Published and Forthcoming Papers

The published and forthcoming papers in this section are penultimate versions---there may be slight discrepancies between the versions here and the official ones. Please cite the published versions where available.

In Preparation

Please contact me if you'd like to cite any of the papers in progress.

Superceded Papers

Papers that I've stopped working on---other directions to take the ideas seemed more promising

Abstracts of Papers

How General Do Theories Of Explanation Need To Be?
(explanation.pdf | back to top)

Theories of explanation seek to tell us what distinctively explanatory information is. The most ambitious ones, such as the DN-account, seek to tell us what an explanation is, tout court. Less ambitious ones, such as causal theories, restrict themselves to a particular domain of inquiry. The least ambitious theories constitute outright skepticism, holding that there is no reasonably unified phenomenon to give an account of. On these views, it is impossible to give any theories of explanation at all. I argue that both the less ambitious and outright skeptical varieties are committed to a certain context-sensitivity of our explanatory discourse. And though this discourse is almost certainly context-sensitive in some respects, it does not exhibit the context-sensitivity less than fully ambitious theories are committed to. Therefore, all accounts that seek to restrict themselves in scope, including causal accounts of explanation, fail.

Generics and the Ways of Normality
(Ways.pdf | back to top)

I contrast two approaches to the interpretation of generics such as `ravens are black:' majority-based views, on which they are about what is the case most of the time, and inquiry-based views, on which they are about a feature we focus on in inquiry---an inductive target. I argue that while majority-based views are preferable based on the most basic data about generics, only inquiry-based views can account for a systematic class of sentences: generics with logically complex predicates, such as `cats are black, white, and ginger.' Thus, inquiry-based views should carry the day. I then go on to sketch a theory of inductive targets.

Against Intentionalism
(explanation.pdf | back to top)

Intentionalism is the claim that the phenomenological properties of a perceptual experience supervene on its intentional properties. The paper presents a counterexample to this claim, one that concerns visual grouping phenomenology. I argue that this example is superior to superficially similar examples involving grouping phenomenology offered by Peacocke (Sense and Content), because the standard intentionalist responses to Peacocke's examples cannot be extended to mine. If Intentionalism fails, it is impossible to reduce the phenomenology of an experience to its content.

On Semantics for Characterizing Sentences
(explanation.pdf | back to top)

The paper presents semantics for a subset of generics, so-called ''characterizing sentences''. It is argued that claims about the relationship between the truth of characterizing sentences and claims about the distribution of properties among individuals can be viewed independently of considerations about logical form. Some extant approaches are presented and criticized, and a positive analysis of characterizing sentences in terms of normality is introduced and defended. The main innovation is that a notion of normality enters into the analysis in two separate but connected places, not just one as competing accounts suggest.

Ceteris Paribus Laws: Genericity and Natural Kinds
(cp-laws-kinds.pdf | back to top)

Ceteris Paribus (cp-)laws may be said to hold only ``other things equal,'' signaling that their truth is compatible with a range of exceptions. This paper provides a new semantic account for some of the sentences used to state cp-laws. Its core approach is to relate these laws to natural language on the hand---by arguing that cp-laws are most naturally expressed with generics---and to natural kinds on the other---by arguing that the semantics of generics in the context of the special sciences are best spelled out by appeal to natural kinds. The paper then goes on to draw on these semantics in order to illuminate several problems raised by cp-laws, some familiar, some new.

Dutchmen are Good Sailors: Generics and Gradability
(dutchmen.pdf | back to top)

While generics generally tolerate exceptions, they seem to play different roles in different kinds of generics. In paradigmatic generics, such as ravens are black,the exceptions are reasonably considered deviations from a norm or default pattern. But there are many generics, including Dutchmen are good sailors for which this approach seems problematic: Dutchmen who aren't good sailors intuitively aren't deviations in the way that albino ravens are. This paper presents a new theory on which the interpretation of these apparently troublesome examples is the result of the interaction between the semantics of generics and the semantics of gradable predicates. The theory provides extensionally better truth-conditions than some rivals, predicts generalizations about the phenomenon, and does so while making use of only the most widely shared assumptions about the semantics of generics.

Generic Comparisons
(Generic-Comparisons.pdf | back to top)

The paper discusses comparative generic sentences As are F-er than Bs, which pose severe problems for extant accounts. In their stead, the paper proposes reconceiving the LF of generic sentences as more closely akin to that of sentences containing non-generic plurals, paradigmatically plural definite descriptions. Given this one crucial change, several otherwise puzzling features of comparative generics are immediately explicable, including their relatively weak truth-conditions and some of the logical relations they enter into.

Dynamics, Brandom-Style
(brandom-dynamics.pdf | back to top)

This paper discusses the semantic theory presented in Robert Brandom's Making It Explicit. I argue that it is best understood as a special version of dynamic semantics, so that these semantics by themselves offer an interesting theoretical alternative to more standard truth-conditional theories. This reorientation also has implications for more foundational issues. I argue that it gives us the resources for a renewed argument for the normativity of meaning. The paper ends by critically assessing the view in both its development and motivations.

Natural Kinds and Induction in the Special Sciences
(Spec-Sci-Induction.pdf | back to top)

This paper discusses a strategy of arguing for causal theories of natural kinds based on considerations of reliable induction, as pursued by Boyd, Kornblith, and Millikan. It argues that, even if the strategy is successful for natural kinds that appear in exceptionless laws, it fails for the laws articulated by the special sciences because these only hold with exceptions, or ceteris paribus.

Generically Free Choice
(Generic-Predication.pdf | back to top)

This paper discusses free-choice like effects in generics. Just as Jane may drink coffee or tea can be used to convey Jane may drink coffee and Jane may drink tea, some generics with disjunctive predicates can be used to convey conjunctions of simpler generics:elephants live in Africa or Asia can be used to convey elephants live in Africa and elephants live in Asia. I propose an account on which this effect is a scalar implicature. Among other results, it can explain various aspects of this phenomenon, including why the effect is absent in the superficially similar elephants have grey ears or white tusks.

Processes in the Interpretation of Generics and CP-Laws
(Processes-and-Triviality.pdf | back to top)

Ceteris Paribus (cp-)laws may be said to hold only ``other things equal,'' signaling that their truth is compatible with a range of exceptions. Several theorists have taken this feature to introduce the presumption that cp-laws are trivial, one that needs to be countered if we are to appeal to cp-laws in the course of scientific investigation or our philosophical theorizing about it. I argue that the triviality worry is misplaced by pointing out that cp-laws are just a subset of uncontroversially meaningful and contingent expressions of natural language, the generics. I then present an account of these generics that elucidates some of their most puzzling features, especially the ones that suggested the triviality worry in the first place.