Research


Published and In Press

If you would like a copy of one of these papers for research or educational purposes, please let me know as I have a large number of eprints for some articles that I am allowed to distribute free of charge and very few friends who consider an eprint of one of my articles to be an acceptable birthday present. 

(1) Baron, S. & Miller, K. (in press) "Causation in a Timeless World" in SynthesePenultimate draft 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. 

(2) Baron, S. & Miller, K. (in press) "Causation sans Time" in American Philosophical Quarterly. Penultimate 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.

(3) Baron, S. (in press) "The Priority of the Now" in Pacific Philosophical QuarterlyPenultimate version available 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. 

(4) Asay, J. & Baron, S. (in press) "The Hard Road to Presentism" in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. Penultimate 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.

(5) 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. 

(6) Baron, S. (in press) "Can Indispensability-Driven Platonists be (Serious) Presentists?" in Theoria. Penultimate version 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.

(7) Baron, S. (in press) "Tensed Supervenience: a No-Go for Presentism" in Southern Journal of Philosophy. Penultimate version 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.

(8) Baron, S., Miller K. & Norton, J. (in press) "Groundless Truth" in Inquiry (special issue on grounding). Penultimate version available soon.

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.

(9) Baron, S. & Miller, K. (in press) “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.

(10) 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.

(11) 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.

(12) 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.

(13) 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

(14) 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.

(15) 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.

(16) 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.














In Progress

I currently have a couple of papers that are pretty close to done. Abstracts are below. Drafts also.

(1) Time Enough for Explanation w/ Mark Colyvan

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. Draft available here.

(2) A Model of Extra-Mathematical Explanation

There has been a recent surge of interest in the notion of extra-mathematical explanation (the explanation of physical phenomena, in part, by mathematical entities). A number of putative cases of extra-mathematical explanation have been identified, and used to provide support for an explanatory version of the indispensability argument for mathematical Platonism. But how exactly does extra-mathematical explanation work? In this paper I offer a model for understanding explanation of this kind. The model is a version of the deductive-nomological account of explanation, one that combines a restricted form of entailment common to relevant logics with an informational interpretation of explanatory relevance. Draft available here.

(3) The Explanatory Dispensability of Idealizations

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, like 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 be broken as follows: though 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. Draft available here.

(4) The Creeping, Fictional Past w/ Jamin Asay

Presentism seeks to accommodate two intuitions about time: (i) that only present entities exist, and (ii) that past entities existed, possessed properties and stood in relations. We argue that presentists cannot plausibly capture both intuitions. Specifically, we argue that given (i) there is no obvious way to understand what it is to have existed that differentiates that notion from existing in the fiction, and so no way to uphold (ii) in a theoretically satisfying way. Draft available here.




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