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Research Statement

Drafts available on request.
Time’s Arrow, Temporal Coding and Phenomenal Vehicle Externalism

This paper presents a quadrilemma. We must choose between one of the following four poisons: 1) deflationism about phenomenal consciousness — roughly, the view that which things there is something it is like to be is up to us to stipulate; 2) anti-reductionism about phenomenal consciousness — roughly, the view that phenomenal properties are not reducible to material properties; 3) anti-reductionism about the direction of time — roughly, the view that there exists a primitive time-ordering field which intrinsically distinguishes the past from the future; and 4) radical phenomenal vehicle externalism – roughly, the view that the vehicles of the experiences we call `ours’ actually extend back into the far reaches of the early universe, before the galaxies were formed. The need to choose between these four poisons arises because of a tension between plausible principles about the nature of the direction of time, plausible principles about the metaphysics of consciousness, and the empirical evidence that Morse-code like temporal coding is constitutively involved in some conscious states.

Arithmetic Competency and The Problem of the Many Minds

Peter Unger (2004) has claimed that while typical problems of the many, like the problem of the many clouds, may turn on broadly semantic considerations, the problem of the many minds admits of no “merely semantic” solution. Here I vindicate this intuition. I present a sustained argument, drawing on the special inferential role of phenomenal concepts, and the principle that knowing how to count is a part of competence with count terms, to show that supervaluationalism and related “semantic” solutions to the problem of the many cannot solve the problem of the many minds. The upshot is a puzzle for all who hope to deny that we share our bodies with other experiencers.

Matter Doesn’t Matter

This paper considers a simple normative argument for property dualism. Material properties: properties such as ‘being three feet away from’ or ‘having more electric charge than’ do not have any intrinsic moral import — they do not matter intrinsically. On the other hand, properties like ‘being in pain’ do have intrinsic moral import — being in pain matters intrinsically. So ‘being in pain’ cannot be a material property. This argument may appear to some to be a reductio on the premise that material properties cannot matter intrinsically. But I argue that abandoning this premise has troublesome consequences, which embracing the dualistic conclusion of the argument allows us to avoid.

Moral Perception High and Low

This paper argues that a perceptual account of moral belief fosters the robust realist with a novel response to reliability challenges such as those considered by Benacerraf (1973), Field (1989) and Street (2006). According to this novel response, even if moral properties are irreducible and causally inert they figure in the best explanation of why our experiences have the phenomenal character that they do. To avail themselves of this solution, robust realists must be mindful of the differences between “high” and “low” theories of moral perception.

Painkillers for the Representationalist’s Headache

Evaluativism is the view that unpleasant pain experience represents bodily disturbance as normatively bad. The killing the messenger objection to evaluativism is that while the evaluativist has a nice story about the rationality of body-directed action in response to pain (like tending to the wound), the evaluativist confronts various obstacles in accounting for the rationality of experience-directed action in response to pain (like taking painkillers). Evaluativists have overcome some of these obstacles without questioning the claim that actions like taking painkillers really are experience-directed in the typical case. Here I will consider some obstacles that evaluativists have not yet overcome, and I will suggest that the best way for evaluativists to overcome these new obstacles is to question that claim after all. I will then develop a positive account of a version of evaluativism that proceeds accordingly, which I call naive evaluativism. According to naive evaluativism, seemingly experience-directed actions like taking painkillers are directed at the bodily badness that pain experience represents in the typical case. We experience painkillers as diminishing bodily badness, and that is why we take them.

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