Friday, February 12, 2021

Against Extended Simples

Here is a little argument against the possibility of extended simples:

1. Suppose there can be an extended simple.
2. Then there can be an extended simple of any shape and size, including an extended simple S that looks just like a teeter totter.
3. It is possible to put enough weigh on a side of S to cause S to tip.
4. If S has no proper parts, then it is not possible put enough weigh on a side of S to cause S to tip (as S would have no sides).
5. Therefore, S has proper parts, which contradicts the stipulation that S is an extended simple.

The weakest link seems to me to be (4). However, it is difficult to see how S could be caused to tip one way rather than another unless the cause acts on *part* of S, rather than on S as a whole.


Monday, January 5, 2015

Prize: Marc Sanders Prize in Metaphysics

The Marc Sanders Prize in Metaphysics
In keeping with its mission of encouraging and recognizing excellence in philosophy, The Marc Sanders Foundation seeks to highlight the importance of ongoing support for the work of younger scholars. As part of this commitment, the Foundation has dedicated resources to an ongoing essay competition, designed to promote excellent research and writing in metaphysics on the part of younger scholars.
Sponsored by The Marc Sanders Foundation and administered by the editorial board of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, this essay competition is open to scholars who are within fifteen (15) years of receiving a Ph.D. and to students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program. The annual prize amount is $8,000. Winning essays will appear in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.

Current Competition Details
The Marc Sanders Prize in Metaphysics is an annual essay competition open to scholars who are within fifteen (15) years of receiving a Ph.D. or students who are currently enrolled in a graduate program. Independent scholars may also be eligible, and should contact Dean Zimmerman at  The award for the prize winning essay is $8,000, and winning essays will be published in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics.
Submitted essays must present original research in Metaphysics.  Essays should be between 7,500 and 15,000 words.  Since winning essays will appear in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics submissions must not be under review elsewhere. To be eligible for this year’s prize, submissions must be received, electronically, by January 31st 2015.  Refereeing will be blind; authors should omit remarks and references that might disclose their identities. Receipt of submissions will be acknowledged by e-mail. The winner will be determined by a committee of members of the Editorial Board of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics and will be announced by late-March. 
Inquiries should be directed to Dean Zimmerman, co-editor with Karen Bennett of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, at

Sunday, October 19, 2014

CFP: Society for the Metaphysics of Science (1st Annual Conference)

The Society for the Metaphysics of Science will be holding its first annual conference on September 17-18, 2015 at Rutgers University – Newark.  As well as various presentations, the conference will also feature the first organizational meeting of the Society which will elect officers, begin to make various policies, plan future conferences, etc. Both those interested in presenting papers and/or participating in the Society are invited to the conference. (For more information on the society, see the Society for the Metaphysics of Science web page.)

At the conference, presentations will be 40 minutes.  Submissions should be on a topic in the metaphysics of science broadly construed, of no more than 6,000 words and should include an abstract of ~150 words and a word count.  All papers must employ gender-neutral language and be prepared for blind review. 

Submissions must be made using the Easychair online submission system at:  The submission deadline is March 1, 2015.  Notifications of acceptance will be delivered by May 15, 2015.  The conference will have a $50 registration fee.  (The fee will be waived for graduate students.)

Our keynote speaker will be Barry Loewer, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, and all other sessions will comprise submitted papers.

Questions may be gmailed to ken.aizawa.

Program Committee:
Ken Aizawa, Rutgers University, Newark, Chair
Carl Gillett, Northern Illinois University
Alyssa Ney, Rochester University
Thomas Polger, University of Cincinnati
Jessica Wilson, University of Toronto

Monday, September 15, 2014

'Only Powers Can Confer Dispositions'

I'm delighted to announce that my paper 'Only Powers Can Confer Dispositions' is now forthcoming in The Philosophical Quarterly!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

New Journal: Ergo

First issue:

Julia Jorati (OSU) on a paper in early modern by Paul Lodge (Oxford):

Anna Mahtani (LSE) on a paper by Michael Caie (Pittsburgh):

Ellen Clark (Oxford) on a paper in philosophy of biology by
Christopher Hitchcock (Caltech) and Joel Velasco (Texas Tech):

Thomas Nadelhoffer (Charleston) on a paper in experimental philosophy
by John Turri (Waterloo):

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

RIP E. J. (Jonathan) Lowe (1950–2014)

