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Alex S.

Cian Dorr's "To be F is to be G" (2016, Phil. Perspectives). I've heard it described as one of the most important articles in metaphysics since Lewis's "New Work for a Theory of Universals". I'm not sure (yet) whether I agree, but it's certainly a masterpiece and will make a major impact on the field. It's also nice summer reading (as in: you'll need the entire summer to digest it).


I second Alex's recommendation. Whether it's up there with "New Work" or not, it's certainly the most important paper in metaphysics I've read for a while.

Marcus Arvan

Thanks for the recommendation! I was skeptical of the suggestion that it would take an entire summer to digest it--but then I saw that the paper is *102* pages long (and a very technical 102 pages at that). What a beast of a paper! (Not to mention more grist for my "journals should accept longer papers" mill. :)


Stephen Barker's 'The Emperor's New Metaphysics of Powers' in Mind.


This paper argues that the new metaphysics of powers, also known as dispositional essentialism or causal structuralism, is an illusory metaphysics. I argue for this in the following way. I begin by distinguishing three fundamental ways of seeing how facts of physical modality — facts about physical necessitation and possibility, causation, disposition, and chance — are grounded in the world. The first way, call it the first degree, is that the actual world or all worlds, in their entirety, are the source of physical modality. Humeanism is the best known such approach, but there are other less well-known approaches. The second way, the second degree, is that the source of physical modality lies in certain second-order facts, involving a relation between universals. Armstrong’s necessitarianism and other views are second-degree views. The third way, the third degree, holds that properties themselves are the source of physical modality. This is the powers view. I examine four ways of developing the third degree: relational constitution, graph-theoretic structuralism, dispositional roles, and powerful qualities. All these ways are either incoherent, or just disguised versions of the first-degree. The new metaphysics of powers is illusory. With the collapse of the third degree, the second degree, the necessitarian view of law, collapses as well. I end the paper with some reflections on the first degree, on the problem of explaining necessary connections between distinct existences, and on the dim prospects of holist ontology

Michel X.

Two recently read (but less recently written) highlights for me:

1.) Donald Black - Crime as Social Control (1983, American Sociological Review)

I wish I'd read this years ago. It's a really important piece in light of the "true crime" resurgence in pop culture in recent years, and an article that I think is worth teaching in any intro Ethics course. Basically, it just challenges the idea that there's such a thing as a "criminal" person/personality, and suggests that most crimes are instances of self-help justice.

2.) Sarah K. Paul - Embarking on a Crime (2014, from Law and the Philosophy of Action)

In which Sarah Paul examines what conditions need to obtain in order for a criminal attempt to have occurred, drawing a very useful distinction between mere preparations and actual criminal attempts. This paper is especially relevant to today's discussions of terrorism and the application of terror and espionage laws.

Sam Duncan


Do you have any suggestions yourself? Especially any in ethics or political philosophy? I've been reading a lot of stuff for the summer for some projects I'm working on, but I'll be honest most of the articles I've read that were published in the last five years have been thoroughly meh, so picking out a "best" from the recently published articles I've read would be some faint praise. I did finally get around to reading that famous Taurek article ("Should the Numbers Count?") and it lives up to its reputation. I'd like to hear it if you have some suggestions for articles in ethics and political phil you think are worth looking at.

Sam Duncan

Michael X,

Those both look really interesting! And I think the Paul article and the larger collection are going to bear on some work I'm doing. So thanks!
Also, if we're expanding outside philosophy, then I'd have to say hands down the best article I've read in the last few years is John Langbein's "Torture and Plea Bargaining" (1978), which is also old but very good. Langbein argues that both the widespread use of plea bargaining in the U.S. legal system and torture in the medieval European one are the result of breakdowns in adversarial legal systems that set the standards of proof too high.


Here is one from a lesser known person:


When I read it, I thought: now that is thoughtful. I work in the area so it was nice to see a more junior person in the field making a thoughtful contribution.

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