PROJECTS

RESEARCH OVERVIEW

If there’s a through line uniting my philosophical interests, it’s something like Sellars’s conception of the aim of philosophy: I want to know how it all hangs together. In keeping with that ambition, I tend to be interested in relatively foundational issues in philosophy—questions upon answers to which much else hangs.

 

The questions of earliest and most enduring interest to me in this regard are, firstly, whether God exists, and, secondly, whether extramental reality has a normative component (and if so, what that component is like).

 

I’m also interested in a number of issues of first-order metaphysics concerning, e.g., time, being, modality, grounding, and fundamentality.

 

To an increasingly large extent, I’m also interested in questions of meta-metaphysics concerning key relations between mind, language, and the world.

Philosophy of Religion

I am interested in arguments for and against the existence of God. In particular, I'm interested in the fine-tuning argument (cf. Hawthorne & Isaacs 2017), the Kalam cosmological argument (cf. Craig & Sinclair 2009), contingency arguments (cf. Pruss & Rasmussen 2018), and arguments stemming from a broadly Thomistic metaphysic.

 

That said, of late my preferred approach in the philosophy of religion has been to prioritize figuring out which are the best theisms and naturalisms for the purposes of proper pairwise comparison (cf. Oppy, Naturalism and Religion, 2018). To a large extent this simply means doing philosophy (i.e. figuring out the best views of things), and such philosophy needn't always (and frequently doesn't) fall within the bounds of the philosophy of religion.

 

Among the cases where such philosophy has fallen within the bounds of the philosophy of religion, two such projects spawned papers (described in greater detail below). The first was a criticism of Robert Adams's (Finite and Infinite Goods, 1999) reductive account of goodness as Godlikeness of a certain sort. The second was a criticism of Joshua Rasmussen's (How Reason Can Lead to God, 2019; Is God the Best Explanation of Things?, 2019) hypothesis that God is fundamentally perfect, and that God's perfection somehow explains God's possession of the perfections.

 

Normativity

I tend to think that if there's normativity, it's got to be irreducible. But irreducible normativity is multiply problematic. There are metaphysical troubles associated with it, e.g. the trouble of explaining why it should be that there is such a tight, seemingly explanatory connection between normative facts and so-called natural facts if the former are metaphysically discontinuous with the latter. Then there are broadly semantic and epistemic troubles, roughly: how are we able to latch onto irreducibly normative facts and properties in our thought and speech and, having done so, how are we able to learn things about them?

When I am working on normativity, I am usually working on these issues. My research on the metaphysical troubles overlaps with my research on grounding, and has recently taken the form of an investigation into the nature of normative bridge-laws (cf. Rosen 2017) on the one hand, and neo-essentialist solutions (cf. Leary 2017) on the other. My research on the broadly semantic and epistemic troubles is less well-defined, and has consisted largely in background research on, e.g., reference, concepts, and representation. Such research overlaps with my research in meta-metaphysics.

(Meta-)Metaphysics

I earlier described myself as wanting to know "how it all hangs together" and as "prioritizing figuring out which are the best theisms and naturalisms for the purposes of proper pairwise comparison." Both of these goals motivate my study of a number of issues of first-order metaphysics regarding, e.g., time, properties, resemblance, modality, Platonism vs. nominalism, being, truth, grounding, and fundamentality.

That's a lot of metaphysics! At the start of my philosophical career, I had a rather rose-colored view of metaphysics. That changed when, during my first semester of graduate school, I had a particularly formative encounter with the anti-metaphysical meta-philosophy of Rudolf Carnap by way of an excellent seminar by James Justus. The encounter left me with a fairly well-worked out view of where I disagreed with Carnap's arguments for metaphysical non-cognitivism. However, I have yet to find what I regard as a fully satisfying account of how metaphysics could be cognitive (i.e., how we or any other entity might be capable of representing the world in 'metaphysical' ways), or how it's possible to make (substantive) epistemic headway in metaphysics.

For that reason I am interested in acquiring a better understanding of how mind and language relate to the world. In search of that better understanding I research issues relating to quantification (e.g. Hirsch-style quantifier variance, the nature of ontological commitment, thing ontologies and the possibility of absolutely unrestricted quantification), and representation (the nature of concepts and representation, and the anti-representationalisms of figures like Richard Rorty and Huw Price).

 

WORKING PAPERS

Project | 01
"On the Depth of God's Perfection"

Which properties would God possess most fundamentally? Joshua Rasmussen (2019) answers 'perfection', and further claims that God's perfection can explain God's possession of the various perfections. I explicate these claims by way of the currently popular ideologies of building and grounding, and then I argue against them.

Project | 02
"Is Goodness Godlikeness?"

In Finite and Infinite Goods (1999) Robert Adams develops and defends a reductive account of goodness according to which it is Godlikeness (i.e. resemblance to God) of a certain sort. I critique that position partly by way of (1) offering a novel objection to it, (2) showing that Adams's solution to an old problem doesn't work, and (3) showing that a number of other possible responses to the old and new problems don't work.

Project | 03

"Carnap's Metaphysical Non-Cognitivism: An Offer We Can Refuse"

Carnap's metaphysical non-cognitivism consists in two sub-theses: one philosophical, one psychological. I examine and object to Carnap's defenses of each, concluding that Carnap does not offer the metaphysician good reason to reject metaphysical cognitivism.

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