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Research

I have published a number of peer-reviewed research articles in metaphysics and in the philosophy of religion.

 

My work in metaphysics is on material objects. Some of this work concerns the ways in which material objects can be related to spatiotemporal regions, but my most recent work in this area is on the identity of material objects over time. I defend phasalism, which, as I prefer to understand it, is view that nearly all sortal changes are phase sortal changes, and my defense of this view intersects with a variety of traditional puzzles about material objects. I have also begun to apply these ideas to personal identity and personal ontology. In addition to my recent papers, I am working on a monograph which develops and defends my view of material objects. 

 

In the philosophy of religion, I have published a series of articles on non-consequentialist aspects of the problem of evil. I also maintain an extensive bibliography of work on the problem of evil here. In addition to my work on the problem of evil, I have contributed to the literature on various metaphysical issues raised by common religious doctrines and beliefs, such as beliefs about divine providence, divine personhood, and resurrection. Most recently, I began a research project on the metaphysics of rebirth (reincarnation). 

 

Below are all of my published and forthcoming papers as of October 2023. Beneath each title you will find a link to a full-text pdf of a penultimate draft and (when available) a link to the published version of the paper. 

A Phasalist Approach to Coincidence Puzzles

The Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: The phasalist solution to the classic puzzle of the statue and the piece of clay only works for some coincidence puzzles and not others. To address this limitation of phasalism, I develop a novel approach to coincidence puzzles that permits different kinds of coincidence puzzles to be solved in different ways, provided that each solution satisfies certain constraints inspired by the phasalist solution to the statue puzzle. I apply my approach to four different kinds of coincidence puzzles, and I argue that it is no less plausible than rival approaches in the literature. 

The Matter of Coincidence

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (forthcoming)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: The phasalist solution to the puzzle of the statue and the piece of clay claims that being a statue is a phase sortal property of the piece of clay, just like being a child is a phase sortal property of a human being. Some philosophers reject this solution because it cannot account for cases where the statue seems to gain and lose parts that the piece of clay does not. I rebut this objection by arguing, contrary to the prevailing view, that the piece of clay is not mereologically constant, and might even be highly mereologically flexible. 

Ordinary Undetached Parts

Synthese 202(4): article 120

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: One of the standard puzzles in ordinary-object metaphysics concerns what happens when an object and one of its undetached parts apparently begin to coincide. I distinguish two versions of this puzzle: the problem of extraordinary undetached parts and the problem of ordinary undetached parts. Then I present a novel phasalist solution to the problem of ordinary undetached parts. My solution is designed to supplement the recently-defended view that ordinary undetached parts exist but extraordinary ones do not.

A Diversified Approach to Fission Puzzles

The Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)

Full-text pdf

Abstract: I introduce a new approach to fission puzzles called the Diversified Approach that proceeds by distinguishing different kinds of fission and assimilating each kind to a different ordinary phenomenon, such as breaking apart, replication, or part loss. To illustrate this approach, I apply it to the case of amoebic fission. The upshot is a novel account of amoebic fission according to which the dividing amoeba ceases to exist because it breaks apart. After developing this solution and highlighting some of its advantages, I discuss briefly how the Diversified Approach can be extended to other varieties of fission.

The Non-Consequentialist Argument from Evil

Philosophical Studies 179(12): 3599-3615 (2022)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: Stringent non-consequentialist constraints on permitting horrendous evils pose a formidable challenge to the project of theodicy by limiting the ways in which it is permissible for God to do or allow evil for the sake of bringing about a greater good. I formulate a general and potent argument against all greater-good theodicies (which includes most theodicies) from the existence of robust side constraints on permitting evil. Then I contend that the argument fails. I begin by distinguishing between side constraints on doing evil and side constraints on allowing evil, and then I draw on the work of David Lewis and Fiona Woollard to argue that, because of the unique ways that God is related to the world, it is plausible that God can both create and sustain our universe, despite all of its evils, without violating any of these constraints.

