AOS: Metaphysics

AOC: Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Language

Email: dgoswick@unimelb.edu.au
received my doctorate from the University of California at Davis in December 2009.  In my dissertation I defended a response-dependent account of ordinary objects and argued that objects that have non-trivial de re modal properties depend for their existence partly on our having certain sort-responses.  Whilst in graduate school, I was a visiting student at the Australian National University, UNC at Chapel Hill, and the University of Arizona.  Prior to graduate school, I earned a B.A. in Political Studies at Bard College in upstate NY and a TEFL certificate from Cambridge University.   

I'm an assistant professor at the University of Melbourne.  My current work concerns modality, ordinary objects,  and Realism.  I argue that the negative modalities (not necessarily not, not possibly not) are weaker than the positive modalities (possibly, necessarily).  This creates room in logical space for objects which have no non-trivial modal properties.  I call such objects "primary objects".  I defend the existence of primary objects and argue that ordinary objects are composite objects which contain primary objects and response-dependent properties as parts.  With regard to Realism, I argue that defining Realism in terms of mind-independence is archaic and anthropocentric.  I'm currently trying to come up with a better, 21st century, version of Realism.  I run the Melbourne Area Metaphysics reading group, https://sites.google.com/site/melbourneareametaphysics.  Every eighteen months I organize the Australian Metaphysics Conference, https://sites.google.com/site/australianmc2013/https-sites-google-com-site-australianmc2014



ARTICLES & BOOK CHAPTERS (click on title for link to article)


We argue that the truth-value of mereological essentialism for events is independent of the truth-value of mereological essentialism for objects.  We diagnose why this is the case and examine the upshot of it.  In particular, we argue that the way we evaluate modal claims which concern events differs from the way we evaluate modal claims which concern objects.  A consequence of this is that there is room in logical space, even for those who take there to be only one ontological category (object/event) rather than two ontological categories (objects and events), to separate the question of mereological essentialism for objects from the question of mereological essentialism for events.

Standardly, □ ≡ ~◊~ and ◊ ≡ ~□~.  I, first, examine why in tense logic Arthur Prior thinks that ~◊~ is weaker than □ and ~□~ is weaker than ◊.  I, then, examine whether there are similar motivations in modal logic to take ~◊~ to be weaker than □ and ~□~ to be weaker than ◊.  The upshot is that, just as certain metaphysical views within the philosophy of time (e.g. Presentism) motivate one to deny the standard tense equivalences, certain metaphysical views within the metaphysics of modality (e.g. Contingentism, nonmodalism) motivate one to deny the standard modal equivalences.

The Role of Structure  (Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 2014)

In this critical notice of Ted Sider's Writing the Book of the World, I look at what structure is and at the arguments for structure. 

Change and Identity Over Time  (Blackwell's Companion to Philosophy of Time, 2013)

What is at stake when we're concerned with the change and identity of objects over time?  I examine the three most common accounts of persistence over time: endurantism, perdurantism, and exdurantism.  The main arguments for and objections to each view are considered.  I note that there's no reason to think all objects persist in the same way and briefly examine pluralism about persistence.

Philosophical Methodology in Modal Epistemology (Essays in Philosophy, 2012)         

An adequate modal methodology must capture both the fact that o exists and the fact that o is essentially F. I argue that neither of the two most common modal methodologies -- the thought experiment methodology and the conceptual analysis methodology -- succeed in capturing this. The thought experiment methodology fails to demonstrate that any actual o is essentially F because there are systematic cases of false positives which the method is unable to rule out. Conceptual analysis succeeds in demonstrating that an object o is essentially F only at the cost of undermining the reasons we have for thinking object o exists. We are, hence, left in need of a methodology which can ground our knowing both that o exists and that o is essentially F. I conclude by examining three different ways of supplementing the thought experiment methodology and the conceptual analysis methodology to yield knowledge of the essential properties of actual objects.


Lewisian-Style Counterfactual Analysis of Causation: A New Solution to the Problem of Overdetermination  (Organon F, 2010)                                                                    

Causal overdetermination has long been considered a problem for counterfactual analyses of causation. Intuitively, when x and y overdetermine z, we want to say that both x and y caused z, but standard Lewisian counterfactual analysis yields the result that neither x nor y caused z.

I show that, if we modify Lewis's account of events slightly, we can defend a counterfactual analysis of causation which accords with our intuitions about causal overdetermination.


Bridging the Modal Gap (Journal of Philosophy, 2010)                                          
I argue that standard Realists about ordinary objects (e.g. Kripke, Bealer) cannot tell a satisfactory epistemological story with regard to our knowledge of the modal properties of ordinary objects.  I suggest that this gives us reason to endorse some ontology other than standard Realism.


BOOK REVIEWS (click on title for link to review)
Review of Adrian Bardon's The Future of the Philosophy of Time (The Philosophical Quarterly, 2015)

Review of Adrian Bardon's A Brief History of the Philosophy of Time  (The Philosophical Quarterly, 2014)

Review of Ted Sider's Writing the Book of the World (Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 2013)   
Review of Crawford Elder's Familiar Objects and Their Shadows (Mind, 2012)
WORKS IN PROGRESS (abstracts only)

A Devitt-Proof Constructivism
I distinguish 20th century Constructivists (e.g. Goodman, Putnam) whose anti-Realism is global and is motivated by epistemic and semantic concerns about Realism from 21st century Constructivists (e.g. Einheuser, Goswick, Sidelle) whose anti-Realism is local and is motivated by metaphysics concerns about modality.  I argue that the 21st century Constructivist program is plausible in a way the 20th century Constructivist program is not.  In particular, I argue that 21st century Constructivism is immune to the anti-Constructivist arguments Devitt presents in Realism and Truth.

Hylomorphism Without Primitive Modality
The view that ordinary objects are constituted by matter and form ("hylomorphism") can be contrasted with the view that ordinary objects are constituted by matter alone ("matter-only").  I argue that hylomorphic views have an advantage over matter-only views when it comes to grounding an object's modal properties.  I, then, defend a response-dependent hylomorphic account of ordinary objects and argue that it fairs even better than non-response-dependent hylomorphic views with regard to grounding objects' modal properties.

Regarding Realism
Realism is standardly understood as involving an existence clause and an independence clause.  I present several counterexamples to the independence clause and argue that, far from being constitutive of Realism, independence is actually orthogonal to Realism.  I close by briefly examining what should play the role independence has hitherto played in defining Realism. 

Accounting for Ordinary Objects in a Minimally Modal World
I discuss how we build up the world of experienced objects (e.g. dogs, chairs, and trees) from a world which is fundamentally only minimally modally (i.e. which contains only primary objects).  In particular, I argue that ordinary objects are constituted by primary objects and sort-response properties.