How Should We Make the Most Important Decisions of Our Lives? A debate with Paul Bloom in Slate.“Your friends know more about your life than you do, including when you might die.” Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian.
Learn about The Experience Project, a large grant I am Co-Principal Investigator on.
“The Impossible Decision.” Joshua Rothman at The New Yorker.
“This Column will Change your Life.” Oliver Burkeman in The Guardian.
I am a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow.
“Metaphysical.” Interview by Richard Marshall at 3am Magazine.
“Is it Rational to Have a Child? Can Psychology Tell Us?” Tania Lombrozo at Psychology Today.
“Transformative Experience: Précis and Replies.” (From the forthcoming PPR Book symposium.)
As we live our lives, we repeatedly make decisions that shape our future circumstances and affect the sort of person we will be. When choosing whether to start a family, or deciding on a career, we often think we can assess the options by imagining what different experiences would be like for us. Transformative Experience argues that, for choices involving dramatically new experiences, we are confronted by the brute fact that we can know very little about our subjective futures. This has serious implications for our decisions. If we make life choices in the way we naturally and intuitively want to—by considering what we care about, and what our future selves will be like if we choose to have the experience—we only learn what we really need to know after we have already committed ourselves. If we try to escape the dilemma by avoiding an experience, we have still made a choice.
Choosing rationally, then, may require us to regard big life decisions as choices to make discoveries, small and large, about the intrinsic nature of experience, and to recognize that part of the value of living authentically is to experience one's life and preferences in whatever way they may evolve in the wake of the choices one makes. Using classic philosophical examples about the nature of consciousness, and drawing on recent work in normative decision theory, cognitive science, epistemology, and the philosophy of mind, the book develops a rigorous account of transformative experience that sheds light on how we should understand real-world experience and our capacity to rationally map our subjective futures.
Winner of the American Philosophical Association's Sanders Book Prize for 2014.
Causation is at once familiar and mysterious. Many believe that the causal relation is not directly observable, but that we nevertheless can somehow detect its presence in the world. Common sense seems to have a firm grip on causation, and much work in the natural and social sciences relies on the idea. Yet neither common sense nor extensive philosophical debate has led us to anything like agreement on the correct analysis of the concept of causation, or an account of the metaphysical nature of the causal relation. Contemporary debates are driven by opposing motivations, conflicting intuitions, and unarticulated methodological assumptions.
Causation: A User’s Guide cuts a clear path through this confusing but vital landscape. We guide the reader through the most important philosophical treatments of causation, negotiating the terrain by taking a set of examples as landmarks. Special attention is given to counterfactual and related analyses of causation. Using a methodological principle based on the close examination of potential counterexamples, the book clarifies the central themes of the debate about causation, and covers questions about causation involving omissions or absences, preemption and other species of redundant causation, and the possibility that causation is not transitive. The book will be of value both to trained specialists and those coming to the problem of causation for the first time.
One philosophical approach to causation sees counterfactual dependence as the key to the explanation of causal facts: for example, events c (the cause) and e (the effect) both occur, but had c not occurred, e would not have occurred either. The counterfactual analysis of causation became a focus of philosophical debate after the 1973 publication of David Lewis’s groundbreaking paper, “Causation,” which argues against the previously accepted “regularity” analysis and in favor of what he called the “promising alternative” of the counterfactual analysis. This book brings together some of the most important recent work connecting—and in some cases disputing—counterfactuals and causation.
It includes the complete version of Lewis’s Whitehead lectures, “Causation as Influence,” a major reworking of his original paper. Also included is a more recent essay by Lewis, “Void and Object,” on causation by omission. Other topics considered include the “trumping” of one event over another in determining causation; de facto dependence; challenges to the transitivity of causation; the possibility that entities other than events are the fundamental causal relata; the distinction between dependence and production in accounts of causation; the distinction between causation and causal explanation; the context-dependence of causation; probabilistic analyses of causation; and a singularist theory of causation. Edited by John Collins, Ned Hall, and L. A. Paul.
“Mereological Bundle Theory.” In The Handbook of Mereology, edited by Hans Burkhardt , Johanna Seibt and Guido Imaguire, Philosophia Verlag, 2013.
“Metaphysics as Modeling: The Handmaiden's Tale.” Philosophical Studies 160: 1-29, 2012.
“Realism about Structure and Kinds.” In The Metaphysics of Science, edited by Stephen Mumford and Matthew Tugby, Oxford University Press, 2012.
“Building the World from its Fundamental Constituents.” Philosophical Studies, 2012.
“Temporal Experience.” Journal of Philosophy CVII (7): 333–359, 2010.
“A new role for experimental work in metaphysics.” European Review on Philosophy and Psychology, special issue, edited by Joshua Knobe, Tania Lombrozo and Edouard Machery, 2010.
“The Puzzles of Material Constitution.” Philosophy Compass 5: 579–590, 2010.
“The Counterfactual Analysis of Causation.” The Oxford Handbook on Causation, Oxford University Press, 2010.
“Constitutive Overdetermination.” Topics in Contemporary Philosophy, Vol IV: Causation and Explanation. 2007.
“In Defense of Essentialism.” Philosophical Perspectives (Metaphysics), 2006.
“Coincidence as Overlap.” Noûs, December 2006.
“The Context of Essence.” Australasian Journal of Philosophy, March 2004.
“Causation and Preemption.” (with Ned Hall) Philosophy of Science Today, OUP (UK), 2003.
“Logical Parts.” Noûs, December 2002.
“Limited Realism: Cartwright on Natures and Laws.” Philosophical Books, October 2002.
“Aspect Causation.” Journal of Philosophy, April 2000.
“Keeping Track of the Time.” Analysis, July 1998.
“The Worm at the Root of the Passions.” Utilitas, April 1998.
“Problems with Late Preemption.” Analysis, January 1998.
“Truth Conditions of Tensed Sentence Types.“ Synthese, April 1997.