Dissertation Abstract

"Radically Connected: Ockham's Metaphysics of Efficient Causation"

Abstract. The aim of my dissertation is to reconstruct and defend an interpretation of Ockham's powers metaphysic of efficient causation. Situated within his broader, ontologically reductionistic program, and flanked by two of his non-reductionist opponents (and fellow Franciscans), John Duns Scotus (c. 1266-1308) and Walter Chatton (c. 1290-1343), I offer an interpretation that's not just Aristotelianbecause it posits causal powersbut radically Aristotelianbecause it posits intrinsic token causal connections in a strongly necessitarian way. I argue Ockham thinks effects have primitive causal dependencies woven into their very own natureswhich not even God can change. Moreover, I argue my radically Aristotelian reading settles the century-long "Is Ockham a Humean or Aristotelian?" interpretive debate. I show that to reject my radically Aristotelian reading leaves one with a new, radically Humean reading, which I call "Theological Lewisianism." On this reading, all causal powers and causal connections are drained from the natural world and are instead determined by God, who uniquely arranges the patterns among every possible, powerless individual in every possible world. Some interpreters might be surprised by this consequence. And others might gladly welcome it. But I argue it fails to respect Ockham's appeals to power and causation in the natural world, his account of counterfactual causal dependence, and ultimately, it results in collapsing the natural world into a supernatural one. But since there's no other reading besides my radically Aristotelian one or this radically Humean onesince, given Ockham's commitments, causal connections are either explained by the intrinsic natures of the causal relata or by God's willit turns out that Ockham's so-called "radical individuals" arein their very own individual naturesradically connected.

Published Articles

"Potens Per Accidens Sine Accidentibus: Ockham on Material Substances and Their Essential Powers." Vivarium 59, no. 1-2 (2021): 102-122.

Abstract. Medieval scholastics share a commitment to a substance-accident ontology and to an analysis of efficient causation in which agents act in virtue of their powers. Given these commitments, it seems ready-made which entities are the agents or powers: substances are agents and their accidents powers. William of Ockham, however, offers a rather different analysis concerning material substances and their essential powers, which this article explores. The article first examines Ockham’s account of propria and his reasons for claiming that a material substance is essentially powerful sine accidentibus. However, the article subsequently argues that, given Ockham’s reductionism about material substance, only substantial forms – never substances – are truly agents and powers. Thus, a material substance is essentially powerful but only by courtesy – per accidens, as Ockham calls it – because it has a non-identical part, its substantial form, which does all the causal work by itself, per se.

"Reframing Aquinas on Art and Morality." American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 92, no. 2 (April 2018): 295-311.

Abstract. Can a work of art be defective aesthetically as art because it is defective morally? Etienne Gilson and Jacques Maritain both develop Thomistic accounts of the arts based on Aquinas’s distinction between the virtues of art and prudence, but they answer this question differently. Although their answers diverge, I will argue that both accounts make a crucial assumption about the metaphysics of goodness that Aquinas denies, namely, that moral and aesthetic goodness are distinct species, not inseparable modes, of metaphysical goodness. I propose a new way to develop a Thomistic account of the arts that begins with Aquinas’s treatment of the three inseparable modes of metaphysical goodness: the virtuous, the useful, and the pleasant. This foundation seems metaphysically, methodologically, and explanatorily prior to the accounts of Gilson and Maritain, because art is a virtue, and virtue is related to goodness, and goodness is “divided” into three inseparable modes.

Works in Progress


Latina Scholastica Per Se Illustrata

Abstract. This is the first ever book to introduce students to medieval scholastic Latin and philosophy by using Hans Ørberg's "direct method" of teaching Latin in Latin. This intermediate Latin book applies Ørberg's method to a number of Scholastic works on natural philosophy, such as Thomas Aquinas's De principiis naturae, to introduce students to (1) Scholastic Latin syntax and grammar and (2) fundamental concepts in scholastic metaphysics.

A Lush, Desert Landscape: Ockham's Metaphysics of Power & Causation

Abstract. This manuscript expands upon my dissertation research by presenting a systemic account of Ockham's ontological vision of the world containing "powerful particulars." I show that although Ockham has a taste for desert landscapes in admitting only individual substances and qualities into his ontology, the individuals he admits are metaphysically lush.


Questions on Aristotle's Physics: A Translation of William of Ockham's Quaestiones in libros Physicorum Aristotelis

Abstract. This is a translation and commentary on Ockham's Quaestiones in libros Physicorum Aristotelis, in which Ockham raises 151 quodlibetal questions concerning motion, space, time, primary and secondary qualities, efficient causation, and many others.


"Henry More, Holenmeric Souls, and the Unity of Consciousness Argument"

Abstract. If a human being has an immaterial soul, then where is that human being's soul located? According to the medieval scholastic account of immaterial presence, which the Cambridge Platonist Henry More calls ‘holenmerism’ (or ‘whole-in-the-part-ism’), the soul is co-located with the body by being wholly located in the whole body and wholly located in each part. One of the reasons motivating holenmerism is a sort of "unity of consciousness" argument. But More thinks the holenmeric explanation of the unity of consciousness is contradictory and unsupported by the best scientific theories of his day. Although the secondary literature has examined many of More’s criticisms of holenmerism, these particular criticisms have not been examined, let alone mentioned, in the secondary literature. In this paper I examine More’s particular criticisms of this argument, and look at the prospects and perils that this argument might offer for contemporary discussions in human ontology and the philosophy of mind.

"Shared Liturgical Lament"

Abstract. I sketch an account of what I will call 'shared liturgical lament' that builds upon and advances Terence Cueno's recent work on the philosophy of Christian liturgy, while paying particular attention to the function of the Psalter within the liturgical script and performance. I begin by noting various strands in Cuneo's work on liturgical singing and reenactment, which are of particular interest for my account. I then tie these strands together and expand Cuneo's insights in order to develop an account of shared liturgical lament. On the account proposed here, shared liturgical lament is a collective action, whereby the participants attend to one another's experiences within the liturgical performance, respond to another's emotional states by sharing in the same emotional content, which is experienced as a 'We', and unite together in their address to God for help in the time of trouble.