Research Projects

On this page, you can look at a number of my projects (in progress and planned) or just download my current Research Statement.

Philosophy of Perception/Philosophy of Science/Epistemology

Norwood Russell Hanson’s Account of Experience. An Untimely Defense (Writing Sample, under review – short writing sample further below]

In this paper, I provide an in-depth analysis of the account of experience provided by Norwood Russell Hanson. I show that, if suitably interpreted, his account of the so-called theory-ladenness of (scientific) observation allows one to hold that experience can play a vital rational role even if it is affected in various ways by background beliefs. This, I argue, is a virtue of his account, one that the two currently dominant kinds of accounts of perceptual experience – relationalism and representationalism – lack.

Epistemology

Internalism without Content: How to Avoid Evil Demons (under construction)

In this paper, I argue that the New Evil Demon Problem (NEDP) as it figures in e.g. Robert Howell (2015) and in the debate between Andrew Moon and Kevin McCain does not properly capture the internalist intuition. First, I show that both relationalists and disjunctivists will object to the way the problem is phrased. Relationalist must take issue with the idea that to subjects in radically different worlds, things can seem the same, where ‘seem the same’ is spelled out in terms of the phenomenal character of the relevant experiences. Representationalist disjunctivists, on the other hand, reject the idea that if things seem the same to different subjects, the justificatory status  of their beliefs must be the same. To them, the rational impact of a given seeming differs depending on whether it is a mere seeming or a proper seeing. The latter, but not the former, puts on in a position to know. Yet, I argue, there is a third way to object to NEDP, one that is neither relationalist nor disjunctivist. Against the relationalist, the objection grants that two different experiences can have identical phenomenal character. Against the disjunctivist, it is claimed that experience lacks representational content and does not play a rational role if considered in isolation. Rather, whether or not it plays a role, and which one, depends on what background views subjects bring to bear on it. The resulting view, I suggest, is attractive. For one, it dodges objections faced by relational and representational views. For another, it can be used to construct a modified version of NEDP, which arguably captures the internalist intuition much better than the original version while at the same time forestalling certain worries raised by Howell and Moon.

Propositionalist Evidentialism, a False Dilemma, and the Variable Content View (under construction, short version available on request)

How can evidentialists accommodate the idea that experience plays a vital rational role? One way for evidentialists to do so that, I argue, has so far been neglected is by embracing what I dub the Variable Content View. According to it, experience has propositional content, yet that content, rather than fixed by its phenomenal character (as phenomenal conservatists would hold), is at least partly determined by the experiencing subject’s background view. The Variable Content View, I suggest, is attractive because it successfully navigates between a) the Scylla of epistemological coherentism and b) the Charybdis of epistemological foundationalism. Avoiding the problems associated with them, it manages to accommodate both the vital role of experience in our justificatory endeavors and the importance of the background beliefs we bring to bear on it.

Ethics/Comparative Philosophy

Buddhist Elements in Murdochian Ethics (under construction)

As both Jay Garfield (2015) and Maria Heim (2014) argue, Buddhist Ethics, particularly as construed in Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga, centers on techniques to develop and transform human experience, for doing so is what ultimately drives the moral and spiritual progress of unselfing. Such an understanding of the fundamental role of ethical experience, I suggest, has a close Western cousin in Iris Murdoch’s particular version of virtue ethics. Obvious differences with respect to the underlying metaphysical assumptions notwithstanding, the Buddhist terminology, I argue, allows to to further explain and develop Murdoch’s account. Moreover, drawing both on the differences and commonalities between Buddhist and Murdochian thought enables us to shed light on Murdoch’s otherwise enigmatic claim that she might be understood as a Buddhist Christian.

A companion piece to this paper focuses on failing concepts, compassion, and emptiness in Buddhism and Murdoch’s work. I will present it at the meeting of the Society for the Study of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist Philosophy at the Eastern APA 2018.

Philosophy of Science

Predictive Coding and Presentationalism – Natural Bedfellows? (under construction)

On predictive coding accounts of perception, the generation of percepts in the brain is massively determined by top-down effects. Whether predictive coding accounts are accurate is, of course, contentious. Moreover, it is not obvious that such effects, if they obtain, must be construed as effects on conscious experience (see Macpherson 2016). In this paper, I suggest that if the relevant top-down effects are to be construed as effects on conscious experience, then presentationalism, a view according to which experience is neither relational nor representational, is particularly well-suited to accommodate them. Indeed, presentationalism, I argue, has a leg up both on relational views and certain versions of representationalism.

No Theory-Neutral Observation Necessary (under construction)

I argue against Gerhard Schurz’s claim that to avoid a position according to which reasoning in science is inevitably circular, we must rehabilitate a notion of theory-neutral observation. Vicious circularity, I agree, must be avoided. But a notion of theory-neutral observation, I argue, is neither available nor required. We can accept that observations are thoroughly theory-laden and at yet avoid circularity that is vicious.

Ethics

Murdoch on Love and Privacy (draft available on request)

Following up on issues raised in Setiya (2013), in this paper, I provide a detailed analysis of Iris Murdoch’s concept of love as just attention and explain how her realism can be squared with her remarks on privacy.

Love and Justice – Can Union Views Do Justice to Just Love? (joint paper with Rachel Fedock and Michael Kühler)

This project developed from a collaboration with Rachel Fedock and Michael Kühler that led to a three-paper panel discussion on Love and Justice at the SEP-FEP 2016 in London.

Panel abstract:

“Are love and justice dichotomous or complementary concepts? How do love and justice interact in romantic love? The love-justice dichotomy should be rejected, Rachel Fedock (Arizona State University, Barrett, the Honors College) argues, yet union theories of love fail to do so. Michael Kühler (University of Twente) defends a union theory, emphasizing that lovers, if they constitute loving unions actively, perform a practical task, which may well be done justly. Raja Rosenhagen (University of Pittsburgh) concurs, suggesting that construing love as just attention helps understand both the relevant notion of union and what forging and maintaining just loving unions requires.”

The three papers were designed as responding to each other, forming one extended argument. My paper, the last one in the series, can be downloaded here:

Murdochian Presentationalism.

Currently, we are working on transforming them into a joint paper. Moreover, we are in the process of devising a proposal for a …

Book Project: “Love, Justice, Autonomy”

…for which we are in the process of soliciting contributions from leading researchers in the field to further investigate the intimate connections between the concepts of love, justice, and autonomy in various accounts of love in romantic relationships.

If you are interested, read the book proposal. If you are interested in contributing, or know someone who you think would be a great fit – let me know.


Please bring me back to the welcome page.

Please bring me back to the research section.

Please bring me to the teaching section.