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Books & edited collections
Articles & book chapters
Unpublished preprints
Selected reviews

This list includes my books and edited collections, my journal article and book chapters, a selection of my book reviews, and some unpublished preprints. Most of the articles, reviews and preprints are accessible here in electronic form. I am starting to make various other things — opinion pieces, assorted blog posts in various places, etc. — accessible at this blog.

Books and edited volumes

  1. Facts and the Function of Truth, Blackwell, Oxford, 1988. (Second edition forthcoming from Oxford University Press.)

    Many areas of philosophy employ a distinction between factual and nonfactual (descriptive/nondescriptive, cognitive/ noncognitive, ...) uses of language. This book examines the various ways in which this distinction is normally elucidated, argues that all are unsatisfactory, and suggests that the search for a sharp distinction is misconceived. I develop an alternative approach, based on a novel theory of the function and origins of the concept of truth. The central hypothesis is that the main role of the normative notion of truth is to encourage speakers to argue, with long-run behavioural advantages. This offers a fresh perspective on many debates about realism in contemporary philosophy. [Contents and Introduction in PDF]

    "This is ... a challenging book. The challenge is not easy to meet and the solution proposed not easy to dismiss. The topic is central; the approach novel; the execution skilful. The book deserves a wide audience." — Mind. [Full review at JSTOR]

  2. Time's Arrow and Archimedes' Point: New Directions for the Physics of Time, Oxford University Press, New York, 1996.

    [Amazon reviews|OUP page & reviews|Home page|Contents|Chapter 1|Polish|Japanese|Hebrew]

  3. Naturalism Without Mirrors, Oxford University Press, 2011. [Details at OUP|Contents and Introduction in PDF]

    "Huw Price‘s new book amplifies and elaborates themes from his quiet masterpiece, Facts and the Function of Truth. Those who know him better as a philosopher of science will be pleased to see that these interlocking essays on the foundations of language (and metaphysics) are every bit as rich and incisive as his celebrated work on Time’s Arrow." — Alexis Burgess, Phil Review. [Full review here.]

    "This book deserves the attention of anyone working in contemporary metaphysics or philosophy of language. ... Price's views are tantalizing and even inspiring to the pragmatically and naturalistically inclined ..." — Willem deVries, NDPR.

  4. (With Simon Blackburn, Robert Brandom, Paul Horwich and Michael Williams) Expressivism, Pragmatism and Representationalism. Cambridge University Press, 2013. [Details at CUP]

    "A fascinating set of lectures, commentaries, and replies. I have learned much from the arguments that Huw Price and the commentators advance." — Allan Gibbard

    "If I could make it required reading for all first-year philosophy graduate students, I would." — Joshua Gert, review for MIND. [Full review here.]

  5. (Edited with Richard Corry) Causation, Physics, and the Constitution of Reality: Russell's Republic Revisited, Oxford University Press, 2007.

    Contributors: Arif Ahmed, Helen Beebee, Richard Corry, Antony Eagle, Adam Elga, Mathias Frisch, Christopher Hitchcock, Douglas Kutach, Barry Loewer, Peter Menzies, John D. Norton, Huw Price, Jim Woodward. [Details on OUP catalogue]

  6. (Edited with Helen Beebee and Chris Hitchcock) Making a Difference, Oxford University Press, 2017.

    Contributors: Helen Beebee, Thomas Blanchard, David Braddon-Mitchell, Rachael Briggs, Nancy Cartwright, Chris Hitchcock, Christian List, Cei Maslen, Peter Menzies, Daniel Nolan, Philip Pettit, Huw Price, Jonathan Schaffer, Brad Weslake, and Jim Woodward. [Details on OUP catalogue]

  7. (Edited with Cheryl Misak) The Practical Turn: Pragmatism in Britain in the Long Twentieth Century, Oxford University Press, 2017. [Details on OUP catalogue]

    Contributors: David Bakhurst, Simon Blackburn, Anna Boncompagni, Hanjo Glock, Jane Heal, Hallvard Lillehammer, Cheryl Misak, Huw Price, and Ian Rumfitt.


Articles in journals and collections

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  1. Sense, assertion, Dummett and denial. Mind 92(1983) 174—88. [JSTOR]

  2. "Could a question be true?": Assent and the basis of meaning. The Philosophical Quarterly 33(1983) 354—64. [JSTOR]

  3. Does "Probably" modify sense? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 61(1983) 396—408. [PDF]

  4. Mellor, chance and the single case. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 35(1984) 11—23. [JSTOR]

  5. The philosophy and physics of affecting the past. Synthese 16(1984) 299—323. [PDF]

  6. Against causal decision theory. Synthese 67(1986) 195—212. [PDF]

  7. Conditional credence. Mind 95(1986) 18—36. [JSTOR]

  8. Truth and the nature of assertion. Mind 96(1987) 202—220. [JSTOR]

  9. Action explanation and the nature of mind. In Albury and Slezak, eds., Computers, Brains and Minds: Papers in Cognitive Science, Kluwer, 1988, 221—251. [PDF]

    Argues against the Humean thesis that beliefs are motivationally inert, by way of criticism of arguments by Peacocke and by Perry for the essential role of demonstrative and indexical beliefs, respectively, in the explanation of action.

  10. Defending desire-as-belief. Mind 98(1989) 119—127. [JSTOR]

  11. A point on the arrow of time. Nature, 20 July 1989, 181—182. [PDF]

    This is comment on Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time. It was discussed with responses from Hawking and others in an editorial column in Scientific American (October 1989).

