previously, i was a visiting lecturer in the department of philosophy at boston university (2012-13). i hold a ph.d. in philosophy from boston university (2013) and a b.s. in physics from the university of virginia (2006).
i was the recipient of a fulbright scholarship (2002-6), a leventis foundation scholarship (2009-11), and an earhart foundation fellowship (2012-3). for the 2009-10 academic year, i was a visiting scholar in the department of philosophy at the university of pittsburgh. in 2008, i was a junior visiting fellow at the institut für die wissenschaften vom menschen.
i work on philosophy of mind, metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of cognitive science and psychology, and phenomenology.
work on consciousness & epistemic arguments against physicalism
in a series of articles and a forthcoming book, i develop an account of the nature of phenomenal concepts (i.e., the concepts that we deploy when we introspectively examine our phenomenal experiences) and use this account to respond to epistemic arguments against physicalism – that is, arguments that purport to infer an ontological gap between consciousness and physical processes from an epistemic gap between phenomenal truths and physical truths. consciousness, i hold, is physical even if truths about our conscious lives are not epistemically (or a priori) entailed by physical truths. in fact, i show that what accounts for the epistemic gap between phenomenal truths and physical truths is not consciousness’ exceptional (i.e., non-physical) nature, but instead the peculiar character of the way in which we conceptualize and ultimately think about consciousness.
work on physicalism
the debate surrounding the veracity of physicalism (and consequently, the ontological status of consciousness) is not the only debate that concerns physicalism. a related and equally important debate concerns the very nature and character of physicalism. precisely what is the thesis of physicalism? how should it be defined? what are the commitments of physicalism? what needs to be true in order for physicalism to be true? in my research, i seek to provide answers to these questions. i argue for a theory-based definition of physicalism – one that defines physical properties in terms of the properties that are postulated by current physics. i reject the contention that physicalism is committed to the view that all truths can be a priori entailed by physical truths. and i show that physicalism should be distinguished from micro-physicalism since the former does not entail the latter.
work on philosophy of psychology, cognitive science, and phenomenology
coming to terms with the nature of mentality requires more than an examination of the mind’s ontological status. it also requires an investigation into what the mind does and how it does it. for that reason, i also confront issues pertaining to the nature of the mind by drawing upon and combining cognitive-scientific and phenomenological perspectives. in my published work, i delineate the role of appraisals in emotions and examine what phenomenology reveals about the nature of imagination. presently, I am interested in articulating the character of boredom. to this end, i am developing an account of boredom that holds that on account of its affective, volitional, and cognitive aspects, boredom motivates the pursuit of a new goal when the current goal ceases to be satisfactory, attractive, or meaningful to the agent. boredom thus helps to restore the perception that one’s activities are meaningful or significant. it acts as a regulatory state that keeps one in line with one’s projects.
at the university of louisville
spring 2015: consciousness
the course is an examination of consciousness’ ontological status.it aims to critically assess the debate between those who assert that consciousness is physical and those who deny such an assertion. the class will be devoted to a close examination of a particular strategy (“the phenomenal concept strategy”) that aims to understand and solve a number of puzzles about consciousness. according to this strategy, what well-known arguments against physicalism establish is not a metaphysical difference between physical and phenomenal facts but rather a difference between the nature of phenomenal concepts (i.e., the concepts that we use to think about consciousness) and physical concepts. in this course, we will attempt to determine whether the phenomenal concept strategy is a viable strategy or not.
spring 2014: epistemology of modality and the a priori
modal statements – that is, statements about what is necessary and possible – figure prominently both in everyday and in philosophical discourse. but how do we know what is possible or impossible, necessary or contingent? by what means do we acquire modal knowledge? one influential view posits a strong link between conceivability and possibility and maintains that the primary source of our modal knowledge is our ability to conceive of certain scenarios or states of affairs. that is to say, if a state of affairs is conceivable, then we have good reasons to think that it is possible. In this course, we will critically evaluate conceivability-based accounts of modal knowledge. In particular, we will ask and attempt to answer the following questions: how strong is the link between conceivability and possibility? does conceivability imply or merely suggest possibility? does the existence of necessary a posteriori truths undermine the link between conceivability and possibility or can conceivability-based accounts use two-dimensional semantics to adequately deal with such truths? does modal reliabilism offer a better account of modal knowledge than accounts based on conceivability?
fall 2013 & spring 2014: critical thinking
to think critically is a skill, one that can be acquired through hard work and practice. when we engage in critical thinking we are able to amass and assess information in a balanced and informed way; moreover we can monitor our own patterns of reasoning and reach conclusions through the use of arguments and based on sufficient evidence. for most of us, however, critical thinking does not come naturally, and, often, our thinking fails to be critical. that is, our thinking is often biased, partial, uninformed, or subject to certain fallacies. but engagement in critical thinking is of utmost importance and must be safeguarded. among other things, it is through critical thinking that we can determine what is true and what is false, and ascertain the best or optimal course of action.
fall 2013: contemporary ethical problems
this course is an introduction to the philosophical study of morality through the examination of a number of timely and pressing ethical issues.
we will begin the course by engaging in a study of normative ethics. normative ethics is the part of moral philosophy that articulates and justifies criteria that allow us to determine whether something is morally right or wrong. in our study of normative ethics will we will examine in a systematic and rigorous manner two canonical approaches of explicating what it means for an action to be right: (a) utilitarianism – the view according to which right actions are those that bring about the greatest balance of happiness over unhappiness for everyone involved; (b) deontology – the view according to which the rightness of an action is determined by whether the action is in agreement with (or more strongly, stems from) our moral duty. our aim in this part of the course is to acquire the requisite conceptual tools and theoretical background that will permit us to evaluate in an informed and critical manner the ethical issues that we will be studying in this course.
in the remaining part of the course, we will turn our attention to a selection of contemporary ethical issues. we will ask and answer, among others, the following questions: do we have a moral obligation to give to charity? if so, how much should we give? is it immoral to be eating animals? if so, which animals should we stop eating? if not, why is it ethically permissible to be eating animals? what kind of moral obligations do children have, if any, to their parents? do certain medical interventions and enhancements confer an unfair advantage to those who are in position to use them? if so, should those forms of interventions be banned? is pornography a form of violence to women? are perpetrators of atrocities always morally responsible for their actions? are we biased in certain ways and towards certain groups of people? is it immoral to harbor such biases? if so, how can we get rid of them?