Research


Published and In Press

(1) Baron, S.; Colyvan, M., & Ripley, D.   (in press) "How Mathematics Can Make a Difference" Philosopher's Imprint. Preprint. Final.

Standard approaches to counterfactuals in the philosophy of explanation are geared toward causal explanation. We show how to extend the counterfactual theory of explanation to non-causal cases, involving extra-mathematical explanation: the explanation of physical facts (in part) by mathematical facts. Using a structural equation framework, we model impossible perturbations to mathematics and the resulting differences made to physical explananda in two important cases of extra-mathematical explanation. We address some objections to our approach.

(2) Baron, S. & Colyvan, M.  (in press) "Time Enough for Explanation" Journal of Philosophy. E-mail me for a copy.

The present paper advances an analogy between cases of extra-mathematical explanation (mathematical explanations of physical facts) and cases of what might be termed `extra-logical explanation': the explanation of a physical fact by a logical fact. A particular case of extra-logical explanation is identified that arises in the philosophical literature on time travel. This instance of extra-logical explanation is subsequently shown to be of a piece with cases of extra-mathematical explanation. Using this analogy, we argue extra-mathematical explanation is part of a broader class of non-causal explanation. This has important implications for extra-mathematical explanation, for time travel and for theories of explanation more generally.

(3) Dougherty, T., Baron, S. & Miller, K. (in press) "Female under-representation among philosophy majors: A map of the hypotheses and a survey of the evidence'' Feminist Philosophy Quarterly.

Why is there female under-representation among philosophy majors? We survey the hypotheses that have been proposed so far, grouping similar hypotheses together. We then propose a chronological taxonomy that distinguishes hypotheses according to the stage in undergraduates’ careers at which the hypotheses predict an increase in female under-representation. We then survey the empirical evidence for and against various hypotheses. We end by suggesting future avenues for research.

(4) Baron, S., Dougherty, T. & Miller, K. (in press) "Why is there female under-representation among philosophy majors? Evidence of a pre-university effect" ErgoPreprint available here

Why does female under-representation emerge during undergraduate education? At the University of Sydney, we surveyed students before and after their first philosophy course. We failed to find any evidence that this course disproportionately discouraged female students from continuing in philosophy relative to male students. Instead, we found evidence of an interaction effect between gender and existing attitudes about philosophy coming into tertiary education that appears at least partially responsible for this poor retention. At the first lecture, disproportionately few female students intended to major. Further, at the first lecture, female students were less interested in philosophy, were less self-confident about philosophy, and were less able to imagine themselves as philosophers. Similarly, female students predicted they would feel more uncomfortable in philosophy classes than male students did. Further study with a control is warranted to determine whether this interaction effect is peculiar to philosophy, or whether it is indicative of a more general gendered trend amongst first year undergraduate students.

(5) Dougherty, T., Baron, S. & Miller, K. (in press) "Why Do Female Students Leave Philosophy? The Story from Sydney" Hypatia. Preprint available here. Published version available here.

This paper presents an overview of a study carried out at Sydney on female underrepresentation in philosophy at the undergraduate level. It appears in Hypatia's musings column. The paper describing the full study is still in preparation. 

(6) Baron, S. (in press) "Back to the Unchanging Past" Pacific Philosophical QuarterlyPreprint available here

The standard view of time travel has it that time travelers cannot change the past. It has been argued by some that the standard view is false, and that this can be shown using a two-dimensional model of time. I defend the standard view against this attack. I show, first, that the addition of a second temporal dimension does not provide a model of changing the past and, second, that neither does the addition of n temporal dimensions for any n > 1. 

(7) Baron, S. & Miller, K. (in press) "What is Temporal Error Theory?" in Philosophical Studies. Preprint available here. Published version available here.

Much current debate in the metaphysics of time is between A-theorists and B-theorists. Central to this debate is the assumption that time exists and that the task of metaphysics is to catalogue time’s features. Relatively little consideration has been given to an error theory about time. Since there is very little extant work on temporal error theory the goal of this paper is simply to lay the groundwork to allow future discussion of the relative merits of such a view. The paper thus develops a conceptual framework from within which to evaluate claims about the actual existence, or not, of temporality as that notion appears in folk discourses about time, and from there to examine claims about the counterfactual existence, or not, of temporality so conceived. We subsequently apply this framework to three extant positions drawn from physics and metaphysics that deny the existence of time. We show that only one of these positions is a folk temporal error theory; that is, a view that denies the existence of time as that notion is operative in our everyday thought and talk.