  12. (With Philip Pettit) Bare functional desire. Analysis 49(1989) 162—169. [JSTOR]

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  13. Why "Not"? Mind 99(1990) 221238. [JSTOR]

  14. Agency and probabilistic causality. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 42(1991) 157—176. [PDF][JSTOR]

  15. The asymmetry of radiation: reinterpreting the Wheeler-Feynman argument. Foundations of Physics 21(1991) 959—975.

  16. Agency and causal asymmetry. Mind 101(1992) 501—520. [JSTOR]

  17. Metaphysical pluralism. Journal of Philosophy 89(1992) 387—409. [JSTOR]

  18. Two paths to pragmatism. In Peter Menzies (ed.), Response-Dependent Concepts, Canberra: Philosophy Program, RSSS, ANU, 46—82. [RTF of revised version (see item 27 below)]

  19. (With Peter Menzies) Causation as a secondary quality. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 44(1993) 187—203. [RTF][PDF][JSTOR]

  20. The direction of causation: Ramsey's ultimate contingency. In David Hull, Micky Forbes and Kathleen Okruhlik (eds.), PSA 1992, Volume 2 (East Lansing, Michigan, Philosophy of Science Association), 253—267. [PDF][JSTOR]

  21. Semantic minimalism and the Frege point. In Tsohatzidis, S.L.(ed.), Foundations of Speech Act Theory: Philosophical and Linguistic Perspectives, Routledge, 1994, pp. 132-55. Reprinted with a new postscript in Garrett, B. and Mulligan, K. (eds.), Themes From Wittgenstein, Canberra: Philosophy Program, RSSS, ANU, 1993, 15—44. [PDF of latter version/PDF with the title under which the paper is sometimes wrongly cited]

  22. A neglected route to realism about Quantum Mechanics. Mind 103(1994) 303—336; reprinted in Grim, P., Mar, G. & Williams, P. (eds.) The Philosopher's Annual, XVII, Ridgeview, 1996, 181—215. [Abstract and preprint at LANL archive][JSTOR]

  23. Psychology in perspective. In Michael, M. and O'Leary-Hawthorne, J. (eds), Philosophy in Mind: The Place of Philosophy in the Study of the Mind, Kluwer, 1994, 83—98. [RTF][PDF]

  24. Reinterpreting the Wheeler-Feynman Absorber Theory: Reply to Leeds. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 45(1994) 1023—1028. [JSTOR]

  25. Cosmology, time's arrow and that old double standard. In Savitt, S. (ed.), Time's Arrows Today, Cambridge University Press, 1995, 66-94. Reprinted in Sklar , L (ed.), The Philosophy of Physics, Garland, 2000, 392—420. [Abstract and preprint at LANL archive]

  26. (With John O'Leary-Hawthorne) How to stand up for non-cognitivists. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 74(1996) 275—292. [PDF]

  27. Two paths to pragmatism II. Casati, R. and Tappolet, C., eds., European Review of Philosophy 3(1998) 109—147. [RTF]

  28. Backward causation and the direction of causal processes: Reply to Dowe. Mind 105(1996) 467—474. [JSTOR]

  29. Naturalism and the fate of the M-worlds. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supp. Vol., LXXI(1997) 247—267 [RTF][JSTOR].

    Concepts such as those of morality, modality, meaning and the mental are difficult to "place" in a naturalistic world view. This paper offers a novel placement strategy, based on a naturalistic pluralism about the functions of descriptive discourse. It is argued that this functional pluralism is more attractive than familiar alternatives, such as naturalistic reductionism, nonnaturalism, noncognitivism and eliminativism. The strategy exploits Carnap's views about the nature of ontological issues.

    There is a reply to this paper by Frank Jackson [also in RTF].

  30. 'Chaos theory and the difference between past and future', paper presented to the 9th Conference of the International Society for the Study of Time, Sainte-Adèle, Québec, 2—8 July, 1995. In Fraser, J. T., Soulsby, M. P. and Argyros, A. J. (eds.), Time, Order, Chaos: The Study of Time, Vol. IX. Madison, CT: International Universities Press, 1998, 155—162. [RTF]

    Contemporary writers often claim that chaos theory explains the thermodynamic arrow of time. This paper argues that such claims are mistaken, on two levels. First, they underestimate the difficulty of extracting asymmetric conclusions from symmetric theories. More important, however, they misunderstand the nature of the puzzle about the temporal asymmetry of thermodynamics, and simply address the wrong issue. Both of these are old mistakes, but mistakes which are poorly recognised, even today. This paper aims to lay bare the mistakes in their classical (pre-chaos theory) manifestations, in order to make it clear that chaos theory cannot possibly do better.

  31. Time symmetry in microphysics. Philosophy of Science 64(1997) S235-244. [JSTOR][HTML][RTF]

    Physics normally takes for granted that interacting physical systems with no common history are independent, before their interaction. This principle is time-asymmetric, for no such restriction applies after an interaction to systems with no common future. The time asymmetry is normally attributed to boundary conditions. I argue that there are two distinct independence principles of this kind at work in contemporary physics, one of which cannot be attributed to boundary conditions, and therefore conflicts with the assumed T (or CPT) symmetry of microphysics. I note that this may have interesting ramifications in quantum mechanics.

