Research Interests

I am working mostly in metaphysics, but also have interests in the philosophies of logic, language and the mind, in epistemology, the philosophy of religion, the philosophy of perception and the philosophy of law, as well as in early modern and early analytic philosophy, ancient and medieval philosophy, especially Aristotle, the philosophy of mathematics, Kant and German idealism, feminist and social philosophy. Well, I am actually interested in (and sometimes also working on) just about everything.

Recently, I have tried to integrate my research interests into the draft programme for an English-taught "blended learning" MA in philosophy, entitled "The Big Questions" (cf. appendices A and B in particular) -- any comments very welcome.

Research Projects

I am pursuing the following research projects, in no particular order (details and outputs below). Drafts are password-protected -- please ask me or guess (the username is "philosophy"):

Here I list my research interests in roughly chronological order. You can also download my entire research portfolio, which contains most of the papers mentioned below and a summary of some concrete research projects.

Introduction à la logique

My French introduction to propositional, predicate and modal logic differs from Lepage's (1991) introduction and from the available translations of Quine (1971) by covering both natural deduction and tree methods, including correctness and completeness proofs for both propositional and predicate logic, and by paying particular (and hopefully non-partisan) attention to philosophical questions. It is suited to be used in an (ambitious) logic course of four hours/semester, as they are being introduced (or, at least should be introduced) in francophone universities. It contains a very comprehensive set of exercises, with model solutions for all of them. The book has arisen out of, and has been tested in, a number of logic introductions, both in French and German, I have taught at the universities of Geneva, Lausanne and Berne; it also includes the philosophy of language introduction I taught in Geneva long ago:

You can find here the present version of the book. On the course websites, I have removed links to handouts because I plan to submit the book to a publisher. I hope to be able to make them available again once the book is out. Over the years, I have received a lot of emails of logicians-to-be from all over the world, and I think it is a good idea to have the course freely available as well.

How to Prove Your Existence in Three Simple Steps

This grew out of my book on Descartes, a German-style 'rational reconstruction' of the first three Meditations that itself grew out of my MA thesis. As most of us do, it has put on some weight over the years: it now includes (arguments for) controversial claims regarding the distinction between the analytic and the synthetic method (cf. here) and its bearing on what is known as the "Cartesian Circle" (cf. here), the range of doubt induced by the Evil Demon (maximal, in my view, where this is understood very liberally), the doubtability of eternal, in particular logical, truths (cf. here and ch. 9 of my "mémoire de prédoctorat"), the interpretation of the Cogito (cf. here and ch. 8 of the "mémoire"), Descartes' theory of ideas and its scholastic origins, his answer to Lichtenberg and to recent anti-skeptic arguments and contextualist/relativist deconstructions of skepticism. In particular, I argue that

Another spin-off is my paper on skepticism (cf. below). I summarise my take on Descartes in "What Descartes Said, Meant and Was Right About", a talk I gave in Geneva on the 2nd of March 2011. You can also find here the latest version of my Descartes book. The reason my work on Descartes has still not appeared in print is that I have decided, at the conference "The Cogito - Yes or No?" in Ligerz on April 20-23, 2017 that the content is sufficiently original to merit to be published in English. I will work on this on the basis of "Contingent Necessary Truths", a draft paper which I presented in Dominik Perler's colloquium in Berlin (where I also did some work at Topoi on origins of the analytic method in ancient Greek mathematics, in particular Diophantus). I aim to discuss the entirety of the recent (twentieth- and twenty-first-century) literature on Descartes and plan to work some more particularly on Descartes' answer to the Lichtenberg objection and its modern and contemporary variants (cf. the bibliography). The upshot, I hope, is that Descartes' argument refutes not only nihilism, but solipsism as well.

The Dual Aspect Interpretation of Transcendental Idealism

Recently, I spent a year in Berlin as a visitor of Tobias Rosefeldt's splendid research group on Kant and German idealism. Of course, I had had before, as is usual in German-speaking Switzerland, a lot of exposure to Kant, both 'practically' and 'theoretically'. I even gave my very first talk on Kant's transcendental deduction (formalising it), at the IXth International Kant Congress in Berlin, on the 27th of March 2000 (click here for the paper). This paper was published as "Die transzendentale Deduktion der Kategorien - Versuch einer Darstellung", in: Kant und die Berliner Aufklärung, Akten des 9. Internationalen Kant-Kongresses, Volker Gerhard, Rolf Horstmann and Ralph Schumacher (editors), Berlin: de Gruyter, 2001, volume II, pp. 342-350.
Subsequently, however, I came to share the Genevan anti-Kant mind-set, suspecting Kantians of deriving metaphysical conclusions from epistemological premises and regarding the study of Kant as a hermetic and esoteric enterprise: you learn the language (by exposure and imitation, mostly), then learn how the concepts hang together (a bit like Tractatus scholars conversing in decimals: consider 1.11 - but 4.32 - you're right, but there is also 3.121...), then give interpretations which remain entirely internal, and lack any rules for the converse translation.
In Berlin, I discovered that Kant has to teach us an enormous amount. I got particularly intrigued by how to formulate the doctrine of transcendental idealism in contemporary terms. I have always like the so-called "dual-aspect"/"one-world" interpretation, on the grounds that I find Kant as a phenomenalist much less interesting. The extant "dual-aspect" interpretations, however, are really property-dualist, locating the noumenon/phaenomenon distintion at the level of (kinds of) properties things are exemplifying. In "Kantian Aspects", I tried to explain why and to develop a truly dual aspect version of the interpretation (in Baxter's and Fine's - and Aristotle's - 'qua qua qua' sense of "aspect"). This has grown bigger ever since and should probably be split up into different papers and/or developed into a book. I have presented the main gist of the idea at a number of occasions in Berlin, in Tobias Rosefeldt's research colloquium in 2015 and 2016 and subsequently in Ligerz in 2016, 2017 and 2018.


