Saturday, October 8, 2011

Another Philosophy Jobs Site: PhilJobs

We had none, now we have two and they are both amazing!!! Open-access philosophy job listings, that is. Alongside Phylo Jobs (check out the new features, btw!), now we have PhilJobs (courtesy of David Bourget and David Chalmers).
The next step now is to replace first-round interviews at the Eastern with either Skype interviews or straight on campus interviews and the dysfunctional APA will have be made completely irrelevant.

Monday, September 19, 2011

New Philosophy Jobs Site!

Wonderful news for job seekers and search committees via The Philosophy Smoker:
Chris Sula and [David Morrow] have revamped the Phylo site to create an actual jobs board to (ahem) supplement the JFP. The URL is the same as the old wiki: As of today, we’ll start accepting job postings in that space from departmental representatives only. Following Harry Brighouse’s advice, we’ll also require a link to an external site (e.g., an announcement on the department’s web site) to verify each post’s authenticity. We’re moving the job wiki to People will still be able to post unofficial updates there. We’re still in the process of updating the wiki software to play nicely with the jobs board, but it will be up well before anyone needs to post status updates. In the meantime, watch the main jobs board to find out about job openings.

Monday, August 22, 2011

A paradox concerning propositions

Propositions generally seem to be about things. The proposition that Tibbles is on the mat is about Tibbles and a mat. The proposition that 2+2=4 is about some numbers. The proposition that chips are on the counter is about chips and a counter. And so on.

Some propositions (statements, sentences, beliefs, etc.) are intuitively about themselves. For example, the proposition that all propositions merit investigation is intuitively about itself.

Now for a paradox. Consider the following proposition P: every proposition that is not about itself is mundane.

P is paradoxical because it seems to be about itself if and only if it is not. Let me draw this out. Suppose first that P is about itself. Then we can show that P is not about itself as follows. P is about all and only those propositions that are not about themselves, for it says that each is mundane. So, P is not about any proposition that is about itself. Therefore, P is not about P if P is indeed a proposition that is about itself. Therefore, P is not about itself if it is about itself. Suppose, on the other hand, that P is not about itself. We have already observed that P is about those propositions that are not about themselves (because P reports that each is mundane). Therefore, if P is one of those propositions that aren't about themselves, then P is about P. So, either way, we fall into contradiction.

We can make the paradox more acute by stipulating that 'x is about y' means 'x quantifies over instances of a kind of which y is an instance'. We can then ask whether or not P is about P in that precise sense. (If you think you see a way out of the paradox, ask yourself if there's a way to re-write the paradox that avoids your solution, and I'm guessing you'll see that there is.)

This paradox will remind you of Russell's paradox concerning the set of all sets that aren't members of themselves. But I believe the paradox of propositions is much harder to solve. Concerning sets, we can, if we like, treat "set" talk as plural reference talk (thereby eliminating the existence of sets altogether), or else we may carefully craft axioms of sethood (such as ZFC) that preclude the existence of sets that are members of themselves.

But such solutions are not nearly as promising when it comes to propositions. If you think we can simply eliminate propositions, then run the paradox in terms of sentence tokens: the sentence token represented by P surely exists (or at least there are things arranged P-wise...). We might try to craft axioms of aboutness to get out of this, but such axioms won't take away the deep feeling that P should be about itself if and only if it is not. (With sets, by contrast, there is something right about supposing that no sets contain themselves.) So, we have a paradox on our hands that appears to be more serious than previous ones of its kind.

The paradox could perhaps be viewed as evidence against the reliability of our a priori faculties (though, of course, we'd have to rely on those same faculties to "see" this!) Or, more drastically, someone could view it as evidence that reality is at bottom absurd. I think it should be viewed as an invitation to gain a deeper understanding of the nature of propositions and aboutness.

Suggested ways of resolving the paradox are welcome. (I have a solution, but before I share it, I'd like to see how others might solve the problem.)

Monday, May 16, 2011

Brian Leiter Caves in to Pressure from the Continental Lobby: Metaphysicians Should Boycott Leiter Report :-)

For the interpretationally challenged, the title of this post is a joke (hence the smiley). For those who haven't followed the Synthese affair, the title paraphrases the one of this other post. In any case, readers of this blog may want to spoil the fun by voting en masse here for 'Should be mandatory' and and for 'Every department should have the subject as its central focus'. (Since this is not supposed to be a serious poll, I would even think you could vote multiple times from multiple locations if you are so inclined and have a lot of time in your hands)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Special Relativity and Perdurantism

There seems to be a problem for the conjunction of Special Relativity and perdurantism. Maybe this is a standard problem that has a standard solution?