  32. What should a deflationist about truth say about meaning? in Villanueva, E. (ed.), Truth (Philosophical Issues, Vol. 8), Ridgeview, 1997, 107—115. [RTF][JSTOR]

  33. The role of history in microphysics. In Sankey, H. (ed.), Causation and Laws of Nature, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1999, 437—456. [Abstract]

  34. Carnap, Quine and the fate of metaphysics. In The Electronic Journal of Analytic Philosophy Issue 5 (Spring, 1997). [PDF]

  35. Three norms of assertibility, or how the MOA became extinct. In Tomberlin, J., ed., Philosophical Perspectives 12(1998) 41—54. [JSTOR][PDF]

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  36. Causation in the special sciences: the case for pragmatism. In Domenico Costantini, Maria Carla Galavotti and Patrick Suppes, eds., Stochastic Causality, CSLI Publications, 2001, 103—120. [PDF]

  37. Backward causation, hidden variables, and the meaning of completeness. PRAMANA - Journal of Physics (Indian Academy of Sciences), 56(2001) 199—209. [PDF]

    Bell's Theorem requires the assumption that hidden variables are independent of future measurement settings. This independence assumption rests on surprisingly shaky ground. In particular, it is puzzlingly time-asymmetric. The paper begins with a summary of the case for considering hidden variable models which, in abandoning this independence assumption, allow a degree of 'backward causation'. The remainder of the paper clarifies the physical significance of such models, in relation to the issue as to whether quantum mechanics provides a complete description of physical reality.

  38. Boltzmann's time bomb. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 53(2002) 83—119. [PDF][JSTOR

    Since the late nineteenth century, physics has been puzzled by the time-asymmetry of the thermodynamic phenomena in the light of the apparent T-symmetry of the underlying laws of mechanics. However, a compelling solution has proved elusive. In part, I argue, this can be attributed to a failure to distinguish two conceptions of the problem. According to one, the main focus of our attention is a time-asymmetric law-like generalisation. According to the other, it is a particular fact about the early universe. This paper aims (i) to distinguish these two different conceptions of the time-asymmetric explanandum in thermodynamics; (ii) to argue in favour of the latter; and (iii) to show that whichever we choose, our rational expectations about the thermodynamic behaviour of the future must depend on what we know about the past -- contrary to the common view, statistical arguments alone do not give us good reason to expect that entropy will always continue to increase.

  39. Burbury's last case: the mystery of the entropic arrow. In Craig Callender, ed., Time, Reality and Experience, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 19—56. [PDF]

    "Does not the theory of a general tendency of entropy to diminish [sic] take too much for granted? To a certain extent it is supported by experimental evidence. We must accept such evidence as far as it goes and no further. We have no right to supplement it by a large draft of the scientific imagination." (Samuel Burbury, 1904)

  40. (With Richard Holton) Ramsey on saying and whistling: a discordant note. Noûs 37:2(2003) 325—341. [PDF][JSTOR]

    On Ramsey's late view of the non-propositional status of generalisation, and its connection to the rule following considerations.

  41. Truth as convenient friction. Journal of Philosophy 100(2003) 167—190. Reprinted in Grim, P., Mar, G. & Williams, P. (eds.) The Philosopher's Annual, XXVI (2003); in Mario De Caro and David Macarthur, eds., Naturalism and Normativity (Columbia University Press, 2010), 229—252; and in Robert B. Talisse and Scott F. Aikin, The Pragmatism Reader: From Peirce through the Present (Princeton University Press, 2011), 451—470. [Abstract] [PDF][JSTOR]

  42. Naturalism without representationalism. In David Macarthur and Mario de Caro (eds), Naturalism in Question (Harvard University Press, 2004), 71—88. Reprinted in Italian as 'Naturalismo senza rappresentazionalismo', in La Mente e La Natura, (Fazi Editore, Rome, 2005), 58—77; and in Spanish as 'Naturalismo sin representacionalismo' in Análisis. Revista de investigación filosófica, 1:1(2014). Also reprinted in Marcin Milkowski and Konrad Talmont-Kaminsk, eds., Beyond Description: Naturalism and Normativity (College Publications, 2010). [PDF]

    I begin with a distinction between two ways of taking science to be relevant to philosophy. The first ("object naturalism") is a ontological thesis -- it holds that what exists, what we should be realists about, is the world as revealed by science. The second ("subject naturalism") is a prescription for philosophy, based on the belief that we humans (and in particular, our thought and talk) are part of the natural world. What is the relationship between these two kinds of naturalism? Contemporary naturalists are apt to think that the latter view is a mere corollary of the former. I argue that there is an important sense in which the priority is the other way around: object naturalism depends on "validation" from a subject naturalist perspective -- in particular, on confirmation of certain "representationalist" assumptions about the functions of human language. Moreover, I maintain, there are good reasons for doubting whether object naturalism deserves to be validated, in this sense. Thus, an adequate naturalistic philosophy threatens to undermine what most contemporary philosophers have in mind, when they call themselves philosophical naturalists.

