I teach philosophy at the University of Sheffield. I have previously taught at Trinity College Dublin and University College Dublin. I got my PhD in philosophy from King’s College London.
My research interests are chiefly in metaphysics, the philosophy of language and philosophical logic; though I am also interested in topics the philosophy of science and the history of early modern philosophy, ethics and metaethics.
I have written on non-existence, time and change, truth, substances and their properties, and the semantics of names and indexicals. I am particularly interested in varieties of fictionalism and in passing off controversial alleged entities as bare particulars.
Keywords: Indexicals, Answering Machine Paradox, Make-believe.
Answering machine messages allegedly refute Kaplan’s ‘classical account’ of the semantics of ‘I’, ‘here’ and ‘now’. The classical account doesn’t allow that a token of ‘I am not here now’ can be true; but these words in an answering machine message can communicate something true. In this paper I argue that the true content communicated by an answering machine message is extra-semantic content conveyed via the mechanism of ‘externally oriented make-believe’. An answering machine message is associated with a game of make-believe whose rules prescribe making believe that the agent who recorded the message is speaking there (at the end of the line) and then; and it thereby conveys that the circumstance that would make the message fictionally true obtains. […]
Keywords: Bare Particular Theory, Bundle Theory, Ontology, Existence.
What is the Bare Particular Theory? Is it committed, like the Bundle Theory, to a constituent ontology: according to which a substance’s qualities—and according to the Bare Particular Theory, its substratum also—are proper parts of the substance? I argue that Bare Particularists need not, should not, and—if a recent objection to ‘the Bare Particular Theory’ succeeds—cannot endorse a constituent ontology. There is nothing, I show, in the motivations for Bare Particularism or the principles that distinguish Bare Particularism from rival views that entails a constituent ontology. I outline a version of Bare Particularism that in rejecting a constituent ontology avoids the New Objection. I argue against Theodore Sider that this really is a distinct theory to the version of Bare Particularism that endorses a constituent ontology, and not a mere terminological variant. I show that this, the best version of the Bare Particular Theory, is also defensible against the old objections. […]
Keywords: Truth, Alethic Pluralism.
Michael Lynch in Truth as One and Many seeks to motivate Alethic Pluralism and defend the coherence of this position: according to which some truths are true because they represent reality and other truths are true for some other reason. This paper seeks to undermine the case Lynch makes for treating moral truths differently to truths about the physical world. […]
Keywords: Presentism, Truth-bearers, Non-existence, Bare Particulars.
This paper maintains (following Yougrau 1987; 2000 and Hinchliff 1996) that the dead and other former existents count as examples of non-existent objects. If the dead number among the things there are, a further question arises: what is it to be dead—how should the state of being dead be characterised? It is argued that this state should be characterised negatively: the dead are not persons, philosophers etc. They lack any of the (intrinsic) qualities they had while they lived. The only facts involving the dead are facts about the relations they stand in—including the relations they bear to the qualities they formerly instantiated, and the intentional relations they stand in to us. Given an appropriate conception of qualities the dead can be said to be quality-less objects: bare particulars. The ‘Bare Particular Theory’ of individuals, it is argued, is coherent if and only if it concedes that the bare particulars it allows for don’t exist. The account of the dead and other former existents as bare particulars does justice to the misfortune of death, and points the way to a general theory of nonexistent objects. […]
‘The Puzzle of Non-existence.’ The Richmond Journal of Philosophy, Issue 10 (2005) 32-39.
Oscail DCU Distance Learning Module: Philosophy 5 – Metaphysics.