Let's say that being bent is an intrinsic property. Perdurantists of the sort I am interested in think that Socrates is bent at a time in virtue of an instantaneous temporal part of him being bent (I think the argument can be made to work with thin but not instantaneous parts, but it's a little more complicated). Therefore:
  1. x is bent at t only if the temporal part of x at t is bent simpliciter.
The following also seems like something perdurantists should say:
  1. x is bent simpliciter only if every temporal part of x is bent simpliciter.
Now, we need to add some premises about the interaction of Special Relativity and time.
  1. There is a one-to-one correspondence between times and maximal spacelike hypersurfaces such that one exists at a time if and only if one at least partly occupies the corresponding hypersurface.
Given a time t, let H(t) be the corresponding maximal spacelike hypersurface. And if h is a maximal spacelike hypersurface, then let T(h) be the corresponding time. Write P(x,t) for the temporal part of x at t. Then:
  1. P(x,t) is wholly contained within H(t) and if z is a spacetime point in H(t) and within x, then z is within P(x,t)
and, plausibly:
  1. If a point within x is within a maximal spacelike hypersurface h, then P(x,T(h)) exists.
Now suppose we have Special Relativity, so we're in a Minkowski spacetime. Then:
  1. For any point z in spacetime, there are three maximal spacelike hypersurfaces h1, h2 and h3 whose intersection contains no points other than z.
Add this obvious premise:
  1. No object wholly contained within a single spacetime point is bent simpliciter.
Finally, for a reductio, suppose:
  1. x is an object that is bent at t.
Choose a point z within P(x,t) and choose three spacelike hypersurfaces h1, h2 and h3 whose intersection contains z and only z (by 6). Now define the following sequence of objects, which exist by 4 and 5:
  • x1=P(x,t)
  • x2=P(x1,T(h1))
  • x3=P(x2,T(h2))
  • x4=P(x3,T(h3))
Observe that x4 is wholly contained in the intersection of the three hypersurfaces h1, h2 and h3, and hence:
  1. x4 is wholly at z.
  2. It is not the case that x4 is bent simpliciter.
  1. x1 is bent simpliciter. (By 1 and 8)
  2. x2 is bent simpliciter. (By 2 and 11)
  3. x3 is bent simpliciter. (By 2 and 12)
  4. x4 is bent simpliciter. (By 2 and 13)
    Since 14 contradicts 10, we have a problem. It seems the perdurantist cannot have any objects that are bent at any time in a Minkowski spacetime. This is a problem for the perdurantist.

    If I were a perdurantist, I'd deny 2, and maintain that an object can be bent simpliciter despite having temporal parts that are bent and temporal parts that are not bent. But I would not be comfortable with maintaining this. I would take this to increase the cost of perdurantism.

    What is ironic here is that it is often thought that endurantism is what has trouble with Relativity.

    Friday, April 15, 2011

    One-Category Abundant Platonism

    Standard Abundant Platonism (SAP) holds that to every predicate there corresponds a property, and items satisfy the predicate if and only if they exemplify the property.  Moreover, it holds that exemplifiers are not explanatorily prior to what they exemplify.  Normally, we think of SAP as a two-category theory: individuals and properties.

    But here is a suspicion I have.  Little if any explanatory work is being done by the distinction between individuals and properties.  The serious explanatory work is all being done by the relation of exemplification.  Here are two examples.

    1. Standard Platonists say that x and y are exactly alike in some respect if and only if there is some property P such that x exemplifies P and y exemplifies P.  But drop the word "property" from the previous sentence, and we have an account of exact alikeness that is even better: x and y are exactly alike in some respect if and only if there is a z such that x exemplifies z and y exemplifies z.  This is extensionally just as good, but simpler. (One can do more complex stuff about determinates and determinables to get resemblance in some specific respect, but again that doesn't need the concept of property, just the relation of being a determinable of.)

    2. Standard Platonists say that to each predicate F there corresponds a property Fness, and that x is F if and only if, and if so because, x exemplifies Fness (we should probably have an exception to the "because" clause when Fness is exemplification).  But change "there corresponds a property Fness" to "there corresponds an entity Fness", and this works just as well as an account of predication.

    Besides, the concepts of "individual" and "property" are foggy.  (We might try to say: "x is an individual if and only if x cannot be exemplified."  But that doesn't work for abundant Platonism, as abundant Platonism will have properties like being a square circle.)

    So, if you're going to be a Platonist, why be a two-category abundant Platonist?  Why not be a one-category abundant Platonist instead?

    Sunday, February 6, 2011

    CFP: Society for Exact Philosophy Annual Conference

    CFP: Society for Exact Philosophy Annual Conference
    The 39th annual meeting of the Society for Exact Philosophy will be held at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada. May 26-28, 2011. Conference organizers: Chris Tillman and Esa Diaz-Leon.


