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With Pirate: St Andrews, April 2013. Photo by Jessica Wilson.

PhilPapers profile
Associate Professor
Graduate Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto Room 413
170 St George St
Toronto, ON
M5R 2M8
Canada

+1 416 978 3535; fax:+1 416 978 8703

Department of Philosophy, University of Toronto Scarborough 106 Philosophy Hall
1265 Military Trail
Toronto, ON
M1C 1A4
Canada

+1 416 208 4843; fax:+1 416 208 5163

CV

Publications

Praxeology, imperatives, and shifts of view I outline a radically 'first-personal' program in praxeology (aka 'philosophy of practical reason'): embrace of nonpropositional imperatival content is what is characteristically practical; this embrace connects to agentive behavior 'transcendentally'---through a constraint on shifts of view, inaccessible within any single viewpoint.
Forthcoming in Rowland Stout, editor, Process, Action, and Experience: 2016 (Oxford). Composed 2015: penultimate version; cite only with permission.

David Lewis and the Kangaroo: Graphing philosophical progress Data-driven historiography of philosophy looks to objective modeling tools for illumination of the propagation of influence. While the system of David Lewis, the most influential philosopher of our time, raises historiographic puzzles to stymie conventional analytic methods, it proves amenable to data-driven analysis. A striking result is that Lewis only becomes the metaphysician of current legend following the midpoint of his career: his initial project is to frame a descriptive science of mind and meaning; the transition to metaphysics is a rhetorically breathtaking escape from this program's (inevitable) collapse. Understanding this process both aids a more focused debate whether it counts as progress, and also presents novel affordances for partisans on both sides to learn from Lewis's right and wrong steps.
Forthcoming in Russell Blackford and Damien Broderick, editors, Philosophy's Future: The Problem of Philosophical Progress: 2016 (Blackwell). Composed 2016.

Rationalization and the Ross Paradox 'Post this letter!' does not entail 'Post this letter or drink up my wine!' (the Ross Paradox) because one can be in a state with the content of the former without being in a state with the content of the latter; in turn, because the latter can rationalize drinking up my wine but the former cannot; in turn, because practical rationalization flows toward one's present situation, in contrast with the flow of theoretical rationalization from one's present situation. Formally, this is implemented with a semantics for imperatives involving a partition to set up an issue of significance and a proposition to establish how to settle it. I characterize a series of languages and language-games to implement all this, and appeal to an 'endorsement-theoretic' conception of modals to explain why 'You must post this letter' does not entail 'You must either post this letter or drink up my wine'.
Forthcoming in Nate Charlow and Matthew Chrisman, editors, Deontic Modality: 2016 (Oxford). Composed 2015.

Obligation and aspect Obligative modals, like 'Fred must open the door', are modalizations of their embedded imperatives, like 'Fred open the door!'. This is why adding aspect beneath 'must' ('Fred must be opening/have opened/have been opening the door') destroys the obligative meaning: imperatives cannot survive aspectualization either. Why? Because they have 'procedural' content---a kind of content distinctively associated with practical reason---and aspectualization is a step on the way from procedure to proposition. But then modals can have nonpropositional operands---no problem, if modals are understood 'expressively'.
Forthcoming in Inquiry: 2016. Composed 2015.

Love in the time of cholera We begin with a theory of the structure of sensory consciousness; a target phenomenon of 'presentation' can be clearly located within this structure. We then defend the rational-psychological necessity of presentation. We conclude with discussion of these philosophical challenges to the possibility of presentation. One crucial aspect of the discussion is recognition of the nonobjectivity of consciousness (a technical appendix explains what I mean by that). The other is a full-faced stare at the limitations of rational psychology: much of the dialectic in the philosophy of perception pertains to matters beyond the limits of coherence---a breakwater against which philosophy crashes, and rolls back.
In Berit Brogaard, editor, Does Perception Have Content?: 2014 (Oxford). Composed 2012--14.

Yep—still there Berger argues that there can be perceptual justification outside of consciousness: I reply that he must be thinking of something like 'optimal design', which is not a kind of rationalizing explanation. Logue and Speaks express shock at my contention that in perceptual bad cases, one's point of view embeds a certain kind of incoherence: I reply that this merely puts bad cases on a par with calculation errors or Frege cases and rehearse my reasons for finding the contention inevitable.
Replies to comments on 'It's still there!'. In Richard Brown, editor, Consciousness Inside and Out: 2014 (Springer-Verlag). Composed 2012.

