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"Much Ado about Ontological Nihilism", Inquiry, 2023.

Phil Papers

Abstract: According to ontological nihilism nothing exists. A recent argument purports to show that this view is indefensible, since its most plausible formulations are tacitly committed to quantificational claims that are inconsistent with the nihilist’s view that there aren’t any existents. I show that this objection begs the question against the nihilist. The objector’s argument relies on an equivalence principle implying that claims which nihilists regard as non-quantificational should nonetheless be interpreted as equivalent to quantified claims, given that both kinds of assertion are assertible in the same contexts. This style of reasoning is supported by considerations of charity, which suggest that similarities in inter-personal patterns of language use provide evidence of similarity in the semantic content of speakers’ utterances. However, related considerations also suggest that intra-personal patterns of language use constitute significant semantic evidence of the same kind. When we appreciate this and further recognize that nihilists are disposed to assert the negation of any positive, quantified claim, we see that it is too much to expect principles of semantic interpretation based on considerations of charity to decisively refute nihilism. This result has interesting metametaphysical implications concerning the role and scope of analogous arguments based on principles of interpretive charity.

"In Defense of Causal Eliminativism", Synthese, 200:5, 2022.

Phil Papers

Abstract: Causal eliminativists maintain that all causal talk is false. The prospects for such a view seem to be stymied by an indispensability argument, charging that any agent must distinguish between effective and ineffective strategies, and that such a distinction must commit that agent to causal notions. However, this argument has been under-explored. The contributions of this paper are twofold: first, I provide a thorough explication of the indispensability argument and the various ways it might be defended. Second, I point to an important limitation in the argument and suggest that it does not give us sufficient reason to reject eliminativism. In support of this last claim, I show that the distinction between effective and ineffective strategies could perfectly well be grounded in a counterfactual rather than a causal decision theory and argue that there are fully adequate explanations of how we could come to make the requisite counterfactual judgments that need not invoke causal concepts.

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