The most defensible ‘realist’ account of fictional entities, I argue, takes these alleged entities to be bare objects of thought. I defend the assumptions behind ‘bare particularism about fictional entities’. Fictional entities fail to exist (contra creationism) and fail to possess existence entailing properties (contra Meinongianism). They lack intrinsic qualitative characters but stand in relations including intentional relations (contra Tim Crane). I show how bare particularism combines the best insights of Meinongianism, modal Meinongianism and creationism while eschewing the indefensible parts of these positions. Bare particularism about fictional entities has the consequence that, for all we know, Batman and Anna Karenina are one. I argue that this is a strength and not a weakness of bare particularism. […]
This paper argues that resistance to imagining morally deviant worlds tells us something about morality; but not what it has been suggested it tells us. The principle that my solution to the puzzle of imaginative resistance relies on has it that the acceptance of a moral sentence by a subject is constituted by or depends on the subject’s possession of a certain non-cognitive state. It also relies on Kendall Walton’s suggestion that engagement with fiction involves prop based make-believe, and the props that generate fictional truths include not just the works of fiction but also the subjects that engage with these works. […]
Abstract: Ontological Permissiveness is the thesis that there are few or no (or few or none worth bothering about) metaphysical questions of the form ‘∃xFx?’ to which the answer is not ‘yes, obviously’. According to Ontological Permissiveness numbers, properties, meanings, God(s)… all obviously exist. Ontological Permissiveness plays a role in the case Jonathan Schaffer and Kit Fine make for a particular sort of view about what the important, non-obvious metaphysical questions are. But this sort of view – according to which metaphysics seeks to classify entities as real or unreal or as fundamental or dependent – also plays a role in the case that can be made for Ontological Permissiveness, providing strategies for dealing with apparent counterexamples. This paper refutes Ontological Permissiveness by putting forward counterexamples that cannot be handled by these strategies: important, central, typical and non-obvious metaphysical claims of the form ‘∃xFx’ that cannot be defused by passing off Fs as, at the least, unreal or dependent entities, and whose significance cannot be downplayed by maintaining that the definition of ‘F’ entails information about the status of Fs as fundamental or dependent, real or unreal. […]
Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language, Philosophical Logic.
Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Mind, Ethics & Metaethics, History of Modern Philosophy, Aesthetics, Epistemology.
2014-present Lecturer (fixed term)/University Teacher, University of Sheffield
2012-2014 Adjunct Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin
2011-2014 Occasional Lecturer, University College Dublin
2012 -13 BA Course Writer (part-time) Oscail (Dublin City University Distance Education Unit)
2011-12 Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin
2010-11 Lecturer (full-time, fixed-term ) Department of Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin
2008-10 Lecturer (part-time), Department of Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin
2005-06 Teaching Fellow, Department of Philosophy, Kings College London
Ph.D. Philosophy, King’s College London, 2005
(registered as part time)
M.Phil. Philosophy, Kings College London, 2000.
Thesis Title: Non-existent objects
Examined topics: The Philosophy of Gottlob Frege, Logic & Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language.
BA, two subject moderatorship: Mathematics and Philosophy, Trinity College Dublin, 1997.
Final grades: Philosophy I, Maths II.2. Awarded Wray Prize for best undergraduate thesis in Philosophy. Twice awarded John Isaac Beare Prize for best grade in philosophy cohort.
The courses I have taught at Sheffield, TCD and UCD include the following:
Fiction and Truth (3rd year)
The Empiricists (2nd year)
Seminar in Epistemology and Metaphysics (masters)
Reference and Truth (2nd year)
Metaphysics (2nd year)
Philosophical Projects: Nietzsche (3rd year)
History of Philosophical Ideas (1st year)
Matters of Life and Death (1st year)
Workplacement Module (MA & 3rd year)
‘Problems in Analytic Philosophy’ (3rd year)
Philosophy of Science (2nd year)
Philosophy of Science for Medical Students
History of Analytic Philosophy (2nd year)
Puzzles about Persons (1st year)
Mortal Questions (2nd year)
Truth (1st year)
Metaphysics (1st year and 3rd year)
Hume (2nd year)
The History of Philosophy (1st year Theology)
Philosophy of Mind (masters)
Logic (formal and informal) (2nd year)
Philosophy of Science (2nd year)
Philosophy of Language (2nd year)