Writing



On this page you will find information about past, present, and future academic work. At the Air Force Academy I have been involved in a Scholarship of Teaching and Learning (SoTL) project on self-assessment. In philosophy, my main research projects are in metaphysics and the philosohpy of religion. I have interests in virtue ethics and haved dabbled in more formal work. If you would like a draft of a paper that is not posted, please contact me.

Current Projects

"Investigation of Knowledge Surveys to Develop Student Self-Assessment of Learning", co-investigator
  • Abstract: Knowledge surveys are collections of questions that support student self-assessment of their knowledge, understanding, and skills (can span the full range of Bloom's Taxonomy). When answering the questions, students rate themselves on their ability to answer the question (similar to a confidence rating) rather than fully answering the question. This project is a multi-semester study to gain insight on impact of knowledge surveys across a variety of disciplines and types/level of courses.

Dissertation

A Relational View of Time, directed by Alexander R. Pruss
  • Abstract: In my dissertation I defend a relational view of time. The relationalist claims that time exists, but that time's existence is ontologically dependent on changing things. So, contra the current orthodoxy, neither time nor spacetime are fundamental entities. I defend this view within an Aristotelian ontology. This ontology is hierarchical: there are fundamental entities and there are non-fundamental entities, where every non-fundamental entity is grounded in or derived from the fundamental entities. Part of my dissertation says what it means for a non-fundamental entity to be derived from fundamental entities. After offering the relevant details of an Aristotelian ontology, I show how one can derive time from substances that change. I spend the final chapters showing the advantages of my version of relationalism over others, and arguing against substantivalism, especially the versions espoused by Theodore Sider and Jonathan Schaffer.

Published Work

"Reconstituting Ersatzer Presentism" (with T. Ryan Byerly), Res Philosophica, July 2014.
  • Abstract: Presentists claim that only presently existing objects exist. One version of presentism is ersatzer presentism, according to which times are a kind of abstract object. Such a view is appealing because it affords the presentist an answer to the grounding objection—a potentially lethal objection to presentism. Despite this advantage, available versions of ersatzer presentism suffer from a heretofore unappreciated shortcoming: they cannot account for the truth of certain counterfactual claims about the past. We argue for this claim by considering two views representative of ersatzer presentism—those of Thomas Crisp and Craig Bourne. After presenting our arguments against their views, we defend two crucial assumptions in those arguments. Finally, we offer a novel version of ersatzer presentism that appropriates the metaphysics of constitution in order to avoid the difficulty that current ersatzer presentist views face.

(Some) Unpublished Work

"Common Parts: A Theory of Universal"
  • Abstract: This paper offers a semantics for the concepts of abstraction and construction that can then be used to articulate a non-Platonist theory of universals. I argue that abstraction and construction are best understood in terms of parthood and then offer semantics for each concept. In this paper the main focus is on abstraction; the semantics for construction are tentative. Talking about abstraction and construction in terms of parts and fusions of entities is useful not only for the conceptual clarification that we gain, but also because we can use that framework to articulate a non-Platonist (and, as it turns out, functionalist) view of universals. On such a view, universals are parts that distinct entities have ``in common''.

"The Ersatz Thin Red Line"
  • Abstract: It seems that fore-truth and free action compatible. For tomorrow I will decide whether to run or cycle, and I am free to do either action. But it's also true that, were I to make such a decision, I'd go cycling; and this is true temporally prior to my decision. So it seems that the following three theses are true: (i) there are free actions, (ii) there are truths about what a free agent would do in certain circumstances, and (iii) these truths are true temporally prior to the agent's action. Call the conjunction of (i)--(iii) the Fore-truth and Indeterminism Theory (FIT). Certain theistic theses, such as Molinism, require FIT. But Belnap and Green, and, more recently, Greg Restall have argued that one way of modeling FIT is semantically and metaphysically deficient. This view employs branching time&mdash:which is a way of modeling indeterminism (including the indeterminism required for free action)—and a thin red line (TRL)—which captures the truth that I would go cycling were I to go running or cycling. I argue that the semantic and metaphysical worries raised by Belnap and Green and Restall are unfounded: there's nothing about branching time per se that poses a problem for FIT: whatever problems arise for FIT arise independently of branching time + TRL. There's a simple, intuitive way to deal with the apparent semantic inconsistency and a plausible metaphysic for the semantics that allows for both indeterminism and a TRL. That there is such a metaphysic is evidence that freedom and fore-truth (and hence foreknowledge) are compatible.

"Scientific Depravity and Ontological Commitment"
  • Abstract: This paper considers two questions. First, what are the ontological commitments of scientific realism? Second, what does the answer to the first question tell us about doing physics-based (or, more generally, science-based) metaphysics? The standard answer to the first question is that the scientific realist is ontologically committed to whatever entities are in our best scientific theories or models. The typical answer to the second question is that, if we are ontologically committed to our best theories or models, we are free to employ truths about those theories or models when articulating metaphysical arguments. I argue that the standard answer to the first question is not right if read literally and thus stands in need of clarification. I then show that, once we clarify the ontological commitments of scientific realism, we are not, in fact, free to make use of our best theories or models when offering substantive metaphysical arguments.

"Updating With The Theory Theory Of Conditionals"
  • Abstract: When updating on a conditional, we can either preserve the probability of the antecedent of that conditional or not. Currently there is no consensus on when we should preserve the probability of the antecedent (in part because the question has received little attention). I offer a schema for deciding whether to preserve the probability of the antecedent that unifies the intuitions guiding the competing views currently on offer.