David Sanson

Work in Progress

“Potential Parts”

Exploring the limits of the idea that things can be divided in ways that don’t correspond to their proper parts.

Maximal Possibilities

Possible worlds are maximal possibilities. But what kind of thing is a maximal possibility? Not a maximal individual: there are maximal possibilities that are not maximal individuals, because each maximal individual could have any one of several maximal properties. And not a maximal property: there are maximal possibilities that are not maximal properties, because each maximal property could be had by any one of many possible maximal individuals. So if you like your worlds concrete, you should say that they are maximal facts, and if you like your worlds abstract, you should say that they are maximal propositions.

Once Present, Now Past

If reality is temporary, then reality changes, and if reality changes, the past has explanatory work to do, and it cannot do that work unless it is no longer real. This tells against the Moving Now Theory, the Growing Block Theory, and any form of Presentism that attempts to understand the past in terms of the present, including Tensed Properties Presentism and Tensed Facts Presentism. It tells in favor of a form Presentism that allows us to appeal to unreal past facts. I suggest that Priorian Presentism, conjoined with a certain way of understanding the role played by tense operators, is one such view.


“al-Taftazani on the Liar Paradox” (with Ahmed Alwishah). Forthcoming in Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy.

Translation and analysis of a strange but key text in the history of the Liar Paradox in the Medieval Arabic tradition. (Currently under minor revision; penultimate draft will be posted when revisions are complete.)

Frivolous Fictions,” forthcoming in Res Philosophica, special issue on philosophy of fiction.

I explore a non-commital paraphrase of quantification over fictional characters, based on the non-commital paraphrase Kit Fine provides for quantification over possibilia. And I explore the view that names for fictional characters are weakly non-referring, in Nathan Salmon’s sense. One goal is to bring out some ontological differences between fictional characters and possibilia.

Worlds Enough for Junk,” forthcoming in Res Philosophica (93:1) 2016 (penultimate draft).

A cap is something that is not a proper part. A junky thing is not part of any cap. Can there be junky things? Against the backdrop of Lewis’s Modal Realism, it is hard to see how there could be: every possibility involves the existence of a world, and that world is a cap. But this can be overcome, by allowing that parts of possible worlds collectively represent complete possibilities. Thinking this through helps throw the Modal Realist’s project into sharper relief.

Presentism and Truthmaking” (with Ben Caplan), Philosophy Compass (6:3) 2011: 196–208.

Three plausible views—Presentism, Truthmaking, and Independence—form an inconsistent triad. By Presentism, all being is present being. By Truthmaking, all truth supervenes on being. By Independence, some past truths do not supervene on present being. Presentists must reject either Truthmaking or Independence. We survey and assess various attempts to do so.

The Way Things Were” (with Ben Caplan), Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (81.1) 2010: 24-39.  

Presentists cannot account for facts about how things once were by treating them as special facts about how things now are. For example, the truth of the proposition that Arnold was pale depends not on the properties that Arnold presently has—like the property having been pale—but rather on the properties that Arnold once had—like the property being pale. For Presentists, tensed talk should be understood as a device for pointing beyond reality: beyond what is and how things are, to what was and how things were.

The Early Arabic Liar” (with Ahmed Alwishah), Vivarium (47:1) 2009: 97-127.  

An analysis of the earliest discussions of the Liar Paradox in the Medieval Arabic tradition, including the earliest known text in any tradition to blame the paradox on self-reference. English translations included.


Being and Time: The Metaphysics of Past and Future in a Dynamic World, UCLA, 2005.  

The core of the dissertation is the argument in “Once Present, Now Past”. It also contains a critical discussion of one interpretation of the view Michael Tooley defends in Time, Tense, and Causation (1997). On that interpretation, Tooley’s view—that we can understand temporary facts only by supposing that reality is fundamentally relative to times—ends up looking a lot like the “external relativism” that Kit Fine describes in “Tense and Reality” (2005).