I have started working on truthmaking for my thesis and have never stopped. Truthmaking, I believe, is the rightful heir to the correspondence theory of truth and the (core of the) key insight of realism. Like many others, I came to truthmaker theory through David Armstrong, criticising his particular, necessitarian, take on it in the talks I gave at the "Twenty Years After" colloquium on truthmakers in Aix-en-Provence (11th of December 2004, draft paper here, cf. below), and then at the ANU, the AAP 2005, the ECAP 5 and in Geneva. This work was included as ch. 5 and 6 into my thesis. A version of this was published, with a (rather disappointing) reply by Armstrong as "A World of Truthmakers" in Metaphysics and Truthmakers (ed. Jean-Maurice Monnoyer) 2007, Frankfurt a.M.: Ontos, pp. 105-156. My criticism of Armstrong's necessitarianism also formed the substance of my review of his 2004 book, which appeared in Mind 118(472), 2009, pp. 1101-1105.
Truthmaking may well be important, but what is it? Over a series of talks (in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012), I have been developing the ideas that truthmaking is itself a form of explanation, and that metaphysical explanation can be contingent. In "Truthmaking is Explanation by Things" (first presented in Geneva in 2007 and then in 2011 at the "Truthmaking and Explanation" conference, in Barcelona, Glasgow, Göttingen and 2018 finally in Zürich), I try to spell out what I take to be the hidden nature of truthmaking: being made true by something is being true because of it, where being-true-because-of is a cross-categorical relation between truth-bearers on the one and things on the other hand. Building the explanation into the relation, in terms of "because-of" and not of "because", allows us to answer some recent criticisms of truthmaking to the effect that claiming that some truth has a truthmaker, or even that something specific is a truthmaker for it, is not terribly explanatory: truthmaking is not explanatory in the sense that it provides truthmakers as explanatia, but rather because it itself is a (ontological, metaphysical) form of explanation. It also allows us to see what is wrong with recent attempts to satisfy some (putative) 'truthmaker requirement' by 'cheating', claiming e.g. that some past-tense sentence is true because it was made true (rather than: because it is now being made true). Cheating is not ok because it gets the explanatory relation wrong: the claim is not that some sentence is now true because of how the world is now (e.g. because the world is such that such-and-such was the case), but rather that the sentence is true because of the world - and for this to be true, the world (or whatever smaller part of it is the truthmaker) has to exist at the time of its truthmaking.
I also like ontological commitment, even though I do not think that we are just committed to the truthmakers of our claims (or rather: the putative truthmakers, or the possible ones, or something like this). We are also committed to whatever is fully grounded in what we are committed to. Commitment is not something to be afraid of (... says the marital priest); but it is not easy to define (even Quine did not succeed in doing so). In "A Voluntarist Criterion of Ontological Commitment" (cf. ch. 4 of my thesis and "Getting a Grip: Ontological Commitment and Truthmaking" (handout), and talks in 2011, 2014 and 2016a/2016b), I try to characterise (voluntary) commitment to the existence of something in terms of the identity inferences one is willing to accept: if you believe that it follows from x being F and y being G that something is F and G, then you are committed to x=y.
I think a stronger argument can be made: not just are we able to commit ourselves to the existence of some thing, there also have to be some things we may, if we want, commit ourselves to. In "Why Is There Some Rather Than Nothing" (based on talks given in 2006, 2007, 2016 and 2017), I discuss three anti-thing views of decreasing generality: ontological nihilism - there is nothing at all; generalism (aka qualitativism) - there are no particulars, everything is general; stuff monists - there are no individuals, nothing is properly countable. I argue that all these three views are mistaken: nihilism is self-refutating, for it cannot provide a ground for its own truth; the feature-placing language of the generalists cannot account for the combination of properties, i.e. the fact that two properties may be had by the same thing (many over one); the stuff monists cannot properly express the commonality of features, the (I think) Moorean fact that there is objective similarity (one over many).
In "The Truthmaker Argument for Properties" (ch. 7 of my thesis and handouts of 2010 and 2011, as a separate talk presented in Lugano in 2012), I elaborate on this last claim, arguing that there is, along Armstrongian lines, a truthmaker argument for universals, from the Moorean fact that the world is not as qualitatively heterogeneous as it could be given its numerical multiplicity (= that there is objective similarity), via there having to be a truthmaker for this to entities that, by their very nature, account for such objective similarity, by identity if they are universals or by sameness-of-type if they are tropes. It has been suggested that another possibility is to take qualitative, not just numerical identity as primitive. I argue that this comes to the same thing as accepting universals: universals are precisely the things that can only differ in how they make things to be, things that do not have quiddities in the way particulars (conceivably) have haecceities (cf. below).
Both with truthmaking and with grounding or determination more generally, there is a persistent trend among prudent (or risk-averse) philosophers to go for operators rather than (relational) predicates, retreating to claims of first-degree involvement (in Quine's sense), implicitly presupposing that with dialectical gain does not come a corresponding loss of explanatory power (cf. also below). For the special case of the truth-predicate, I argued in "Connectives, prenectives and dishonoured cheques of metaphysical explanation", published in: Anne Reboul (editor), Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Kevin Mulligan, 2011 (book publication in: Mind, Values, and Metaphysics. Philosophical Essays in Honor of Kevin Mulligan, ed. Anne Reboul, volume 1. Cham: Springer Verlag, 2014, pp. 241-252) that this presupposition is wrong. Giving priority to the truth-operator "it is true that" over the truth-predicate "... is true" comes at the prize of forsaking any explanation why the direction of explanation runs from "p" to "it is true that p" rather than the other way round.
"The Truthmaker Argument Against Presentism" (cf. below and the 2011 handout) gives another truthmaker argument: our reason to believe in the past is that many things are now true about it; but this is a merely epistemic, not an ontological dependence, as presentists would have it. This asymmetry that explains what is wrong with presentism, the view that there is only ever one moment of time. To account for what is true about the past, presentists have to make it dependent on the present - but that's fundamentally wrong: the past is past because the present is in its future, not because it only used to be present (and is no longer): the past could even be future! The way contemporary presentists "account" for the past (i.e. make its denial palatable) is committed to the claim that the direction of explanation runs from truths to truthmakers and from the present to the past. As a consequence of this dependence, the presentists' Ersatz-past is changeable, and hence not the past; moreover, it is not possible to account for its variability on merely presentist premisses, so presentism is self-undermining.