  43. Immodesty without mirrors making sense of Wittgenstein's linguistic pluralism. In Max Kölbel and Bernhard Weiss (eds), Wittgenstein's Lasting Significance (Routledge & Kegan Paul, 2004), 179—205. [PDF]

  44. On the origins of the arrow of time: why there is still a puzzle about the low entropy past. In Christopher Hitchcock, ed., Contemporary Debates in the Philosophy of Science (Blackwell, 2004), 219—239. [PDF]

  45. Models and modals. In Donald Gillies, ed., Laws and Models in Science (King's College Publications, 2004), 49—69. [PDF]

    Pragmatists recommend that in approaching a problematic concept in philosophy, we should begin by examining the role it plays in the practical, cognitive and linguistic lives of the creatures who use it. This paper stems from an interest in pragmatic accounts, in this sense, of the various modal notions we encounter in science. I propose that pragmatists about these notions should avail themselves of the vocabulary of theoretical models. This vocabulary brings to the foreground the issues of function, use and role in practice, on which pragmatists want to focus; while downplaying the naive representationalism that pragmatists see as an impediment to good philosophy. I show how this framework may be used to delineate a kind of pragmatic perspectivalism about probability, and argue that the same template offers a promising way to make sense of the link between causation and manipulability.

  46. The thermodynamic arrow: puzzles and pseudo-puzzles. In Ikaros Bigi and Martin Faessler, eds., Time and Matter (World Scientific, 2006), 209—224. [Abstract][PDF]

  47. Recent work on the arrow of radiation. In Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 37(2006), 498—527. [Abstract] [PDF at the Pittsburgh PhilSci Archive]

  48. Einstein and the quantum spooks. In C. Stewart & R Hewitt (eds), Waves of the Future (Science Foundation for Physics, 2005), 221—233. [PDF courtesy of the Science Foundation for Physics.]

  49. Time's arrow, time's fly-bottle. In Friedrich Stadler and Michael Stöltzner, eds., Time and History, Frankfurt: Ontos Verlag, 2006, 253—273.

  50. Causal perspectivalism. In Huw Price and Richard Corry, eds., Causation, Physics and the Constitution of Reality: Russell's Republic Revisited (OUP, 2007), 250—292. [PDF]

    Concepts employed in folk descriptions of the world often turn out to be more perspectival than they seem at first sight, involving previously unrecognised sensitivity to the viewpoint or 'situation' of the user of the concept in question. Often, it is progress in science that reveals such perspectivity, and the deciding factor is that we realise that other creatures would apply the same concepts with different extension, in virtue of differences between their circumstances and ours. In this paper I argue that causal concepts are perspectival in this way, and describe the 'situation' on which they depend in terms of an abstract characterisation of the viewpoint of a deliberating agent. I argue that this approach makes better sense than rivals of the apparent asymmetry and temporal orientation of the causal relation.

  51. (With David Macarthur) Pragmatism, quasi-realism and the global challenge. In Cheryl Misak, ed., The New Pragmatists (OUP, 2007), 91—120. [Abstract] [PDF]

  52. Quining naturalism. Journal of Philosophy 104(2007) 375—405. [Abstract] [PDF]

  53. Brandom and Hume on the genealogy of modals. In Philosophical Topics 36(2008), 87—97 [PDF]

    This is a lightly edited version of my comments on Lecture 4 of Bob Brandom’s Locke Lectures, as repeated in Prague in April 2007. Recordings of the Prague lectures, including commentaries and discussions, are available here. The slides that accompanied my talk are available here.

  54. Toy models for retrocausality. In Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics 39(2008), 752—761. [Abstract and PDF at ArXiv.org]

  55. (With Peter Menzies) Is semantics in the plan? In D. Braddon-Mitchell & R. Nola, eds., Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism (MIT, 2009), 183—200. [Abstract] [PDF]

  56. Metaphysics after Carnap: the ghost who walks? In David Chalmers, Ryan Wasserman and David Manley, eds., Metametaphysics (OUP, 2009), 320—346. [PDF]

  57. The semantic foundations of metaphysics. In Ian Ravenscroft, ed., Minds, Worlds and Conditionals: Essays in Honour of Frank Jackson (OUP, 2009), 111—140. [PDF]

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  58. (With Brad Weslake) The time-asymmetry of causation. In Helen Beebee, Christopher Hitchcock and Peter Menzies (eds), The Oxford Handbook of Causation (OUP, 2010), 414—443. [PDF at the Pittsburgh PhilSci Archive]

    One of the most striking features of causation is that causes typically precede their effects the causal arrow is strongly aligned with the temporal arrow. Why should this be so? We offer an opinionated guide to this problem, and to the solutions currently on offer. We conclude that the most promising strategy is to begin with the de facto asymmetry of human deliberation, characterised in epistemic terms, and to build out from there. More than any rival, this subjectivist approach promises to demystify the asymmetry, temporal orientation, and deliberative relevance of causal judgements.

  59. Decisions, decisions, decisions: can Savage salvage Everettian probability? In Simon Saunders, Jonathan Barrett, Adrian Kent & David Wallace, eds., Many Worlds? Everett, Quantum Theory & Reality (OUP, 2010), 369—390. [Abstract and PDF at the Pittsburgh PhilSci Archive]

    Based on a talk at the Many Worlds@50 meeting at the Perimeter Institute in September 2007 (audio, video and slides accessible here).

