Tom Donaldson


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


Research

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


Textbook

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.

Research


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.

To read some of my papers, please go to my philpeople page by clicking the button below.

Textbook


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.

Contents

1. 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


In the fall term of 2020, I will lead a seminar for MA students and advanced undergrads on the analytic/synthetic distinction.

In the spring term of 2021, I will teach "PHIL 100W: Knowledge & Reality." When I teach this course, I like to focus on the really grand questions: Does God exist? What does life mean? Is the physical world all that there is?

Also in the spring term of 2021, I will teach a course on the philosophy of mathematics.

My partner is Jennifer Wang.

Our son, Charlie, was born in February 2019. This is a picture of Charlie walking to daycare with me.

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.