David Manley

On Being a Random Sample (work in progress)

  1. How should I update my credences when I get de se evidence? And how should I reason when my experiential state might be non-unique? A principled answer to these questions would help us solve several puzzles in confirmation theory, such as Sleeping Beauty, Doomsday, and the question whether finding out that the universe is ‘fine-tuned’ would count as evidence for the existence of many universes.

  2. This paper looks at three ways to answer these questions based on the idea that one should reason as though one is a random sample. Each approach can be thought of as replacing the standard conditioning rule for updating with a new normative principle that constrains credences. Two of these strategies give rise to existential selection effects: they entail that having a certain experiential state E can bear evidentially on de dicto hypotheses beyond entailing the de dicto fact that someone has that experiential state E.  

Moral Realism and Semantic Plasticity (work in progress)

  1. Are moral terms semantically plastic—that is, would very slight changes in our patterns of use have shifted their meanings? This is a delicate question for moral realists. A 'yes' answer seems to conflict with the sorts of intuitions that support realism; but a 'no' answer seems to require a semantics that involves hefty metaphysical commitments. This tension can be illustrated by thinking about how standard accounts of vagueness can be applied to the case of moral terms, and also by considering how realists should respond to the Moral Twin Earth problem. I argue that moral realists can accept the semantic plasticity of moral expressions while accounting for contrary intuitions in a way that is nearly cost-free.

Keeping Up Appearances: A Reducer’s Guide (work in progress)

-Journal of Philosophy (conditionally accepted)

  1. Metaphysicians with reductive theories of reality like to say how those theories account for ordinary usage and belief. A typical strategy is to offer theoretical sentences, often called ‘paraphrases’, to serve in place of various sentences that occur in ordinary talk. But how should we measure success in this endeavor? Those of us who undertake it usually have a vague set of theoretical desiderata in mind, but we rarely discuss them in detail. My purpose in this paper is to say exactly what they are, and why.

Response to four critical studies of The Reference Book

-Mind and Language, 2014, with John Hawthorne.

The Folk Probably Do Think What You Think They Think

-Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 2013, with Billy Dunaway & Anna Edmonds

  1. We conducted a meta-survey to see if philosophers could predict results presented as surprising in the experimental philosophy literature. Our results suggest that studies deemed surprising by experimental philosophers should not be treated uncritically as evidence against the reliability of informal access to ordinary intuitions.

The Reference Book

-Oxford University Press, 2012

  1. This book critically examines some widespread views about the semantic phenomenon of reference and the cognitive phenomenon of singular thought. We begin by defending the view that neither is tied to a special relation of causal or epistemic acquaintance. We then challenge the alleged semantic rift between definite and indefinite descriptions on the one hand, and names and demonstratives on the other—a division that has been motivated in part by appeals to considerations of acquaintance.

  2. Drawing on recent work in semantics, we explore a more unified account of all four types of expression, according to which none of them paradigmatically fits the profile of a referential term. On our preferred framework, all four involve existential quantification but admit of uses that exhibit many of the traits associated with reference—a phenomenon that is due to the presence of what we call a ‘singular restriction’ on the existentially quantified domain. We conclude by drawing out some implications of the proposed semantic picture for the traditional categories of reference and singular thought.

  3. Reviews:

  4. Barbara Abbott in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, Feb. 2013

  5. Tim Crane in The Times Literary Supplement, Nov. 2012

  6. Luca Incurvati in Analysis Reviews, Jun. 2013

  7. Gary Kemp in The Philosophical Quarterly, Oct 2013

  8. Mark Sainsbury in Philosophy, July 2013 

  9. Symposium:

  10. There is a recent symposium in Mind & Language with discussions by Kent Bach, Michael Devitt, Genoveva Martí, and James McGilvray.

  11. Our own response is here.

Dispositionality: Beyond the Biconditionals

-Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 2012, 90(2): 321-334

  1. This paper examines some views about the dispositional/categorical distinction that are available if we take for granted a certain kind of equivalence between dispositional and counterfactual facts.

Dispositions, Conditionals, and Counterexamples

-Mind, 2011, 120: 1191-1227, with Ryan Wasserman

  1. Our earlier paper about dispositions in Mind elicited three response papers: one by Daniel Bonevac, Josh Dever, and David Sosa; one by Sungho Choi, and one by Barbara Vetter. In this paper, we respond to our critics, focusing on the role of centering and of counterexamples in refuting conditional analyses of dispositions.

-Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 2009, 78(2): 392-405. This version fixes typos in the published version.

  1. The Quinean criterion of ontological commitment does not pair well with the metaphysical realism of its contemporary proponents.

A Guided Tour of Metametaphysics

-in Metametaphysics, Oxford University Press, 2009.

  1. I introduce the topic and the volume, sketching a taxonomy of positions in metametaphysics as well as an account of verbal disputes.

On Linking Dispositions with Conditionals

-Mind, 2008, 117: 59-84, with Ryan Wasserman

  1. This paper presents a battery of new arguments against extant conditional analyses of dispositions, and offers a positive account that avoids them.

Safety, Content, Apriority, Self-Knowledge

-The Journal of Philosophy, 2007, 104:403-423

  1. I motivate a revised version of safety and then use it to (i) challenge traditional conceptions of apriority, (ii) refute ‘strong privileged access’, and (iii) resolve a well-known puzzle about externalism and self-knowledge.

A Gradable Approach to Dispositions

-The Philosophical Quarterly, 2007, 57:68-75, with Ryan Wasserman

  1. The gradability of dispositional predicates is a problem for many accounts of dispositions; we consider some alternatives.

Mumford’s Dispositions

-Noûs, 2005, 39:179-195, with John Hawthorne

  1. This is a detailed critical study of Stephen Mumford’s book Dispositions.

Properties and Resemblance Classes

-Noûs, 2002, 36: 75-96

  1. I examine the competing merits of resemblance-class theories of properties, arguing that the ‘companionship’ and ‘imperfect community’ problems are not avoided by appealing to classes of tropes instead of objects.

review of Fabrice Correia, Existential Dependence and Cognate Notions

-Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, 2007 (2)

(see my philpapers page)


I’m an associate professor of philosophy at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. I work in metaphysics, epistemology, and the philosophy of language. My cv is here and my academic site is here. A picture of my wonderful kids is here. Some of my papers and things can be found below.