"On Stage With Gunk" Australasian Journal of Philosophy (Forthcoming)
"A Reason for the Non-Specialist to Care about the Metaphysics of Properties and Persistence" Inquiry. (2018) 61.2: 162-177.
We have compelling extra-philosophical reasons for caring about identity, parthood, and location. For example, we desire ceteris paribus that nothing every part of which is very near to our location be very near to the location of something dangerous, evil, or otherwise unpleasant. This essay argues that such considerations are relevant to certain first-order metaphysical debates, namely, the debates over immanent universals and tropes and endurantism and perdurantism, respectively. As a consequence, even the non-specialist has a reason to care about the metaphysics of properties and persistence.
"Bent, Not Broken: Why Exemplification Simpliciter Remains a Problem for Eternalist Endurantism" Erkenntnis. (2017) 82.5: 947-966.
One premise in David Lewis's well-known argument from temporary intrinsic properties in favor of temporal parts is the (putative) intuition that material objects exemplify such properties simpliciter, that is, without qualification. The argument has spawned a large critical literature, with commentators questioning the simplicity premise's motivation, content, dialectical force, and status as an intuition. The present essay has two chief goals: to provide a novel framework for clarifying Lewis's simpliciter premise and to explain how the resulting clarification upends a wide range of attempts in the literature to evade his conclusion. Central to both goals is the observation that exemplification simpliciter best comports with our most fundamental notion of property exemplification, a notion that applies equally well to material and atemporal abstract objects.
"Indiscernibility Does Not Distinguish Particularity" Thought. (2016) 5.4: 249-256.
According to the indiscernibility characterization of the distinction between particulars and universals, only and all the former have possible numerically distinct indiscernible intrinsic qualitative duplicates. It is argued here that both the sufficiency and the necessity directions are defective and that indiscernibility thus does not distinguish particularity. Against sufficiency: universals may lack intrinsic qualitative character and thus be trivially indiscernible from one another. Against necessity: pluralities of duplicate-less entities are at once duplicate-less and particular.
"Moving Parts: A New Indexical Treatment of Context-Shifting Predication" Synthese. (2016) 193.1: 95-124.
A context-shifting example involves a putatively non-ambiguous, non-elliptical, non-indexical declarative sentence, some distinct utterances of which differ in truth value despite sameness of place, time, surrounding objects, and other physical factors. Charles Travis has spawned a large literature by arguing that such examples undermine compositional truth-conditional semantics. After explaining how prior responses to Travis's examples fail in the metaphysical details, the present essay develops a new approach that treats a wide range of subject terms as disguised indexicals sensitive to mereological structure.
"A Topological Theory of Fundamental Concrete Particulars" Philosophical Studies. (2015) 172.10: 2679-2704.
Fundamental concrete particulars are needed to explain facts about non-fundamental concrete particulars. However, the former can only play this explanatory role if they are properly discernible from the latter. Extant theories of how to discern fundamental concreta primarily concern mereological structure. Those according to which fundamental concreta can bear, but not be, proper parts are motivated by the possibilities that all concreta bear proper parts (mereological 'gunk') and that some properties of wholes are not fixed by the properties of their proper parts ('emergence'). In response, theorists who hold that the fundamental concrete particulars can be proper parts may appeal to the possibility that every concrete particular is a proper part: that there is no mereologically maximal whole world (mereological 'junk'), as well as to the intuition that fundamental concreta are qualitatively homogeneous "blocks" from which non-fundamental concreta are built. After motivating the plausibility of gunk and junk, the present essay proposes a constraint on fundamental concrete particulars based on topology instead of mereology: the fundamental concrete particulars must be appropriately connected. This constraint has the unique advantage of consistency with each of gunk, emergence, junk, and the building block intuition.
"Junky Non-Worlds" (2015) Erkenntnis. 80.2: 437-443.
A mereological structure is junky if and only if each of its elements is a proper part of some other. The young literature on junk has focused on junky worlds and whether they are counterexamples to unrestricted composition. The present note defends the possibility of junky structures that are not worlds. This possibility complicates a recent attempt in the literature to render junk consistent with a weakened form of unrestricted composition. The upshot is that junky non-worlds threaten the weakened form of unrestricted composition as much as junky worlds threaten the traditional version.
"Is Mereology a Guide to Conceivability?" (2015) Mind. 124:121-146.
