(forthcoming). ‘Recent Work on Modality and Causation’, Analysis.
(2011). ‘Counterfactuals, Overdetermination and Mental Causation’, Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, pp. 469-477.[Click here to download]
Papers in Progress
Ancient Greek philosophy
‘Aristotle's Metaphysics Theta 5’
[email me for a draft]
When do potentialities get exercised? Aristotle answers this question in Metaphysics Theta 5. Roughly, his answer is that a potentiality must be exercised whenever the agent and the patient meet under the appropriate conditions (1048a6-7 and 11-13). I carefully reconstruct the chapter and look at some of its implications. It is often suggested that this chapter connects efficient causation and necessity. But what connection exactly does it introduce? I argue that in Metaphysics Theta 5 Aristotle does not endorse the reduction of causation to necessary connections. Rather, he merely commits to the view that there is a correlation between efficient causation and necessity: whenever we have an instance of efficient causation, a given necessity claim is true. I conclude by making a suggestion about what motivates, in his view, this sort of correlation.
‘Formal Semantics with Aristotle’
[email me for a draft]
I highlight three main ways in which Aristotle's theory of language, as developed in De Interpretatione, differs from mainstream contemporary approaches to formal semantics. (1) Basic predications, claims of the form 'A is B' and 'A is not B', have a tripartite structure: they consist of a copula taking scope over two nouns. (2) There are different types of predications: this is because, whenever a modifier takes scope over a copula, it gives raise to a snew copula. (3) Modals are not sentential operators, but copula-modifiers which give rise to new types of linguistic predications, namely modal predications.
‘Causal Knowledge about Particulars in Aristotle's Posterior Analytics I.8’
Although both in Physics II.3 and in Posterior Analytics I.2 Aristotle claims that to know something requires knowing its cause, these two chapters rely on different notions of knowledge. Posterior Analytics I.2 introduces us to a strict notion of knowledge, captured with the word ‘epistêmê’: this knowledge is of what cannot be otherwise, and confines to facts about universals. Physics II.3 relies on a broader notion of knowledge, which Aristotle often captures with the verb ‘eidenai’: this knowledge is not explicitly restricted to what cannot be otherwise, and also extends to facts about particulars. It is unclear how these two kinds of knowledge relate to each other. This is problematic because if the theory of science of the Posterior Analytics does not allow for knowledge of facts about particulars, the appeal to such a notion of knowledge in the branch of science discussed in the Physics may be illegitimate. I argue that in Posterior Analytics I.8 Aristotle brings in and regiments a notion of knowledge which extends to facts about particulars. He achieves this by introducing us to demonstrations which are ‘as if accidental’ (75b25), in a sense I shall explain.
‘Sources of Change’
I argue that in Metaphysics Theta 1 Aristotle defines the most basic type of active potentialities as efficient causes.
‘Causal Relata for Efficient Causation’
Aristotle famously endorses pluralism about causal relata; he allows that causes and effects can be things, or events, or states of affairs, or universals. However, I argue, in his view ultimately causal relata are universals. Other types of causal relata qualify as such in a derivative way. My argument mainly relies on Physics II.3.
‘Aristotle's Skills' (with Carlotta Pavese)
We argue that in Metaphysics Theta 2 Aristotle commits to an account of skills (technai) as bits of propositional knowledge, and consider how this account fits with the theory of knowledge he puts forward in the Posterior Analytics.
Contemporary metaphysics and semantics
‘Are Disposition Ascriptions Possibility Claims?’
[email me for a draft]
I argue that disposition ascriptions are possibility claims.
‘Casual Claims and Events of Causation’
I argue that, contrary to what most semanticists currently assume, ordinary causal semantics requires positing events of causation. I also consider the implications of this claim for our ordinary concept(s) of causation.
Aristotle on Necessity and Efficient Causation
I ask Aristotle the following question: should one seek to explain efficient causation in terms of necessity, or necessity in terms of efficient causation, or relate the two in some other way (if at all)? I argue that Aristotle seeks to partly explain necessity in terms of causation. My argument relies on parts of Aristotle's De Interpretatione, Metaphysics, Physics and Posterior Analytics. Along the way, I consider how Aristotle's view remains of interest for the contemporary debate on modality and causation.