It's still there! 1. Basic principles: (I) When we see something red, we can turn attention to its state of redness; (II) this is an infallible belief that that state of redness exists; (III) justification supervenes on the phenomenological. 2. This crashes into phenomenological internalism when we think about hallucination. 3. (III) lets us bring phenomenological 'transparency' on behalf of (I) and epistemological 'givenness' on behalf of (II). 4. What lucid dreaming is like differs from what veridical perception is like; being taken in by a dream is first-person indiscriminable from seeing, but second-person discriminable, because the subject taken in is incoherent but the external subject is not. 5. For rational psychology, that is explanatory bedrock. 6. The vexations in the philosophy of perception are due to undervaluation of the second-person perspective.
Precis of 'There it is'. In Richard Brown, editor, Consciousness Inside and Out: 2014 (Springer-Verlag). Composed 2012.

Against egalitarianism Egalitarians like Chalmers (and Lewis) think reality contains many streams of consciousness. I argue that egalitarianism leads to (1) elusive soul pellets, (2) 'phenomenal properties' which we do not talk about, (3) undesirable de se content, (4) transparency violations, (5) an incoherent epistemology of other minds, (6) an unexplained conflict between our belief in materialism and our concepts of consciousness and the material. I sketch an inegalitarian position that evades these difficulties.
Analysis Reviews symposium on Chalmers's The Character of Consciousness: 2013. Composed 2011.

There it is A direct realist theory of perceptual justification. I take a ground-up approach, beginning with a theory of subjective rationality understood in terms of first-person rational explicability of the stream of consciousness. I mathematize this picture via a Tractarian spin on a semantical framework developed by Rayo. Perceptual states justify by being 'receptive': rationally inexplicable intentional states encoded in sentences that are analytic. Direct realists working within this framework should say that when one is taken in by hallucination one's overall picture of the world is incoherent; in this sense, a belief based on delusive hallucination can be provided with exculpation but not with justification.
Philosophical Issues 21, 110--164, 'Direct realism and perceptual justification', Berit Brogaard and Ernest Sosa, editors, Philosophical Issues: 2011. Composed 2010.

An externalist's guide to inner experience Let's be externalists about perceptual consciousness and think the form of veridical perceptual consciousness includes seeing this or that mind-independent particular and its colors. Let's also take internalism seriously, granting that spectral inversion and hallucination can be 'phenomenally' the same as normal seeing. Then perceptual consciousness and phenomenality are different, and so we need to say how they are related. It's complicated!

Phenomenal sameness is (against all odds) reflective indiscriminability. I build a 'displaced perception' account of reflection on which indiscriminability stems from shared 'qualia'. Qualia are compatible with direct realism: while they generate an explanatory gap (and colors do not), so does seeing; qualia are excluded from perceptual consciousness by its 'transparency'; instead, qualia are aspects of thought about the perceived environment.

The asymmetry between my treatments of color and seeing is grounded in the asymmetry between ignorance and error: while inversion shows that normal subjects are ignorant of the natures of the colors, hallucination shows not that perceivers are ignorant of the nature of seeing but that hallucinators are prone to error about their condition. Past literature has treated inversion and hallucination as on a par: externalists see error in both cases, while internalists see mutual ignorance. My account is so complicated because plausible results require mixing it up.
Bence Nanay, editor, Perceiving the World: 2010 (Oxford). Composed 2009.

The multidisjunctive conception of hallucination Direct realists think that we can't get a clear view the nature of hallucinating a white picket fence: is it representing a white picket fence? is it sensing white-picket-fencily? is it being acquainted with a white' picketed' sense-datum? These are all epistemic possibilities for a single experience; hence they are all metaphysical possibilities for various experiences. Hallucination itself is a disjunctive or 'multidisjunctive' category. I rebut MGF Martin's argument from statistical explanation for his 'epistemic' conception of hallucination, but his view embeds in my view as a 'reference-fixer'.
Fiona MacPherson, editor, Hallucination: 2013 (MIT). Composed 2008.

Factive phenomenal characters The notion of 'phenomenal character' is defective because overconstrained. It is supposed to be shared among introspectively indiscriminable experiences, but it is also supposed to be the way consciousness presents itself. But consciousness presents itself as acquaintance with tables and chairs, so the defectiveness follows from the argument from hallucination.
Philosophical Perspectives, vol. 21, 259--306: 2007. Composed 2007.

