Here is a list of selected publications with annotated abstracts. For a full list, see my CV. For preprint versions of some of these, you can visit my Academia.edu page or PhilPeople page. For citation-related metrics, see my page on Google Scholar.
"Rejecting Epiphobia", Synthese, forthcoming. Epiphenomenalism denies some or all putative cases of mental causation. The view is widely taken to be absurd: if a theory can be shown to entail epiphenomenalism, many see that as a reductio of that theory. Opponents take epiphenomenalism to be absurd because they regard the view as undermining the evident agency we have in action and precluding substantial self-knowledge. In this paper, I defend epiphenomenalism against these objections, and thus against the negative dialectical role that the view plays in philosophy of mind. I argue that nearly in all cases where a theory implies one kind of epiphenomenalism, it is an epiphenomenalism of a non-problematic kind, at least as far as issues about agency and self-knowledge are concerned. There is indeed a problematic version of epiphenomenalism, but that version is not relevant to the debates where its apparent absurdity is invoked.
"Why Incompatibilism about Mental Causation is Incompatible with Non-reductive Physicalism" (With Jonas Christensen), Inquiry, forthcoming. The exclusion problem is meant to show that non-reductive physicalism leads to epiphenomenalism: if mental properties are not identical with physical properties, then they are not causally efficacious. Defenders of a difference-making account of causation suggest that the exclusion problem can be solved because mental properties can be difference-making causes of physical effects. Here, we focus on what we dub an incompatibilist implementation of this general strategy and argue against it from a non-reductive physicalist perspective. Specifically, we argue that incompatibilism undermines either the non-reductionist or the physicalist aspirations of non-reductive physicalism.
"Causal Emergence and Epiphenomenal Emergence", Erkenntnis, 2020. According to one conception of strong emergence, strongly emergent properties are nomologically necessitated by their base properties and have novel causal powers relative to them. In this paper, I raise a difficulty for this conception of strong emergence, arguing that these two features (i.e., nomological necessitation and causal novelty) are incompatible. Instead of presenting this as an objection to the friends of strong emergence, I argue that this indicates that there are distinct varieties of strong emergence: causal emergence and epiphenomenal emergence. I then explore the prospects of emergentism with this distinction in the background.
"Mad Qualia", The Philosophical Quarterly, 2019. This paper revisits some classic thought experiments in which experiences are detached from their characteristic causal roles, and explores what these thought experiments tell us about qualia epiphenomenalism, i.e., the view that qualia are epiphenomenal properties. It argues that qualia epiphenomenalism is true just in case it is (nomologically) possible for experiences of the same type to have entirely different causal powers. This is done with the help of new conceptual tools regarding the concept of an epiphenomenal property. One conclusion is that it is not obvious if qualia epiphenomenalism is false; and it is also not obvious what should make us believe that it is false—or for that matter, true. Connections between qualia epiphenomenalism, physicalism, and non-physicalist property dualism are further explored.
"Quidditism and Contingent Laws", Thought, 2019. According to contingentism, laws of nature hold contingently. An objection to contingentism is that it implies quidditism, and therefore inherits its implausible consequences. This paper argues that this objection is misguided. Understood one way, quidditism is not an implication of contingentism, hence even if it has implausible consequences, these are not relevant to contingentism. Understood another way, quidditism is implied by contingentism, but it is less clear if this version of quidditism has the same implausible consequences. Whatever the merits of contingentism, the argument from anti‐quidditism is not successful in showing that it is false.
“Emergence, Function, and Realization”, in S.C. Gibb. et. al. (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Emergence, Routledge, 2019. “Realization” and “emergence” are two concepts that are sometimes used to describe same or similar phenomena in philosophy of mind and the special sciences, where such phenomena involve the synchronic dependence of some higher-level states of affairs on the lower-level ones. According to a popular line of thought, higher-level properties that are invoked in the special sciences are realized by, and/or emergent from, lower-level, broadly physical, properties. So, these two concepts are taken to refer to relations between properties from different levels where the lower-level ones somehow “bring about” the higher-level ones. However, for those who specialise in inter-level relations, there are important differences between these two concepts – especially if emergence is understood as strong emergence. The purpose of this chapter is to highlight these differences.
