Assistant Professor of Philosophy
PhD University of Michigan 2007, BA Harvard 1980
Area of Specialization
Metaphysics, Philosophy of Mind
Area of Competence
Philosophy of Science
'What it is like to be a Quark' Journal of Consciousness Studies, forthcoming.
My current research focuses on the nature of matter, the nature of consciousness, and the relation between matter and consciousness.
My views on the nature of matter fall into three groups. 1) I have a theory of the relation between the characteristics of matter and the underlying stuff that has those characteristics. I maintain that there really is no distinction here. This flies in the face of a very long tradition and an enormous literature. 2) I have views about the nature of the material stuff that underlies the properties science reveals. This is necessary background to my ideas about consciousness. 3) I have arguments about whether matter (or mass-energy) comes in minimum indivisible packages, or whether it can be parceled out in even smaller chunks. This also serves as background to my ideas about consciousness.
My theories of consciousness put forward a radical solution to the mind-body problem. I suggest that those material objects which have consciousness (such as our brains) are conscious because their most basic constituents are themselves conscious, at least in some rudimentary fashion. My work in this area falls under four groups. 1) I am refining arguments for the view first advanced in my dissertation (‘Panpsychism: an Exploration and Defense’). These purport to show the implausibility of the logical alternatives to my claims. 2) I explain what it means for a basic particle of matter to have consciousness. 3) I propose a theory accounting for the creation of higher consciousnesses from the rudimentary consciousnesses of basic material particles. 4) I explore the implications of these views for the problem of mental causation (in particular, how consciousness might have effects on physical objects – e.g. how our conscious desire to eat causes us to dine).
Both arms of my research make up two parts of an overall theory of the nature of material and mental reality. They offer a view about what consciousness is, what matter is, and how consciousness and matter relate. I believe (and have reasonably well developed views to this effect) that this overall theory entails relatively easy solutions to certain philosophical problems (in the philosophy of language, the philosophy of mind, and metaphysics) that are considered extremely difficult, perhaps intractable.