Mark Ressler

Ph.D. Philosophy
University of Melbourne, 2009
Current Research
Philosophy of Technology
Philosophical Methodology

Curriculum Vitae



(Untitled Philosophy of Technology)


Engages a new analytical approach to the philosophy of technology, in contrast to the phenomenological and critical theoretical approaches that seem to have dominated the field to date. Informed by the author's dual background in philosophy and in information technology.

The Method of Perspectival Reduction


Outlines a philosophical meta-methodology whereby philosophical results are first relativized to their presuppositions, then the relativized system is reduced to a non-relative system, if possible. The resulting system should constitute a more extensive analysis of the topic, taking a wide range of presuppositions and perspectives into account.

The Logic of Relativism

This in-depth study aims to develop a rigorous analysis of the nature and the logic of relativism in general as a basis for evaluating the charge of self-refutation against relativism. It develops a general definition of relativism that distinguishes relativism from structurally similar notions such as conventionalism and contextualism. On the basis of this definition, it formulates a series of logical systems that each might be presented as candidates for the logic of relativism. Each system is evaluated to see whether it can sustain the charge of self-refutation. The result is that one of these systems can be proven not to be self-refuting, even under increasingly stronger challenges. Consequently, this study argues that even global relativism can be demonstrated not to refute itself, despite the long history of arguments to the contrary.

Published Papers

Thoroughly Relativistic Perspectives

Notre Dame Journal of Formal Logic, Volume 53, Number 1 (2012), 89-112.

This article formulates five relative systems to evaluate the charge of self-refutation with regard to global relativism. It is demonstrated that all five of these systems support models with at least one thoroughly relativistic perspective. However, when these systems are extended to include an operator expressing the valuation of statements in a perspective, only one relative system, based on a non-normal modal logic, supports a thoroughly relativistic perspective.

Unpublished Papers

Pegasus Explained Away

The consequences of Quine's criterion of ontological commitment epitomized in his treatment of the term 'Pegasus' in "On What There Is" are evaluated in terms of Quine's own work, in particular in "The Variable" and "Variables Explained Away". There is a cost to maintaining this criterion with regard to the empirical consequences of some non-existent objects, given considerations prompted by Quine's holism. This cost can be reduced by adopting a noneist position according to which non-existent objects can be values of bound variables as well.

x and the Politics of y, for some x and y

Inauthenticity can be understood as following the herd, in line with a metaphor from Nietzsche. The idea of inauthentic philosophy is explored in an analysis of the titles of articles in philosophy journals, particularly those following the general pattern of 'x and the Politics of y'.

The Value of Apparently Incoherent Positions

Incoherence arguments are intended to demonstrate that some philosophical position should be rejected because it is fatally flawed. I review the kinds of fatal flaws targeted in incoherence arguments, and argue that such arguments are not conclusive against the position they target, but merely pose challenges that require greater imagination. Furthermore, I claim that apparently incoherent positions have an instrumental value in expanding the intellectual resources of philosophy.

Perspectival Methods in Metaphysics

There seems to be a difficulty in the practice of metaphysics, in that any methodology used in metaphysical study relies on certain presuppositions, whereby it seems that metaphysical results are relative to those presuppositions. What is needed is a methodology that can yield objective metaphysical results that are not limited by the presuppositions of that methodology. This paper argues for a way to triangulate on stable metaphysical results by using existing methodologies as perspectives on metaphysical topics, and by reducing the differences between those perspectives to non-perspectival truths, if possible.

The Basics of Perspectival Reduction

While philosophical results might seem to be relative to the presuppositions of the methods that generate them, this paper proposes a meta-methodology to coordinate those results. The apparent relativity of competing philosophical methodologies can be reduced by the application of any of three general techniques derived from an analysis of relativism in general, one of which, the technique of commensuration, does not seem to have been very well appreciated within philosophical practice. An ideal application of commensuration suggests two theoretical virtues, competitive subsumption and reflexive reiteration, and these virtues are demonstrated in the examination of competing accounts of the nature of explanation.

Possibility in a Single World

In response to suspicions concerning the use of possible worlds in philosophy, this brief paper proposes an analysis of possibility that requires only a single world, using a combination of temporal logic and a potentiality operator.

Relativism and Tolerance Revisited

This paper reviews arguments concerning the relation between relativism and tolerance, both whether tolerance entails relativism, and whether relativism entails tolerance. Two new arguments are offered to support the contention that there is no necessary relation between relativism and tolerance. In particular, building on the classic argument by Geoffrey Harrison, this paper argues that even if there is no strict dichotomy between facts and values, as Harrison had assumed, relativism still does not entail tolerance for every relativized perspective.

Dual Categorization and the Role of Aristotle's Categories

In the Categories, Aristotle addresses two different cases of dual categorization, cases in which the same thing might appear in two different categories: relatives and secondary substances in the first case, qualities and relatives in the second. His treatment of these two cases is markedly different. Ackrill thinks dual categorization poses a dilemma for Aristotle’s project as a whole, but I argue that there is a dilemma only on particular understandings of Aristotle’s purpose in compiling the list of categories. I investigate various interpretations of the categories to find one that explains Aristotle’s reactions to dual categorization, and suggest an interpretation of the peculiar four-fold system of classification in Chapter 2.

Seven Theses Concerning Hume's Skepticism with Regard to Reason

There is a controversy concerning whether to give Section 1.4.1 of Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature a skeptical or naturalistic reading. I divide the overall interpretation of this section into seven smaller interpretative theses, none of which alone determine either a skeptical or naturalistic reading, but which together better support what has been called the naturalistic interpretation.


The Logic of Relative Systems

Ph.D. Thesis, The University of Melbourne, 2009

Relativism is defined as radical indexed pluralism, and the conditions required to qualify as relativism are outlined. Five formal systems are developed to represent the logic of relativism, and the charge of self-refutation is evaluated. The study concludes that relativism is not formally self-refuting.

Connectionism and the Intentionality of the Programmer

M.A. Thesis, San Diego State University, 2003

This thesis argues that conclusions reached concerning the cognitive abilities of connectionist systems may be improperly influenced by the intentionality of the programmer of the system. Rather, such conclusions should be based upon a consideration of the native intentionality of the system, but the nature of artificial intentionality must first be explained.