Research Overview

In many recent debates in metaphysics, participants agree that, were they to speak "in the manner" of their opponents, their opponents' metaphysical theses would be true. For example, a four-dimensionalist may acknowledge that if she spoke a language in which 'book' means 'a three-dimensional object of such-and-such a type', then characteristic three-dimensionalist theses, such as the claim that the entire book is on the table now, would be true. In these debates, then, the issue appears to turn on which sort of language we ought to use. Should 'book' mean 'a three-dimensional object that such-and-such', or should it mean 'a four-dimensional object that thus and so'? 

This means that in order to resolve these metaphysical debates we need to know what our words should mean. My research focuses on this and related issues. In my dissertation, I argue that much contemporary metaphysics assumes "extraordinary realism" in metaontology, which gives an implausible answer to the question of what our words ought to mean. By contrast, I argue for "moderate realism," which says that what we ought to mean by our words depends on what will enhance communication in the context in which we are speaking or writing. I also show how we can retain a substantive role for metaphysics to play in the edifice of human knowledge despite rejecting the extraordinary realist picture of the goals and methods of metaphysical inquiry. 

In my dissertation, I use this general account to argue for the reality of everyday objects like books. I plan to extend the view in the future in order to demonstrate the reality of moral features.

July 2020: "The Dynamics of Disagreement in Metaphysics"

Joint Session of the Mind Association and the Aristotelian Society

April 2020: "Permissivism and Paradox" (with Julia Jael Smith)

APA Pacific Division Meeting

(Meeting cancelled)

January 2020: "Metaphysics and Explanatory Paradigms"

APA Eastern Division Meeting

April 2019: "Existence Made Too Easy"

APA Pacific Division Meeting

November 2018: "Two Sorts of Realism about Ontology"

Johns Hopkins University Graduate Student Conference

August 2018: "Metaphysics as Assessment-Sensitive Explanation"

Düsseldorf Graduate Workshop on Metametaphysics

March 2018: "Ontology and the Aim of Linguistic Activity"

University of Pittsburgh–Carnegie Mellon Graduate Student Conference

December 2017: "In What Sense are Some Concepts 'Better' Than Others?"

University of Toronto Workshop on Conceptual Engineering