Hi, I'm Mike Deigan, a philosophy PhD student at Yale. I have broad interests, but mostly work on language and ethics, trying to answer questions like “What does the word ‘a’ mean?” and “How should we live?”.
Comments/questions are welcome!
We sometimes lead double lives in the consequents of counterfactuals. In counteridenticals like 'If I were you, I would like me.', 'I' and 'me' seem to pick out different individuals. This, I argue, is a problem for the orthodox Kripke-Kaplan view of indexicals as rigid designators, since it requires 'I' and 'me' to have the same referent in all worlds of evaluation.
I show this problem is not limited to counteridenticals, but also appears in 'ordinary' counterfactuals like "If I were a policeman, I would arrest me." and modal subordination, as in "I could have been a policeman. I would have arrested me for what I just did." So the problem cannot be solved by a special treatment of counteridenticals. Nor, I argue, can it be analyzed as involving descriptive indexicals. Instead, we should make a more dramatic fix, such as moving to counterpart theory for de re modal ascriptions.
I present data that suggests that the universal entailments of counterfactual donkey sentences aren't as universal as some (Van Rooij (2005) and Walker and Romero (2015)) have claimed. I argue that this favors the strategy of attributing the universal entailments to a special property of the similarity ordering on worlds provided by some contexts, rather than to a semantically encoded sensitivity to assignment.
Kit Fine (2017) distinguishes between exact truthmaking, which requires that every part of the truthmaker be relevant to making the sentence true, and inexact truthmaking, which lacks this requirement (and is akin to situation semanticists’ notion of (persistent) verification). He argues that because we can define the latter in terms of the former, but not vice versa, we should take exact truthmaking to be the sole primitive semantic relation. But I argue this this gets things backwards: inexact truthmaking can be used to define exact truthmaking, but not vice versa. Truthmaker semantics should be built on a foundation of inexact truthmaking.
Sometimes when someone says something, we don't understand what it means, but nevertheless go along with it and signal acceptance. I argue that this phenomenon, which I call ‘stupefying’, is both practically important and theoretically interesting. Unlike the backdoor, non-at-issue content-based mechanisms emphasized by Langton, Stanley, and others, stupefying is a means of conversationally short-circuiting rational deliberation which can rely entirely on at-issue meaning.
Modelling and understanding stupefying, then, is a worthwhile endeavor. I try to make some headway on this in the remainder of the paper by extending some tools developed by Yalcin (2016 and elsewhere) and Bledin and Rawlins (2016).
It is usually assumed without question that the final value of a world is dependent on the value of its parts. In this paper I question this assumption, presenting a priority monism about value akin to the ontological priority monism defended by Schaffer (2010). Priority Value Monism has some advantages, I argue, and can deflect the most obvious and damning objections. However, it does have some drawbacks which lead me to reject it.
The best view is one on which neither the smallest finally valuable things nor largest are fundamentally valuable. Fundamentally valuable things can confer derivative final value onto both their parts and wholes of which they are parts. This hybrid view allows a new and attractive account of the wrongness of imperceptible harms.
When I pollute, I (probably, slightly) increase the harms of climate change. When I buy carbon offsets, I offset these harm increases. If I offset enough, I've made a net neutral contribution to these harms. This pattern of actions seems permissible and, given our circumstances, morally required (as Broome (2013) argues). More generally, when an agent increases a harm but decreases the very same harm by the same amount, she acts permissibly. But increasing harm without offsetting is impermissible. Why?
Increasing harm and offsetting, despite their importance, are not well understood. In this paper I argue that the facts about them cannot be accounted for by a constraint against doing harm together with the normal provisos (such as harms being potentially outweighed, compensated for, consented to, done in self-defense, etc.). I propose a constraint against unoffset harm increases as a replacement, and show that it makes sense both of harm increases and offsetting as well as more familiar, discrete harms.