Sellars's Ontological Nominalism. European Journal of Philosophy. 2021.
In Fall 2019, I was a visitor at Pittsburgh, working with Robert Brandom, and I sat in on Brandom's course on Wilfrid Sellars. One of Brandom's main claims in the course was that Sellars's ontological nominalism was unintelligible. I thought there was more to be said for it, so I decided to write this paper, arguing that Sellars's ontological nominalism is not only intelligible but that the theory of conceptual content that Brandom develops is actually just what is needed for us to make proper sense of it. (link to publication, pdf of final draft.)
The Normative/Agentive Correspondence. Journal of Transcendental Philosophy. 2020.
This is my attempt to bridge the gap between Robert Brandom's account of the mind, articulated in normative vocabulary, and the sort of account offered by some of his closest critics such as John McDowell, James Conant, and Sebastian Rödl, articulated in principally agentive modal vocabulary. On the account I propose, these two sorts of accounts are really two perspectival sides of the same multi-perspectival coin. (link to publication, open access pdf)
Pointing out the Skeptic's Mistake and Reformulating the Two Aspects of Justification. Florida Philosophical Review. 2014, 2013.
These are two papers I wrote as an undergrad, which became chapters three and four of my undergrad thesis. In the first, which I still rather like, I defend Donald Davidson's transcendental argument against Cartesian skepticism by giving it a Moorean spin, drawing on work by Quill Kukla and Mark Lance. In the second, which I wish I wrote differently (I'd read the version in chapter four of the thesis, if you're curious), I develop an account of justification, drawing from W.V.O. Quine's work on observation sentences, where justification has two aspects, one connecting to belief qua state and one connecting to belief qua bearer of content, that fit together like the two sides of a seesaw.
CONSIDERING THE EXCEPTIONS: ON THE FAILURE OF CUMULATIVE TRANSITIVITY FOR INDICATIVE CONDITIONALS. Revise and resubmit (with minor revisions) at synthese.
All existing theories of indicative conditionals have it that, if "If A then B" is true and "If A and B, then C" is true, then "If A, then C" must also be true. Here, I provide a class of counterexamples to this principle. After spelling out how these cases pose a problem to existing theories of conditionals, I propose a new dynamic strict account of conditionals that accommodates them. (pdf)
WHY MUST INCOMPATIBILITY BE SYMMETRIC?
Something's being red (all over) is incompatible with its being blue (all over), and just as well, something's being blue is incompatible with its being red. In general, it seems that whenever a is incompatible with b, b is also incompatible with a. Why is this the case? This question might not seem like the sort of question we'd be able to answer, and recent work in the philosophy of logic which appeals to the notion of incompatibility as primitive has assumed just that. In this paper, however, I provide an answer. (pdf)
In the Works:
This paper reframes some of the core ideas of my dissertation. In it, raise a worry about the explanatory role that properties and relations play in contemporary semantic theories, and, I propose a radically different way of doing semantics that doesn't involve any appeal to properties, relations, propositions or anything else to serve as the contents of predicates or sentences. According to this semantic theory, which I "discursive role semantics," we think of the meanings of predicates and sentences directly in terms of what one does in uttering them, without appealing to any things one says. (pdf)
SELLARS'S TWO WORLDS. TO APPEAR IN READING KANT WITH SELLARS, EDITED BY LUZ C. SEIBERTH AND MAHDI RANAEE.
This is a paper I'm working on for a forthcoming anthology on Sellars and Kant. In it, I situate Sellars's Kantian picture in the context of the debate over "two worlds" vs. "two aspects" readings of transcendental idealism, arguing that Sellars has a two worlds conception of transcendental idealism, but he resolves the problems that traditionally plague such conceptions through his distinctive naturalistic spin on Kant. (abstract)
SIMPLY SUBSTRUCTURAL SEMANTICS
This paper developed out of my work with the ROLE group. In it, I show that relations of semantic implication and incompatibility in natural language not only don't conform to the structural principles Monotonicity and Transitivity, as would be expected by a way of thinking about these relations in terms of closeness of possible worlds (following Lewis and Stalnaker), but also fail to conform to Cumulative Transitivity, and these failures are not at all easy to make sense of in a truth-conditional framework. A framework of discursive role semantics, however, is able to simply and elegantly deal with these failures by starting with relations of implication and incompatibility that are simply not presumed to conform to these structural rules. (slides)
NĀGĀRJUNA, WITTGENSTEIN, AND THE SELF-UNDOING OF PHILOSOPHY
Many commentators have likened certain puzzling passages of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (MMK), the major work of the 2nd century Indian Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna, to equally puzzling metaphilosophical remarks in Wittgenstein's Tractatus. These remarks in both cases occur at the end of the work, and, if they're read literally, they seem to amount to an "undoing" of the philosophical theses propounded in the body of the work. In this paper, I draw on a line of Wittgenstein interpretation put forward by James Conant and Cora Diamond to offer a "resolute reading" of Nāgārjuna's MMK according to which the true doctrine of emptiness really is one that undoes itself. The general idea of "self-undoing" philosophical systems considered here is explored further (indeed, perhaps to far) in my book Talking in Circles.
Conference Papers, Abandoned Projects, and Other Things:
INTERVIEW WITH FIGURE/GROUND
As part of a series on "Sellars in a new generation," I was interviewed by the website Figure/Ground on all of the weird parts of Sellars's philosophy: his nominalism, his process ontology, his theory of picturing, and more. (link)
In attempting to familiarize myself with Begriffsschrift notation, I ended up writing this paper. I argue here that there is a tension in Frege's mature philosophy concerning the place of the judgement stroke in his logical notation, but there were seeds of a very different conception of logic in his early writing--what James Conant calls a "Kantian conception of logic"--where the judgment stroke is not at all out of place. (pdf)
This is a paper I wrote for a conference on the work of Mathew Boyle in Leipzig. In it, I respond to Boyle's criticism of John McDowell's conceptualist account of perceptual content, proposing and developing the agentive conception of perceptual experience that I also put forward in "The Normative/Agentive Correspondence" in response to his criticisms. (pdf)
This was my "preliminary essay" for my Ph.D. program at University of Chicago. In it, I present a new argument for the act-based conception of propositions, arguing that propositions do not represent things as being certain ways, as is widely taken to be the case; rather, we represent things as being certain ways, and propositions are our acts of doing so. In subsequent work, I've radicalized the basic view put forward here, applying the act-based approach not just to propositions, but properties as well. (pdf)
The Skeptical Thought and its dissolution
I wrote this paper early in grad school when I found myself in the grips of philosophical skepticism. I'm not sure if it works as well for the reader as it did for the author, but I haven't worried about skepticism since writing it. (pdf)