Tom Donaldson

Hallo! I am an assistant professor in the philosophy department at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, British Columbia.


My research concerns the analytic/synthetic distinction, the a priori, trivialism, and grounding. Also William James.


This is the best textbook for introductory courses in philosophy. It makes a great gift for family members, colleagues, friends, neighbours, and pets.

Courses at SFU

Click the button to read about some of my teaching at SFU.


I'm a proponent of the analytic/synthetic distinction. I like to use elementary arithmetic as a case study. I claim that, in certain circumstances, the truths of elementary arithmetic are — in one sense of this ambiguous term — analytic.My friend Meghan Sullivan used to talk with approval about "badass" philosophy: the badass philosopher makes strong claims and defends them without compromise. Think of David Lewis, or Rambo.My defence of the analytic/synthetic distinction is not badass in Meghan's sense. On the contrary, it is highly qualified. In particular, I'm not persuaded that the truths of elementary arithmetic are a priori.Most recently, I've been working on metaphysical issues. Suppose it's granted that the truths of elementary arithmetic are analytic. What does this imply about the metaphysical status of the numbers? Are they grounded -- and, if so, by what? Are they "thin" (and what does that mean)? Do they have essences? And so on.Some of my papers are linked below. You can find a complete list on my PhilPapers page.

In "The (Metaphysical) Foundations of Arithmetic?", I discuss a proposal about the metaphysical grounds of arithmetical facts, due to Robert Schwartzkopff and Gideon Rosen.

"What was James's Theory of Truth?" is an exposition and defence of William James's theory of truth. I emphasize James's truth pluralism.

"A Trivialist's Travails" is an evaluation of Agustín Rayo's "trivialism" in the philosophy of mathematics, focusing on epistemological issues.

In "A Metaphysical Puzzle for Neo-Fregean Abstractionists", I argue that there is a prima facie conflict between neo-Fregean abstractionism and serious actualism.

In "David Armstrong and the Metaphysics of Mathematics" I explain and evaluate Armstrong's late views on the metaphysics of mathematics.

I revisit the claim that analytic statements are "true in virtue of meaning", giving the "in virtue of" a ground-theoretic interpretation. This is a chapter in Mike Raven's book, The Routledge Handbook of Metaphysical Grounding.


The book is intended for use in first-year introductory philosophy courses. It first came out in 2019.We're currently preparing a second edition. We'll add a chapter on race and a chapter on democracy.

Contents1. What Is Philosophy?
2. What Are Arguments, and How Should We Evaluate Them?
3. Does God Exist?
4. Why Does God Leave Us to Suffer?
5. Can We Be Completely Certain of Anything? [Descartes' Meditations]
6. Can We Trust Our Senses?
7. Will the Sun Rise Tomorrow? [The problem of induction]
8. What Is Knowledge?
9. Do We Have Free Will?
10. How Is Your Mind Related to Your Body?
11. Will You Be the Same Person in Ten Years? Could You Survive Death?
12. Are There Objective Truths about Right and Wrong?
13. What Really Matters? [Axiology and meaning]
14. What Should We Do? (Part I) [Normative Ethics]
15. What Should We Do? (Part II) [Applied ethics]

Courses at SFU

I regularly teach a first year introductory logic course at SFU. Bruno Guindon and I are working on an SFU edition of PD Magnus's textbook, forallx.I also teach a first year broad-ranging introduction to philosophy. To my shame, I assign the textbook I coauthored.I also teach a third year course on the philosophy of mathematics, aimed at students in mathematics programs as well as students in philosophy.

My spouse is Jennifer Wang.Our son, Charlie, was born in February 2019. On the right is a picture of me and Charlie walking to daycare.

When I'm not thinking about philosophy, I like being outdoors (especially running and cycling). I also play the cello, though rather less since February 2019.