For a long time, I have tried to maintain my belief in universals in the face of Fraser MacBride's (and Ramsey's) relentless attacks on the very distinction between universals and particulars. As I also dislike states of affairs (cf. below), I am committed to a fundamental cross-categorical gulf between universals and particulars, and a real, fundamental and cross-categorical "tie" - exemplification - bridging it. Exemplification, in my view, is an internal relation (i.e.: not really a relation at all, cf. below), a species of parthood, as I argue in "Exemplification is Partial Identity", the first talk I gave in Geneva, in 2001 (cf. also the ch. 2 of my "mémoire de prédoctorat" and subsequent talks in 2005, 2010 and 2011).
In "How to Tell Particulars from Universals", I argue that this provides us with a reply to Ramsey and MacBride (2003 in Neuchâtel and St. Andrews, where Josh Parsons was commentator, 2006 in Berne and then in the Swiss Philosophical Preprint Series) and in "Bradley's Regress Made Real" that it makes Bradley's regress non-vicious. This latter paper was first presented at the workshop on Bradley's regress I organised in Geneva in 2008, then in Mérida, Yucatan in 2010 and again in Geneva in 2012.
We need a real relation of exemplification to give a plausible logic and metaphysics of adverbs, as modifications of the real relation that the copula stands for. This claim puts me into opposition to what I call "operationalism" (and criticised in the case of truth, cf. above), the view that we can stay neutral on the metaphysics and ontologically uncommitted by construing elements of metaphysical explanations as operators, rather than as predicates, a view I first criticised in 2008. We need adverbs, I argue in "The Metaphysics of Adverbs", because Davidsonian events (and indeed any first-order quantificational theory) is unable to account for higher-order adverbs and the importance of order in nesting (as in "James Bond cleverly stammered stupidly to his interrogators").
Even though we have cases of the exemplification relation, these are not tropes (though I liked them in 2004, I then took them to be events). What is characteristic of universals is that they are entirely qualitative, i.e. that they are exhausted by how they make their exemplifiers to be (in 2006 and 2011, I tried to make sense of this in terms of them being trans-world identical). "Universals" is a short presentation of the topic of universals, as it has been developed in Australasian philosophy and was published in: A Companion to Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand, eds. Graham Oppy, Nick Trakakis, Melbourne: Monash ePress.
A friend of universals (and enemy of relations, cf. below) is not without problems, however. A particularly pressing one is how to understand vectorial properties, and more generally properties that seem to be such that they can be had in different ways. In the introduction I wrote with Stephan Leuenberger to the dialectica special issue on The Philosophy of Vectors, 63(4) (under the name of "Keller"), we address some of these issues.
Another important issue is to understand much better than we presently do in what relations universals stand to each others. While I have always (I think) believed in the existence of determinable universals (but explicitly argued for it only in 2011 and then in 2014), I have been puzzled by the apparent possibility that there are determinates all the way down (i.e. no lowest determinates), which as I argued in 2006 and 2007 at two workshops in Ovronnaz (24th of June 2006, on vagueness, and 3rd of July 2007, on metaphysics), as well as at the SEFA in Barcelona on the 7th of September 2007, provides us with an interesting case of ontic and metaphysical vagueness (a thesis apparently independently claimed by Jessica Wilson and defended in print in her 2012 and 2013). In the future, I would like to develop an account of the determinate/determinable relation that helps us with the ontology of sets (cf. ch. 3 of my "mémoire de prédoctorat" and "What Singletons Could Be"): rather than reduce properties to sets, as many do, we should think of sets as properties, singletons being the limit case (and raising interesting issues about the identity of indiscernibles).
A particularly important class of universals are those that are at least sometimes exemplified intrinsically, then pertaining to how a thing is just by itself, independently of how other things are. Unfortunately, the best account of intrinsicness on the market (the Lewis/Langton `definition'), leaves much to be desired, something I try to spell out in "Intrinsicness". One thing it leaves out is the intimate connections between intrinsicness and parthood (x is a part of y iff the qualitative profile of x is an intrinsic match between x and y) and between intrinsicness and substancehood (x is a substance iff x exists intrinsically), as I argue in ch. 1 of my "mémoire de prédoctorat", in ch. 8 of my thesis and in talks in 2006, 2007 and 2011.
Once we have a workable notion of intrinsicness we are able to make a distinction, very important for the theory of qua objects (cf. below), between the intrinsic/extrinsic and the relational/non-relational distinctions. In "Intrinsic, but relational", I presented my favourite examples of extrinsic but non-relational properties (maximal and totality properties) and of intrinsic but relational properties (parthood properties, representation, cf. below) - first in Geneva, at the "Properties, Parts and Values" conference in 2011, and later at the SOPHA in Paris in 2012, in Ligerz in 2013 and in Geneva in 2014.
During the last two years, I have more and more often found myself working on Aristotle. A major obstacle to understanding Aristotle on his own terms, it seems to me, is that none of our extant ontological models (universals, tropes) quite seems to fit what he says about and how he uses forms. In "What on Earth are Aristotelian Forms?", I sketch a (to me) plausible interpretation of the 'immanence' of Aristotelian forms, based on the 'official' introduction of the form/matter contrast in Physics I. I argue that they are not best viewed as properties (in our sense: as essentially predicative, unsaturated, qualitative), but form another ontological category: structures, understood on the model of patterns, individual but repeatable.

Qua Qua Qua

Qua objects, if only they could be made sense of, would be the real philosophers' paradise. This is why I had hoped that a theory of qua objects would be the culmination point of my thesis. The obstacles to their recognition, however, are formidable (which is why I had to submit a much shorter piece of work as my thesis after 7 years). Some proposals have been made, but the very rich treasury of historical antecedents has not yet been fully tapped into. My long-term project "Qua, qua, qua" aims to develop, making full use of the history of philosophy, a systematic theory of qua objects (roles, aspects, cooky objects, accidental unities) and make a case for them by showing their theoretical usefulness across a wide range of traditional philosophical problems. This work comes out of my thesis, and before that, out of my "mémoire de pré-doctorat", talks in 2001 (draft of the earliest paper), 2002 and 2004 (draft paper here, a slightly later one here). It was then discussed in seminars in 2011 and 2014 and at the Kit Fine conference in 2013.
My conception of qua objects has much changed during my SNSF fellowship stay in Barcelona, where I mostly worked on ontological relativism, connecting it to the recently burgeoning discussions of relativism about predicates of taste, epistemic modals and the issue of so-called 'faultless disagreement'. While there are other arguments for relativism, the argument from fautless disagreement is certainly one of the most important: only relativising truth or content to 'contexts of assessments' can explain, it has been said, why there is no real dispute about matters of taste, even though taste ascriptions purport to describe reality. In "Perspectival Disagreement", I argue that another, more plausible, diagnosis is available: the 'reality' in question is partly mind-dependent, and our reference to it is aspectival. This explanation, I argue, also allows for a plausible - liberal - account of how we should deal with such disagreements.
"There is no such thing as relative truth" (given at talks in 2012, 2013 and 2014) argues, against MacFarlane and others,that assessment sensitivity is just truth according to some perspectival representation. I argue that it is misleading, and confused, to frame the now familiar contextualism/relativism debate in terms of truth. The issues raised in these debates do not concern the nature of truth, or the semantics of the truth-predicate or -operator, but rather the nature of our aesthetic evaluations, the logic of epistemic possibility, and the character of normative requirements. Phrasing these questions in terms of the (non-)relativity of truth is unnecessary: semantic descent is called for. This, I argue further, is fortunate, because the very notion of relative truth does not make sense: if it appears that some thing is true only relative to something else, then it is not really true and what is really true is really something else. The 'additional factors' some relativists claim to have discovered truth to depend on, such as standards of taste, practical interests, states of knowledge etc. are unfit to play their presumed role of determining the truth of propositions not about them. There is not, and could not be, any such thing as relative truth.
An important question remains open, however: if the truth of "this is delicious" (or, if you prefer: "this is yummy") depends on the standards of taste of the speaker (even if this dependence is not spelt out in terms of relativity of truth), then we may legitimately ask what such standards of taste are ("just functions" is not an acceptable answer if they are partial truthmakers). If standards of taste really exist, and determine the truth-value of judgments of taste, we may wonder, why should it not then be possible to describe them in an objective and non-relative way? Yes, we can. To do this, I take a step back in "Perspectival Facts" (presented in 2009 at the SOPHA and in Geneva) the and examine an application of the so-called 'argument from perspective' to temporal facts. I argue that temporal standpoints are irreducibly involved in the constitution of tensed facts and that such intrinsic temporality of tensed facts gives us a plausible template for the ontology of ascriptions of taste predicates. In the same way as temporal facts are intrinsically 'skewed' to temporal perspectives, taste profiles are skewed to tastes.
For a long time, I have been a fan of the work of Donald Baxter, one of the very few who take aspects (qua-objects) metaphysically seriously. I organised three meetings on his work, comparing his conception to mine, 2012, 2013 and 2018. The main difference is that he takes aspects to be parts, I take parts to be aspects, on a hylomorphic model. I try to make sense of this in "The Metaphysics of Parts", that I've presented at Boğaziçi University, Istanbul, on the 1st of May 2016.
Not only do I think there are aspects, I also think that they are seen, and smelled, and heard, as I argue in "Seeing-as and ephemeral percepta" (Geneva, 15th of March, 2013) and "Seeing-As" (ESPP, Granada), extending the givenness of aspects to the case of emotions in "Seeing-as and Schelerian Wertfühlen" and to Kantian "judgments of perception" in "The Kantian Copula".