Criteria of Identity Without Sortals

 

Noûs 57(3): 722-739 (2023)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: Many philosophers believe that the criteria of identity over time for ordinary objects entail that such objects are permanent members of certain sortal kinds. The sortal kinds in question have come to be known as substance sortal kinds. But in this article, I defend a criterion of identity that is suited to phasalism, the view that alleged substance sortals are in fact phase sortals. The criterion I defend is a sortal-weighted version of a change-minimizing criterion first discussed by Eli Hirsch. I motivate this criterion and then argue that it withstands attempts to show that it is inferior to non-phasalist rivals.

Becoming a Statue

 

Australasian Journal of Philosophy 101(1): 228-239 (2023)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: One simple but relatively neglected solution to the notorious coincidence puzzle of the statue and the piece of clay claims that the property being a statue is a phase sortal property that the piece of clay instantiates temporarily. I defend this view against some standard objections by reinforcing it with a novel counterpart-theoretic account of identity under a sortal. This proposal does not require colocation, four-dimensionalism, eliminativism, deflationism, or unorthodox theses about classical identity. 

Probing the Mind of God: Divine Beliefs and Credences

Co-authored with Liz Jackson

 

Religious Studies 58(S1): S61-S75 (2022)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: Although much has been written about divine knowledge, and some on divine beliefs, virtually nothing has been written about divine credences. In this essay we comparatively assess four views on divine credences: (1) God has only beliefs, not credences; (2) God has both beliefs and credences; (3) God has only credences, not beliefs; and (4) God has neither credences nor beliefs, only knowledge. We weigh the costs and benefits of these four views and draw connections to current discussions in philosophical theology.

Multilocation Without Time Travel

Erkenntnis 86(6): 1431-1444 (2021)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Some philosophers defend the possibility of synchronic multilocation, and have even used it to defend other substantive metaphysical theses. But just how strong is the case for the possibility of synchronic multilocation? The answer to this question depends in part on whether synchronic multilocation is wedded to other controversial metaphysical notions. In this paper, I consider whether the possibility of synchronic multilocation depends on the possibility of time travel, and I conclude that the answer hinges on the nature of time and persistence.

An Episodic Account of Divine Personhood

Religious Studies 57(4): 654-668 (2021)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: I present Ned Markosian’s episodic account of identity under a sortal, and then use it to sketch a new model of the Trinity. I show that the model can be used to solve at least three important Trinitarian puzzles: the traditional ‘logical problem of the Trinity’, a less-discussed problem that has been dubbed the ‘problem of triunity’, and a problem about the divine processions that has been enjoying increased attention in the recent literature.

How God Knows Counterfactuals of Freedom

Faith and Philosophy 37(2): 220-229 (2020)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: One problem for Molinism that critics of the view have sometimes pressed, and which Molinists have so far done little to address, is that even if there are true counterfactuals of freedom, it is puzzling how God could possibly know them. I defuse this worry by sketching a plausible model of the mechanics of middle knowledge which draws on William Alston’s direct acquaintance account of divine knowledge. 

Self-Colocation: A Colocation Puzzle for Endurantists

Synthese 198(6): 5297-5309 (2021)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: The recent literature on the nature of persistence features a handful of imaginative cases in which an object seems to colocate with itself. So far, discussion of these cases has focused primarily on how they defy the standard endurantist approaches to the problem of temporary intrinsics. But in this article, I set that issue aside and argue that cases of apparent self-colocation also pose another problem for the endurantist. While the perdurantist seems to have a fairly straightforward account of self-colocation, the endurantist has a hard time saying exactly what it would be for an object to be self-colocated. After introducing this problem and explaining how the perdurantist can circumvent it with little difficulty, I discuss a number of tempting endurantist solutions that ultimately fail. Then I suggest an endurantist solution which I think is more promising, but which requires the endurantist to deny that apparent cases of self-colocation are genuine cases of self-colocation.

How to Solve the Problem of Evil: A Deontological Strategy

Faith and Philosophy 36(4): 442-462 (2019)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: One paradigmatic argument from evil against theism claims that, (1) if God exists, then there is no gratuitous evil. But (2) there is gratuitous evil, so (3) God does not exist. I consider three deontological strategies for resisting this argument. Each strategy restructures existing theodicies which deny (2) so that they instead deny (1). The first two strategies are problematic on their own, but their primary weaknesses vanish when they are combined to form the third strategy, resulting in a promising new approach to the problem of evil. 

From a Cosmic Fine-Tuner to a Perfect Being

Analysis, 79(3): 449-452 (2019)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: Byerly has proposed a novel solution to the gap problem for cosmological arguments. I contend that his strategy can be used to strengthen a wide range of other theistic arguments as well, and to stitch them together into a cumulative case for theism. I illustrate these points by applying Byerly’s idea about cosmological arguments to teleological arguments.

Divine Intentions and the Problem of Evil

Religious Studies 55(2): 215-234 (2019)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: I develop a model of providence on which God brings about good states of affairs by means of evil states of affairs, but without intending the latter. The model's key ingredient is a backward-looking counterpart of the distinction between intended and merely foreseen consequences of an action: namely, a distinction between intended and merely foreseen means to an end. The model enables greater-good theodicies to avoid worries about whether a perfect being could intend evil.

Does Molinism Reconcile Freedom and Foreknowledge?

European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 10(2): 131-148 (2018)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: John Martin Fischer has argued that Molinism does not constitute a response to the argument that divine foreknowledge is incompatible with human freedom. I argue that T. Ryan Byerly’s recent work on the mechanics of foreknowledge sheds light on this issue. In particular, it suggests that the Molinist might be able to reply to Fischer, but only if the Molinist can explain how God knows true counterfactuals of freedom.

Multilocation and Parsimony

Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 7(3): 153-160 (2018)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: One objection to the thesis that multilocation is possible claims that, when combined with a preference for parsimonious theories, it leads to the absurd result that we ought to believe the material universe is composed of just one simple particle. I argue that this objection fails.

The Possibility of Resurrection by Reassembly

International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 84(3): 273-288 (2018)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: It is widely held that the classic reassembly model of resurrection faces intractable problems. (1) What happens to someone if God assembles two individuals at the resurrection which are equally good candidates for being the original person? (2) If two or more people, such as a cannibal and the cannibal’s victim, were composed of the same particles at their respective deaths, can they both be resurrected? If they can, who gets the shared particles? And (3) would an attempt to reassemble a long-gone individual result in a genuine resurrection, or merely an intrinsic duplicate of the original person? In this paper, I argue that the first of these problems has, in effect, been solved by defenders of a rival view; I propose a novel solution to the second problem; and I show that the third can be solved by upgrading the naïve reassembly model to a novel variety of reassembly model.

A New Logical Problem for the Doctrine of the Trinity

Religious Studies 54(1): 1-13 (2018)

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: In this article I develop a new problem for the doctrine of the Trinity that I call the Problem of Triunity. Rather than proceeding from the fact that God is one and the persons are many, as the traditional problem of the Trinity does, the problem of triunity proceeds from the fact that, in one sense or another, God is many, and yet each divine person on his own is just one. 

Is the Problem of Evil a Deontological Problem?

Analysis 77(1): 79-87 (2017). 

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: Recently, some authors have argued that experiences of poignant evils provide non-inferential support for crucial premisses in arguments from evil. Careful scrutiny of these experiences suggests that the impermissibility of permitting a horrendous evil might be characterized by a deontological insensitivity to consequences. This has significant implications for the project of theodicy.

Best Feasible Worlds: Divine Freedom and Leibniz's Lapse

International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 77(30): 219-229 (2015).

Full-text pdf   /   Published version

Abstract: William L. Rowe’s argument against divine freedom has drawn considerable attention from theist philosophers. One reply to Rowe’s argument that has emerged in the recent literature appeals to modified accounts of libertarian freedom which have the result that God may be free even if he necessarily actualizes the best possible world. Though in many ways attractive, this approach appears to lead to the damning consequence of modal collapse i.e., that the actual world is the only possible world. But appearances can be deceiving, and in this paper I argue that the threat of modal collapse dissolves when we consider Alvin Plantinga’s critique of the purportedly Leibnizian notion that God can actualize any possible world, and incorporate the implications of this critique into the divine freedom debate. Developing a suggestion by Edward R. Wierenga, I argue first that the modal collapse objection fails within a Molinist context, and then I extend the discussion beyond that context to show that the objection also fails on the assumption that Molinism is false.

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