I am a lecturer in the philosophy
at the University of St Andrews
I work on topics spread widely through philosophy of mind, philosophy of language, metaphysics, and epistemology.
"Could Women Be Analytically Oppressed?"
forthcoming in Alexis Burgess, David Plunkett, and Herman Cappelen,
eds., Conceptual Ethics and Conceptual Engineering, Oxford University Press.
I consider attempted analyses which attempt to revise,
rather than describe, ordinary and expert belief and linguistic
usage, notably including Sally Haslanger's analysis of gender
terms. Typical proponents of "conceptual ethics" and
"conceptual engineering" claim that such revisionary analyses
involve replacing one word or concept with another. I disagree: this
view cannot explain the way we argue about such analyses. I
develop a notion of analyticity -- metasemantic analyticity --
on which analyses fix the meaning of our words (as we have
always used them) even when they emerge late in a conversation
as the result of discussion and debate.
"Semantics as Measurement"
forthcoming in Brian Rabern and Derek Ball, eds., The Science of
Meaning, Oxford University Press.
What are we doing when we do semantics? I develop a
framework for answering this question according to which
semantic theorising is much like developing a way of measuring
an ill-understood phenomenon. The framework explains the role
of set theoretic abstracta in formal semantics, the possibility
of progress in semantics despite deep theoretical disagreement,
and how semantics is possible despite the plausibility of the
observations that motivate radical contextualism.
"Relativism, Metasemantics, and the Future"
forthcoming in Inquiry, special issue edited by Henry Jackman.
Contemporary relativists often see their view as contributing to a semantic/post-semantic account of linguistic data about disagreement and retraction. I offer an independently motivated metasemantic account of the same data, that also treats a number of cases that are problematic for the relativist. The key idea is that the content of assertions and beliefs is determined in part by facts about other times, including times after the assertion is made or the belief is formed. On this temporal externalist view, speaker behaviours such as retraction of previous assertions play a role in making it the case that a past utterance has a given meaning.
"What Are We Doing When We Theorise About Context Sensitivity?"
forthcoming in Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, ed., The Routledge
Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism.
I describe various approaches to the nature of
linguistic context sensitivity,
and issues arising from these, with a focus on the questions of
what we represent when we let particular set-theoretic entities
play the role of context in our theories, or when we assign an expression a particular character.
"No Help on the Hard Problem"
Animal Sentience 2016.149.
website (open access)]
The hard problem of consciousness is to explain why
certain physical states are conscious: why do they feel the way
they do, rather than some other way or no way at all? Arthur
claims to solve the hard problem. But he does not: even if we
grant that amoebae are conscious, we can ask why such organisms
feel the way they do, and Reber's theory provides no
answer. Still, Reber's theory may be methodologically useful:
we do not yet have a satisfactory theory of consciousness, but
perhaps the study of simple minds is a way to go about finding
one. A reply by Reber can be found here
"Indexicality, Transparency, and Mental Files."
Inquiry 58.4 (2015), pp. 353-367.
"Two-Dimensionalism and the Social Character of Meaning."
Erkenntnis 79 Supplement 3 (2014), pp. 567-595.
[preprint .pdf] [publisher's
This paper develops and critiques the two-dimensionalist account of mental content developed by David Chalmers. I first explain Chalmers's account and show that it resists some popular criticisms. I then argue that the main interest of two-dimensionalism lies in its accounts of cognitive significance and of the connection between conceivability and possibility. These accounts hinge on the claim that some thoughts have a primary intension that is necessarily true. In this respect, they are Carnapian, and subject to broadly Quinean attack. The remainder of the paper advances such an attack. I argue that there are possible thinkers who are willing to revise their beliefs in response to expert testimony (in a way familiar by Burge's famous cases), and that such thinkers will have no thoughts with necessary primary intensions. I even suggest that many actual humans may well be such thinkers. I go on to argue that these possible thinkers show that the two-dimensionalist accounts fail.
(with Bryan Pickel) "One Dogma of Millianism."
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 88.1 (2014), pp. 70-92.
[preprint .pdf] [publisher's website]
Millians about proper names typically claim that it is
knowable apriori that Hesperus is Phosphorus. We argue that
they should claim instead that it is knowable only aposteriori
that Hesperus is Hesperus, since the Kripke-Putnam epistemic
arguments against descriptivism are special cases of Quinean
arguments that nothing is knowable apriori, and Millians have
no resources to resist the more general Quinean arguments.
"Critical Notice: Derk Pereboom, Consciousness
and the Prospects of Physicalism".
Analytic Philosophy 55.1 (2014), pp. 118-129.
"Consciousness and Conceptual Mastery."
Mind 122.486 (2013), pp. 497-508.
[preprint .pdf] [publisher's
Torin Alter attempts to rescue phenomenal concepts and the knowledge argument from the critique of Ball 2009 by appealing to conceptual mastery. I show that Alter's appeal fails, and describe general features of conceptual mastery that suggest that no such appeal could succeed.
"Property Identities and Modal Arguments."
Philosophers' Imprint 11.13 (2011).
Many physicalists about the mind are committed to claims about property identities. Following Kripke's well-known discussion, modal arguments have emerged as major threats to such claims. This paper argues that modal arguments can be resisted by adopting a counterpart theoretic account of modal claims, and in particular modal claims involving properties. Thus physicalists have a powerful motive to adopt non-Kripkean accounts of the metaphysics of modality and the semantics of modal expressions.
"There Are No Phenomenal Concepts." Mind, 118.472 (2009), pp. 935-962.
Orthodoxy among contemporary philosophers of mind has it
that phenomenal concepts provide the key to understanding many
disputes between physicalists and their opponents. I deny that
there are phenomenal concepts. My arguments exploit the sort of
considerations that are typically used to motivate externalism
about mental content. Although physicalists often appeal to
phenomenal concepts to defend their view against the knowledge
argument, I argue that this is a mistake. The knowledge
argument depends on phenomenal concepts; if there are no
phenomenal concepts, then the knowledge argument fails.
"Twin-Earth Externalism and Concept Possession." Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 85.3 (2007), pp. 457 - 472.
Twin-Earth-style thought experiments show that the contents of a person's thoughts fail to supervene on her intrinsic properties. Several recent philosophers have made the further claim that Twin-Earth-style thought experiments produce metaphysically necessary conditions for the possession of certain concepts. I argue that the latter view is false, and produce counterexamples to several proposed conditions.
Review of Howard Robinson,
From the Knowledge Argument to Mental Substance: Resurrecting the Mind, Cambridge University Press, 2016. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2016.08.37.
Review of Max Deutsch,
The Myth of the Intuitive, MIT Press 2015. forthcoming in the
Journal of Philosophy
Review of Alexis Burgess and Brett Sherman, eds.,
Metasemantics, OUP 2014. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2015.08.39.
"Where When Truth Gives Out Gives Out".
Review of Mark Richard, When Truth Gives Out, OUP 2008.
"Thought Experiments as Questions", given at CSMN