ʻInfinite Regresses, Ground Conditions and Metaphysical Satisfaction’ (co-written with with Olley Pearson) A well-known version of metaphysical foundationalism holds that the universe must have a fundamental level, a collection of entities on which all other entities depend and none of which is itself dependent upon anything else for its existence. To deny this, it has been argued, is to set up a vicious regress of dependent entities (e.g., Aquinas 1964, 83-84; Fine 1995, 286; Leibniz 1989, 149-150, 217-218; Schaffer 2010, 37). However, the vicious regress argument appealed to by foundationalists has come under increasing criticism. For one thing, the presentations of this argument tend to be either very old or very brief (for example, Johnathan Schaffer presents his regress argument in just two sentences - 2010, 37). Furthermore, whether or not the argument succeeds depends on whether or not the regress in question is vicious, and, notoriously, proponents of vicious regress arguments often simply assert this to be the case (for discussion see Bliss 2013, Maurin 2007, Roy ms.). In this paper we will present a version of the regress argument for foundationalism. We believe that this argument is central to the debate between the foundationalist and the anti-foundationalist. However, as will become clear, we do not take this argument to establish foundationalism. Rather, we take it to show that anti-foundationalism fails a plausible principle of metaphysics, the Principle of Satisfaction: do not posit entities that are impossible unless their grounding conditions can be satisfied, without also having reason to believe that those conditions can be satisfied. Those who find such a principle plausible should be moved by the regress argument to what we term weak foundationalism: refrain from positing an anti-foundationalist ontology. In the course of our discussion, we will also make it clear that whilst we do not believe that the regress argument currently establishes either foundationalism or anti-foundationalism, we believe that it highlights fruitful strategies that could be adopted to progress the dialectic of the debate concerning foundationalism.
‘Against Universalism: The Problem of Particularityʼ Universalism is the position (or family of positions) that the only fundamental entities are universals: “the world is a construction from, is constituted by, universals” (Armstrong 1989, 73). Historically, this view is associated with bundle theories of concrete particulars; more recently, new versions have been proposed on which universals do not constitute concrete particulars but rather are arranged to form the fundamental facts about the world. Having clarified what these different versions have in common, I shall outline a new problem for universalism, the problem of particularity: in a world which has only universals as its fundamental entities, why do any particulars exist at all? I shall consider some ways in which the universalist might respond to this problem, arguing that none of them are satisfactory. There may be other ways in which the universalist can respond, but in any case the problem of particularity stands as a major objection to this position.
‘Temporal Modes of Presentation and the Experience of Passage’ It is often claimed that in perception we experience temporal passage; that is, we experience times or events as passing from the future into the present and then into the past. The experience of passage is often cited as a reason to believe that tense is a feature of reality. Opponents of this claim typically argue either that we do not have an experience of passage, or that we experience passage but this experience is illusory. I shall outline an account of the experience of passage which fits into neither of these responses offered by opponents of passage. On this account, it is true that time seems to pass, but it is not the case that our experiences present this passage as a mind-independent feature of reality. Therefore, experiences of passage do not provide reason to think that tense is a feature of reality, but these experiences would not be illusory even if reality turns out to not be tensed.
‘The Mind-Brain Identity Theory and the Explanatory Gap’ Recent years have seen a resurgence of type-identity physicalism (e.g., Papineau 2002, Polger 2004, 2011, McLaughlin 2007, 2010, Gozzano & Hill 2012a). One proposed advantage of this view is that it disposes of the explanatory gap, understood as the need to explain why brain states or neural activity give rise to conscious experiences. Since it is impossible to explain why something is identical with itself, if the identity theory is correct then the explanatory gap is dissolved. I shall argue that the identity theory gives rise to a different explanatory gap, concerning whether or not it is possible for conscious experiences to be identical with brain states. After clarifying the identity theorist’s response to the original explanatory gap, I shall outline the ontology of experiences and a criterion of identity which applies to them. I shall then outline two new explanatory challenges facing the identity theory. The first challenge is the suggestion that until the identity theorist shows that conscious experiences have the same criterion of identity as brain states, the identity theory should not be accepted. The second challenge is that the ontology of experiences seems to be different to that of brain states, and this provides reason to think that they cannot be identical. I shall also consider three possible responses which the identity theorist can offer to these challenges, and argue that none of them are successful.