Time as a Modality

Time is the prime locus of perspectivality, at least for beings like us. That things are past, present and future both is an intrinsic feature of them (though this is sometimes denied by some B-theories): when my future birthday becomes present, it really changes and this change is much more than its becoming co-located with me. What is this change, what properties (if any) are acquired and lost, what is the dimension along which this change takes place? In "The Reality of Time" and a talk in 2011, I argue that there are many different problems of time, and many different ways in which time may truly said to be real: that some things, facts perhaps, are tensed, i.e. intrinsically temporal; that reality cannot be given a complete time-invariant description; that things are in time, in the sense of being to be found within it; that things persist in the sense of being the bearers of change.
The persistence of objects and the temporal modification of statements to the effect that they exist should be given an adverbialist treatment, I argued in "An Adverbialist Solution to the Problem of Temporary Intrinsics", which gets us round the so-called "The Argument from Vagueness in Favour of Four-Dimensionalism".
That the flow or passage of time is something internal to it, is, I think, best seen with respect to a third, not commonly recognised type of temporal being (besides substances and events, the topics of endurantist and perdurantist theories respectively), which I call "Processes". I have tried to characterise their mode of persistence and their importance for change in taks in 2013, 2015 (draft paper is here), 2016 and 2017. Processes are, I think, what kineseis are in Aristotle's Physics an their internal temporality is what underlies the Aristotelian conception of time, much in vogue in QFT nowadays, as it provides the perspective of defining time in terms of change.
Even better than Aristotle's account of time, I think, is his account of place. In "Aristotle's account of place and its advantages over contemporary conceptions", I (plan to) argue that Aristotle's account of place of x as the boundary of x's surrounding medium provides a better compromise between two conflicting desiderata - an account of movement as change of place and an account of places as ontologically posterior to and depend on the things that occupy them - than contemporary 'region-based' accounts (cf. also ""If Aristotle is right about everything, he is right about place as well"", recording). I also want to argue that an account of space as the whole of actual and possible places is an attractive version of the relationalist view of space, and, furthermore, that there are important meta-ontological lessons to be drawn from Aristotle's account: that he takes it to be unproblematical, for some spatio-temporally extended substance such as Socrates, to argue from "Socrates is" to "Socrates is somewhere" to "Socrates is some-where, ie. there is a place where Socrates is" does not show that we are in the realm of "easy ontology", that the existential quantifier is light-weight or that places are not real, or REAL, or anything like this. Rather, it shows that for a place to be (in actuality, as opposed to be potentially) is for it to be the place of something. As I argue in the paper on the fragmentation of being in Aristotle (cf. below) this does not yield a lesser way for places to be, even though it does give, as seems right, a certain type of priority to substances such as us. In "Leibnizian Space and Incongruent Counterparts" (recording), I argue it provides Leibniz with an easy answer to the incongruent counterparts problem.

Values and Norms

Next to time, normativity is the other principal locus of perspectivality. When we evaluate the world, describe things as good and bad and tell others or ourselves what to do, we describe the world from the standpoint of some values. In evaluating the world in this, rather than in some other way, we locate ourselves within it, in much the same way as when we describe some things as past and others as future. How are we to understand such perspectivality? In "Perspectival Facts" (cf. above), I attributed it to the objects we evaluate and which, in part, depend on our evaluation. But we do not only create values in evaluating, we also honor them: what we create are axiologically characterised things, but what we honor are the characteristics themselves - the Good, the True, the Beautiful and the Just, self-standing forms that are only imperfectly realised in the material world (cf. my remarks on the amphiboly of Aristotelian forms above). What relations can we have, however, to such lofty items? Following Kevin Mulligan, I characterise foolishness (as opposed to stupidity) as a form of disrespect of truth, the prime epistemic value, in my racism paper ("Racisme et bêtise", in: Christine Tappolet, Fabrice Teroni, Anita Konzelmann Ziv (editors), Les Ombres de l'Âme. Penser les émotions négatives, Genève: Éditions Markus Haller, 2011, pp. 145-159; Italian translation: "Razzismo e stupidità", in: Le ombre dell’anima. Pensare le emozioni negative, Christine Tappolet, Fabrice Teroni, Anita Konzelmann Ziv (editors), Milano: Raffaello Cortina, pp. 81--93, 2013). Since then, I have continued to work on the question how values and norms are related - now, I think that the relation is contingent upon our deciding to engage with the values in question in a certain way, which is why the norms grounded in values are not categorical, in the mode of the supererogatory, not in the mode of obligation. I argue for some such thesis in the case of skepticism (cf. below) and have recently started working on a more general defense, building on my earlier work on emotions and their formal objects (Neuchâtel, 27th of October 2005), the semantics and pragmatics of slurs (24th of September, 2007) and the emotional underpinnings of the phenomenon of imaginative resistance (12th of July, 2007). In "Representation of Values", I sketch an Aristotelian account of how emotions represent values (25th of August 2018, recording).
An important aspect of emotions, in my view, is their ultimate dispensability: while emotions may play revelatory, justificatory and even communicative roles, there are other things such as judgments that are also (and sometimes I believe: better) placed to play the same roles. This, I think, is shown by the fact that three familiar philosophical characters - the sceptic, the stoic and the cynic - are not intrinsically blameworthy, as I argue in "La sceptique, la stoique, la cynique - trois personnages philosophiques", a talk given in Neuchâtel on the 9th of May 2018 (sound recording, slides, talk).
The supererogatory character of our moral and epistemic norms marks an important difference to political norms and obligations, which are hypothetically binding. Taking political imperatives to be moral ones, I argue in my comments comments on Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, Born Free and Equal?, distorts our view of discrimination which, I think, is at bottom a philosophical, not a moral problem (though not less serious because of this). A long time ago (in 2002), I also argued that it distorts our view of sexual politics ("Si p alors q - Une introduction à la philosophie du sexe" and of war and peace.