That which makes the sensation of blue a mental fact An interpretation of the anti-idealist manoeuverings of the second half of Moore's 'The refutation of idealism', source of the 'transparency' and 'diaphaneity' passages. The centerpiece of these manoeuverings is a phenomenological argument for a relational view of perceptual phenomenal character, on which, roughly, 'that which makes the sensation of blue a mental fact' is a relation of conscious awareness. I dispel some myths: representationalism is Moore's main opponent; the discussion of transparency and diaphanousness is a sidelight, rebutting an objection to the phenomenological argument; the point of those passages is that the relation of conscious awareness is not transparent (though can seem to be).
European Journal of Philosophy, vol. 15, 334--66: 2007. Composed 2006.

'There's something it's like' and the structure of consciousness I discuss the meaning of 'There's something e is like', offering four candidates: (a) e is some way as regards its subject; (b) e is some way and e's being that way is in the possession of its subject; (c) e is some way in the awareness of its subject; (d) e's subject is the 'experiencer' of e. Contra Eric Lormand, there's nothing perceptual about it.
The Philosophical Review, vol. 116, 441--63: 2007. Composed 2006.

Representationalism Tim Bayne, Axel Cleeremans, and Patrick Wilkin, editors, Oxford Companion to Consciousness: 2009 (Oxford). Composed 2006.
Acquaintance Tim Bayne, Axel Cleeremans, and Patrick Wilkin, editors, Oxford Companion to Consciousness: 2009 (Oxford). Composed 2006.
Beyond phenomenal naivete Direct realism is threatened by the argument from hallucination, but supported by introspection. This support would be defeated if we made a shift of attention in introspecting: we shift from the object of (intentional) sight, which is external, to the relation born to sense-data.
The Philosophers' Imprint, vol. 6 nr. 2: 2006. Composed 2005.

Noise and perceptual indiscriminability The color of this paint chip is seen under a mode of presentation; this mode of presentation is inexact, can be satisfied by a small but nonzero range of colors; so this color might be any color in this range. Going by the modes of presentation of a's color and b's color, they might be the same and might be different. Going by the modes of presentation of b's color and c's color, they might be the same and might be different. But going by the modes of presentation of a's color and c's color, they must be different. This is the 'nontransitivity of perceptual indiscriminability'. Against Jackson and Pinkerton, Raffman, and Graff, there is no need to think this requires a change in us in two episodes of looking at the same paint chip. Modes of presentation are inexact because every signal is noisy. We can introspect this noise: close your eyes and note the flickering; it's still there, if weakly, when you open them.
Mind, vol. 114, 481--508: 2005. Composed between 2001 and 2004.

Higher-order intentionality and higher-order acquaintance If you are of the sort who thinks that consciousness requires one's awareness of some aspect of one's own condition, no need to think it requires self-representation: it could instead be acquaintance with one's own condition. This view is better because acquaintance can't be wrong.
Philosophical Studies vol. 134: 289--324: 2007. Composed 2004.

Inexpressible truths and the allure of the knowledge argument The Knowledge Argument concludes that some truth---that seeing a red thing is F---is not 'physical', and its form is valid (compare Stalnaker's Locke Lectures). Its central premiss, that Mary does not know what seeing a red thing is like, means that that truth of form seeing a red thing is F is unknown to Mary. This is unknown to Mary because the F-concept is acquaintance-based, and she lacks it. What if we grant her the concept? Then the Knowledge Argument succeeds only if physical spectral inversion is conceivable.
Peter Ludlow, Yujin Nagasawa, and Daniel Stoljar, editors, There's Something about Mary: 2004 (MIT). Composed 2002.

Consciousness and representationalism Encyclopedia of Cognitive Science: 2002 (Macmillan). Composed 2001.

Tools

David Lewis autocitation network Some works by David Lewis cite other works by David Lewis. This force-directed graph links citing sources to cited targets. Temporal order is overlain by making links proportional to time between source and target, and by varying 'gravity' with publication year.
With David Balcarras

Hypercube Entailment relations among information states regarding a pair of independent binary questions crop up all over the place. These relations fall into a hypercube, or 4-D Boolean lattice. This is a picture of them.
The transparency of experience: annotated bibliography (.bib)
My BibTeX database

