Below is a list with abstracts and links to preprints and published versions of my published papers. These are also available on my academia.edu and PhilPapers pages. For links to papers that have discussed my work, see the citations on my Google Scholar page.
Can Pluralism Account for the Normativity of Truth? American Philosophical Quarterly. Forthcoming.
A central motivation for truth pluralism is that it can account for the normativity of truth, whereas a key competitor – deflationism – cannot. However, Pascal Engel (2013) argues that truth pluralists cannot adequately accommodate the idea that truth is normative, which would be a significant blow to the view. In this paper I assess Engel’s argument and its implications for truth pluralism. I suggest that pluralists are forced to choose between taking the normativity of truth as primitive, or taking the normativity of truth to be fragmented, depending on the form of pluralism preferred. I then explore the implications of both of these options, arguing that both are defensible, and thus that truth pluralism ultimately survives Engel’s critique.
The Metaphysics of Domains. In J. Wyatt, N. Pedersen, and N. Kellen (eds.), Pluralisms about Truth and Logic. Palgrave Macmillan. 2018
In this paper I give an account of what domains are and respond to some problems of domain individuation. I begin by discussing the semantic and metaphysical aspects of a domain, and then show how the two aspects combine to yield an account of domains in general. Following this, I will discuss two problems of domain individuation: the problem of mixed atomics, and the problem of mixed compounds.
In this paper I investigate the claim that truth is a relational property. What does this claim really mean? What is its import? - Is it a basic feature of the concept of truth; or a distinctive feature of the correspondence theory of truth; or even both? After introducing some general ideas about truth, I begin by highlighting an ambiguity in current uses of the term ‘relational property’ in the truth debate, and show that we need to distinguish two separate ideas: that truth is a relational property, and that truth is an extrinsic property. I go on to examine what both of these ideas are in more detail, and consider what would need to hold for truth to be in either of these categories. I then discern where all the main competitors in the truth debate stand on these issues. In doing so we learn more about these views and what they entail, and build a general picture of what stances different theories of truth take on whether truth is extrinsic or relational. Moreover, in doing this we will be able to answer one of the questions with which we began: whether truth’s being extrinsic or relational is something that, if accepted, lends support to the correspondence theory of truth. We will see that this is not so, and discern some interesting variations between various theories of truth on the issues of whether truth is extrinsic or relational. Following this we will be in a better position to judge whether the notions of extrinsicality or relationality are basic features of the concept of truth. In the final part of the paper I argue that, even if we are not in a position to conclude that they are basic features, they are features that any prospective theory of truth needs to take seriously.
Ontological pluralism holds that there are different ways of being. Truth pluralism holds that there are different ways of being true. Both views have received a growing amount of attention in recent literature, but, at present, there has been very little discussion of the connections between the views, or how work on one might inform work on the other. In this paper we aim to undertake some investigations in this direction. We begin by suggesting that interesting motivations for ontological pluralism can be developed by noting the similarities between the ways that debates about truth and debates about existence have developed, and that the motivations typically given for truth pluralism plausibly have analogues to provide motivations for ontological pluralism. We then go on to consider in more detail the precise relations between truth pluralism and ontological pluralism. We argue that, whilst there are no entailments from truth pluralism to ontological pluralism, nor vice versa, those who hold one view and wish to hold the other will find routes by which to do so. In the final part of the paper we identify some disanalogies between the views, by considering whether certain ‘mixed’ problems commonly pressed against truth pluralism — namely the problems of mixed inferences and mixed compounds — have analogues for ontological pluralism. We argue that, while there are many similarities in the literatures, there are also some surprising dissimilarities between the views, and some of the most pressing mixing problems for truth pluralism turn out to not to be problems for ontological pluralism.
Truth and Naturalism, The Blackwell Handbook of Naturalism, ed. Kelly James Clark, Oxford: Blackwell, February 2016: 246-261 . (With F. Ferrari and M.P. Lynch) Preprint
Is truth itself natural? This is an important question for both those working on truth and those working on naturalism. For theorists of truth, answering the question of whether truth is natural will tell us more about the nature of truth (or lack of it), and the relations between truth and other properties of interest. For those working on naturalism, answering this question is of paramount importance to those who wish to have truth as part of the natural order. In this paper, we focus primarily on the kinds of theories of truth that occupy the central positions in current debates about truth, namely correspondence theories, deflationary theories, epistemic theories, and pluralist theories, and aim to discern the extent to which truth is a natural property on each view.
One of the many ways that ‘deflationary’ and ‘inflationary’ theories of truth are said to differ is in their attitude towards truth qua property. This difference used to be very easy to delineate, with deflationists denying, and inflationists asserting, that truth is a property, but more recently the debate has become a lot more complicated, due primarily to the fact that many contemporary deflationists often do allow for truth to be considered a property. Anxious to avoid inflation, however, these deflationists are at pains to point out that the truth property, on their view, is not a property of any significant interest. Correspondingly, inflationists have seen this as an opportunity to refine what kind of property they think truth is, which – according to them – moves their views beyond deflationism. The upshot of this is that there are number of different accounts in the literature of what distinguishes an inflationary truth property from a deflationary one, or – as it is sometimes put - what distinguishes a ‘substantive’ property from an ‘insubstantive’ one. This has made it hard to pin down exactly what is at issue at the metaphysical level between deflationists and inflationists, which makes it increasingly hard to see how debates between them are properly phrased. Given that these positions represent the two central attitudes towards truth in contemporary debates, this makes for a serious obstacle for the project of discerning the correct theory of truth. The aim of this paper is to discern the best way to distinguish between substantive and insubstantive properties, and thus to restore some focus to these debates. I argue that the three central distinctions in the literature fail, and offer what I take to be a more promising distinction in terms of a graded distinction between abundant and sparse properties.