Essence and Existence

"Contingent Essence" argues that we should take Fine's criticism of the so-called modal 'account' of essence a step further, take essence to be a-modal and allow at least for the conceivability of contingent essences. As both the essentiality and the necessity of a feature may be expressed by de re modal idioms, the argument requires some careful separating of considerations pertaining to essence (what it is for some thing to be the thing it is) and considerations pertaining to necessity (what a thing cannot fail to be), to make room for features that a thing could fail to have but that still, given that it does have them, pertain to what it is for it to be the thing it is. I try to bolster the case by considering the Humphrey objection (right about essence, wrong about modality), mereological essentialism (more plausible than mereological necessitarianism), ontological dependence (substances can be essentially, but still contingently dependent on other things) and origin essentialism (that should allow for your being modally separable from your origins). This paper(-draft) has been a long time in the making: it comes out of ch. 1-3 of my thesis and was presented in Geneva (and again and again) and in Berlin, in 2007 in Geneva and Frankfurt, in 2008 in Leeds, in 2010 in Geneva (twice), and then again in 2011, in 2012, 2013, 2014 (twice) and in 2016 in Berlin. It still draws an incredulous stare.
The very much analoguous argument, that supervenience is not definable modally, had a somewhat happier history ("Supervenience Without Boxes and Diamonds"): people seem prepared to agree that necessitation, mere modal covariation, is neither sufficient nor necessary for supervenience. There remains the question, of course, what supervenience is if it is not necessitation. I favour an account in terms of the constitution of properties, though the details will depend a lot on our conception of universals (cf. above). I have presented my argument for the amodality of supervenience in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2014, also addressing the question in what sense amodal supervenience may still count as "Humean".
To make contingent essence plausible (or even just to make it not sound a contradiction in terms), I have recently argued how both Aristotle and Leibniz have, in their own different ways, made place for it: cf. "(Aristotelian) Essences" (recording), "Charles on Aristotle on Essence" recording) and "Leibniz, Haecceitism and Existentialism" (recording), "Leibniz and Contingency" (recording) respectively.
I think that the conclusion can be generalised, and a generally contingentist view be defended: there is just much less metaphysical necessity as philosophers are prone to think: not even the connections between me and my life, nor between reference-determinining features and referents of names thereby introduced are necessary, in my view (cf. my talks in 2003, 2004, 2006). In these, and in other cases, the only necessity pertains to our representation of things (cf. below).
There is, however, not just less, but also more necessity in the world than philosophers think. They tend to forget, with some exceptions, of course, about the important category of so-called "lesser entities", non-substantial particulars. Lesser entities, such as shadows, holes, boundaries (cf. the Aristotelian account of place mentioned above), sounds, as ephemeral or 'non-canonical' objects of perception are both grounded (non-fundamental) and perspectival. Such lesser entities were the main concern of the 2013 graduate school. I presented a conception of them as 'horizontally grounded' - objective, but mind-dependent - in in Geneva in 2011, in Tübingen in 2014, on the Monte Verità in Ascona in 2015 (draft paper is here) and in Ligerz in 2016. The draft paper "Extrinsic Entities" tries to characterise them as extrinsically existing but still not ontologically dependent in Lowe's sense, i.e. not such that they essentially stand in some relations.
Even if extrinsic existence may account for non-substantial particulars, it is less clear whether, and if so how, it can do so for so-called 'secondary' qualities of external objects, such as colours, odours, tastes and textures, and so-called 'response-dependent' properties, such as normative, chromatic and locational properties. The distinction between primary and secondary qualities lies at the heart of the scientific world-view, and motivated its first incorporation, the mechanist philosophies of the 17th century. Despite its huge importance, the characterisation itself has proved surprisingly elusive; what lies at the bottom of the distinction between properties such as extension, size, shape, motion and position on the one hand and colour, taste, odour, heat, cold etc. on the other? (The distinction itself is controversial, I would not, for example, include sounds on the list.) It is often said that primary qualities are primary in the order of explanation, where the notion of 'explanation' in play here is of a distinctively ontological kind. Secondary qualities, the hypothesis to be explored says, are grounded in primary qualities - they are perspectival manifestations of the latter, part of reality, but not themselves fundamental. Such a conception in terms of relative fundamentality helps elucidate, in my view, the connections between secondary qualities and representation, in particular perspectival self-location perceptual content and moral judgments (cf. above). But it remains to be worked out. The special case of colours, and the very interesting Aristotelian conception of them, has occupied me since 2005 and has been treated more fully in 2017. I have some work on this in the context of pinning down similarities and differences between the general Kantian account of appearances and the response-dependence of phenomenal properties (the so-called "secondary quality analogy") in 2017 and 2018 (cf. above), but much more work has to be done.
One problem is that we cannot simply apply the "lessons" of the recently very fashionable "grounding" debate to the case at issue. This debate, though it is potentially interesting (and, together with my Geneva colleagues, I bear some responsibility for having induced it in the first case), suffers from a number of important deficiencies and blindspots. It has led to, and is often conducted against the backdrop of, a largely sterile occupation with meta-metaphysics (as if there were any general criteria of theory choice in philosophy!) - cf. my still incomplete (but prematurely circulated) draft "Meta-metametaphysics: Saving Metaphysics from Metametaphysics", presented at the eidos colloquium in Neuchâtel on the 3rd of December 2014. More importantly, it fails to distinguish a number of different relations (cf. my presentations on grounding in 2008, 2011 and 2012) and makes unwarranted assumptions about the "logic" of grounding itself - in particular, it is generally assumed that grounding "bottoms out", is well-founded (cf. below). "Essence and Existence", first presented at the "10 years of eidos" conference in Geneva and then again in Ligerz, is an (unfortunately still a somewhat inchoate) attempt to articulate what I think is wrong about the grounding debate, arguing, roughly, that things are more complicated than they are taken to be. I distinguish two different grounding relations and argue that they interact quite differently with essence. This should become a criticism of both Fine's "Unified Grounds" and of the Correia/Skiles account in terms of `generalised identity', but it's not quite there yet. The latest result are "Grounding, Essence and Existence" (5th of June 2018, recording) and "Two Types of Grounding", (12th of September 2019, part recording).