Bits and pieces

Knowing what it is like to converse in L Semantics of natural languages as practiced provides semantic value assignments that are truth-conditional and structured. In metasemantics, Chomsky's 'cognitivism' says knowledge of L is having a brain structured in a certain way, while Lewis's 'conventionalism' says it is a share in common knowledge of a collective resolution of a social coordination problem. But cognitivism explains why semantics should talk about structure and ignore truth-conditions, while conventionalism explains why semantics should talk about truth-conditions and ignore structure. I develop a 'simulationist' metasemantics on which knowing L is knowing what it is like to converse in L -- e.g., that part of what it is like to assert 'goats eat cans' is for things to be like this: goats eat cans. A result is that semantics is phenomenology, a slogan implemented in 'mindset semantics' (roughly, Kaplanism with the actual world replaced by my present context) -- a framework involving both structure and (something like) truth-conditions as explanatorily central.
Version of 17 December 2013

Sentences, strings, and truth Distinguish the sentence ''snow is white' is true' from the string that constitutes it. This paper develops the String-to-Sentence Theory of Truth---for short, String Theory---according to which, while the string contains the string 'true', the sentence is merely 'snow is white', which contains no such occurrence: more generally, a string like 'S is true' constitutes, relative to an assessor, the sentence which, to the assessor, means the same as S. So suppose we attempt to define a singular term 'L' referring to the sentence 'not: L is true'. Relative to an assessor, 'L' refers to the sentence negating the assessor's sentence meaning the same as the referent of 'L'. So the referent of 'L' means the same as its negation. But no sentence means the same as its negation, so 'L' does not refer. The act of naming with which the liar paradox commences is semantically defective; so there can be no liar paradox. (Boo-yah.)
Version of 17 February 2013

Out of this world Consciousness and indexicality are sometimes believed to pose metaphysical problems. But metaphysical problems arise only through thinking 'objectively', and neither phenomenon is recognizable 'as such' through thinking objectively. The contrasts among objective thought, indexical thought, and thought about consciousness are displayed using my framework of 'mindset semantics'.
1. The conceivability argument against materialism and how (and the sense in which) it presupposes sentences about consciousness encode information 2.1 Phenomenology: givenness, qualities, the present, and the distinctness of consciousness from anything we can be informed about 2.2 Rational psychology: it supervenes on consciousness 3. Mindset semantics: formal basics, interpretation, and application to elucidating 'informing' and 'expressing' 4. Formal part: 4.1 'This is thus' 4.2 'Here's what it's like' 4.3 'For Sam' 4.4 Empathy and the conceivability argument
Paper: written 3–11 March 2013 for a session at the Pacific APA, with comments by Brie Gertler and Geoff Lee

Expressive and informative discourse I describe mindset semantics, a semantical framework built around a conception of entailment as preservation of support (implicit acceptance undergirded by competence) together with a classical modal semantics for declarative sentences---with the central application of showing how a language could integrate discourse that is expressive with discourse that is informative (namely, of solving the 'Frege-Geach problem'). (The approach owes much to the work of Veltman and Yalcin, and, less proximally, of Stalnaker.) I provide a range of philosophical, technical, and pedagogical arguments for mindset semantics. And I apply mindset semantics to as wide a range of phenomena as I have been able to think of (some more familiar, others less familiar): epistemic modals, avowals of belief, avowals of what it's like, ascriptions of all these, 'looks'-sentences, avowals of presumption, avowals of subjective credence and statements of objective chance, indicative and subjunctive conditionals, conditional probability, deontic modals, questions, avowals of wonderment, metaphysical modals, metaphysical indeterminacy, avowals and ascriptions of knowledge, 'ought'-claims, and avowals of various practical positions (intending, trying, needing).
A preliminary paper for Out Of This World (book)

Out of this world In favor of expressivism about first- and second-person discourse about consciousness. Initial tranche of slides in red contains a series of pictures intended to illustrate the parable at the start of 'Against egalitarianism'. Later tranches present in more detail (grey) the formal proposal; (black) relation to higher-order approaches; (back to red) the objections encoded in the parable (presented in more detail in 'Against egalitarianism').
Toward a Science of Consciousness, Tucson, April 2012

Knowledge ascription as expression of trust Sketch of a test semantics for knowledge ascriptions: the point is to align patterns of trust. Four arguments for the view: (1) allows for K = TB (2) gets the logic of knowledge right (3) explains the course of discussion in modern epistemology (4) approximates using minimal conceptual resources to an ideal epistemic logic
The neonatal intensive care unit of theory If there is progress in philosophy, there is a thing, philosophy, which can progressively achieve its aims. This thing is an academic 'guild' with the special distinction that it has no subject-matter. I argue that such a guild would look like philosophy: its members would be skeptics, would be sympathetic to other views, would be comfortable with cognitive dissonance, would keep their heroes alive, and would work on issues philosophers do in fact work on. Philosophy should think of itself on a medical analogy: we work to get new ideas up and flying with creativity, diligence, care, and a sense of tragedy.
Progress in Philosophy, Harvard, September 2011