I have just heard the terrible news that Jonathan Lowe passed away on January. This is an enormous loss for philosophy in general and for metaphysics in particular, as well as, of course, for all those who knew him. Below is the memorial notice by his Durham colleagues Robin Hendry and Matthew Ratcliffe.
It is with great sadness that we announce the death of Professor E. J. (Jonathan) Lowe. Jonathan was born in Dover, England, on 24th March 1950. He went to Cambridge to read Natural Sciences in 1968, but changed to History after one year and was awarded a BA (first class) in 1971. After that, he switched to Philosophy and moved to Oxford, where he was awarded his BPhil and DPhil degrees in 1974 and 1975 (supervised by Rom Harré and Simon Blackburn respectively). After a brief period teaching at Reading, Jonathan joined the Department of Philosophy at Durham in 1980, where he stayed for the rest of his career. He was promoted to Senior Lecturer (1990), Reader (1992) and then Professor (1995). During his time at Durham, Jonathan established himself as one of the world’s leading philosophers, publishing twelve single-authored books, four co-edited collections and well over 200 articles in journals and edited volumes. His scholarship was strikingly broad, ranging from early modern philosophy through to the interpretation of quantum mechanics. His most important and sustained contributions were to philosophy of mind, philosophical logic and especially metaphysics. Jonathan adopted a realist conception of metaphysics as an autonomous discipline concerned with the fundamental structure of reality, as exemplified by his important book The Possibility of Metaphysics (OUP, 1998). Metaphysics, he maintained, should take common sense as its starting point, while at the same time acknowledging that aspects of common sense will need to be revised or abandoned. It should also retain a healthy respect for science but resist scientism, as the role of metaphysics is to illuminate features of reality that empirical scientific enquiry inevitably presupposes. It is therefore the most fundamental form of enquiry and - as Jonathan also emphasised – something that is extremely difficult to do. But, he insisted, there are no cheap short-cuts, and no piecemeal solutions to metaphysical problems. Metaphysics is to be done systematically and patiently. Jonathan’s approach drew inspiration from Aristotle and Locke, amongst others, both of whom retained a foothold in common sense. His metaphysical writings addressed a range of themes, including volition, personhood, agency, mental causation, identity, truth, essentialism and ontological categories. In recent years, one of his many notable achievements was the formulation of a new ‘four-category ontology’, which he proposed as a metaphysical foundation for all empirical scientific thought. The most detailed account of this appears in his book The Four-Category Ontology (OUP, 2006). Throughout his life, Jonathan was guided by a kind of faith in our ability to discover the fundamental structure of reality through metaphysical thought. He was spurred on by a constant sense of puzzlement, fascination and bewilderment at the existence and nature of reality, and would not let extraneous considerations distract him from a resolute search for truth. Those of us who knew him will remember him not just as a gifted and committed philosopher but also as an exceptionally kind, caring and generous person. He was an accomplished teacher, who did everything he possibly could to support, encourage, nurture and inspire his students, many of whom have gone on to have successful academic careers. He was similarly supportive of his colleagues at Durham and of the wider philosophical community. Philosophers from all over the world came to depend on him as a mentor and referee, and he would spend many hours most weeks writing carefully crafted letters of support. It was a privilege to work with Jonathan. He was always a keen participant in research events, at Durham and elsewhere, where he exercised his astonishingly refined critical skills and offered numerous insightful comments, without ever being dismissive. Even with his eminence in the profession and the many associated demands on his time, he insisted on doing his fair share (and usually more than his fair share) of administrative and teaching work. He was a reassuring presence in the department, who was always on hand to offer support, advice and consolation to colleagues. We are diminished by the loss of an outstanding philosopher and a great friend. Jonathan died on 5th January 2014, after several months of illness. He leaves his wife, Susan, and their two adult children, Rebecca and Tim.
UPDATE 1 [Jan 10, 2014]: A funeral service for Jonathan Lowe will be held at Durham Cathedral Monday 20th January at 1.30pm. All are welcome.

UPDATE 2 [Jan 11, 2014]: Another remembrance notice (by his former student Tuomas Tahko) can be found here.

Monday, December 2, 2013

CfA: Metaphysical Mayhem 2014!

Metaphysical Mayhem continues!

Rutgers University will be hosting a five day metaphysics summer school for graduate students, running May 19th-23rd, 2014, and featuring Karen Bennett, Shamik Dasgupta, Laurie Paul, Jonathan Schaffer, and Ted Sider.

All local (NY/NJ area) graduate students are invited to attend.
Non-local graduate students must apply to attend, by sending the following to by January 10, 2014:
• A single page cover letter
• A curriculum vitae
• A writing sample on any topic in metaphysics
• A brief letter of recommendation (which need be no more than one paragraph), sent from a professor familiar with your work

Applicants will be notified by February 1, 2014. Housing and possibly some limited financial support will be available for non-local graduate students.