Self, Action, Knowledge

Embedded Mental Action in Self-Attribution of Belief (Philosophical Studies, 2017) - Published version here.

You can self-attribute a belief that p 'transparently' partly by judging that p. I argue that, in the relevant embedded context, an event of judging that p is also an event of self-attributing a belief that p. Seeing the numerical identity of these mental actions in this context solves an epistemological puzzle about 'transparent' self-knowledge of belief.

How to Think Several Thoughts at Once: Content Plurality in Mental Action (to come in Mental Action, ed. Michael Brent)

Thoughts that are intentional mental actions can have several contents at once. Recognizing the content plurality of mental actions lets us ask better questions in epistemology—e.g. about self-knowledge and the nature of inference.

Controlling an Attitude Problem - Manuscript available on request

Most attempted explanations of self-knowledge of belief fail to solve a problem that I call "the attitude problem." Knowing that you believe that p, in any instance, involves knowing you take that particular attitude (belief) to the content p. I solve the attitude problem by explaining how we can take up attitudes intentionally in occurrent, conscious thought.

Saving Hume from Circularity - Manuscript available on request

In the Treatise (I.IV.2) Hume provides an account of the origin of our distinction between perceptions and objects. I defend Hume’s account from a common charge of vicious circularity. By recognizing Hume's commitment (in I.4.2.7) to the self-intimating nature of perceptions, we can recognize the non-circularity of Hume’s explanation of this distinction.

There are No Moorean Absurdities for Intention - Manuscript available on request

It is absurd either to judge or to assert “p, but I don’t believe that p,” even though that can be true. This is a Moorean absurdity involving a belief attribution. There are no analogous Moorean absurdities involving intention attributions. This asymmetry provides strong prima facie reason to reject the view that intention constitutively involves a form of belief.

Practical Knowledge Requires Control - Manuscript available on request

There are cases in which you can do something intentionally without knowing what you are doing: you can successfully execute an intention you have in mind without having practical knowledge of your action. This happens whenever you lack sufficient control over the successful execution of your intention. Control ensures the safety of practical knowledge.

The Constancy Norm - work in progress

We want our beliefs to be true, to be justified, and to fit together well. But we also want them to be stable over time and across possible worlds. This constancy norm on belief is not reducible to any other proprietary epistemic norm on belief. It shows that part of what we want our own (and others’) beliefs to do is to constitute us as comprehensible people.

Art, Literature, Phenomenality

What Poetry Teaches (and Philosophy Doesn’t) - Manuscript available on request

You can only phenomenally imagine what you have already experienced. But appreciating literary comparisons can nonetheless give you new phenomenal concepts, and thereby expand the range of what you can actively call to mind in phenomenal imagination. This fact explains poets’ optimism about the personal and moral importance of their work.

Let’s be Liberal - Manuscript available on request

Aesthetic hedonism meets four basic adequacy conditions on a theory of aesthetic value, but it is not the only view that can do so. In this paper I introduce and motivate an alternative to hedonism I call “aesthetic liberalism,” which counts more responses than pleasurable ones as crucially relevant to the aesthetic value of an object.

What Montaigne Did First - Work in progress

Montaigne seems to have been the first to recognize that an author can teach readers about the phenomenology of an experience they have not themselves had firsthand. Montaigne does this in “On Practice,” which relates the details of his early brush with death. His rare defensiveness here signifies that he takes himself to be doing something new and bold.

Narrating Thought - Work in progress

For those intentional mental actions that have content plurality [see above], serial narration of thought contents will not capture the lived experience of that active stream of thought. Can this kind of thought be captured in narrative format? I argue that it can be represented first-personally only when the reader imaginatively co-performs mental actions.

Fictionalism and Impossible Fictions - Work in progress

Some think going ‘fictionalist’ about a metaphysically problematic domain makes it more palatable. But our best understanding of how we relate to fiction needs to account for our relationship to fictions that purposefully play with the impossible. If our relationship to fiction can be a relation to the impossible, does fictionalism ever help in metaphysics?

Living Your Story - Work in progress

Philosophers disagree about whether we do, and/or should, experience our lives as unfolding stories. These debates assume that the notion of a narrative self can be made precise in a way that distinguishes it from some other idea of a self. I have some reasons to be skeptical; there is no special feature of a self that captures its role in a narrative.