  60. One cheer for representationalism? In R. Auxier, ed., The Philosophy of Richard Rorty (Open Court, Library of Living Philosophers XXXII, 2010), 269—289. [PDF]

  61. (With Richard Rorty) Exchange on “Truth as Convenient Friction”. In Mario De Caro and David Macarthur, eds., Naturalism and Normativity (Columbia University Press, 2010), 253—262. [PDF]

  62. Time's Arrow and Eddington's Challenge. Séminaire Poincaré XV, Le Temps (2010), 115—140. [PDF at Séminaire Poincaré]

    When Sir Arthur Eddington died in 1944, TIME magazine noted that "one of mankind’s most reassuring cosmic thinkers" had passed away:  "Sir Arthur," TIME said, had "discoursed on his cosmic subject with a wit and clarity rare among scientists."  One of Eddington's favorite cosmic subjects was "Time's Arrow", a term he himself introduced to the literature in his 1928 book, The Nature of the Physical World -- though without his celebrated clarity about what it actually means, as Grunbaum was later to note. What is clear is that Eddington thought that there is something essential about time that physics is liable to neglect: the fact that it "goes on", as he often puts it. Despite the best efforts of Grunbaum, Smart and others to pour cold water on this idea, similar claims are still made today, in physics as well as in philosophy. All sides in these debates can profit, in my view, by going back to Eddington. Eddington appreciates some of the pitfalls of these claims with greater clarity than most of their contemporary proponents; and also issues a challenge  to rival views that deserves to be better known.

  63. The flow of time. In Craig Callender (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Time (OUP, 2011), 276—311. [PDF at the Pittsburgh PhilSci Archive]

    I distinguish three views, a defence of any one of which would go some way towards vindicating the view that there is something objective about the passage of time: (i) the view that the present moment is objectively distinguished; (ii) the view that time has an objective direction that it is an objective matter which of two nonsimultaneous events is the earlier and which the later; (iii) the view that there is something objectively dynamic, fluxlike, or “flowlike” about time. I argue that each of these views is not so much false as doubtfully coherent. In each case, it turns out to be hard to make sense of what the view could be, at least if it is to be nontrivial, and of use to a friend of objective passage. I conclude with some remarks about avenues that seem worth exploring in the philosophy of time, when we are done with trying to make sense of passage.

  64. Expressivism for two voices. In J. Knowles & H. Rydenfelt, eds., Pragmatism, Science and Naturalism  (Peter Lang, Zürich,  Zürich, 2011), 87—113. [PDF/Scan]

    I discuss the relationship between the two forms of expressivism defended by Robert Brandom, on one hand, and philosophers in the Humean tradition, such as Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard, on the other. I identify three apparent points of difference between the two programs, but argue that all three are superficial. Both projects benefit from the insights of the other, and the combination is in a natural sense a global expressivism.

  65. (With Ken Wharton and David Miller) Action Duality: A Constructive Principle for Quantum Foundations. In Symmetry 3:3(2011), 524—540. [PDF at arXiv.org: open access at Symmetry]

    An analysis of the path-integral approach to quantum theory motivates the hypothesis that two experiments with the same classical action should have dual ontological descriptions. If correct, this hypothesis would not only constrain realistic interpretations of quantum theory, but would also act as a constructive principle, allowing any realistic model of one experiment to generate a corresponding model for its action-dual. Two pairs of action-dual experiments are presented, including one experiment that violates the Bell inequality and yet is action-dual to a single particle. The implications generally support retrodictive and retrocausal interpretations.

  66. (With Arif Ahmed) Arntzenius on “Why ain’cha rich?”. In Erkenntnis (2012). [PDF at the Pittsburgh PhilSci Archive; Online First at Erkenntnis]

    The best-known argument for Evidential Decision Theory (EDT) is the “Why ain'cha rich?” challenge to rival Causal Decision Theory (CDT). The basis for this challenge is that in Newcomb-like situations, acts that conform to EDT may be known in advance to have the better return than acts that conform to CDT. Frank Arntzenius has recently proposed an ingenious counter argument, based on an example in which, he claims, it is predictable in advance that acts that conform to EDT will do less well than acts that conform to CDT. We raise two objections to Arntzenius's example. We argue, first, that the example is subtly incoherent, in a way that undermines its effectiveness against EDT (here we rely on the lessons of Dummett's famous discussion of the conditions for the coherence of a belief in retrocausality); and, second, that the example relies on calculating the average return over an inappropriate population of acts.

  67. (With Peter Evans and Ken Wharton) New slant on the EPR-Bell experiment. In British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 64(2013), 297—324. [PDF at arXiv.org]

    The best case for thinking that quantum mechanics is nonlocal rests on Bell's Theorem, and later results of the same kind. However, the correlations characteristic of EPR-Bell (EPRB) experiments also arise in familiar cases elsewhere in QM, where the two measurements involved are timelike rather than spacelike separated; and in which the correlations are usually assumed to have a local causal explanation, requiring no action-at-a-distance. It is interesting to ask how this is possible, in the light of Bell's Theorem. We investigate this question, and present two options. Either (i) the new cases are nonlocal, too, in which case action-at-a-distance is more widespread in QM than has previously been appreciated (and does not depend on entanglement, as usually construed); or (ii) the means of avoiding action-at-a-distance in the new cases extends in an obvious way to EPRB, removing action-at-a-distance in these cases, too. There is a third option, viz., to argue that the new cases are strongly disanalogous to EPRB. But we show that there is a large price to be paid for this choice, in symmetry terms. Unless one pays this price, the standard combination of views -- action-at-a-distance in EPRB, but local causality in its timelike analogue -- turns out to be untenable.