"Epiphenomenal Properties”, Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 2018. What is an epiphenomenal property? This question needs to be settled before we can decide whether higher-level properties are epiphenomenal or not. In this paper, I offer an account of what it is for a property to have some causal power. From this, I derive a characterization of the notion of an epiphenomenal property. I then argue that physically realized higher-level properties are not epiphenomenal, because laws of nature impose causal similarities on the bearers of such properties, and these similarities figure as powers in the causal profiles of these properties.
“Must Strong Emergence Collapse?” (With Jessica Wilson), Philosophica, 2017. There have recently been complaints from various quarters that strong emergence doesn’t make sense, on grounds that any purportedly strongly emergent features or associated powers can be seen to ‘collapse’, one way or another, into the lower-level base features upon which they depend. On one version of this collapse objection, certain ways of individuating lower-level physical features entail that such features will have dispositions to produce any purportedly strongly emergent features, undermining the supposed metaphysical novelty of the emergent features and the physical acceptability of the base features (see Howell 2009 and Taylor 2015). On another, certain ways of assigning powers to features entail that lower-level physical features will inherit any powers had by purportedly strongly emergent features (see Kim, 1998 and 2006, and others). Here we present and defend four different responses that might be given to the collapse objection as directed against a ‘novel power’ approach to strong emergence: first, distinguishing between direct and indirect having of powers; second, distinguishing between lightweight and heavyweight dispositions; third, taking strong emergence to be relative to sets of fundamental interactions; fourth, taking strongly emergent features to be ‘new object entailing’, in ways that block lower-level inheritance of powers.
“Lawful Mimickers”, Analysis, 2017. The nomic view of dispositions holds that properties confer dispositions on their bearers with nomological necessity. The argument against nomic dispositions challenges the nomic view: if the nomic view is true, then objects don’t have dispositions, but ‘mimic’ them. This paper presents an explication of disposition conferral which shows that the nomic view is not vulnerable to this objection.
“An Argument for Power Inheritance”, The Philosophical Quarterly, 2016. Non-reductive physicalism is commonly understood as the view that mental properties are realized by physical properties. Here, I argue that the realization relation in question is a power inheritance relation: if a property P realizes a property Q, then the causal powers of Q are a subset of the causal powers of P. Whereas others have motivated this claim by appealing to its theoretical benefits, I argue that it is in fact entailed by two theses: (1) realization is a same-subject necessitation relation; (2) properties have their causal powers derivatively on the causal powers of their bearers. Although the power inheritance claim that is defended here has many opponents, I take it that the two theses that entail it are either plausible or widely assumed.
“Realization Relations in Metaphysics”, Minds and Machines, 2015. “Realization” is a technical term that is used by metaphysicians, philosophers of mind, and philosophers of science to denote some dependence relation that is thought to obtain between higher-level properties and lower-level properties. It is said that mental properties are realized by physical properties; functional and computational properties are realized by first-order properties that occupy certain causal/functional roles; dispositional properties are realized by categorical properties; so on and so forth. Given this wide usage of the term “realization”, it would be right to think that there might be different dependence relations that this term denotes in different cases. Any relation that is aptly picked out by this term can be taken to be a realization relation. The aim of this state-of-the-field article is to introduce the central questions about the concept of realization, and provide formulations of a number of realization relations. In doing so, I identify some theoretical roles realization relations should play, and discuss some theories of realization in relation to these theoretical roles. (This can be read alongside my Oxford Bibliographies entry on Realization).
Journal Special Issue: Non-Standard Approaches to Emergence, (co-edited with Olivier Sartenaer) Synthese, forthcoming. Includes articles by Karen Crowther, Samuel Fletcher, Paul Humphreys, Gil Santos, Ludger Van Dijk, Michele Paolini Paoletti, and Kenneth Silver. Our introduction article is here.
Here are some book reviews I have written. In general, I like writing book reviews, so if you are a reviews editor, feel free to get in touch.
Metaphysical Emergence, by Jessica Wilson. In The Philosophical Quarterly, forthcoming.
Mental Causation: A Counterfactual Theory, by Thomas Kroedel. In Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2020.
The Multiple Realization Book by Thomas Polger and Larry Shapiro”. In Analysis, 2017.
Qualia and Mental Causation in a Physical World: Themes from the Philosophy of Jaegwon Kim, edited by Terence Horgan, Marcelo Sabates, and David Sosa. In The Philosophical Quarterly, 2015.
Mental Causation and Ontology, edited by S. C. Gibb, E. J. Lowe, and R. D. Ingthorsson. In Mind, 2014.