Associate Professor of Philosophy
“Physicalism Requires Functionalism: A New Formulation and Defense of the Via Negativa,” forthcoming in Philosophy and
Phenomenological Research. [DRAFT]
How should ‘the physical’ be defined for the purpose of formulating physicalism? In this paper I defend a version of the via negativa according to which a property is physical just in case it is neither fundamentally mental nor possibly realized by a fundamentally mental property. The guiding idea is that physicalism requires functionalism, and thus that being a type identity theorist requires being a realizer-functionalist. In §1 I motivate my approach partly by arguing against Jessica Wilson’s no fundamental mentality constraint. In §2 I set out my preferred definition of ‘the physical’ and make my case that physicalism requires functionalism. In §3 I defend my proposal by attacking the leading alternative account of ‘the physical,’ the theory-based conception. Finally, in §4 I draw on my definition, together with Jaegwon Kim’s account of intertheoretic reduction, to defend the controversial view that physicalism requires a priori physicalism.
“Grounding Causal Closure,” forthcoming in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. [DRAFT]
What does it mean to say that dualism is causally problematic in a way that other mind-body theories are not? After considering and
rejecting various proposal, I advance my own, focusing on what grounds the causal closure of the physical realm.
“The Role Functionalist Theory of Absences,” Erkenntnis, 80.3 (2015), 505-519. [DRAFT]
Functionalist theories have been proposed for just about everything: mental states, dispositions, moral properties, truth, causation, and much else. In this work I defend a role functionalist theory of nothing. Or, more accurately, a role functionalist theory of those absences that are causes and effects.
“Explaining Causal Closure,” Philosophical Studies, 172.9 (2015), 2405-2425. [DRAFT]
The physical realm is causally closed, but why is it causally closed? In what follows I argue that reductive physicalists are committed to embracing one explanation of causal closure to the exclusion of others, and that as a result they must give up on using a causal argument to attack mind-body dualism.
“A Priori Scrutability and That’s All,” The Journal of Philosophy, 111.12 (2014), 649-666. [DRAFT]
In his recent book Constructing the World, David Chalmers defends A Priori Scrutability, the thesis that there is a compact class of truths such that for any truth p, a Laplacian intellect could know a priori that if the truths in that class hold, then p. In this paper, I develop an objection to Chalmers’ thesis that focuses on his treatment of a so-called that’s-all truth. My objection draws on Theodore Sider’s discussion of border-sensitive properties, and also on the causal phenomenon of double prevention.
“A Psychofunctionalist Argument against Nonconceptualism,” Synthese, 191.16 (2014), 3919-3934. [DRAFT]
I argue that conscious visual experience is a conceptual state (has “conceptual content” rather than “nonconceptual content,” in one sense of these terms) by drawing on Milner and Goodale’s Two Visual Systems Hypothesis and the holistic implications of psychofunctionalism.
“Subset Realization and the Problem of Property Entailment,” Erkenntnis, 79.2 (2014), 471-480. [DRAFT]
I argue that Sydney Shoemaker’s response to Brian McLaughlin’s objection to the subset account of realization is unsuccessful. I then put forward my own response to McLaughlin’s objection.
“The Cost of Forfeiting Causal Inheritance,” Philosophical Studies, 165.2 (2013), 491-507. [DRAFT]
I draw on Jaegwon Kim’s causal inheritance principle to argue against Sydney Shoemaker’s subset account of realization. In the process, I draw on a debate regarding the extended mind hypothesis defended by Andy Clark and David Chalmers.
“Ectoplasm Earth,” Canadian Journal of Philosophy, 42.3/4 (2012), 167-186. [DRAFT]
Distinguish the general thesis of physicalism simpliciter from the more restricted thesis of physicalism about the mental. Physicalism about the mental cannot be defined in terms of psychophysical supervenience or any alternative relation that entails such supervenience. Instead, it must be defined in terms of a form of realization that is not supervenience-entailing.
“Psychophysical Reductionism without Type Identities,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 49.3 (2012), 223-236. [DRAFT]
If you’re going to be a psychophysical reductionist, must you be a type identity theorist? No. In this work I set out an alternative reductionist view, type eliminativism, and argue for its superiority to the type identity theory.
“Disproportional Mental Causation,” Synthese, 182 (2011), 375-391. [DRAFT]
I argue against the proportionality component of Stephen Yablo’s account of mental causation and show that alternative nonreductive physicalist accounts of mental causation that do not appeal to proportionality can avoid counterexamples that Yablo’s account is susceptible to.
“Emergence and Quantum Mechanics,” with Fred Kronz, Philosophy of Science, 69.2 (2002), 324-347.
We develop an account of dynamic emergence, according to which emergent wholes are produced by an essential, ongoing interaction of their parts. We argue that this account has application within quantum mechanics, and in particular that it applies in cases involving nonseparable Hamiltonians.
Review of Constructing the World by David Chalmers, Philosophy, 88.4 (2013), 630-635.
A brief summary of my dissertation on mental causation.
Dissertation: Normativism and Mental Causation
All 293 pages of it.