosophers Lecture Series. This is a wonderful lecture series, run by Andrew Cullison at SUNY Fredonia, which is intended to highlight philosophers who have only recently received their PhD. Those who are invited to speak give one research level talk and one introductory level talk. Both talks are then posted on the Young Philosophers webpage. Both of my talks were about time travel and you can view them here.