Zombies are unconscious objects with conscious physical micro-duplicates. If zombies are possible then physicalism (the thesis that the physical determines the mental) is false. It has been argued that zombies are possible if conceivable for an agent with ideal rationality. At any rate, they are possible only if so conceivable. This essay uses a mereological constraint to highlight the fine-grained differences between actually conscious physical objects and certain of their actually consciousness-incapable proper parts. These mereological considerations form the basis of an argument by dilemma that zombies are inconceivable. Either an arbitrary actually conscious object might have had simpler consciousness-capable parts (and more complex consciousness-incapable parts) than it in fact has, or not. The affirmative horn leads to a version of panpsychism that is inconsistent with the ideal conceivability of zombies. The negative horn rules out zombies as incoherent. The upshot is a new reason to deny the conceivability of zombies.
"Passing Through: Why Intrinsic-to-a-Time Endurantism Should Not Persist" (2014) Analytic Philosophy. 55: 1. 89-101
According to the traditional way of understanding debates in the metaphysics of persistence, perdurantists hold that persisting material objects have temporal proper parts while endurantists hold that they do not. Several theorists recently have suggested in opposition to this traditional picture that endurantism be understood as the thesis that the identity of a persisting object x is intrinsic to each of the times at which x is present. It is argued here that unless this non-traditional version of endurantism entails a certain haecceitist element, it is subject to counterexample from the metaphysical possibility that two qualitatively identical material objects "pass through" one another during some portion of their respective careers. It is argued further that the suggested version of endurantism does not mix well with haecceitism and that consequently it is best resisted.
"Tropes In Space" (2014) Philosophical Studies. 167.2: 453-472.
Tropes are particular features of concrete objects. Properties--the extensions of predicates--are primitive resemblance classes of tropes. Friends of tropes have been criticized for failing to answer three questions. First, are there fundamental items other than tropes? Second, what criteria determine whether some tropes are all and only the features of some one object? Third, can trope classes be formed adequately using only primitive resemblance? Trading on the spatiotemporal status of tropes, this essay offers new responses to each of these questions. The novel thesis is that there is a sui generis property called 'markedness', whose tropes "mark" certain locations in an ontologically basic way. The spatiotemporal distribution of markedness tropes fixes the distribution of familiar characterizing tropes like mass and charge, and characterizing tropes are bundled by being co-contained in the location of a maximally connected markedness trope. This novel theory of trope bundling is defended by appeal to theoretical utility: it is ontologically parsimonious and solves outstanding problems involving co-location and resemblance class construction.
"Against Zero-Dimensional Material Objects (And Other Bare Particulars)" (2012) Philosophical Studies. 160.2: 305-321
A modus tollens against zero-dimensional material objects is presented from the premises (i) that if there are zero-dimensional material objects then there are bare particulars, and (ii) that there are no bare particulars. The argument for the first premise proceeds by elimination. First, bare particular theory and bundle theory are motivated as the most appealing theories of property exemplification. It is then argued that the bundle theorist's Ockhamism ought to lead her to reject spatiotemporally located zero-dimensional property instances. Finally, it is argued that since she must accept such instances if she accepts zero-dimensional material object bundles, she ought to avoid the latter. This leaves bare particular theory as the default view of zero-dimensional material objects. The argument for the second premise invokes the thesis that the exemplification of at least one sparse property is a prerequisite for the existence of any particular. It is argued from Humean considerations that bare particulars fail this prerequisite.
"T-Gunk and Exact Occupation" (2012) American Philosophical Quarterly. 49.2: 165-174.
An object is T-gunky just in case all its parts (i) have proper parts and (ii) are of non-zero measure in every spatial dimension. I show that a recent argument due to Hud Hudson--though not intended as a threat to gunk--bears on the possibility of T-gunky material objects in non-gunky space. I then show that the friend of T-gunk can circumvent Hudson's argument without abandoning pointy space or standard mereology. What is needed is a novel conception of the relation of exact occupation of pointy regions by T-gunky objects. With the new conception in hand, the friend of material T-gunk need not look to theories of gunky spacetime in order to reconcile the possibility of material gunk with mathematical physics.
"Who They Are and What De Se: Burge on Quasi-Memory" (2009) Philosophical Studies. 144: 297-311.
Tyler Burge has recently argued that quasi-memory-based psychological reductionist accounts of diachronic personal identity are deeply problematic. According to Burge, these accounts either fail to include appropriately de se elements or presuppose facts about diachronic personal identity--facts of the very kind that the accounts are supposed to explain. Neither of these objections is compelling. The first is based in confusion about the version of reductionism to which it putatively applies. The second loses its force when we recognize that reductionism is a metaphysical thesis, not an epistemological one.