  68. Does time-symmetry imply retrocausality? How the quantum world says "maybe". In Studies in History and Philosophy of Modern Physics, 43(2012), 75—83. [PDF at arXiv.org]

    It has often been suggested that retrocausality offers a solution to some of the puzzles of quantum mechanics: e.g., that it allows a Lorentz-invariant explanation of Bell correlations, and other manifestations of quantum nonlocality, without action-at-a-distance. Some writers have argued that time-symmetry counts in favour of such a view, in the sense that retrocausality would be a natural consequence of a truly time-symmetric theory of the quantum world. Critics object that there is complete time-symmetry in classical physics, and yet no apparent retrocausality. Why should the quantum world be any different? This note aims to throw some new light on these matters. I call attention to a respect in which quantum mechanics is different, under some assumptions about quantum ontology. Under these assumptions, the combination of time-symmetry without retrocausality is unavailable in quantum mechanics, for reasons intimately connected with the differences between classical and quantum physics (especially the role of discreteness in the latter). Not all interpretations of quantum mechanics share these assumptions, however, and in those that do not, time-symmetry does not entail retrocausality.

  69. Causation, chance and the rational significance of supernatural evidence. In Philosophical Review 121:4(2012), 483—538. [PDF at the Pittsburgh PhilSci Archive]

    In 'A Subjectivist's Guide to Objective Chance,' David Lewis says that he is "led to wonder whether anyone but a subjectivist is in a position to understand objective chance." This paper aims to motivate this same Lewisean attitude, and a similar degree of modest subjectivism, with respect to objective causation. The paper begins with Newcomb problems, which turn on an apparent tension between two principles of choice: roughly, a principle sensitive to the causal features of the relevant situation, and a principle sensitive only to evidential factors. Two-boxers give priority to causal beliefs, and one-boxers to evidential beliefs. I note that a similar issue can arise when the modality in question is chance, rather than causation. In this case, the conflict is between decision rules based on credences guided solely by chances, and rules based on credences guided by other sorts of probabilistic evidence. Far from excluding cases of the latter kind, Lewis's Principal Principle explicitly allows for them, in the form of the caveat that credences should only follow beliefs about chances in the absence of "inadmissible evidence." I then exhibit a tension in Lewis's views on these two matters, by presenting a class of decision problems — some of them themselves Newcomb problems — in which Lewis's view of the relevance of inadmissible evidence seems in tension with his causal decision theory. I offer a diagnosis for this dilemma, and propose a remedy, based on an extension of a proposal due to Ned Hall and others from the case of chance to that of causation. The remedy suggests a new view of the relation between causal decision theory and evidential decision theory, viz., that they stand to each other much as chance stands to credence, being objective and subjective faces of the same practical coin. This has much the same metaphysical benefits as Lewis's own view of chance, and also throws interesting new light on Newcomb problems, providing an irenic resolution of the apparent disagreement between causal and evidential decision rules.

  70. Where would we be without counterfactuals? In Galavotti, M. C., Dieks, D., Gonzalez, W., Hartmann, S., Uebel, T., and Weber, W. (eds), New Directions in the Philosophy of Science (Springer, 2014), 589—607. [PDF]

    Bertrand Russell’s celebrated essay “On the Notion of Cause” was first delivered to the Aristotelian Society on 4 November 1912, as Russell’s Presidential Address. The piece is best known for a passage in which its author deftly positions himself between the traditional metaphysics of causation and the British crown, firing broadsides in both directions: “The law of causality”, Russell declares, “Like much that passes muster in philosophy, is a relic of a bygone age, surviving, like the monarchy, only because it is erroneously supposed to do no harm.” To mark the lecture’s centenary, I offer a contemporary view of the issues Russell here puts on the table, and of the health or otherwise, at the end of the essay’s first century, of his notorious conclusion.

  71. Representationalism revisited. In Análisis. Revista de investigación filosfófica, 1:1(2014), 87—99. [PDF]

    A reply to commentaries on a Spanish translation of 'Naturalism without representationalism'.

  72. From quasirealism to global expressivism and back again? In R. Johnson and M. Smith (eds), Passions and Projections: Themes from the Philosophy of Simon Blackburn (OUP, 2015), 134—152. [PDF]

    Simon Blackburn's expressivism is distinctive in at least two ways. The first sometimes overlooked by those who encounter his work only in meta-ethics is reflected in his repeated insistence that Humean expressivism is not simply an option in the ethical case: it is an attractive option in many other domains, as well. The second widely known even in the most cloistered corners of meta-ethics   is his identification and defense of the distinctive version of the expressivism that he calls ‘quasirealism’. In this paper I consider an issue that arises at the intersection of these two distinctive themes in Blackburn’s work: the question whether quasirealism has even wider application than Blackburn himself envisages whether it should be ‘globalised,’ so as to become an appropriately universal stance for theorising about the character of declarative uses of language. I argue that this is indeed the case. Expressivism of the kind that Blackburn favours, or at any rate a variety of pragmatism recognisably descended from it, does have good claim to be a global view. As I also argue, however, this turns out to be compatible with a sympathetic reinterpretation of the intuitions that seemed to favour a more local view.

  73. Idling and sidling toward philosophical peace. In Steven Gross, Nicholas Tebben, and Michael Williams (eds), Meaning Without Representation: Essays on Truth, Expression, Normativity, and Naturalism (OUP, 2015), 307—330. [PDF]

    On John McDowell's recipe for philosophical quietism.