Fundamentally, There Are No Relations

For quite some time, I have been working on a book on relations, arguing that even though they are not reducible to monadic propertie, relationality is not a fundamental feature of reality. Even though relational predications are indispensable, for both logical and metaphysical reasons, their truthmakers are structural, not relational facts. Relations - qualitative entities that have a direction and order their particulars – are not, and cannot be, fundamental. At the fundamental level of reality we do not find relations, but pure, irreducible and nonrelational structure. Russell's famous arguments in the Principles do indeed rule out what he calls ‘monadism’ (the claim that every relational predication is equivalent to predications of only monadic predicates), but they fall short of refuting 'monism’: relational predications may be made true by monadic properties of wholes – and indeed are, if there are no fundamental relations.
On the way to this conclusion, I examine different recent conceptions of relations, and argue that they all succumb to what I call the 'problem of converses'. The problem of converses arises from the fact that any account of relations according to which there are, or might be, non-symmetric relations, allows for what I call an ‘abstractionist’ definition of converse relations. Such converses then give rise to problems of ontological profligacy, metaphysical indeterminacy and infinite regress. Friends of relations have to accept that the facts of the cat being on the mat and of the mat being beneath the cat are different, that it is indeterminate which one is more fundamental and that the difference between the relations being on top of and being under cannot be spelled out in a non-circular way and has to be accepted as ‘brute’ – a package of claims which I take to be a reductio of the assumption that there are fundamental relations.
Aristotle, the medievals, Leibniz and Spinoza were right, the modern orthodoxy is wrong: relations are not what explains how the world forms an inter-connected whole, but are on the contrary viewpoint-relative and perspectival abstractions from prior structures. But did not the Cambridge revolt against idealism rest on the case that modern logic showed the indispensability of relations? To assuage such worries, I take a closer look on the debate that is usually taken to have conclusively shown the need for relations: the famous exchange between Russell and the British Idealists at the beginning of the last century. A proper understanding of the promise and the demise of Russell's multiple relation theory of judgment, I argue, shows that Bradley was right: how relations relate can be understood only if they are seen as arising from, and being grounded in, metaphysically prior structure. It does not show that Russell was wrong, however: his famous so-called "multiple relation theory of judgment" can indeed be salvaged if couched in structuralist, not relational terms. (Though of course Russell was wrong to give it up, and also had the wrong reasons to do so.)
Primitivism about structure does not, I hope, preclude the possibility of saying something illuminative about what it is. As a starting point to a positive theory of structure, I examine how so-called 'heterogeneous', i.e. anti-symmetric cross-categorical relations escape the problem of converses, but - for that very same reason - are not really relations, but rather properties that locate things within structures that extrinsically individuate them. I discuss different conceptions of structural properties and find them all inadequate, mostly because they do not allow for a plausible account of change. I then develop my own account, according to which structural properties bestow rôles on their bearers, taking my lead from what I regard as best answer to the problem of incongruent counterparts, which gives a structuralist twist to the so-called 'relational' theory of space. I conclude the fourth chapter with a discussion of relational individuation, arguing that in those rare case where it is possible at all, it is best understood as individuation of things that are essentially realisers of certain rôles.
In the last part, I examine the philosophies of matter and of mixture and discuss various brands of structuralism. Matter is a nowadays much neglected, but crucial problem for ontology: we simply cannot go on pretending the world consists of Aristotelian substances (or just fundamental particles) alone, simply forgetting about things like water, smells, air, traffic, commonsense and love. A 'stuff ontology', however, confronts severe problems: it is unclear how stuff can have properties at all, how it can be shaped or portioned, and how it can undergo intrinsic change. I argue that structural properties are best suited to account for stuff, and even mandatory if there are, as physics suggests is possible, heterogeneous extended simples. Structural properties are also needed to account for mixtures, another long-neglected problem, arguing that rôles explain in what sense the mixed ingredients continue to exist 'in potentiality only', as Aristotle famously held. I then contrast two fields where different types of 'structuralism' have become widely held views: mathematics and physics. In mathematics, I argue, a certain type of structuralist account of the essential properties of mathematical objects is plausible, while physical structuralism is not an adequate account of physical reality: mathematical, but not physical objects may plausibly be conceived as structurally individuated, 'nodes in a graph' as it were, and the recently popular so-called 'ontic structuralism' in the philosophy of physics falls prey to the well-known, but forgotten problems of relational bundle theories. Turning lastly to the epistemological consequences of such structuralisms, I confront the influential Kantian argument for what David Lewis calls 'Ramseyian humility' and show it to be invalid: just because we can only know things if they appear to us, it does not follow that we only know as they appear to us. Because our knowledge is structural, not relational, we have no problem knowing the world as it is in itself.
I have a draft of the first two and the first half of the third chapter and extensive notes on the fourth and fifth chapter. There is also a spin-off paper, "Egocentric judgments: multiple, but perspectival", where I try to use the multiple-relation-theory of judgment to account for the de se and which I presented in 2015. De se judgements are irreducibly egocentric and immune from certain types of mis-identification because they are structural properties that attribute, perspectivally and simultaneously, two different roles to the judger.
I have first defended the reducibility of relations in 2004, in Neuchâtel and at the first Geneva-Barcelona meeting of graduate students in philosophy, and then on a number of occasions in Geneva (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008). I made my best case for it at the memorable colloquium "The Metaphysics of Relations" in Aix en Provence, on the 11th of December 2009 (cf. also ch, 9 of my thesis), and then again in 2011, applying it to Russell specifically in 2012. The priority of structure over relations sheds some light, I believe, on the debate about so-called "ontic structural realism" ("no objects, relations without relata, everything is structure"), which I find metaphysically naive (cf. my talks SIFA (draft paper here), the "Métaphysique de la science" conference in Grenoble in 2008 and the "Bundle theory made relational?" talk in Lausanne in 2012). It may also help to identify what is right in mathematical structuralism and help us understand what numbers might be (cf. 2004 and 2014), as well as go towards showing that there are no identity problems in physics, as is sometimes assumed (Identity Problems in Physics?, research colloquium of the Philosophy of Science group, Lausanne, 13th of May 2019, recording).
Though I continue to make the general case (cf. 2012, 2013 and 2016), I have recently been more concerned with working out the positive proposal and to develop a conception of structural properties, that explains the qualitative variegation of heterogeneous simples (2011), mixtures (2013), stuff (2013), isomeric chemical kinds (2016), and gives an account of relational individuation (2016) and the unity of hylomorphic compounds (2017). In particular, I hope to adapt the non-property view of Aristotelian forms (cf. above and "What on Earth are Aristotelian Forms?") and of their role in the mixture case (cf. "Mixtures and Hylomorphism"), to structures. In "Aristotle and the Problem of Relations" (presented in Fribourg in 2017 and in Ligerz in 2018 and 2019), I thus argue that Aristotle solved the "problem of relations" (popularised by Fine, but present in Russell, Stout and many others): being on top of and being below of, the things that seem both identical (because a's being on top of b is the very same state of affairs as b's being below a) and non-identical (because they allow for what Fine calls 'differential application', the one applying the other not applying to a and b, in that order, cf. my "Differential applicability of relations in the context of the problem of converses") are "one in number but two in account", in Aristotle's famous phrase. I try to make sense of this, argue that it solves a problem in Plato, underlies the eo ipso 'reduction' of relations in Leibniz ("a loves b" becomes "a is a lover and eo ipso b is a beloved", cf. my "Aspects in Leibniz’s Reduction of Relations" and "Leibniz on the Reducibility of Relations" -- recording) and explains how reciprocal 'powers' (dunameis, e.g. teaching and learning) can have the very same manifestation.

