I work and teach primarily in metaphysics and the philosophy of science. My research has focused on using symmetries in physics as a guide to metaphysics. There are three parts to this project:

1/ Some of my work (Individuals, Absolutism vs Comparativism, The Bare Necessities, Quality and Structure, Substantivalism vs Relationalism) addresses first-order metaphysical questions about the nature of individuals, quantities, and space-time respectively. In each case I use symmetry considerations to motivate theses of a structuralist flavor.

2/ What is the content of metaphysical theses like these? Two papers (On the Plurality of Grounds, The Possibility of Physicalism) discuss a notion of ground that can be used to formulate a variety of metaphysical theses. And in Metaphysical Rationalism I relate this notion of ground to the Principle of Sufficient Reason.

3/ What justifies this use of symmetry as a guide to metaphysics? Two papers (Symmetry as an Epistemic Notion (Twice Over), Inexpressible Ignorance) develop the epistemology of this use of symmetry.

Work in progress

Undoing the Truth Fetish: The Normative Path to Pragmatism draft of Jan 2019

In which I motivate a broadly pragmatist view of truth, meaning, and inquiry.

How to Be a Relationalist draft of Sept 2018

In which I describe how to be a relationalist, and while doing so develop a non-factualist account of measurement and distinguish two species of metaphysical possibility.

Privilege in the Construction Industry draft of February 2018

In which I discuss issues of egalitarianism and privilege that arise in Karen Bennett's book Making Things Up. (For an invited symposium in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.)

Symmetry and Superfluous Structure: A Metaphysical Overview draft of February 2018

In which I outline the method of symmetry and its application to metaphysics.


Realism and the Absence of Value The Philosophical Review 127.3 (2018): 279-322.

In which I raise a problem for metaphysical realism and suggest a return to a Goodmanian view that the world is a structureless mess onto which we project our own categorizations, not something with categories already built in.

Essentialism and the Nonidentity Problem Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 96.3 (2018): 540-570

In which I ask: out of all the many entities coincident with a person, that differ only in their essential profiles, which ones matter? I use nonidentity cases to shed light on this question.

Normative Non-Naturalism and the Problem of Authority Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 117.3 (2017): 297-319.

In which I develop a familiar argument against normative non-naturalism, to the effect that non-natural properties would have no "normative authority" over us.

Constitutive Explanation Philosophical Issues 27 (2017): 74-97.

In which I argue that the notion of ground can be significantly deflated and still do useful work in philosophy.

Quality and Structure forthcoming in Current Controversies in Metaphysics, edited by Elizabeth Barnes (Routledge).

In which I argue that the world is a purely qualitative mosaic. Here is the postscript, coauthored with Jason Turner.

Metaphysical Rationalism Noûs 50.2 (2016): 379-418.

In which I develop and defend a version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, one that entails that every truth is necessarily true.

Symmetry as an Epistemic Notion (Twice Over) The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 67.3 (2016): 837-878.

In which I argue that symmetry is an epistemic notion (twice over).

Inexpressible Ignorance The Philosophical Review 124.4 (2015): 441-480.

In which I discuss cases where ignorance is inexpressible (e.g. ignorance of absolute position, quiddities, and haecceities) and argue that the ignorance consists in an inability to identify things by way of their natures.

Substantivalism vs Relationalism About Space In Classical Physics Philosophy Compass 10.9 (2015): 601-624.

In which I survey a number of arguments for each view (including the bucket argument, Leibniz shift arguments, and symmetry arguments) and conclude that the case for relationalism is better than is often acknowledged. Here is the teaching and learning guide.

The Possibility of Physicalism The Journal of Philosophy 111.9 (2014): 557-592

In which I argue that the notion of ground is suitable for formulating a variety of metaphysical theses including physicalism.

On the Plurality of Grounds Philosophers' Imprint 14.14 (2014): 1-28.

In which I argue that ground is an irreducibly plural notion: these are grounded in those. Cases of plural grounding include individuals and quantities like kilograms.

Absolutism vs Comparativism about Quantity Oxford Studies in Metaphysics: Volume 8 (2013). Winner of the 2011 OSM Younger Scholars Prize.

In which I motivate and defend comparativism about quantities like mass.

The Bare Necessities Philosophical Perspectives 25 (2011): 115-160.

In which I discuss substantivalism in the context of the General Theory Relativity, and argue that we do not yet have a satisfactory substantivalist theory.

Individuals: An Essay in Revisionary Metaphysics Philosophical Studies 145.1 (2009): 35-67.

In which I argue that (fundamentally speaking) there are no such things as individuals.

Graduate seminars

2018 Spring: Why is There Anything Except Physics? (with Geoffrey Lee)

2015 Fall: Metaphysics (with Boris Kment)

2014 Spring: Symmetry, Structure, and Spacetime

2013 Spring: Medieval, Early Modern, and Contemporary Work on Substance (with John Morrison)

2011 Spring: Hyperintensional Metaphysics (with Boris Kment)

2009 Fall: The Structure of the Physical World

Undergraduate courses

2018 Fall: Science and Human Understanding

  • This course used the levels system with assignments involving argument mapping; email me for access to the assignments and maps.

2018 Spring: Philosophy of Science

  • This course used the levels system with assignments involving argument mapping; email me for access to the assignments and maps.

2017 Fall: Science and Human Understanding

  • This course used the levels system with assignments involving argument mapping; email me for access to the assignments and maps.

2016 Spring: Philosophy of Science

2014 Fall: Philosophical Analysis Using Argument Maps

  • This innovative course was developed by Simon Cullen, I was just along for the ride. See the website for more information.

2014 Spring: Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology

2013 Fall: Metaphysics

2012 Fall: Introductory Logic

2012 Spring: Philosophy of Science

2011 Fall: Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology

2011 Spring: Introductory Logic

2009 Fall: Introduction to Metaphysics and Epistemology (with Gideon Rosen)

2007 Summer: Ethics

PhD supervision

Currently supervising dissertations by:

Previous dissertations supervised:

Shamik Dasgupta