(8) Baron, S. (in press) "Tensed Truthmaker Theory" in Erkenntnis. Preprint available here. Published version available here.

Presentism faces a serious challenge from truthmaker theory. Standard solutions to the truthmaker objection against presentism proceed in one of two ways. Easy road presentists  invoke new entities to satisfy the requirements of truthmaker theory. Hard road presentists, by contrast, flatly refuse to give in to truthmaker demands. Recently, a third way has been proposed. This response seeks to address the truthmaking problem by tensing our truthmaker principles. These views, though intuitive, are under-developed. In this paper, I get serious about a fundamentally tensed approach to truthmaking by sketching out the underlying ontological picture needed to make sense of tensed truthmaker theory. 

(9) Baron, S. (in press) ''Et Tu, Brute?'' in The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophical Methods, Chris Daly (ed.). Preprint unavailable due to 36 month embargo.

Here’s a thing you can do in metaphysics when you’re in a bind: invoke a primitive. You might, for instance, invoke new primitives to get your theory out of strife, or you might take some feature of a theory as primitive to avoid giving an analysis, perhaps because no such analysis has thus far succeeded. Clearly, there are circumstances in which the invocation of primitives is a legitimate move to make. Everyone is allowed to invoke some primitives in the context of theory building, and everyone is, within reason, entitled to spread their primitivity where they like. Sometimes, however, the appeal to primitives goes wrong. It is a cheat. I provide a basis for this charge of cheating; arguing that the use of primitives can violate the methodological norms that guide metaphysics as a going concern.

(10) Baron, S. (in press) "A Bump on the Road to Presentism" in American Philosophical Quarterly. Preprint here.

Presentism faces a familiar objection from truthmaker theory. How can propositions about the past be made true if past entities do not exist? In answering this question, there are, broadly, two roads open to the presentist. The hard road to presentism proceeds by capitulating to the demands imposed by truthmaker theory and finding truthmakers for claims about the past. The road is hard because it typically involves the invocation of controversial metaphysical posits which must then be defended. The easy road to presentism resists the demands of truthmaker theory by denying that all truths must be truth-made. The road is easy as it avoids the messy business of finding truthmakers. In this paper, I argue that the easy road collapses back into the hard road; there is no easy road to presentism.

(11) Baron, S. (in press) "The Explanatory Dispensability of Idealizations" in Synthese. Preprint available here. Online first here

Enhanced indispensability arguments seek to establish realism about mathematics based on the explanatory role that mathematics plays in science. Idealizations pose a problem for such arguments. Idealizations, in a similar way to mathematics, boost the explanatory credentials of our best scientific theories. And yet, idealizations are not the sorts of things that are supposed to attract a realist attitude. I argue that the explanatory symmetry between idealizations and mathematics can potentially be broken as follows: although idealizations contribute to the explanatory power of our best theories, they do not carry the explanatory load. It is at least open however that mathematics is load-carrying. To give this idea substance, I offer an analysis of what it is to carry the explanatory load in terms of difference-making and counterfactuals.

(12) Baron, S. & Miller, K. (in press) "Causation in a Timeless World" in SynthesePreprint available here. Online first here.

This paper offers a new way to evaluate counterfactual conditionals on the supposition that actually, there is no time. We then parlay this method of evaluation into a way of evaluating causal claims. Our primary aim is to preserve, at a minimum, the assertibility of certain counterfactual and causal claims once time has been excised from reality. This is an important first step in a more general reconstruction project that has two important components. First, recovering our ordinary language claims involving notions such as persistence, change and agency and, second, recovering enough observational evidence so that any timeless metaphysics is not empirically self-refuting. However, the project of investigating causation in a timeless setting has a greater relevance than its application to timeless physical theory alone. For, as we show, it can be used to model the assertibility conditions of causal claims more generally. 

