3A43 Paterson Hall
1125 Colonel By Drive
Ottawa, ON, K1S 5B6, Canada

gabriele 'dot' contessa 'at' carleton 'dot' ca


I am an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at Carleton University.

My current work lies mostly at the intersection of metaphysics and philosophy of science. I work primarily on the nature/identity of properties (where I defend the view that the fundamental natural properties are both qualities and powers (see, e.g., my "Only Properties Can Confer Dispositions"), dispositions (where I developed and defended a general, detailed, non-circular, and (hopefully!) counterexample-free version of the Simple Counterfactual Analysis, which I call the Interference-Free Counterfactual Analysis (see my "Dispositions and Interferences")), modality (where I am working on a global form of dispositionalism about modality, which I call Lockean Supervenience), composition (where I defended a view that I call non-eliminative nihilism (see my "One's A Crowd: Mereological Nihilism Without Ordinary-Object Eliminativism")), and fictionalism about abstract objects. I've also worked on scientific representation and the scientific realism debate.

I am also interested in a number of issues in political philosophy, philosophy of economics, and their intersections.

I did my graduate studies at the LSE in London (under the supervision of Nancy Cartwright for my PhD and Orly Shenker for my MSc) and did my undergraduate degree  at "La Sapienzain Rome (under the supervision of Mauro Dorato). 

I founded, administer, and contribute to Matters of Substance: A Group Blog Devoted to Metaphysics and It's Only A Theory: A Group Blog Devoted to General Philosophy of Science

I am the PhilPapers editor for Properties and Dispositions and Powers.

When not in Ottawa, I am usually in Toronto, where I live with my wife and our three wonderful kidsI grew up in Rome (but I was born in the beautiful Umbrian town of Spoleto)


Nov 19, 2015: My book manuscript Models and Maps: An Essay on Epistemic Representation is now available for download here. Please feel free to download it, circulate it, cite it, or use it with proper attribution for any not-commercial purposes.

Aug 11, 2015'Dispositions and Tricks' is now forthcoming in Erkenntnis.

Apr 28, 2015: My paper 'It Ain't Easy: Fictionalism, Deflationism, and Easy Arguments in Ontology' has been accepted for publication in Mind.


My Most Downloaded Works on PhilPapers

  1. Scientific Models and Representation (The Continuum Companion to the Philosophy of Science, 2011) (596 downloads)
  2. Scientific Representation, Interpretation, and Surrogative Reasoning (Philosophy of Science, 2007) (402 downloads)
  3. Dispositions and Interferences (Philosophical Studies, 2013) (357 downloads)
  4. Representing Reality: The Ontology of Scientific Models and their Representational Function (PhD thesis, 2007) (347 downloads)
  5. Does Your Metaphysics Need Structure? (Analysis, 2012) (280 downloads)
  6. Scientific Models and Fictional Objects (Synthese, 2010) (267 downloads)
  7. Modal Truthmakers and Two Varieties of Actualism (Synthese, 2010) (225 downloads)
  8. One's a Crowd: Mereological Nihilism without Ordinary-Object Eliminativism (Analytic Philosophy, 2014) (224 downloads)
  9. The Junk Argument: Safe Disposal Guidelines for Mereological Universalists (Analysis, 2012) (212 downloads)
  10. On the Supposed Temporal Asymmetry of Counterfactual Dependence, or It Wouldn’t Have Taken a Miracle! (dialectica, 2006) (176 downloads)
My Most Cited Works (According to Google Scholar)
  1. Scientific Representation, Interpretation, and Surrogative Reasoning (Philosophy of Science, 2007) (76 citations)
  2. Scientific Models and Fictional Objects (Synthese, 2010) (41 citations)
  3. Scientific Models and Representation (The Continuum Companion to the Philosophy of Science, 2011); Modal Truthmakers and Two Varieties of Actualism (Synthese, 2010) (14 citations each) 
  4. One's a Crowd: Mereological Nihilism without Ordinary-Object Eliminativism (Analytic Philosophy, 2014) (9 citations)
  5. Constructive Empiricism, Observability and Three Kinds of Ontological Commitment (Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 2006) (7 citations)
  6. Dispositions and Interferences (Philosophical Studies, 2013); Scientific Models, Partial Structures, and the New Received View of Scientific Theories (Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 2006); The Junk Argument: Safe Disposal Guidelines for Mereological Universalists (Analysis, 2012) (6 citations each)
  7. Do Extrinsic Dispositions Need Extrinsic Causal Bases? (Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 2012); Who's Afraid of Imaginary Objects? (Russell vs Meinong: The Legacy of "On Denoting"); Representing Reality: The Ontology of Scientific Models and their Representational Function (PhD thesis, 2007) (4 citations each)
Entries on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy Citing My Work

