Research

I fit somewhat uncomfortably in armchairs.

Overview

Much contemporary philosophy of mind takes either an introspectionist or empiricist approach. The former takes the deliverances of introspection as the core phenomena for philosophical theorizing, while the latter endeavors to reduce mental categories to kinds identified by the cognitive sciences.

In my work, I start with the mental as it shows up in folk psychology, which is neither especially introspective, nor constrained to the kinds uncovered by the cognitive sciences. This approach was favored by P.F. Strawson, and other descriptive metaphysicians, but the project looks very different now, in light of the empirical work on social cognition over the last fifty years.

My dissertation—'Understanding Minds: Essays on Social Cognition'—treats the problem of other minds from this perspective, with some surprising results. Among them, I argue that we perceive agency, but not mental states, that perception immediately justifies beliefs that outstrip how things are perceptually presented, and that the personal–subpersonal distinction is a psychological construction.

In the future, I plan to pursue accounts of more 'sophisticated' knowledge of the mental—introspection and empathy, apply my epistemology of perception to other topics, and develop my constructivist account of the personal, especially as it relates to the normative.

Publications

Constructing Persons: On the Personal–Subpersonal Distinction

Philosophical Psychology (In Press)

Perceiving Agency

Mind and Language (2022)

Other Minds Are Neither Seen Nor Inferred

Synthese (2021)

Papers in Progress

[Title Witheld to Preserve Blind Review]

A paper about the epistemology of perception

[Title Witheld to Preserve Blind Review]

A paper about social epistemology

[Title Witheld to Preserve Blind Review]

A paper about social cognition

What Unifies Social Cognition?

Recently, there has been a profusion of work suggesting that social cognition is pluralistic. Those of us who find this work persuasive must face a further question: what, if anything, unifies social cognition? This paper suggests there's good reason to resist answering 'nothing', clarifies what an answer should look like, and tentatively proposes one. (Draft coming soon)

You Will Get Your Reward

Reinforcement learning (RL) has enjoyed remarkable successes in recent years. These successes raise the possibility that RL is grokking something deep about intelligence—something that may illuminate important facts about both natural and artificial intelligence, and point the way towards constructing artificial general intelligence. This paper takes a step back to consider how the notion of 'reward'—central to RL—should be understood philosophically. I suggest that there are several importantly different understandings operative, and draw connections to a classical debate in the history of cognitive science. Once these understandings are distinguished, we can more carefully assess RL's significance for thinking about both natural and artificial intelligence. (Draft coming soon)

Presentations (Selected)

Polarization is Epistemically Innocuous

APA Central Division, February 2022

Perceiving Agency

Society for Philosophy and Psychology, June 2021

Polarization is Epistemically Innocuous

Canadian Philosophical Association, June 2021

A Constructivist Account of the Personal–Subpersonal Distinction

APA Pacific Division, April 2021

Animacy as Perceived Agency

Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology, December 2020

The Epistemology of Looks

APA Eastern Division, January 2020 (Handout)

Perceiving Animacy

The Joint Session of the Aristotelian Society & the Mind Association, July 2019

The Personal–Subpersonal Distinction and Social Cognition

Society for Philosophy and Psychology, July 2019

Ampliative Perceptual Judgments and Other Minds

Canadian Philosophical Association: Annual Congress, June 2019 (Handout)

Other Minds are Neither Seen Nor Inferred

APA Eastern Division, January 2019