    The Society for Exact Philosophy invites submissions for its 2011 meeting. Paper submissions in all areas of analytic philosophy are welcomed. A selection of papers from the conference will be published in a special volume of Synthese, guest edited by Marc Moffett. Keynote speakers to be announced.

    SUBMISSION DEADLINE: March 8th, 2011.

    Submission Instructions

    Authors are requested to submit their papers according to the following guidelines: 1) Papers should be prepared for blind refereeing, 2) put into PDF file format, and 3) sent as an email attachment to the address given below -- where 4) the subject line of the submission email should include the key-phrase "SEP submission", and 5) the body text of the email message should constitute a cover page for the submission by including i) return email address, ii) author's name, iii) affiliation, iv) paper title, and v) short abstract.

    Electronic submissions should be sent to

    Nota Bene: All submissions will receive email confirmation of receipt. If your submission does not soon result in such an email confirmation, please send an inquiry either to the above address or to the local organizer.

    More Information--

    For more information on the conference, please visit the conference web site at:
    Or contact the conference organizers:

    Chris Tillman
    Esa Diaz-Leon

    Information on the Society and its previous meetings is on the web at

    "The SEP is dedicated to providing sustained discussion among researchers who believe that rigorous methods have a place in philosophical investigations."

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011

    Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Younger Scholars Prize and other Ammonius Stuff

    I am pleased to announce the imminent publication of the winning essay from the 2009 Oxford Studies in Metaphysics Younger Scholars Prize: “Ontological Nihilism”, by Jason Turner (University of Leeds). It will be the lead article in Vol. 6 of OSM, due early 2011 from Oxford University Press. I am also happy to report that Karen Bennett and I are now co-editors of OSM; Karen has been breathing new life into the series, and the results will already be apparent with Vol. 6.

    It is also time to remind all the younger metaphysicians out there that the due date for submission to the 2011 competition is fast approaching! It is NOT January 15 (as last OSM reported), but January 30. The winning essay will be published in OSM (often alongside runners-up) and the author receives an $8,000 prize. You still have a whole month in which to prepare your submissions. Get to it!

    The competition is supported by the Ammonius Foundation — which supports a similar $8,000 award for the Younger Scholars Prize for Philosophical Theology, a parallel competition associated with Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion (with a deadline of August 31). “Younger” metaphysicians and philosophers of religion (in grad school or within ten years of receiving a Ph.D.) should check out the details at:

    Both prizes were dreamt up and are financed by the Ammonius Foundation. The Foundation’s grants have encouraged many younger metaphysicians with generous essay awards (past winners are Rachel Briggs, Graeme A. Forbes, Jason Turner, Jeff Russell, Bradford Skow, Stephan Leuenberger, Matthew McGrath, Cody Gilmore, and Thomas Hofweber), and more senior metaphysicians with individual research grants for projects in metaphysics and philosophy of religion (past recipients include Derek Parfit, Jonathan Schaffer, Mark Johnston, John Hawthorne, Alvin Plantinga, George Bealer, and Jan Cover).

    If you just go to the main Ammonius Foundation web site, however, you won’t find any link to a really interesting, closely related page:, the home of Coming to Understanding, the grand metaphysical system constructed by the founder of the Ammonius Foundation, Marc Sanders. The author, aka “Ammonius”, has developed an elaborate monistic, neo-platonic ontological scheme described in a (free!) downloadable book (which includes a critical essay by yours truly, and another by Gordon Graham). There are a lot of interesting ideas in his carefully crafted system, and the religious thrust of the book will resonate with those attracted to a deity like “the Highest One” of Mark Johnston’s recent book, Saving God. (After the manner of philosophers and junior high students, I show my respect for Ammonius’s system by relentlessly attacking it along multiple fronts.)

    Marc Sanders is retiring from his role as head of the Ammonius Foundation, and passing the reins to his son, Eric Sanders, who plans to continue the two Younger Scholar Prize competitions, among other things. It has been a real privilege and pleasure to work with Marc and his Foundation over many years. Although Ammonius has a distinctive mission (, much of what the Foundation does has no goal other than to promote serious work in metaphysics (and, now, philosophical theology), no matter the conclusions reached. The Foundation’s grants to the Younger Scholars program have been absolutely “no strings attached”; a committee of three judges, culled from editorial board members of OSM, makes the call, not me (committees have included Karen Bennett, Hud Hudson, Trenton Merricks, Ted Sider, Andrew Cortens, Yuri Balashov, and John Hawthorne, among others). I can’t imagine a pleasanter relationship with a grantor than mine with Ammonius.

    As Marc steps down, I want to thank him publicly for his steadfast support of excellence in metaphysics. But I know that public praise and attention is the last thing he wants — he wants our attention drawn, not to him, but to the ideas in his metaphysical system. So the only way I can adequately say “thanks” is to encourage you to check it out for yourself: Coming to Understanding.