Sara J. Bernstein

Research

1. Omissions, non-beings, and negative entities.

Omissions are metaphysically puzzling. On the one hand, they seem to be nothing: they are events that do not occur. On the other hand, we intuitively reify omissions, grant them causal efficacy, and hold agents morally responsible for their outcomes. My research program advances a positive view of omissions that resolves ontological, causal, moral, and semantic puzzles about them. I also argue that ontological pluralism about non-being, the view that there are multiple fundamental ways of non-being, can explain a variety of negative phenomena.

Omissions as Possibilities (Philosophical Studies, 2014)
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |    published version

Two Problems for Proportionality About Omissions (Dialectica, 2014)
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |   published version

The Metaphysics of Omissions (Philosophy Compass, 2015)
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |   published version

Omission Impossible (Philosophical Studies, 2016)
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |    published version

Ontological Pluralism about Non-Being (Non-being: New Essays on Nonexistence, eds. Sara Bernstein and Ty Goldschmidt, Oxford University Press, 2021)
 abstract   |   penultimate draft   |   published version

Non-being: New Essays on Nonexistence (Oxford University Press (UK), with Ty Goldschmidt, 2021)
 summary and list of contributors   |   published version


2. Causation and Responsibility.

Causation is central to many forms of moral and legal responsibility. But how well do theories of causation serve our needs for moral and legal reasoning? Not well, I argue: from generating unapalatable moral and legal results to lacking the necessary resources to model intuitive moral evaluations, the theories of causation utilized in moral and (especially) legal assessments are inadequate to these tasks. My research shows that there are insurmountable obstacles to using counterfactual accounts of causation, energy transfer theories of causation, and causal models for the purpose of guiding attributions of moral and legal responsibility.

Causal and Moral Indeterminacy (Ratio, 2016)
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |   published version

Causal Proportions and Moral Responsibility (Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, 2017) 
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |   published version

Moral Luck and Deviant Causation (Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 2019) 
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |   published version

Deviant Causal Chains and the Law (Collective Action and the Law, eds. Chiara Valentini and Teresa Marques, Routledge Press, 2021)
 abstract   |   penultimate draft   |    published version


3. Redundant Causation.

According to prevailing metaphysical theories of minds and objects, our world is causally crowded: every effect has multiple sufficient causes. Redundant causation plays a central role in numerous debates, from mental causation to the existence of ordinary objects to counterfactual analyses of causation. I carefully examine the varieties of redundant causation and their conditions for occurrence, and connect the results to the metaphysics of causation, mental causation, moral responsibility, and free will.

What Causally Insensitive Events Tell Us About Overdetermination (Philosophia, 2014)
abstract   |    penultimate draft   |    published version

A Closer Look at Trumping (Acta Analytica, 2015)  
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |    published version

Overdetermination Underdetermined (Erkenntnis, 2016)  
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |   published version

Free Will and Mental Quausation (with Jessica Wilson) (Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 2016)
 abstract   |   penultimate draft   |   published version

Possible Causation  
 abstract


4. Grounding and Fundamentality.

Recent years in metaphysics have seen a surge in literature on grounding, roughly, the relation that connects more and less fundamental entities. My work challenges two prevailing orthodoxies of grounding and fundamentality: first, that grounding is a form of or is similar to causation; and second, that a top-most or bottom-most level must be the most fundamental.

Grounding is not Causation (Philosophical Perspectives, 2017)
 abstract   |   penultimate draft   |   published version

Could a Middle Level be the Most Fundamental? (Philosophical Studies, 2021)
 abstract   |   penultimate draft   |   published version


5. Analytic Feminism.

My work uses the tools of analytic metaphysics (including counterpossibles, properties, relations, grounding, and fundamentality) to shed light on concepts employed in feminist philosophy and the philosophy of race.

The Metaphysics of Intersectionality (Philosophical Studies, 2020)
 abstract   |   penultimate draft   |   published version

Resisting Social Categories (committed to Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, Volume 8)
 abstract   |    draft coming soon

Biased Evaluative Descriptions
 abstract   |   draft

Countersocial Counterfactuals
 abstract   |    draft coming soon

Fundamental Social Causes
 abstract   |    draft coming soon

Interaction and Intersectionality
 abstract   |    draft coming soon


6. Time Travel.

While most philosophical literature on time travel focuses exclusively on the logical, physical, or metaphysical possibility of time travel, and on paradoxes of time travel after it occurs, relatively little attention is paid to the questions: what happens in the process of time travel, and what metaphysical dangers do time travelers face? My research on the metaphysics of time travel addresses these and related "practical" questions concerning time travel. Additionally, my research addresses ethical puzzles raised by the possibility of time travel.

Nowhere Man: Time Travel and Spatial Location (Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 2015)
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |    published version

Time Travel and the Movable Present (Being, Freedom, and Method: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter van Inwagen, ed. John Keller, Oxford University Press, 2017)
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |    published version

Paradoxes of Time Travel to the Future (Perspectives on the Philosophy of David K. Lewis, eds. Helen Beebee and Anthony Fisher, Oxford University Press, forthcoming)
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |    published version

Ethical Puzzles of Time Travel
 abstract   |   draft


7. Metaphysics and Methodology.

Recently, the methodology of analytic metaphysics has undergone intense scrutiny, facing questions about whether there is a fact of the matter about metaphysical problems, whether metaphysics should answer to folk intuitions, whether contextualism has a place in metaphysics, and whether and how metaphysical debates are driven forward. My work engages such issues having to do with the metaphysics of causation, including the role of intuitions in metaphysical theories of causation, what counts as progress in debates about causation, and how to adjudicate between theories with roughly equal theoretical virtues.

Intuitions and the Metaphysics of Causation (Experimental Metaphysics, ed. David Rose, Bloomsbury, 2017)
 abstract   |   penultimate draft   |   published version

Causal Idealism (Idealism: New Essays in Metaphysics, eds. Tyron Goldschmidt and Kenny Pearce, 2018)
 abstract   |   penultimate draft   |    published version


8. Odds and Ends.

Can Unmodified Food be Culinary Art? (Argumenta special issue: Metaphysics at the Table, 2020)
 abstract   |   penultimate draft   |   published version


9. Reference Articles.

David Lewis' Theories of Causation and their Influence, Cambridge History of Philosophy, ed. Kelly Becker, Cambridge University Press (2019)
 abstract   |    penultimate draft   |    published version


10. Book Reviews.

Review of Carolina Sartorio's Causation and Free Will in Philosophical Review, (2018)    |   review

Review of Sophie Gibb, E. J. Lowe, and R. D. Ingthorsson (eds.), Mental Causation and Ontology in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2013)    |   review

Discussions of the review:

     Troy Cross' Review of Getting Causes from Powers, Dialectica
     NewAPPS


(Please email me at sbernste at nd dot edu if you would like a copy of any draft.)