Totality and the Transcendentals

Armstrongian totality facts have bothered me for a very long time: while I appreciate the sense of ontological honesty that led Armstrong to introduce them in the first place (cf. above), they are paradoxical, as I argue in my review of Armstrong's "Truth and Truthmakers", in Mind 118(472). As with Quine's 'criterion' of ontological commitment leading him to Pythagoreanism, however, it is quite difficult to know exactly where he took a wrong turn. In "A World of Truthmakers", on Armstrong's new and old theories of truthmaking (presented at the truthmaker conference in Aix-en-Provence in 2004 and published in: Jean-Maurice Monnoyer (editor), Metaphysics and Truthmakers, Frankfurt a.M.: Ontos, pp. 105-156, with a reply by David Armstrong, I argue that the wrong turn is his acceptance of states of affairs and the necessitarian view of ontological explanation that motivates it (an explanation, even of the ontological sort, is necessarily improvable if it fails to necessitate the explanans). Click here for a scan of the published version. Necessitarianism does not only commit us to naive comprehension, but also rules out self-explanation and self-grounding, which I have liked since 2007. Like causal explanation, metaphysical explanation may be irreducibly contingent. This may have interesting applications for the problem of how to formulate the thesis of physicalism.
The other questionable assumption of much of the contemporary grounding literature is that the world is explanatorily closed, so to say. As of September 1, 2019, I am working, together with Stephan Leuenberger, David Furrer, Catharine Diehl and Stephanie Rennick, on the SNSF-funded research project "Being Without Foundations", which seeks to explore the possibility that various grounding/making/explanation relations are non-wellfounded and the different ways in which there might be `turtles all the way down' (a claim Cameron and Aristotle are wrong about). If there are explanatory turtles all the way down and the space of reasons is gunky (because, for example, there is something such that there is another ground for every ground of it), then we better learn to live with non-maximal explanations.
Just allowing for infinite regresses is too simplistic, however: in "Qua and Causal Regresses" (4th of June 2018, recording), I discuss an ingenious argument, due to Barry Miller, that at least some types of cosmological arguments, where causation is irreducibly aspectival, goes through. In "Paradoxes of Ground and the Mereology of Actions" (eidos research colloquium, 25th of October 2018, recording), I discuss my favourite (anti-Millerian) acccount of this, starting from the (in my view flawed)argument for the necessity of so-called "basic actions".
What are the alternatives? In "Everything is Positive" (presented in 2009 and 2017), I take a step back and formulate the problem I have with states of affairs in the most general terms (I can think of). It is wrong to think that anything in the world could have something like a propositional structure: no matter how hard you look, you just will not find anything like negation and conjunction in the world. Few embrace such sententialism about the world's building blocks head-on; most try to soften the blow by building sentential structure into the mind-world relations themselves (truth by absence of falsemakers, anti-exemplification etc.). I argue that this is a form of cheating (cf. above) as well, and that we should embrace totality facts, but as transcendentally ideal. Totality facts are needed for there to be one such thing that is the world, a most extended and not further extendable domain for absolutely unrestricted quantification. They have to be transcendentally ideal, on the other hand, to avoid the top-down determination characteristic of Schaffer's priority monism and Cameron's `theory' of truthmaking which does not leave room for any contingency at all.
Transcendentally ideal totality facts, of course, are not quite what some would call a "happy-face" solution to the problem of the unity of the world, importing transcendental-idealist baggage into terre-à-terre Armstrongian truthmaking. In "Plato's Beard, the Fragmentation of Being in Aristotle and the Transcendentals", I try to do a little better. Starting from an argument why the notorious "being is said in many ways" doctrine is both more sophisticated and better than contemporary versions of ontological pluralism, I argue that the very interesting, but outside medievalist circles much neglected, Aristotelico-medieval "theory of transcendentals" (being, one, thing, other - and, quite optimistically, also good and even beautiful) may provide an answer, if one (aka unity, indivision) is not just distributively, but also collectively true of all the things there are.
I am very interested in pushing this line of research some further (here is a first step) - perhaps the medieval theory of transcendentals offers insight into what "formality" and "topic-neutrality" mean for the logical constants (something I have worked on in the past, cf. my 2001 talk "What are formal concepts?", ch. 5 of my my "mémoire de prédoctorat" and the special issue of dialectica I edited (under the name of "Keller") with Fabrice Correia in 2004) or could even be used to metaphysically undergird Klein's Erlanger programme? I also explore, very tentatively, Leibniz's solution(s) to some somewhat related problems in "Leibniz on Well-Founded Phenomena" (Ligerz, 28th of June 2018). Another hypothesis I find interesting to explore is that fragmentation and time are interconnected: that time just is what is needed to make contraries (as in change) real. It may turn out that, somewhat ironically, the "problem of change" not just is not a problem, but helps explain what time is (or so I argue tentatively in "Fragmentation by Contradiction", Ligerz, 31st of March 2019).


