What is the opposite of 'fundamental'? 
Short version:

I think that I might start calling my approach meso metaphysics.

The long version:
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Natural kinds road show 
I posted an updated version of my paper on Mill on natural kinds, in advance of giving a talk at Middlebury College tomorrow.

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Locke grab bag 
I am teaching our undergraduate Descartes-to-Kant course this term. Rather than sprinting through seven thinkers, I just do five. And I don't even do that much Locke. Since we only have a week and a half on Locke - and since Locke's Essay is such a wide-ranging book - I target three topics: innate ideas, personal identity, and abstract ideas.

These three topics can seem unrelated. I tell students that they can think of them as a grab bag: the first as an answer to Descartes, the second as a fun diversion, and the third as an anticipation of Berkeley. They show the class the broad features of Locke's picture of the mind and language, but not in a systematic way.

1. Locke's arguments that there are no innate ideas provide a contrast with Descartes, who the class has just discussed. Without the concept of God as innate, the causal argument of Meditation 3 collapses. Berkeley, who we read next, thinks that Locke is so convincing on this point that there is no need to say anything further about the matter.

2. The concept of personal identity does not arise for Descartes or for Berkeley, but it is fun. The issue basically begins with Locke, and it's a antidote to the idea that philosophical topics are all timeless.

3. Berkeley spends the entire introduction to the Principles arguing that there are no abstract ideas. We get to that next week, and Locke's arguments for the existence of abstract ideas give some context.

Yesterday, the last day on Locke covered his distinction between nominal and real essences. I noticed two ways in which the topics integrate which I hadn't noticed when I taught this last time.
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What I said to the Russians 
Several years ago, I gave a talk at a telematic conference held between Albany and Moscow - brief but sweeping remarks about the state of philosophy of science in the 21st century, an apologia for general philosophy of science. Proceedings of several of those conferences, including my short item, were published last month in Metaphilosophy. They are basically unchanged from the 2009 blog post that I link to above.

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Covering the issue 
My paper on cover songs, coauthored with Cristyn Magnus and Christy Mag Uidhir, was recently accepted at The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. We have now submitted our final draft.

I will now have four published articles in aesthetics, enough to count as a research programme if you squint a bit. Since my primary work is in philosophy of science, this might make me seem like a dilettante. If this just means that I have lots of interests, I do. It's what Eric Schwitzgebel recently called trusting your sense of fun. But the strict meaning of "dilettante" is someone who dips into different areas without really knowing what's going on, and that's not what I do. Trusting your sense of fun can mean publishing in diverse areas, rather than narrowly in one area of specialization, but it is compatible with engaging intelligently with those areas.

Moreover, a number of my papers have explicitly applied lessons from philosophy of science to philosophy of art: Pluralism about species in philosophy of biology provides a model for pluralism about art. Musical works understood as historical individuals are best seen as Homeostatic Property Clusters.

At a more general level, I think there is a natural connection between my interests in philosophy of science and my interests in philosophy of art. Considering scientific realism or natural kinds, I want to know what we should really think the world is like given that we tend to accept science. Asking what the world is like, given that we appreciate music, is not so different. I discuss this approach a bit in chapter 4 of my book, but it is more a way of going forward than a spelled-out doctrine.

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