I am Commonwealth Professor in the Department of Philosophy at the University of Virginia. My interests center in the philosophy of mind, especially self-knowledge, consciousness, mental content, and the self. Most recently, I’ve been working on two topics: (1) self-knowledge and (2) the “mind” boundary. Details about each of these are below. I teach graduate courses in the philosophy of mind and epistemology, and undergraduate courses in these areas and in action theory and free will.
(1) Self-knowledge. Recently, I’ve defended empiricism about self-knowledge from the challenge that empiricism portrays the subject’s relation to her own mental states as that of a detached spectator. And I’ve developed an epistemically modest version of the acquaintance approach to self-knowledge of our phenomenal states. I’m currently working on a paper examining how the acquaintance approach bears on broadly epistemic interpretations of the physical and, hence, on physicalism.
Some recent work on self-knowledge:
- “Self-Knowledge and Rational Agency: a defense of empiricism” (forthcoming), Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
- Critical notice of Quassim Cassam, Self-Knowledge for Humans (2016). Mind 125: 269-80.
- “Self-Knowledge” (2015) in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
- “Renewed Acquaintance” (2012), in Introspection and Consciousness, edited by Declan Smithies and Daniel Stoljar. Oxford University Press, pp. 89-123).
- Self-Knowledge, (2011) Routledge, New Problems in Philosophy series.
(2) The “mind” boundary. Is there a principled way of delineating the mind (or the self)? If so, what is it that distinguishes what is “internal” to the mind (or self) from what is “external” to it? I am now at work on a book on these issues, tentatively titled Mental Individualism. I systematically consider a range of philosophical positions premised on a significant “mind” boundary, including: internalism and externalism about thought contents; some views about the difference between reasoning and brute processing; and some strategies for distinguishing genuinely intentional action from mere behavior. I argue that if there is a profound, principled distinction between what is within the mind and what lies outside of it, of the kind required for these positions, then it is only occurrent states that are within the mind: dispositional (or “standing”) attitudes are not, strictly speaking, mental. The resulting picture supports a bundle theory of the mind and, in turn, of the self.
Earlier work on this topic:
- “Understanding the Internalism-Externalism Debate: What is the Boundary of the Thinker?” (2012) in Philosophical Perspectives: Philosophy of Mind, pp. 51-75
- “Overextending the Mind?” (2007) In Arguing about the Mind, Gertler and Shapiro, eds. Routledge.
- “Content Externalism and the Epistemic Conception of the Self”. (2007) Philosophical Issues 17: 37-56.
Appearances on Philosophy TV: