Recent Publications

Here you can find out about the latest research from members of the department.

Permanent Faculty

André Ariew

Walsh, D.M., Ariew, A., Matthen, M. (2017), "Four Pillars of Statisticalism", Philosophy, Theory, and Practice in Biology, Vol. 9(1), pp. 1-18.

Ariew, A., Rice, C., Rohwer, Y. (2015), "Autonomous Statistical Explanations and Natural Selection”, British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 66 (3), pp. 605-634.

Kenny Boyce

Title: In Defense of Proper Functionalism: Cognitive Science Takes on Swampman
Publication Information: Coauthored with Andrew Moon.  Forthcoming in Synthese

Abstract:  According to proper functionalist theories of warrant, a belief is warranted only if it is formed by cognitive faculties that are properly functioning according to a good, truth-aimed design plan, one that is often thought to be specified either by intentional design or by natural selection. A formidable challenge to proper functionalist theories is the Swampman objection, according to which there are scenarios involving creatures who have warranted beliefs but whose cognitive faculties are not properly functioning, or are poorly designed, or are not aimed at truth. In this paper, we draw lessons from cognitive science in order to develop a novel argument for the conclusion that the Swampman objection fails against proper functionalist theories of warrant. Our argument not only shows that the underlying, central intuition motivating Swampman-like scenarios is false but also motivates proper function as a necessary condition for warrant, thereby lending support to the claim that any theory of knowledge that lacks a proper function requirement is false.

Link to Penultimate Draft:

Online First:

Title: Multi-Peer Disagreement and the Preface Paradox
Publication Information: Coauthored with Allan Hazlett.  Ratio, 29, 2016, pp. 29-41.

Abstract: The problem of multi-peer disagreement concerns the reasonable response to a situation in which you believe P1 … Pn and disagree with a group of ‘epistemic peers’ of yours, who believe ~P1 … ~Pn, respectively. However, the problem of multi-peer disagreement is a variant on the preface paradox; because of this (pace van Inwagen) the problem poses no challenge to the so-called ‘steadfast view’ in the epistemology of disagreement, on which it is sometimes reasonable to believe P in the face of peer disagreement about P. After some terminology is defined (§1), van Inwagen’s challenge to the steadfast view will be presented (§2). The preface paradox will then be presented and diagnosed (§3), and it will be argued that van Inwagen’s challenge relies on the same principle that generates the preface paradox (§4). The reasonable response to multi-peer disagreement will be discussed (§5), and an objection addressed (§6).

Link to Penultimate Draft:

Published version:

Marina Folescu

Thinking About Different Nonexistents Of The Same Kind. (2015). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Online first DOI: 10.1111/phpr.12196.

Abstract: How is it that, as fiction readers, we are nonplussed by J. K Rowling's prescription to imagine Ronan, Bane, and Magorian, three different centaurs of the Forbidden Forrest at Hogwarts? It is usually held in the philosophical literature on fictional discourse that singular imaginings of fictional objects are impossible, given the blatant nonexistent of such objects. In this paper, I have a dual purpose: (i) on the one hand, to show that, without being committed to Meinongeanism, we can explain the phenomenon of singular imaginings of different nonexistents of the same (fictional) kind; (ii) while, at the same time, to attribute this position to Thomas Reid, thus correcting some misunderstandings of his view on imagination.

Perceiving Bodies Immediately: Thomas Reid's Insight. (2015). History of Philosophy Quarterly 32, 19-36

Abstract: In An Inquiry into the Human Mind  and in Essays on Intellectual Powers,  Thomas Reid discusses what kinds of things perceivers are related to in perception. Are these things qualities of bodies, the bodies themselves, or both? This question places him in a long tradition of trying to understand how human perception works in connecting us with the external world. It is still an open question in the philosophy of perception whether the human perceptual system is providing us with representations as of bodies or only as of their properties. My project in this article is to explain how, on Reid’s view, we can have perceptual representations as of bodies. This, in turn, enables him to argue that we have a robust understanding of the world around us, an understanding that would be missing if our perceptual system supplied us with only representations as of free-floating properties of objects.

Peter Markie

Title:  "The Special Ability View of Knowledge-How
Journal: Philosophical Studies.
Published in “Online First” February, 2015; Published in print edition December 2015, v. 172, #12, pp. 3191-3209.  
The final publication is available at Springer via


Propositionalism explains the nature of knowledge-how as follows:

P:  To know how to j is to stand in a special propositional attitude relation to propositions about how to j.

To know how to ride a bike is to have the required propositional attitude to propositions about how to do so.  Dispositionalism offers an alternative view.

D:  To know how to j is to stand in a behavioral-dispositional relation, a being-able-to relation, to j-ing.

To know how to ride a bike is to have an ability to do so in the form of a complex disposition to behave in ways that constitute bike riding.   Objectualism presents a third option.

O:  To know how to j is to stand in a non-propositional, non-behavioral-dispositional objective attitude relation to a way of j-ing.

To know how to ride a bike is to have an objectual attitude, perhaps a form of knowledge of, to a way of doing so.

Dispositionalism is often dismissed on the basis of two criticisms designed to show its shortcomings relative to Propositionalism and Objectualism.  According to the Epistemic Improvement Objection, Dispositionalism cannot account for the fact that gaining knowledge-how is an improvement in our epistemic state.   According to the Modified Ability Objection, it cannot account for the fact that being able to do something is neither necessary nor sufficient for knowing how to do it.  I develop a form of Dispositionalism, the Special Ability View, that avoids both objections.

Andrew Melnyk

In Defense Of A Realization Formulation Of Physicalism”, Topoi, Special Issue, “The Character of Physicalism”, edited by Andreas Elpidorou (forthcoming).

Abstract: In earlier work, I proposed and defended a formulation of physicalism that was distinctive in appealing to a carefully-defined relation of physical realization (Melnyk 2003). Various philosophers (Robert Francescotti, Daniel Stoljar, Carl Gillett, Susan Schneider) have since presented various challenges to this formulation. In the present paper, I aim to show that these challenges can be overcome.

Grounding And The Formulation Of Physicalism” in K. Aizawa and C. Gillett (eds.), Scientific Composition and Metaphysical Grounding. London: Palgrave-Macmillan (forthcoming).

Abstract: Grounding is all the rage in analytical metaphysics. But here I give three reasons for not appealing to a primitive relation of grounding in formulating physicalism. (1) It probably can't do the key job it would need to do. (2) We don't need it, since we already have realization. (3) It is probably not even consistent with physicalism.

“The Scientific Evidence For Materialism About Pains”, in Steven M. Miller (ed.) The Constitution of Phenomenal Consciousness: Toward a Science and Theory (John Benjamins Publishing Co., 2015), pp. 310-329.

Abstract: This paper argues in unprecedented empirical and philosophical detail that, given only what science has discovered about pain, we should prefer the materialist hypothesis that pains are purely material over the dualist hypothesis that they are immaterial. The empirical findings cited provide strong evidence for the thesis of empirical supervenience: that to every sort of introspectible change over time in pains, or variation among pains at a time, there corresponds in fact a certain sort of simultaneous neural change over time, or variation at a time. The empirical supervenience of pain on the neural is shown in turn to favor the hypothesis that pains are, in a sense that is made precise, purely material.

“Physicalism.” Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy. Ed. Duncan Pritchard. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015-04-29.

Abstract: A substantial, annotated bibliography on physicalism in the sense of a comprehensive view about the nature of contingent reality.  (Link).

Alexandru Radulescu

The Logic of Indexicals. Synthese. 192 (6) (2015): 1839-1860. (penultimate draft)

Abstract: Since Kaplan first provided a logic for context-sensitive expressions, it has been thought that the only way to construct a logic for indexicals is to restrict it to arguments which take place in a single context -- that is, instantaneous arguments, uttered by a single speaker, in a single place, etc. In this paper, I propose a logic which does away with these restrictions, and thus places arguments where they belong, in real world conversations. The central innovation is that validity depends not just on the sentences in the argument, but also on certain abstract relations between contexts. This enrichment of the notion of logical form leads to some seemingly counter-intuitive results: a sequence of sentences may make up a valid argument in one sequence of contexts, and an invalid one in another such sequence. I argue that this is an unavoidable result of context sensitivity in general, and of the nature of indexicals in particular, and that reflection on such examples will lead us to a better understanding of the idea of applying logic to context sensitive expressions, and thus to natural language in general.

Three Views About Propositions. Critical Notice About New Thinking About Propositions by King et al. Forthcoming in Analysis. (penultimate draft)

King, Soames, and Speaks's New Thinking about Propositions provides three views about what propositions are, how we have cognitive access to them, how they manage to be about things, and what their role ought to be in philosophy. What unites all authors is their rejection of the claim that propositions exist (and represent) independently of thinking agents, and a desire to replace this part of the traditional view with an empirically more plausible view. I suspect that this book will serve to keep interest in these topics at high levels for quite a while.

Philip Robbins

Persons, minds, and morals. (forthcoming). In Kaldis, B. (ed.), *Mind and Society: Cognitive Science Meets the Social Sciences*. Springer.

Abstract: The concept of a person is, or ought to be, central to the philosophy of social science. Traditionally, investigations into the structure of this concept have been conducted on a largely a priori basis. Recently, however, with the advent of research in experimental philosophy, the methodological landscape has begun to change. In this paper I report findings from two experimental studies exploring how laypeople think about the relationship between two dimensions of two aspects of personhood: mindedness (cognition, affect) and moral status (agency, patiency).

Philosophizing the social brain. (2015). *Cognitive Systems Research*, 34-35.

Abstract: Over the past few decades the social sciences have taken a biological turn, and as a result, our understanding of ourselves as social beings has been undergoing a profound transformation. In this essay — the introduction to a themed special issue on philosophical approaches to social neuroscience — I consider some of the implications of this development, with attention to three domains in which findings from social neuroscience have been brought to bear on long-standing philosophical issues: folk psychology, consciousness, and morality.

Peter Vallentyne

 “Decision Theory without Finite Standard Expected Value”, with Luc Lauwers,Economics and Philosophy, forthcoming 2016.

“Self-Defense against Rights-Intrusions (Non-Culpable and Culpable)” in The Ethics of Self-Defense, edited by Christian Coons and Michael Eric Weber (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2016).

Paul Weirich

“Intrinsic Utility’s Compositionality.”  2015.  Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1: 545–563.

Visiting and Adjunct Faculty

Melanie Johnson-Moxley

Re-thinking the Matter: Organians are Still Organisms,” in The Ultimate Star Trek and Philosophy: The Search for Socrates, eds. Kevin S. Decker and Jason T. Eberl (2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.), pp. 213-22.

Abstract: Experience is ontologically basic in Alfred North Whitehead’s process metaphysics. Any dynamic network of experience—whether electron, starship crew member, or Borg— is an organism. What distinguishes higher-order from lower-order organisms is the development of consciousness: centralized, purposeful activity made possible by a sufficiently complex environment. However, this distinction does not entail that low-level organisms are devoid of mental functions, nor does it allow that higher-level organisms exist without certain physical functions. This model allows us to re-cast the suggestion that penultimate evolution of a corporeal species would be realized in non-corporeal existence. In fact, if we examine entities from the Star Trek universe such as the Organians, the Thasians, and the Q closely, it becomes evident that they do retain physical functionality in the sense intended here. So perhaps the operative question is not whether the most highly evolved species would be non-corporeal; the better question may be whether advanced evolution of conscious organisms would involve greater control over some or all of their physical functions, including both the way in which they interact with their environment and the very scope of the environment in which they act. It seems plausible that the most highly evolved beings of the Star Trek universe should not be judged as hyper-advanced by virtue of their being non-corporeal, but rather by virtue of having a highly enhanced capacity for creating novel experiences from what the universe presents to them.

Graduate Students

Alex Howe

Howe, Alex. (forthcoming, accepted 21 Nov 2017) "Regaining Traction on the Problem of Punishment," in Res Publica.

Howe, Alex. (forthcoming, accepted 5 Jan 2017) “Why Kant Animals Have Rights?,” in Journal of Animal Ethics.

Howe, Alex. (2016) “’HOT’ So Fast: Revisiting Rowlands’ Critique of Higher-Order Theories of Mental Unity,” in Animal Sentience, vol. 1, no. 10.