My 'Habilitation' project tries to answer the question what representation is: what is it in virtue of which some things (e.g. mental states) represent other things, and represent them as being so-and-so? Unfortunately, this fundamental question is rarely asked (and never, to by knowledge, satisfactorily answered) in contemporary philosophy; while much attention has been paid to different ways of modelling content, different types of content and the relation between the contents of different representational states, the in my view prior and more fundamental question in virtue of what content accrues to things in the first place has so far only been considered within the relatively constraining framework of teleosemantics. Representation and intentionality, however, and at least as understood in a Brentanian way as the 'mark of the mental', are more than lawful correlation. But what are they? How does the representation relation produce states that are both meaningful and phenomenal, in the sense of there being something it is to be in them? The crucial idea, to be developed, examined and defended by the planned monograph is that it is of the very nature of representation that it has a two-fold character, both reaching out to things outside ourselves and locating ourselves with respect to them.
My starting point in the development of this idea and the form of representation I take as paradigmatic is perception. I start with an Aristotelian slogan - perception is intake of form without matter - and work my way 'upwards' the cognitive 'hierarchy'. The central idea, to be found in De Anima, may be cashed out as follows: Perception naturally occurs, as a biological phenomenon. Its veridicality is primitive: we can never be deceived by it with respect to its proper objects. These proper sensibles are prior to their perception in the order of explanation: we explain sight as the sense that gives us colours, not colours as the things that are the objects of sight. In all types of perception, the medium is that of a transmission of form that is taken in by the alteration of the sense (where this alteration is the perception). Seeing perception as emerging in this way as the joint outcome of three factors - the form to be seen, the form transmitted and seen by the perceiver, and the intervening medium - allows, I hope to show, for its most puzzling feature: that representational properties are both intrinsic and relational. I have presented this general idea in rough outlines in the form of seminars in Zurich (2014), México D.F. (2010) and Neuchâtel (2012), and, in more details, in a double course in Lucerne in 2018: the lecture "The Metaphysics of the Mind" and the associated seminar "The Problem of Representation". I have since sketched the general idea in an Aristotelian context in "Towards a Metaphysics of the Representation Relation" (Ligerz, 23rd of August 2018, recording), "Aristotelian Forms and Representation by Identity" (4th of July 2019) and " Relational Intentionality in Aristotle" (13th of September 2019).
As explained above (cf. above), I have tried to make an independent case for the underlying metaphysical claim, that there may be intrinsic and relational, and extrinsic and non-relational properties. I have recently explored in more detail the underlying ontology of Aristotelian potentialities in "Representation and Intentionality in a Framework of Aristotelian Powers" (presented in Ligerz, 21th of October 2017).
Representational states being intrinsic, they 'mirror' the world as it appears to some perceiver, i.e. as perspectival and perceiver-oriented (cf. "Perspectival Facts", above). Being relational at the same time, they also connect that perceiver to things outside of them, and make themselves evaluable in terms of what lies outside of them. Because an understanding of representation as self-location places the 'subjective' and 'phenomenal' elements in the mode, rather than the content of the attitude, allowing for an adverbialist, rather than propositionalist analysis of it, it makes an objectivist notion of content possible: representation is coformality, the sharing of 'form' between what is represented and what represents. As the medievals realised, the account of perception as intake of form may be generalised to representation more generally if, for more complex mental states, we draw an act/content distinction -- as Duns Scotus did between the 'subjectively' present (accident of) thinking and the 'objectively' present external form. On such a generalised conception, the form taken in from some thing is what it is represented as; and to represent is as F is to have F as its form in mind. This account, I hope, allows us to combine the mind-dependence of horizontally grounded entities such as percepta (cf. above) with the mind-dependence of the appearance properties that are attributed to them in perception (cf. "Believing in Appearances" and "The Looks of Things", and, for an attribution of such colour realism to Aristotle, "Uptake of Form and the Nature of Colours" (recording) and "Aristotle on Perception and Colours").
To account for states that do not exhibit primarily representational, nor primarily intentional features (as do, respectively, perception and intention/desire/wishing), but that have both in an equally fundamental way, a third primitive element is needed: an attitude the subjects takes on what it represents. Such an `active' component explains how the represented form is taken to be and relates it to the formal object of the mental state in question, thus generating its correctness conditions. In fear, for example, the subject both represents something as dangerous and has a negative, flight-inducing attitude towards it; in belief, the subject entertains a thought, and assents to it. In both cases, it is the attitude that 'generates' the content, as it were, as it takes the form (itself taken in a way) to relate to what it is a form of. With linguistic representation, finally, the form is externalised - it is the linguistic items themselves, taken in a way, that may be said to reach out to what they are about. In "Travis and Quine", I argue that this captures the key insight of radical contextualism - that there is no rule-based way to attribute something like "meanings" to utterances in context. In "Expressivism about Belief" (presented in Geneva, Belfast and Aix-en-Provence in 2006, and in 2011 and 2012 in Geneva, draft paper is here), I extend this account to belief in general and try to get around the Frege-Geach objection to sententialism.
In one of my oldest papers, "n-dimensionalism", which I presented at the II Barcelona Workshop on Issues in the Theory of Reference, Barcelona, on the 30th of June 2001 (first version, slides, talk, handout, cf. also ch. 4 of my my "mémoire de prédoctorat"), I argue that the familiar move to 2-dimensionalism, which is supposed to capture what we latch onto in what Kripke calls a "modal illusion" (that there might be a world where water is not H2O), does not capture genuine conceptual necessity (nor, as I argue in "Analyticity Ontologised?", with Gian-Andri Töndury in 2004, genuine analyticty); suitably generalised and iterated, however, it does capture some of the bootstrapping we can do with our concepts and gives a a plausible ontology of words, as I argued in 2007, 2012 and and 2013.
In particular, it gives us the ontological underpinnings of Fine's 'semantic relationism', the view that linguistic items, and names in particular, do not have their semantic values intrinsically (though I would add, in view of the above, that they still might have them non-relationally). It yields a more plausible picture of concept acquisition, as I argue in a poster presentation from 2002, explains the The 'thickness' of A-intensions (2004, longer draft here), the epidemiology of names ("Friends and Eminees" seminar at MIT/Harvard, 5th of February, 2005) and what is right about descriptivism (comments on Sam Cumming, Harvard/MIT graduate conference, 20th of March, 2005). In joint work with Elena Casetta, we tried to give a biologically inspired account of what Kaplan calls the 'Tao of Metaphysics' (2005, draft paper here). In particular, it gives us an explanation of rigid reference, as a form of existential dependence for names, as I argued in 2008, 2010 and 2011. Two- or rather n-dimensionalism may also allow us to solve some of the problems of Etchemendy's so-called interpretationalist account of logical consequence (cf my talks in Fribourg in 2003 and in Barcelona in 2014).
In future work, I hope to integrate the intake of form and mode/content account of representation and the n-dimensionalist account of word meaning with three concerns of mine in epistemology proper. The first pertains to skepticism (cf. above). In "Disbelieving the Skeptics Without Proving Them Wrong" (presented first in 2001, cf. ch. 7 of my my "mémoire de prédoctorat", and then at the graduate student seminar in Oxford on the 15th of May 2003, then generalised to give an account of Moore's paradox in 2003 and 2006 and finally published in the Swiss Philosophical Preprint Series), I argue that there is no, and cannot be any, argument against Pyrrhonian skepticism that commands assent from a skeptic (the familiar point that there is no "refutation" of skepticism), but that there is an argument by which we can show, to people who are not skeptics already, that skepticism is not forced upon us, but rather involves a "leap of faith" which we can resist to take on rational grounds. To show, to our and to innocent bystanders' satisfaction, what is wrong about skepticism, we do not have to rely on intuitions, but can provide arguments. Subsequently, I have tried to generalise this view to an account of epistemology as 'reactionary' in general, i.e. a conception of our epistemically evaluable states (belief and knowledge among them) as being more or less appropriate reactions (cf. "Vers une métaphysique de la connaissance", Geneva, 13th of December 2007, my comments on Hossack, "Les théories de conspiration - incroyable, même si el les sont vraies?", Festival de Philosophie, Geneva, 28th of September 2008, paper draft here, "L'intelligence, est-elle héritable?", Geneva, 21st of February 2009 and "Reactive Epistemology", Ligerz, 11th of September 2017). That, as epistemic agents, we are essentially reactive, may help explain why norms that govern us in this capacity are supererogatory, not compulsory (cf. above), as I argue in "Epistemic Oughts and Mights", Geneva, 4th of August 2009 and "Paradoxes of Irrationality", 23rd of May 2008.
The third area of interest I would like to integrate into my Habilitation thesis is my old obsession, stemming from my master thesis in mathematics / theoretical computer science (2003), with the notion of information and the (in my view quite inadequate) philosophical treatment of it (cf. my talks "Information Flow - The Logic of Distributed Systems", 21th of December 2000 and "What is a logic of information", Münchenwiler, 5th of July 2002). Despite a lot of buzz, we still do not have even a candidate metaphysics or ontology of information, and who if not the philosophers is going to provide us with these?


After doing two years of philosophy, I got the impression that everything philosophers do is to sit at home and write for their drawer and that in law you get at least the chance to change the world. So I studied it, finding the hard parts interesting and the less-interesting parts easy. From 1998 to 2000, I worked in the departement of penal law and criminology with Karl-Ludwig Kunz. On behalf of the Swiss Ministry of Justice and with Karl-Ludwig Kunz, I wrote a scientific report on the jurisdiction on the Swiss law on help to victims of crimes, "Die Rechtsprechung zum Opferhilfegesetz in den Jahren 1993-1998", and with Nadja Capus, areport on behalf of the OECD on "Private Bribery in Switzerland>. More recently, I have co-taught, with Martino Mona from the University of Berne, an introduction to argumentation theory for law students, criminologists, lawyers, police and judges. I hope to do much more work at the intersection of law and philosophy (not necessarily only philosophy of law, but philosophy of norms, epistemology and metaphysics as well) in the future.

Academic works

Here are my four "Qualifikationsarbeiten" to date: