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Sara Bernstein
University of Notre Dame
  1. The Metaphysics of Intersectionality.Sara Bernstein - manuscript
    This paper develops and articulates a metaphysics of intersectionality, the idea that multiple axes of social oppression cross-cut each other. Though intersectionality is often described through metaphor, rigorous theories of intersectionality can be formulated using the tools of contemporary analytic metaphysics. A central tenet of intersectionality theory, that intersectional identities are inseparable, can be framed in terms of explanatory unity. Further, intersectionality is best understood as metaphysical and explanatory priority of the intersectional category over its constituents, comparable to metaphysical priority (...)
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  2. Omission Impossible.Sara Bernstein - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (10):2575-2589.
    This paper gives a framework for understanding causal counterpossibles, counterfactuals imbued with causal content whose antecedents appeal to metaphysically impossible worlds. Such statements are generated by omissive causal claims that appeal to metaphysically impossible events, such as “If the mathematician had not failed to prove that 2+2=5, the math textbooks would not have remained intact.” After providing an account of impossible omissions, the paper argues for three claims: (i) impossible omissions play a causal role in the actual world, (ii) causal (...)
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  3. Overdetermination Underdetermined.Sara Bernstein - 2016 - Erkenntnis 81 (1):17-40.
    Widespread causal overdetermination is often levied as an objection to nonreductive theories of minds and objects. In response, nonreductive metaphysicians have argued that the type of overdetermination generated by their theories is different from the sorts of coincidental cases involving multiple rock-throwers, and thus not problematic. This paper pushes back. I argue that attention to differences between types of overdetermination discharges very few explanatory burdens, and that overdetermination is a bigger problem for the nonreductive metaphysician than previously thought.
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  4. Grounding Is Not Causation.Sara Bernstein - 2016 - Philosophical Perspectives 30 (1):21-38.
    Proponents of grounding often describe the notion as "metaphysical causation" involving determination and production relations similar to causation. This paper argues that the similarities between grounding and causation are merely superficial. I show that there are several sorts of causation that have no analogue in grounding; that the type of "bringing into existence" that both involve is extremely different; and that the synchronicity of ground and the diachronicity of causation make them too different to be explanatorily intertwined.
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  5.  31
    Deviant Causation and the Law.Sara Bernstein - manuscript
    A gunman intends to shoot and kill Victim. He shoots and misses his target, but the gunshot startles a group of water buffalo, causing them to trample the victim to death. The gunman brings about the intended effect, Victim’s death, but in a “deviant” way rather than the one planned. This paper argues that such causal structures, deviant causal chains, pose serious problems for several key legal concepts. -/- I show that deviant causal chains pose problems for the legal distinction (...)
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  6.  74
    Could a Middle Level Be the Most Fundamental?Sara Bernstein - forthcoming - Philosophical Studies.
    Debates over what is fundamental assume that what is most fundamental must be either a “top” level (roughly, the biggest or highest-level thing), or a “bottom” level (roughly, the smallest or lowest-level things). Here I sketch an alternative to top-ism and bottom-ism, the view that a middle level could be the most fundamental, and argue for its plausibility. I then suggest that this view satisfies the desiderata of asymmetry, irreflexivity, transitivity, and well-foundedness of fundamentality, that it is on par with (...)
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  7. Omissions as Possibilities.Sara Bernstein - 2014 - Philosophical Studies 167 (1):1-23.
    I present and develop the view that omissions are de re possibilities of actual events. Omissions do not literally fail to occur; rather, they possibly occur. An omission is a tripartite metaphysical entity composed of an actual event, a possible event, and a contextually specified counterpart relation between them. This view resolves ontological, causal, and semantic puzzles about omissions, and also accounts for important data about moral responsibility for outcomes resulting from omissions.
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  8. Causal Proportions and Moral Responsibility.Sara Bernstein - 2017 - In David Shoemaker (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, Volume 4. Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 165-182.
    This paper poses an original puzzle about the relationship between causation and moral responsibility called The Moral Difference Puzzle. Using the puzzle, the paper argues for three related ideas: (1) the existence of a new sort of moral luck; (2) an intractable conflict between the causal concepts used in moral assessment; and (3) inability of leading theories of causation to capture the sorts of causal differences that matter for moral evaluation of agents’ causal contributions to outcomes.
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  9. Time Travel and the Movable Present.Sara Bernstein - 2017 - In John Keller (ed.), Being, Freedom, and Method: Themes from the Philosophy of Peter van Inwagen. pp. 80-94.
    In "Changing the Past" (2010), Peter van Inwagen argues that a time traveler can change the past without paradox in a growing block universe. After erasing the portion of past existence that generates paradox, a new, non-paradox-generating block can be "grown" after the temporal relocation of the time traveler. -/- I articulate and explore the underlying mechanism of Van Inwagen's model: the time traveler's control over the location of the objective present. Van Inwagen's model is aimed at preventing paradox by (...)
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  10. A Closer Look at Trumping.Sara Bernstein - 2015 - Acta Analytica 30 (1):1-22.
    This paper argues that so-called “trumping preemption” is in fact overdetermination or early preemption, and is thus not a distinctive form of redundant causation. I draw a novel lesson from cases thought to be trumping: that the boundary between preemption and overdetermination should be reconsidered.
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  11. Two Problems for Proportionality About Omissions.Sara Bernstein - 2014 - Dialectica 68 (3):429-441.
    Theories of causation grounded in counterfactual dependence face the problem of profligate omissions: numerous irrelevant omissions count as causes of an outcome. A recent purported solution to this problem is proportionality, which selects one omission among many candidates as the cause of an outcome. This paper argues that proportionality cannot solve the problem of profligate omissions for two reasons. First: the determinate/determinable relationship that holds between properties like aqua and blue does not hold between negative properties like not aqua and (...)
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  12. Causal Idealism.Sara Bernstein - forthcoming - In Tyron Goldschmidt & Kenneth Pearce (eds.), Idealism: New Essays in Metaphysics. Oxford University Press.
    This paper argues that causal idealism, the view that causation is a product of mental activity, should be considered a competetitor to contemporary views that incorporate human thought and agency into the causal relation. Weighing contextualism, contrastivism, or pragmatism about causation against causal idealism results in at least a tie with respect to the virtues of these theories.
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  13. Causal and Moral Indeterminacy.Sara Bernstein - 2016 - Ratio 29 (4):434-447.
    This paper argues that several sorts of metaphysical and semantic indeterminacy afflict the causal relation. If, as it is plausible to hold, there is a relationship between causation and moral responsibility, then indeterminacy in the causal relation results in indeterminacy of moral responsibility more generally.
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  14. Nowhere Man: Time Travel and Spatial Location.Sara Bernstein - 2015 - Midwest Studies in Philosophy 39 (1):158-168.
    This paper suggests that time travelling scenarios commonly depicted in science fiction introduce problems and dangers for the time traveller. If time travel takes time, then time travellers risk collision with past objects, relocation to distant parts of the universe, and time travel-specific injuries. I propose several models of time travel that avoid the dangers and risks of time travel taking time, and that introduce new questions about the relationship between time travel and spatial location.
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  15. What Causally Insensitive Events Tell Us About Overdetermination.Sara Bernstein - 2014 - Philosophia 42 (4):1-18.
    Suppose that Billy and Suzy each throw a rock at window, and either rock is sufficient to shatter the window. While some consider this a paradigmatic case of causal overdetermination, in which multiple cases are sufficient for an outcome, others consider it a case of joint causation, in which multiple causes are necessary to bring about an effect. Some hold that every case of overdetermination is a case of joint causation underdescribed: at a maximal level of description, every cause is (...)
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