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Evan T. Woods

The Ohio State University




Ancient Philosophy, Asian Philosophies, Epistemology, Language and Logic, Philosophy of Art, Philosophy of Death, and Pre-Kantian Early Modern Philosophy


The Problems of the Many

I am a senior lecturer at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and a visiting lecturer at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, Ohio. This autumn, I am teaching two sections of a professional ethics course, Engineering Ethics, and two sections of Introduction Logic at Ohio State as well as a section of Aesthetics at Ohio Wesleyan.

I earned my Ph.D. in 2019 at The Ohio State University, and I earned my B.A. in philosophy from Allegheny College in 2012. My research interests are in material object metaphysics, especially the problem of the many, material constitution, the metaphysics of human persons, and contemporary hylomorphism.


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Selected Research
Many, but One
Forthcoming in Synthese

The problem of the many threatens to show that, in general, there are far more ordinary objects than you might have thought. I present and motivate a solution to this problem using many-one identity. According to this solution, the many things that seem to have what it takes to be, say, many cats, are collectively identical to a single cat.

Online First / Pre-print available here

You can read about my research project here.

Is Constitution Needed to Solve the Problem of the Many?

E.J. Lowe (1982) and Mark Johnston (1992) argue that constitution, a non-identity relation between a thing and what it is made of, is “crucial” in solving the problem of the many. That would be a powerful argument in favor of constitution if it succeeds. I argue that the argument fails and that neither Lowe’s, Johnston’s, nor other constitution theorists’ solutions support the thesis that constitution is crucial in solving the problem; I do this by showing that those who reject constitution theory can offer parallel solutions without constitution. Constitution isn’t needed to solve the problem. (Available upon request.)

Solving the Personite Problem

Eric Olson (2010), A.P. Taylor (2013), and Mark Johnston (2016, 2017) present versions of what Johnston calls the personite problem. On certain views of persons, there are many person-like things in our vicinity, coming into and going out of existence at different times than us. These are personites. If personites have moral status, as seems plausible on the basis of their similarity to actual and possible persons, then even our most seemingly innocuous actions harm countless of them. For instance, short-term sacrifice for long-term gain seems to harm those personites who are around for the sacrifice but cease to exist before accruing any benefit. I offer and defend a solution to the personite problem according to which persons have psychological properties, but personites don’t. Since the supposed harms done to personites require personites’ having psychological properties, personites cannot be harmed in the ways the personite problem purports to show. (Available upon request.)

Recent Teaching

In addition to these, I have drafts of papers on Kaiserman's (2019) and Johnston's (2019) solutions to the personite problem, what it is for an object to have a form, Simon Evnine's amorphic hylomorphism, and unrestricted animalism. These, too, are available upon request. You can read my dissertation here.

Click the title of a course to access the associated syllabus. Quantitative and qualitative data available upon request.

Epistemology is concerned with the nature of knowledge, its justification, and its limits. This course is primarily a survey of some current, exciting topics in applied epistemology. We’ll begin the course by asking what knowledge is, surveying an influential account, and considering some difficulties and subsequent responses. In asking after the nature of knowledge, however, we want to do more than simply describe knowledge, we want to know what normative concepts govern knowledge and belief: what should we believe, and on what basis? These are practical questions, the answers to which should guide us in everyday life. For instance, we want to know how we should determine what to believe and what to do in the face of disagreement with our peers, and whether, and when, we should believe what experts say. Finally, there are political ramifications of these sorts of questions. For instance, what’s wrong—if anything—with believing conspiracy theories like flat-Earth-ism, QAnon, and the Seth Rich stuff? In what ways has epistemology systemically disenfranchised some folks’ testimony, and what can we do about it? What is implicit bias, and what can epistemology contribute? We conclude with discussion of some potential epistemic problems posed by the internet.

You can read about my approach to teaching here.

This is a first course in logic. We’re going to study some central concepts of deductive and inductive logic along with some philosophical issues that arise in connection with them. We’ll begin with basic concepts of deductive logic, including validity, soundness, and entailment. From there, we’ll turn to some ways used to determine whether an argument is valid. Next, we’ll learn how to prove various things using a natural deduction system for sentential logic. We conclude our foray into deductive logic with a brief crash course on the significance of some metatheory. The main emphasis of the second half of the course is on inductive logic. Specifically, we’re going to be studying some basic probability theory, Bayes’ theorem, and the notion of expected value. In the final part of the course, we’ll investigate some philosophical issues surrounding classical logic’s ability to represent the world, including vagueness and paradox.

In this course, we’re going to ask and attempt to answer some central questions of philosophy that bear on the meaning of life. We’ll begin with a few thinkers who seem to think of the good life as involving knowledge or philosophy. Well and good. But is knowledge even possible? After this, we’ll try to get clearer on what sorts of things we’re asking about when we ask what the meaning of our life is. Next, if there’s a god, this prima facie has some bearing on what we ought to be doing with our lives. So, we’ll need to ask if there’s a god. After this, we will ask whether we can act freely and, if so, how we ought to act. Finally, we’ll turn to the question of the meaning of life and see what conclusions, if any, we can draw.

Perhaps nothing seems as familiar to you as your own self, but a moment’s reflection is liable to make the familiar puzzling. We begin with something that might seem obvious: you exist. But what kind of thing are you? Call this the personal ontology question. After introducing some dualist answers to the question, we investigate materialist answers. However, as we’ll see, these answers are threatened by the problem of the many. This problem undermines a familiar view of ourselves according to which we are persisting, free, and ontologically special. Furthermore, it has been argued that the problem supports dualist answers to the personal ontology question. Can materialist answers be maintained? We conclude with an investigation of the metaphysics of death and its relation to different answers to the personal ontology question.

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