My Personal Favourites!
  • 'Only Powers Can Confer Dispositions' (The Philosophical Quarterly, forthcoming)
    • ABSTRACT: According to power theorists, all (fundamental, perfectly natural) properties (or at least all fundamental, perfectly natural properties that confer dispositions) are powers—i.e. they necessarily confer on their bearers certain dispositions. Although dispositional essentialism is increasingly gaining popularity, a vast majority of analytic metaphysicians still favors what I call ‘the nomic theory’—i.e. the view that which dispositions a property confers on its bearers is contingent on what the laws of nature happen to be. This paper argues that the nomic theory is inconsistent, for, if it were correct, then properties would not confer any dispositions on their bearers—they would only appear to do so (just like how in cases of mimicking the objects do not really have the relevant dispositions, they merely appear to have them). If my arguments are sound, then the nomic theory is incoherent and ultimately collapses into what I call ‘neo-occasionalism’ and dispositional essentialism turns out to be the only available option for those who believe that properties genuinely confer dispositions on their bearers.
  • 'Dispositions and Interferences' (Philosophical Studies, 2013)
    • ABSTRACT: The Simple Counterfactual Analysis (SCA) was once considered the most promising analysis of disposition ascriptions. According to SCA, disposition ascriptions are to be analyzed in terms of counterfactual conditionals. In the last few decades, however, SCA has become the target of a battery of counterexamples. In all counterexamples, something seems to be interfering with a certain object’s having or not having a certain disposition thus making the truth-values of the disposition ascription and of its associated counterfactual come apart. Intuitively, however, it would seem that, if all interferences were absent, the disposition ascription and its associated conditional would have the same truth-value. Although this idea may seem obvious, it is far from obvious how to implement it. In fact, it has become widely assumed that the content of qualifying ceteris paribus clauses (such as ‘if all interferences were absent’) cannot be specified in a clear and non-circular manner. In this paper, I will argue that this assumption is wrong. I will develop an analysis of disposition ascriptions, the Interference-Free Counterfactual Analysis, which relies on a clear and non-circular definition of the notion of interference and avoids the standard counterexamples to SCA while vindicating the intuition that disposition ascriptions and counterfactual conditionals are intimately related.
  • 'One's a Crowd: Mereological Nihilism without Ordinary-Object Eliminativism' (Analytic Philosophy, 2014)
    • ABSTRACT: Mereological nihilism is the thesis that there are no composite objects—i.e. objects with proper material parts. One of the main advantages of mereological nihilism is that it allows its supporters to avoid a number of notorious philosophical puzzles. However, it seems to offer this advantage only at the expense of certain widespread and deeply entrenched beliefs. In particular, it is usually assumed that mereological nihilism entails eliminativism about ordinary objects—i.e. the counterintuitive thesis that there are no such things as tables, apples, cats, and the like. In this paper, I argue that this assumption is false—mereological nihilists do not need to be eliminativists about tables, apples, or cats. Non-eliminativist nihilists claim that all it takes for there to be a cat is that there are simples arranged cat-wise. More specifically, non-eliminative nihilists argue that expressions such as ‘the cat’ in sentences such as ‘The cat is on the mat’ do not refer to composite objects but only to simples arranged cat-wise and compare this metaphysical discovery to the scientific discovery that ‘water’ refers to dihydrogen oxide. Non-eliminative nihilism, I argue, is not only a coherent position, but it is preferable to its more popular, eliminativist counterpart, as it enjoys the key benefits of nihilism without incurring the prohibitive costs of eliminativism. Moreover, unlike conciliatory strategies adopted by eliminative nihilists, non-eliminative nihilism allow its supporters to account not only for how we can assert something true by saying ‘The cat is on the mat’ but also for how we can believe something true by believing that the cat is on the mat.