Perhaps the two main contemporary formulations of ethical naturalism - Synthetic Ethical Naturalism (SEN) and Analytical Descriptivism – seem to conflict with plausible views about cases where moral debate and disagreement is possible. Both lack safeguards to avoid divergence of reference across different communities, which can scupper the prospects for genuine moral disagreement. I explore the prospects for supplementing both views with Lewis’s notion of eligibility, arguing that this can solve the problem for a modified form of analytical descriptivism, and for a modified form of SEN too (though perhaps more controversially). I close by considering the appropriateness of using the notions of eligibility and joint-carving in ethics.
Truth, Winning, and Simple Determination Pluralism, in N. J. L. L. Pedersen and C. D. Wright (eds.): Truth and Pluralism: Current Debates. Oxford University Press: 113-122. February 2013. Preprint
There is good reason to think that there is a useful analogy between truth and winning. When playing a game, the object of that game is to win, and this tells us something important about the practice of playing games. Likewise, when believing or asserting the object is to believe or speak truly, and this tells us something important about the practice of believing or asserting. It also, of course, tells us something important about truth, just as the observation about games tells us something about winning. In this paper I explore this analogy to demonstrate one way that we can arrive at an attractive formulation of pluralism about truth, which I call ‘simple determination pluralism’.
This paper explores how consideration of the notions of naturalness and eligibility, which have played an increasingly significant role in contemporary metaphysics, might impact on the study of truth. In particular, it aims to demonstrate how taking such notions seriously may be of benefit to ‘representational’ theories of truth by showing how the naturalness of truth on a representational account provides a response to the ‘Scope Problem’ recently presented by Lynch (2009).
Pluralist Theories of Truth, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (eds. J. Fieser and B. Dowden). Published online March 2012.
An encyclopedia article reviewing the central motivations and problems for pluralist theories of truth, along with an outline of the various formulations of the view.
Alethic pluralism is the view that truth requires different treatment in different domains of discourse. The basic idea is that different properties play important roles in the analysis of truth in different domains of discourse, such as discourse about the material world, moral discourse, and mathematical discourse, to take three examples. Alethic disjunctivism is a kind of alethic pluralism, and is the view that truth is to be identified with the disjunctive property that is formed using each of the domain-specific properties as disjuncts (i.e. in the view’s simplest form, truth is the property of either having domain-specific property 1, or domain-specific property 2, and so on). This paper evaluates the prospects for alethic disjunctivism. In particular, it outlines the proper formulation of the view, and assesses some concerns that the disjunctive property lacks the pedigree necessary to be considered a truth property. I begin by briefly outlining the motivations for alethic pluralism, before noting four general constraints on formulations of the view. I then consider a ‘simple’ formulation of alethic disjunctivism, and recommend an amendment. I then demonstrate that the candidate truth property specified by this new formulation is able to meet the central constraints required for it to be considered a viable formulation of alethic pluralism. The final part of this demonstration involves making some distinctions between different kinds of disjunctive properties, and arguing that disjunctive properties are not necessarily highly abundant properties: some are sparser than others.
In this short paper I restrict my focus to Lynch’s formulation of alethic pluralism - the view which he calls ‘alethic functionalism’ - and to address the issue of just how different it is from deflationary theories of truth. I suggest that, using Lynch’s framework, we can construct a view – ‘deflationary functionalism’ - which shares the main features of alethic functionalism, yet seems very close to a deflationary view. Given – as I argue - that deflationary functionalism shares the distinctive features of alethic functionalism, we are entitled to wonder whether alethic functionalism ends up far closer to deflationism than Lynch would like to allow.
Truth as One(s) and Many: on Lynch’s alethic functionalism, Analytic Philosophy, Vol. 52, Issue 3: 213-230, September 2011. (With N.J.L.L. Pedersen) Published Version
A critical study of Michael Lynch's book Truth as One and Many (OUP, 2009). We explore the constraints Lynch puts on a theory of truth, and the extent to which his arguments against deflationary theories of truth are successful.
What is truth? What precisely is it that truths have that falsehoods lack? Pluralists about truth (or ‘alethic pluralists’) tend to answer these questions by saying that there is more than one way for a proposition, sentence, belief - or any chosen truth-bearer - to be true. In this paper I argue that two of the most influential formations of alethic pluralism, those of Wright (1992, 2003) and Lynch (2009), are subject to serious problems. I go on to outline a new formulation, that I call ‘simple determination pluralism’, which I claim offers better prospects for alethic pluralism, with the potential to have applications for pluralist theories beyond truth.
This paper is a response to Aaron Cotnoir's paper "Generic truth and mixed conjunctions: some alternatives", published in Analysis 69.3: 473-479.
The problem of mixed conjunctions, due to Tappolet (2000), threatens to undermine alethic pluralism by showing that it cannot account for the truth of conjunctions in which the conjuncts spring from different domains of discourse. In this paper I argue, firstly, that the problem is not just a problem for alethic pluralism and, secondly, that the problem can be solved.
Public Philosophy Articles
What pro wrestling can teach us about the quest for truth. Psyche, https://psyche.co/ideas/what-pro-wrestling-can-teach-us-about-the-quest-for-truth, August 2020
Where Being Depends on Truth, Flickering Shadows: Truth in 16mm, edited by Huw Price at https://316am.site123.me/articles/where-being-depends-on-truth?c=flickering-shadows-truth-in-16mm-edited-by-huw-price, June 2020
I Think, Therefore I Slam. The Philosophers' Magazine, 2nd Quarter 2020.
Why Properties Matter, The Philosophers' Magazine, 1st Quarter 2015.