Research

My work focuses on some questions at the intersection of metaphysics, philosophy of logic, and epistemology, while being informed (at least sometimes) by the philosophy of science.

I am currently working on a book manuscript defending the thesis of humble realism about logic. Humble realism has three components: (i) metaphysical: there is mind-independent, language-independent logical structure in the world; (ii) epistemic: we can't know its true nature, and (iii) representational: despite (ii), we can know that the logical notions that we actually use do not capture worldly logical structure  perfectly accurately. (I defended (iii) and explored some consequences of these theses in my dissertation.) 

I am interested in these issues for many reasons, but partly in the service of thinking about more general questions about the epistemology and metaphysics of the non-empirically observable. I'm interested in how we might keep doing epistemology and metaphysics at the same time--which, I believe, is inescapable if we are going to do either--while doing our best to disentangle them, and to seek out their boundaries. 

Below are some descriptions of recent and current projects. I have omitted several papers that are at or close to the refereeing stage.

In 'An Epistemic Account of Metaphysical Equivalence' (link to penultimate version; forthcoming in Philosophical Perspectives), I argue for the unified perspective thesis, which says that we can only be justified in believing that two theories, T and T', are metaphysically equivalent if there is some way that we can see the two theories as unified into a single theory, T+, which says nothing over and above either T or T'. I show that metametaphysicians of most stripes (including neocarnapians) should accept this thesis. I then explore one potential way of cashing it out, by appealing to a revised version of common definitional extension. I show that this way of cashing out the unified perspective thesis rules out quantifier variance, and finally briefly discuss the position the quantifier variantist is in with respect to finding a way to respect the thesis more generally. 

In 'Metaphysical Realism and Logical Realism', I give a conditional argument that metaphysical realism (and certain kinds of scientific realism) entail logical realism. I take it that this is independently interesting, because many metaphysical realists don't seem to think that logical realism is true. But it is also of special interest to the humble realist project: it suggests that, insofar as we want to preserve metaphysical realism, we should not be quick to become skeptics about logical realism even if worldly logical structure is deeply unfamiliar (and perhaps unknowable). 

In 'Realism, Naturalism, and Anti-Exceptionalism', which is in very early stages, I attempt to show that humble realism provides a new argument for anti exceptionalism about logic, which I take to be (very roughly) the view that logic isn't special, that we can't know the facts about logic a priori, and that our investigation into logic should be continuous with our investigation into any other phenomenon in the world. Along the way, I give a distinctive account of philosophical naturalism. 

In 'Radical Representation and Abstract Objects', I ask whether we can learn anything about the nature of abstract objects from concrete representations of those abstract objects, and specifically, from examining the relations that hold between those representations. I focus on very limited cases, and suggest that we can. I argue that we can gain evidence for negative theses about the nature of abstract objects (e.g. about what properties they lack) from examining the relations that hold between their most canonical (accurate) concrete representations; I also more tentatively argue that examining relations between representations of abstract objects motivates a positive thesis: that certain abstract objects have non-relational, non-qualitative, structural natures.

(This paper is part 1 of a 2-part project; part 2 applies the argument from part 1 to logic, specifically treating syntax and semantics as independent representations of worldly logical structure.)