  74. (With Ken Wharton) Disentangling the quantum world. Entropy 17:11(2015), 77527767. [Accessible online at doi:10.3390/e17117752 or as PDF on ArXiv]

    Correlations related to quantum entanglement have convinced many physicists that there must be some at-a-distance connection between separated events, at the quantum level. In the late 1940s, however, O. Costa de Beauregard proposed that such correlations can be explained without action at a distance, so long as the influence takes a zigzag path, via the intersecting past lightcones of the events in question. Costa de Beauregard’s proposal is related to what has come to be called the retrocausal loophole in Bell’s Theorem, but—like that loophole—it receives little attention, and remains poorly understood. Here we propose a new way to explain and motivate the idea. We exploit some simple symmetries to show how Costa de Beauregard’s zigzag needs to work, to explain the correlations at the core of Bell’s Theorem. As a bonus, the explanation shows how entanglement might be a much simpler matter than the orthodox view assumes—not a puzzling feature of quantum reality itself, but an entirely unpuzzling feature of our knowledge of reality, once zigzags are in play.

  75. Causation, intervention and agency—Woodward on Menzies and Price. In Helen Beebee, Chris Hitchcock, and Huw Price (eds), Making a Difference (Oxford University Press, 2017), 73—98. [PDF at the Pittsburgh PhilSci Archive]

    In his influential book 'Making Things Happen' (Oxford, 2003) and in other places, Jim Woodward has noted some affinities between his own account of causation and that of Menzies and Price (‘Causation as a secondary quality’, BJPS, 1993), but argued that the latter view is implausibly ‘subjective’. In this piece I discuss Woodward’s criticisms. I argue that the Menzies and Price view is not as different from Woodward’s own account as he believes, and that in so far as it is different, it has some advantages whose importance Woodward misses; but also that the Menzies and Price view lacks some elements whose importance Woodward rightly stresses. When properly characterized, however, the ‘subjectivity’ survives unscathed.

  76. (With Ken Wharton) Dispelling the quantum spooks: a clue that Einstein missed? In Christophe Bouton and Philippe Huneman (eds), Time of Nature and the Nature of Time, Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science 326 (Springer, 2017), 123—137. [PDF on ArXiv]

    It is well-known that Bell's Theorem and other No Hidden Variable theorems have a "retrocausal loophole", because they assume that the values of pre-existing hidden variables are independent of future measurement settings. (This is often referred to, misleadingly, as the assumption of "free will".) However, it seems to have gone unnoticed until recently that a violation of this assumption is a straightforward consequence of time-symmetry, given an understanding of the quantization of light that would have seemed natural to Einstein after 1905. The new argument shows precisely why quantization makes a difference, and why time-symmetry alone does not imply retrocausality, in the classical context. It is true that later developments in quantum theory provide a way to avoid retrocausality, without violating time-symmetry; but this escape route relies on the "ontic" conception of the wave function that Einstein rejected. Had this new argument been noticed much sooner, then, it seems likely that retrocausality would have been regarded as the default option for hidden variables theories (a fact that would then have seemed confirmed by Bell's Theorem and the No Hidden Variable theorems). This paper presents these ideas at a level intended to be accessible to general readers.

  77. Ramsey's ubiquitous pragmatism. In Cheryl Misak and Huw Price (eds), The Practical Turn: Pragmatism in the British Long Twentieth Century (Oxford University Press, 2017), 149—162. [Preprint|Proof]

    Ramsey’s late piece ‘General Propositions and Causality’ begins with a discussion of the logical status of unrestricted generalizations — claims of the form ‘(x)F(x)’. Ramsey argues against his own earlier view that a sentence of this form should be treated as an infinite conjunction. However, as he puts it, “if it isn’t a conjunction, it isn’t a proposition at all.” He goes on to put causal judgements in the same non-propositional box, noting that what he has offered is a "psychological analysis" of causal judgement, not a metaphysics of causation — the latter, he thinks, turns out to be the wrong mode of enquiry in this case. In modern terms, what Ramsey has sketched is a pragmatist or expressivist view of causation. In this paper I relate Ramsey to later manifestations of the same pragmatist move, in Cambridge and elsewhere; and discuss the question whether Ramsey himself does or should think that this pragmatism is a 'global' view, applicable to all our judgements.

  78. Wilfrid Sellars meets Cambridge Pragmatism. In David Pereplyotchik and Deborah R. Barnbaum (eds), Sellars and Contemporary Philosophy (Routledge, 2017), 123—140. [Proof]

    I begin by noting some affinities between Sellars, on the one hand, and pragmatists and expressivists in the Cambridge tradition, such as Ramsey, Wittgenstein, Blackburn, and myself, on the other. I argue that Sellars' clear distinction between two notions of truth — notions that, as Sellars says, 'belong in different boxes' — turns out to answer a need that has existed in the Cambridge tradition since 1929. In the Cambridge tradition it has not received the attention that it deserves, in my view. By understanding why Sellars needs this distinction, we can see why Cambridge pragmatists need it too.

