Certain features of our conceptual scheme seem necessary for subjects with our basic nature: we cannot imagine humans accomplishing their basic projects without having a conceptual scheme with these features. Other aspects of our conceptual scheme seem more contingent: we can imagine human communities effectively using a somewhat different conceptual scheme. The project of investigating the necessity and contingency of the various features of our conceptual scheme is the guiding question of the project that I call conceptual cartography. The project of conceptual cartography has not received much explicit methodological attention. But in this paper, I will argue that many philosophers---both historical and contemporary---can be usefully interpreted as engaged in this project. I provide a general framework for thinking about conceptual cartography, and I compare conceptual cartography to its companion project of conceptual engineering.
Recently, many theorists have claimed that the world has an ordered, hierarchical structure, where entities at lower ontological levels are said to metaphysically ground entities at higher ontological levels. Other theorists have also recently claimed that our language has an ordered, hierarchical structure. Semantically primitive sentences are said to conceptually ground less primitive sentences. It’s often emphasized that metaphysical grounding is a relation between things out in the world, not a relation between our sentences. But conflating these relations is easy to do, given that both types of grounding are expressed by non-causal “in-virtue-of” claims. The purpose of this paper is to clarify the relation between metaphysical and conceptual grounding. I argue that conceptual and metaphysical grounding are exclusive: if a given in-virtue-of claim involves conceptual grounding, then it does not involve metaphysical grounding. I also develop some heuristics for deciding which type of grounding is relevant in a given case. These heuristics suggest that many proposed cases of metaphysical grounding do not actually involve metaphysical grounding at all.
According to many naturalists, our ordinary conception of the world is in tension with the scientific image: the conception of the world provided by the natural sciences. But in this paper, I present a critique of naturalism with precedents in the Kantian idealist tradition. I argue that, when we consider our actual linguistic behavior, there is no evidence that the truth of our ordinary judgments hinges on what the scientific image turns out to be like. I then argue that the best explanation of this result is that the norms and presuppositions operating in ordinary discourse are different from the norms and presuppositions operating in scientific discourse. So naturalistic attempts to undermine the manifest image are illegitimate attempts to critique a practice “from the outside.”
Many idealists have thought that realism raises epistemological problems. The worry is that, if it is possible for truths about ordinary objects to outstrip our experiences in the ways that realists typically suppose, we could never be justified in our beliefs about objects. Few contemporary theorists find this argument convincing; philosophers have offered a variety of responses to defend the epistemology of our object judgments under the assumption of realism. But in this paper, I offer a new type of epistemic argument against realism which is immune to the standard responses in the literature. In addition to raising a challenge for realism, the epistemology of our object judgments has implications for how the idealist should develop her own positive metaphysical view. So in the second half of this paper, I discuss how the idealist should understand the dependence between objects and our experiences if she is to secure epistemic advantages over the realist.
Structural realists claim that we should endorse only what our scientific theories say about the structure of the unobservable world. But according to Newman’s Objection, the structural realist's claims about unobservables are trivially true. In recent years, many theorists have offered responses to Newman’s Objection. But a common complaint is that these responses “give up the spirit” of the structural realist position. In this paper, I argue that the simplest way to respond to Newman's Objection is to return to the original motivation for adopting structural realism in the first place: the No Miracles Argument. Far from betraying the spirit of structural realism, the solution I present is effectively built in to the position of structural realism itself.
Many theorists have proposed that we can use the Principle of Indifference to defeat the inductive skeptic. But any such theorist must confront the objection that different ways of applying the Principle of Indifference lead to incompatible probability assignments. Michael Huemer offers the Explanatory Priority Proviso as a strategy for overcoming this objection. With this proposal, Huemer claims that we can defend induction in a way that is not question-begging against the skeptic. But in this paper, I argue that the opposite is true: if anything, Huemer's use of the Principle of Indifference supports the rationality of inductive skepticism.
(Titles altered for anonymous review.)
