Alex Steinberg's website


I work on issues in metaphysics and the philosophy of logic and language. Below is a list of my papers (and papers-to-be).

  • in progress
    • paper on that-clause reference and substitution failures
    • paper on that-clause semantics for Fregean reference shifters
    • paper on the acquaintance requirements in statements of personal taste
    • paper on the semantics of theoretical terms
    • paper on the ontological dependence of pleonastic propositions
    • paper on Bernard Bolzano's argument for the existence of substances
  • forthcoming
    • 'Propositionen als ontologische Leichtgewichte' (propositions as ontological lightweights). Accepted for publication in Zeitschrift für philosophische Forschung.

      In his recent book ‘Pleonastische Propositionen’ Matthias Schürmann presents and defends an account of propositions as pleonastic entities. In this paper I challenge one of his main claims, namely that pleonastic propositions are ontologically dependent on thinkers. I argue that Schürmann’s dependence claim is in tension with core tenets of a pleonastic account and, hence, unavailable for an elaboration of what it means that pleonastic entities are ontologically lightweight.

    • 'In defence of Fregean that-clause semantics' (with K. Felka). Forthcoming in a collection on Unstructured Content, edited by Andy Egan, Dirk Kindermann and Peter van Elswyk, Oxford: OUP.

      Gottlob Frege famously argued that expressions within natural language that-clauses shift their denotation to what is ordinarily their sense. Recently, Adam Pautz and Stephen Schiffer have both argued that Frege must be wrong, since, according to them, his denotation shift thesis predicts that certain intuitively invalid inferences are in fact valid. In the paper we argue that Pautz and Schiffer are mistaken: they implicitly rely on a naïve view on the semantics of variables in that-clauses, a view that runs counter to the spirit of the Fregean proposal. We go on to develop a Fregean alternative that is both plausible from a Fregean standpoint and gets validity and invalidity predictions right.

  • 2020
    • 'Pleonastic Propositions and the Face Value Theory', Synthese 197, 1165–1180. The published version is available at

      Propositions are a useful tool in philosophical theorizing, even though they are not beyond reasonable nominalistic doubts. Stephen Schiffer’s pleonasticism about propositions is a paradigm example of a realistic account that tries to alleviate such doubts by grounding truths about propositions in ontologically innocent facts. Schiffer maintains two characteristic theses about propositions: first, that they are so-called pleonastic entities whose existence is subject to what he calls something-from-nothing transformations (pleonasticism); and, second, that they are the referents of ‘that’-clauses that function as singular terms in propositional attitude ascriptions (the Face Value Theory). The paper turns the first thesis against the second: if propositions are pleonastic entities, it is argued, we should not take them to be referred to in propositional attitude ascriptions. Rather, propositional attitude ascriptions should be available as bases for propositional something-from-nothing transformations.

    • 'Paradigmatic Metaphysics'. Australasian Journal of Philosophy. The published version is available online at

      In a series of papers Christian Nimtz argues for the view that the semantic notion of paradigm termhood lies at the heart of Kripkean philosophy of language and metaphysics. According to Nimtz, this has deflationary consequences for natural kind essentialism. The paper applies results from the theory of equivalence relations, thereby separating logical and extra-logical components in Nimtz’s argument. On this basis the deflationary claim is critically discussed and rejected.

  • 2019
    • 'How to properly lose direction', Synthese online first. The published version is available online at

      One of the central puzzles in ontology concerns the relation between apparently innocent sentences and their ontologically loaded counterparts. In recent work, Agustín Rayo has developed the insight that such cases can be usefully described with the help of the 'just is' operator: plausibly, for there to be a table just is for there to be some things arranged tablewise; and for the number of dinosaurs to be Zero just is for there to be no dinosaurs. How does the operator relate to another prominent notion that is frequently put to similar use: metaphysical grounding? In this paper I show that despite what has been argued in the literature the 'just is' operator can be spelled out in terms of grounding: roughly, as having the same ultimate grounds. This is good news for Rayo, for it broadens his target audience. It is even better news for the friends of ground. For it exemplifies the immense fruitfulness of the notion of grounding in its ability to incorporate philosophically highly significant subtheories.

  • 2018
    • 'Adequate Counterpart Translations', Mind 127, 547–563.The published version is available online at Oxford Academic.

      An important motivation for believing in the modal realist's ontology of other concrete possible worlds and their inhabitants is its theoretical utility, centrally the reduction of ordinary modal talk to counterpart theory as showcased by David Lewis's 1968 translation scheme. In a recent paper Harold Noonan, following the lead of John Divers, argues that Lewis's scheme is not strictly adequate by the modal realist's own lights, and that nothing short of jettisoning de dicto contingency will help. In this paper, I argue that this is a serious overreaction. First, I show that Noonan's problem does not touch Lewis's proposal, since his translation scheme is not even concerned with the relevant sentences. Thus, Noonan's problem only points to a limit in scope. I then go on to propose a straightforward extension of the translation scheme that provides translations for the allegedly problematic sentences, but does so endangering neither adequacy nor de dicto contingency.

  • 2017
    • 'A Note on Surplus Content', Australasian Philosophical Review 1, 202–205.
    • 'Supervenienz' (supervenience), in Schrenk, M. (ed.): Handbuch Metaphysik, Stuttgart/Weimar: Metzler, 272–277.
  • 2016
    • 'Without Reason?' (with B. Schnieder), Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 97, 523–541.
  • 2015
    • 'Priority Monism and Part/Whole Dependence', Philosophical Studies 172, 2025–2031. The published version is available at
  • 2014
    • 'Defining Global Supervenience', Erkenntnis 79, 367–80
  • 2013
    • 'Supervenience: A Survey', in Hoeltje, M., B. Schnieder & A. Steinberg (eds.): Varieties of Dependence, Munich: Philosophia, 123–66.
    • 'Explanation by Induction?' (with M. Hoeltje & B. Schnieder), Synthese 190, 509–24.
    • 'Pleonastic Possible Worlds', Philosophical Studies 164, 767–89.
  • 2012
    • 'Der Satz vom Grunde' (The Principle of Sufficient Reason), in Nida-Rümelin, J. & E. Özmen (eds.): Welt der Gründe (= Deutsches Jahrbuch Philosophie 4), Hamburg: Meiner, 84–94.
  • 2010
    • 'What Might Be and What Might Have Been' (with B. Schnieder & M. Schulz), in Conrad, S.-J. & S. Imhof (eds.): P. F. Strawson — Ding und Begriff / Object and Concept. Frankfurt: ontos, 135–62.
  • 2009
    • 'Review of J.C. Beall (ed.): Revenge of the Liar', Philosophy 84, 454–58.
Preprints of many of the older papers are available on the Phlox website.