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Some unpublished preprints

  1. 'Not' again. [Abstract] [PDF]

  2. Probability in the Everett world: comments on Wallace and Greaves. [PDF at the Pittsburgh PhilSci Archive]

    It is often objected that the Everett interpretation of QM cannot make sense of quantum probabilities, in one or both of two ways: either it can’t make sense of probability at all, or it can’t explain why probability should be governed by the Born rule. David Deutsch has attempted to meet these objections. He argues not only that rational decision under uncertainty makes sense in the Everett interpretation, but also that under reasonable assumptions, the credences of a rational agent in an Everett world should be constrained by the Born rule. David Wallace has developed and defended Deutsch’s proposal, and greatly clarified its conceptual basis. In particular, he has stressed its reliance on the distinguishing symmetry of the Everett view, viz., that all possible outcomes of a quantum measurement are treated as equally real. The argument thus tries to make a virtue of what has usually been seen as the main obstacle to making sense of probability in the Everett world. In this note I outline some objections to the Deutsch-Wallace argument, and to related proposals by Hilary Greaves about the epistemology of Everettian QM. (In the latter case, my arguments include an appeal to an Everettian analogue of the Sleeping Beauty problem.) The common thread to these objections is that the symmetry in question remains a very significant obstacle to making sense of probability in the Everett interpretation.

  3. The effective indexical. [PDF at the Pittsburgh PhilSci Archive]

    In a famous paper in Noûs in 1979, John Perry points out that action depends on indexical beliefs. In addition to “third-person” information about her environment, an agent need “first-person” information about where, when and who she is. This conclusion is widely interpreted as a reason for thinking that tensed claims cannot be translated without loss into untensed language; but not as a reason for realism about tensed facts. In another famous paper in the same volume of Noûs, Nancy Cartwright argues that action requires that agents represent their world in causal terms, rather than merely probabilistic terms: for, Cartwright argues, there’s a distinction between effective and ineffective strategies, that otherwise goes missing. This is widely taken as a reason for thinking that causal claims cannot be translated without loss into merely probabilistic claims; and also – in contrast to Perry’s case – widely regarded as a reason for realism about causation. In this paper I ask whether the latter conclusion is compulsory, or whether, as in Perry’s case, the need for causal beliefs might merely reflect some “situated” aspect of a decision-maker’s perspective.

  4. Semantic deflationism and the Frege point. [PDF]

    This is a my old paper 'Semantic Minimalism and the Frege Point' (see #21 on the list above), included here for search engines with the alternative title under which it is sometimes cited.

  5. (With Ken Wharton) A live alternative to quantum spooks. [PDF on ArXiv]

    Quantum weirdness has been in the news recently, thanks to an ingenious new experiment by a team led by Roland Hanson, at the Delft University of Technology. Much of the coverage presents the experiment as good (even conclusive) news for spooky action-at-a-distance, and bad news for local realism. We point out that this interpretation ignores an alternative, namely that the quantum world is retrocausal. We conjecture that this loophole is missed because it is confused for superdeterminism on one side, or action-at-a-distance itself on the other. We explain why it is different from these options, and why it has clear advantages, in both cases.

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Review articles

  1. Review of K.G. & J.S. Denbigh, Entropy in Relation to Incomplete Knowledge, Cambridge University Press, 1985, and H.D. Zeh, The Physical Basis of the Direction of Time, Springer-Verlag, Berlin, 1989; British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 42(1991) 111—144. [JSTOR]

  2. Discussion review of Philip Pettit, The Common Mind: An Essay on Psychology, Society and Politics, Oxford University Press, 1992, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 55(1995) 689—699. [JSTOR]

  3. Review of John McDowell, Mind and World, Harvard University Press, 1994. In Philosophical Books 38(1997) 169—177, with reply by McDowell.

  4. Starving the theological cuckoo. A review of John Leslie, Infinite Minds: A Philosophical Cosmology (OUP, 2001). In Spontaneous Generations, A Journal for the History and Philosophy of Science 1(2007) 136—145. [PDF available here]

    This review was commissioned by the London Review of Books in 2002, but rejected by the commissioning editor, John Sturrock, apparently because he disliked its anti-theological stance; see the Author's Note at the end of the present version for more details. 

  5. Blackburn and the War on Error. A discussion review of Simon Blackburn's Truth: A Guide for the Perplexed, London: Allen Lane, 2005. In Australasian Journal of Philosophy 84(2006) 603—614. [PDF]

  6. Abusing one’s position. Commentary on Jenann Ismael, The Situated Self, Oxford University Press, 2006. In a review symposium in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 82(2011) 772—779. [PDF]

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Selected minor reviews

  1. Review of Peter Coveney and Roger Highfield, The Arrow of Time (W.H.Allen, 1990) and Paul Halpern, Time Journeys (McGraw-Hill, 1990), from Nature 348 (22 November 1990), 356.

  2. 'Brains in Spain', a review of J. J. Halliwell, J. Pérez-Mercader and W. H. Zurek (eds.), Physical Origins of Time Asymmetry, Cambridge University Press, 1994. Pp. xx + 515. $190.00 HB. From Metascience 7:1995, 179—182.

  3. Review of Simon Blackburn, Essays in Quasi-realism, Oxford University Press, 1993. In Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 56(1996) 965—968. [PDF|JSTOR]

  4. 'No Direction Known', a review of Ilya Prigogine, The End of Certainty (Free Press/Simon and Schuster, 1997) and Derek York, In Search of Lost Time (IOP Publishing, 1997), for Nature, 6 November 1997, 42.

  5. Review of L. S. Schulman, Time's Arrows and Quantum Measurement, Cambridge University Press, 1997. In The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, 49(1998) 522—525. [JSTOR]

  6. Review of David Albert, Time and Chance, Harvard University Press, 2000. In The Times Literary Supplement, 14 April 2002.


     


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