In this paper, I develop a novel semantic form of idealism about ordinary objects. According to edenic idealism, our ordinary object terms refer to items in the manifest world: the world of primitive objects and properties presented to us in experience. I motivate edenic idealism as a response to puzzles that arise when there is no correspondence between the items presented to us in experience and the items that exist in the external world. I argue that edenic idealism has major semantic advantages over realism: it is the most intuitive view of what ordinary speakers are actually talking about when they use object terms. I also discuss the features of edenic idealism that allow it to overcome the many objections traditionally raised against idealist systems.
In response to deflationary pressures from ordinary language, many theorists have endorsed the "ontologese gambit". With such a gambit, the ontologist introduces a new metaphysically-privileged quantifier from the language of “ontologese”. The claim is that, even if it is trivial in ordinary language that tables, numbers, and properties exist, there are still substantive questions about whether any of these items exist*. In this paper, I offer a new type of criticism of this gambit. I argue that, if we adopt a deflationary semantic treatment of ordinary existence statements, then singular terms like ‘the table’, ‘2’, and ‘redness’ have a specific kind of semantic role in our language. But there is a incompatibility between the existence* quantifier and terms with this semantic role. Because of this incompatibility, there are no substantive questions to ask about the existence* of things like ordinary objects, numbers, and properties.
We think that some things have a unified nature for science or philosophy to discover. For example, we think science has revealed the nature of water to be H2O. We think that other kinds of things do not have a unified nature. For example, there doesn’t seem to be any informative analysis of what it is to be a game. What about the causal relation, or dispositions, or free will? For any philosophically-interesting item X, one can find a host of competing theories regarding the nature of X. In offering such analyses, philosophers assume that X is relevantly similar to water, not gamehood. My project in this paper is to show how this assumption might be challenged. I identify two semantic features of the term ‘water’ that distinguish it from the term ‘game’. By determining whether a philosophical term ‘X’ shares these features, we have a method for determining whether X can be given an informative analysis. As a test case, I consider the term ‘cause’.
Opponents have often challenged non-Humean laws on epistemic grounds. The worry is that, if the laws of nature do not supervene on the Humean base, it is not clear how we could be justified in believing (on empirical grounds) propositions of the form P is a law. This argument is inconclusive; non-Humeans have offered a variety of responses to defend the epistemology of non-Humean laws. But in this paper, I provide a new type of epistemic argument against non-Humean laws which is not defeated by the standard responses in the literature.
Our experience does not represent the entire world; at most, it represents a limited perspective on a small part of the world. This raises a challenge for any idealist view of ordinary objects: can the idealist accommodate the ways in which the world outstrips our experience of it? In this paper, I argue that the edenic idealist has the resources to respond to this traditional objection.
Our experience does not always represent the world accurately. This raises a puzzle for idealist views of ordinary objects: how can the idealist accommodate the discrepancies between the world and our experience of it? In this paper, I argue that edenic idealism has the resources to respond to this traditional objection.
Recently, many philosophers have become interested in whether idealism can help solve the mind-body problem. The two strategies that have received most attention are panpsychism and cosmopsychism. According to panpsychism, there are fundamental phenomenal states corresponding to at least some microphysical entities. According to cosmopsychism, there is a fundamental phenomenal state corresponding to the physical state of the universe as a whole. Despite their attractions, both of these views have difficulties accounting for the macroscopic experiences that we are familiar with from our conscious life. So in this paper, I assess the prospects of macroidealism as a solution to the mind-body problem. According to macroidealism, the fundamental phenomenal states are those belonging to macrosubject subjects like ourselves.
(Drafts not ready yet)
In this paper, I offer a new account of perception---direct idealism---that secures the phenomenological advantages of direct realism while avoiding the major objections facing this view. Like the direct realist, the direct idealist claims that we are directly acquainted with ordinary objects in perceptual experience. But unlike the direct realist, the direct idealist does not view ordinary objects as items in the mind-independent world. This allows the direct idealist to maintain that objects are just like we experience them, even if the mind-independent external world is very different.
Philosophers have offered many interpretations of Berkeley's famous Master Argument for idealism. On some of these interpretations, the argument is straightforwardly fallacious. Other interpretations are more charitable, but maintain that the success of the Master Argument presupposes Berkeley's controversial views on mind and language. In this paper, I will offer yet another interpretation of the Master Argument. On this interpretation, the Master Argument not only is sound, but also avoids relying on any outdated theories of mind or language.