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.