Regarding a question as determinately answered Williamson and Barnett argue that if it is (metaphysically) indeterminate whether P, a contradiction is true. I (i) radically simplify the argument (ii) show that the argument assumes the validity of a meta-rule of contraposition (iii) develop the argument in two other ways not assuming this meta-rule (iv) develop parallel worries about Moorean belief (v) observe that in all cases the worries involve inference rules involving supposition (vi) argue that the problem for belief dissolves on a 'test' semantics according to which 'I believe that P' can have a different content in the scope of a supposition than outside the scope of the supposition (vii) develop a test semantics for 'determinate' on which 'it is determinate whether P' expresses one's sense that there is an answer to the question whether P (viii) extract a metaphysics from this semantics which supplements the familiar 'content of the objective world' with a 'form of my world', which it is the function of sentences with a test semantics to display.
Indeterminacy Workshop, University of Leeds, September 2011

Susanna Schellenberg's 'Experience and evidence' Carolina Metaphysics Workshop, Duck, NC, June 2011.
Conscious Life Draft 0.0 Archive of selected excerpts from Summer 2010 draft of the MS
There it is A theory of perceptual justification. The given and its interpretation say the same thing but show it differently. They are rationally linked by conditional policies of treating them as equivalent. Hallucination misleads through a combination of an error about which such policy is in force and a bad habit of ascertaining what is given.
The map and the territory Spectral inversion, or considerations of the arbitrariness of the sign more generally, have threatened our prereflective sense of acquaintance with the manifest since Hume. But if we both acquiesce in our home language and attend with exquisite care to the use-mention distinction, we can find our way back to daylight.
What am I doing? Theory of acquaintance runs more smoothly if its objects are objects of know-how, namely actions. If evidence if in part about acquaintance, then there is basic knowledge of external-world support for actions. If so, knowledge by bold conjecture is pervasive: voluntarism. In order for the voluntarist to be practically rational, we must be incoherent: subjects don't have beliefs, except as relative to strands of action.
SUNY--Buffalo, September 2010

Perceptual acts and sensational states Perceptual acts (looking) are experiences, sensational states (seeing (as of)) aren't. On a 'dynamic' epistemology of perception, rationality in perceptual judgement is practical rationality; the result looks a lot like signal detection theory.
Keynote address, New Directions in Philosophy of Mind, Columbia University, May 2010

Action as experience From a philosophy of action perspective, actions look like experiences; amalgamates decision theory and 'naive' action theory. (I) Concepts of action are irreducible. (II) Actions are (in the good case) revealed. (III) The centers of centered worlds should be grained up to the level of the strand of action, so that actions in a sense compose the subject.
University of Miami, May 2010

Silence in the ontology room What is 'indeterminacy'? Williamson and Barnett argue that there is no coherent explanation of what we mean when we say 'it is indeterminate whether there will be a sea-battle tomorrow'. Their mistake is to assume that this is intended to represent things in a certain way, when actually it is intended to signal a certain sort of refusal to represent. I present a version of the sea-battle argument for indeterminacy at the fundamental level, and then expound at some length upon the question of what exactly it is that I am refusing to do.
Introspection despite transparency Material similar to that in section 3 of 'An externalist's guide to inner experience'.
University of Barcelona, June 2009.

Helen Steward's 'Concepts of causation' Perspectives on Ontology, University of Leeds, September 2008.
Experience as a limit There could be 'weak zombies', creatures physically and qualitatively like us, but without a perspective on the world.
Consciousness and Thought, Interuniversity Center, Dubrovnik, August 2008.

Jenann Ismael's 'Probability and physics' Arizona Ontology Conference, January 2008.
How to color McTaggart Inversion without illusion meets Kit Fine-style metaphysical relativism.
Consciousness on the Beach, ANU, February 2007.

Christopher Peacocke's 'Concepts of conscious states' Peacocke Week, University of Toronto, October 2006.
Justin Fisher's 'Color representations as hash-values' Central APA, 2006.
Visual form, attention, and binocularity A "spectral inversion" style thought experiment involving someone whose right and left images blend unusually in the visual field shows that the visual mode of presentation of space is under possible locations of the attentional spotlight.

Teaching

Lewis on Language and Mind Lecture Series
Conscious Life Seminar 2011
Conscious Life Seminar 2009
History of Analytic Philosophy
Introduction to Epistemology

For the Record