(13) Baron, S. & Miller, K. (in press) "Causation sans Time" in American Philosophical Quarterly. Preprint available here. Published version available here.

Is time necessary for causation? We argue that, given a counterfactual theory of causation, it is not. We defend this claim by considering cases of counterfactual dependence in quantum mechanics. These cases involve laws of nature that govern entanglement. These laws make possible the evaluation of causal counterfactuals between space-like separated entangled particles. There is, for the proponent of a counterfactual theory of causation, a possible world in which causation but not time exists that can be reached by ‘stripping out’ time from the actual world, leaving (some) quantum mechanical laws intact.

(14) Baron, S. (in press) "The Priority of the Now" in Pacific Philosophical QuarterlyPreprint available here. Online first here

I motivate and develop a new theory of time: priority presentism. Priority presentism is the view according to which (i) only present entities exist fundamentally and (ii) past and future entities exist, but they are grounded in the present. The articulation of priority presentism is an exercise in applied grounding: it draws on concepts from the recent literature on ontological dependence and applies those concepts in a new way, to the philosophy of time. The result, as I will argue, is an attractive position that can do much of the same work in satisfying our intuitions about time as presentism, but without the ontological cost. 

(15) Asay, J. & Baron, S. (in press) "The Hard Road to Presentism" in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly.Preprtint available here. Published version available here

It is a common criticism of presentism – the view according to which only the present exists – that it errs against truthmaker theory. Recent attempts to resolve the truthmaker objection against presentism proceed by restricting truthmaker theory, maintaining that propositions concerning the past are not made true by anything, but are true nonetheless. Support for this view is typically garnered from the case for negative existential propositions, which some philosophers contend are exceptions to truthmaker theory. In this paper, we argue that a ‘no truthmakers’ approach to the truthmaker objection is critically flawed.

(16) Baron, S. (in press) "Optimisation and Mathematical Explanation: Doing the Levy Walk" in Synthese. Available here.

The indispensability argument seeks to establish the existence of mathematical objects. The success of the indispensability argument turns on finding cases of genuine extra-mathematical explanation (the explanation of physical facts by mathematical facts). In this paper, I identify a new case of extra-mathematical explanation, involving the search patterns of fully-aquatic marine predators. I go on to use this case to predict the prevalence of extra-mathematical explanation in science. 

(17) Baron, S. (in press) "Can Indispensability-Driven Platonists be (Serious) Presentists?" in Theoria 80(2): 153–173. Preprint here. Available here

I consider what it would take to combine a certain kind of mathematical Platonism with serious presentism. I argue that a Platonist moved to accept the existence of mathematical objects on the basis of an indispensability argument faces a significant challenge if she wishes to accept presentism. This is because, on the one hand, the indispensability argument can be reformulated as a new argument for the existence of past entities and, on the other hand, if one accepts the indispensability argument for mathematical objects then it is hard to resist the analogous argument for the existence of the past.

(18) Baron, S., Miller K. & Norton, J. (2014) "Groundless Truth" in Inquiry 57(2): 175–195. Available here.

We defend two claims: (1) if one is attracted to a strong non-maximalist view about truthmaking then it is natural to construe this as the view that there exist fundamental truths; (2) despite considerable aversion to fundamental truths there is as yet no viable independent argument against them. That is, there is no argument against the existence of fundamental truths that is independent of any more specific arguments against the ontology accepted by the strong non-maximalist. Thus there is no argument that the strong non-maximalist herself will find dialectically motivating.

(19) Baron, S. & Van Dyke, C. (2014) Animal Interrupted, or why accepting Pascal's Wager Might be the Last Thing you Ever Do. Southern Journal of Philosophy 52: 109–133. Available here

According to conventionalist accounts of personal identity, persons are constituted in part by practices and attitudes of certain sorts of care. In this paper, we concentrate on the most well-developed and defended version of conventionalism currently on offer (namely, that proposed by David Braddon-Mitchell, Caroline West, and Kristie Miller) and discuss how the conventionalist appears forced either (1) to accept arbitrariness concerning from which perspective to judge one's survival or (2) to maintain egalitarianism at the cost of making “transfiguring” decisions such as Pascal's Wager rationally intractable. We consider three ways the egalitarian conventionalist could make these choices tractable and show that each one comes at significant cost to the view. We end the paper by considering whether accepting arbitrariness would be a better move for the conventionalist and conclude that, even here, she runs the risk of transfiguring choices being rationally intractable.

(20) Baron, S. & Miller, K. (2013) “Characterising Eternalism” in New Papers on the Present, Torrengo, G., Miller, K. & Ciuini, R. (eds.), Philosophia Verlag. 

In "Characterising Eternalism", we provide an overview of the various different formulations of eternalism on offer with an eye to nailing down the standard form of that view. We finish by offering a brief argument against presentism, based on indispensability considerations.


(21) Baron, S. (2013) "Tensed Supervenience: a No-Go for Presentism" in Southern Journal of Philosophy 51(3): 383401. Penultimate version available here. Available here

This paper takes aim at recent attempts to solve the truthmaker objection to presentism, whereby claims about the past supervene for their truth on how things were. I argue that tensed supervenience views of this kind are implausible because such views require cross-time relations, which are anathema to presentism.

(22) Baron, S. (2013) “A Truthmaker Indispensability Argument” in Synthese 190(12), 2413–2427. Available here

I argue that one cannot avoid the indispensability argument by simply ejecting Quine's criterion of ontological commitment, because there is another criterion that will do the job: an Armstrongian truthmaker criterion of ontological commitment.

(23) Asay, J. & Baron, S. (2013) "Unstable Truthmaking" in Thought, 1(3), 230–238. Available here.

Recent discussion of the problem of negative existentials for truthmaker theory suggests a modest solution to the problem: fully general negative truths like <there are no unicorns> do not require truthmakers, whereas partially general negative truths like <there are no unicorns in the Sydney Opera House> do. We argue that this modest, middle-ground position is inconsistent with certain plausible general principles for truthmaking. Along the way, we explore some previously unaddressed questions for non-maximalist truthmaker theory.

(24) Baron, S. (2013) "Talking About the Past" in Erkenntnis, 78(3), 547–560. Available here.

I consider the aboutness objection against standard truth-preserving presentism (STP). According to STP: (i) past-directed propositions (propositions that seem to be about the past) like <Caesar crossed the Rubicon>, are sometimes true (ii) truth supervenes on being and (iii) the truth of past-directed propositions does not supervene on how things were, in the past. According to the aboutness objection (iii) is implausible, given (i) and (ii): for any proposition, P, P ought to be true in virtue of what P is about, and so it is upon the past that the truth of past-directed propositions ought to supervene. Although an objection along these lines has been offered previously, I press the objection in two ways. First, by providing needed support for the view that propositions ought to be true in virtue of what they are about and, second, by arguing that the two responses available to the proponent of STP fail to be compelling.

(25) Baron, S. (2013) “Presentism, Truth and Supervenience” in Ratio, 26(1), 3–18. Available here

In "Presentism, Truth and Supervenience" I attempt to show that a certain class of responses to the truthmaker objection to presentism (namely those that use something other than past things as the truthmakers for claims about the past) fail by their own lights

(26) Baron, S., Coltheart, R., Majeed, R. & Miller K. (2013) "What is a Negative Property?" in Philosophy 88(1), pp. 55–79. Available here.

The debate about negative properties is underway. However, comparatively little attention has been paid to the difference between negative and positive properties. We attempt to make sense of the distinction between negative and positive properties in terms of causation by omission and argue that negative properties are metaphysically contentious posits.

(27) Baron, S. (2012) “Presentism and Causation Revisited” in Philosophical Papers 41(1), pp. 1–21 Available here.

"Presentism and Causation Revisited" takes another look at the causal problem for presentism. I offer a new solution to this problem, one that forces presentists toward thick presentism: the view according to which the now is temporally extended.

(28) Baron, S., Evans, P. & Miller, K. (2010) “From Timeless Physical Theory to Timelessness” in Humana Mente 13, pp. 32–60. Available here.

We try to pin down the extent to which Julian Barbour's reinterpretation of canonical quantum gravity is a genuinely timeless theory. We argue that there is a sense in which the theory is timeless, and a sense in which it is not.














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"Why is there female under-representational among philosophy majors?" First Lecture. Last Lecture. SPSS file.


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