My research is situated at the intersection of the philosophy of mind, metaphysics and early modern philosophy. My guiding thought is that a satisfactory understanding of sensory experience hinges on an accurate conception of the metaphysics of sensible qualities; and, furthermore, that informing our metaphysics with historical discussions of the manifest world can only benefit the scope of our investigation. In a current book project that stems from my dissertation, I develop a new metaphysical framework, according to which sensible qualities are an ontologically flexible kind, in order to dissolve a central puzzle in the philosophy of mind—namely, how veridical perception can make us constitutively aware of the mind-independent world, if phenomenologically identical delusive experiences are possible. You can read an abstract of my project here.
I present the central argument of my dissertation in a series of two papers. In "Two Grounds for Sensible Qualities" I explore the distinct ways in which sensible quality instances can be supported by material bodies and by minds. I argue that sensible instances depend on material substances in virtue of inhering in them. But inherence cannot be the notion we employ if we are to decipher those views on which sensible qualities are treated as mind-dependent. Instead, I argue that mind-dependent sensible instances are such that their existence is secured in virtue of their being the proper objects of conscious awareness. Having established the existence of two distinct, non-exclusive relations of determination, I briefly discuss the possibility of joint determination and over-determination. You can read the paper here.
In “Sensible Over-Determination”, I argue that naïve realism—the view that ordinary perception is fundamentally an awareness of the mind-independent world—is compatible with the qualitative identity of ordinary perception and sensory hallucinations. If the state of awareness that is present both in a neurally induced hallucination and in the corresponding veridical perception is ontologically sufficient for the existence of instance of a sensible quality in the hallucination, we must grant that it is sufficient for the existence of such an instance in the veridical case too. I argue that this concession does not entail that the sensible instance in the veridical perception is mind-dependent. As long as the naïve realist treats the instance that a perceiver is aware of in veridical perception as ontologically over-determined, she can simultaneously maintain that ordinary perception is sufficient for the existence of a sensible instance and that the instance in question inheres in an ordinary mind-independent object. You can read the paper here.
Below, I briefly describe a series of future research projects. You can read about them in more detail here.
In a paper titled “A Defense of Item Awareness”, I develop an epistemologically motivated defense of the thesis that all perceptual experience, veridical or not, must have an sensible object of awareness. I argue that representational views that reject this thesis are unable to explain how a hallucination can grant us knowledge of how sensible qualities—colors, for instance—look.
Having already discussed the case of over-determination in perception, in future work, I intend to consider the possibility of joint determination by minds and material bodies. In “The Locatedness of Pains” I argue that the existence of a pain, is jointly secured by the fact that someone is enjoying a pain experience and the fact that there is a body part for the pain to reside in. This reveals the possibility of the genuine locatedness of an essentially subjective phenomenon.
An important component of my research project concerns historical views pertaining to the relation between substance and their qualities:
In “Berkeley on Resemblance,” I argue against a widely accepted interpretation of the arguments that Berkeley presents in Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous for the mind-dependence of the sensible qualities. Most interpreters have suggested that the so-called relativity arguments rely on the crucial premise—commonly referred to as the Resemblance Thesis—that an idea can only ever resemble another idea. In this paper, I argue against this interpretation, revealing that Berkeley explicitly relies on the conclusion of the relativity arguments in arguing for the Resemblance Thesis itself.
In “Two Views on Inherence,” I explore two historical accounts of the nature of sensible qualities and the relations they bear to the substances in which they inhere. On the early modern view, Inherence is to be understood as a kind of property reduction, where inherent properties—accidents—are ontologically dependent on the substance’s essential attributes. According to an older discussion from the medieval period, however, qualities such as color are thought to have an existence that is ultimately independent of the substance in which the quality inheres. I use some of the notions from contemporary metaphysics to draw out the insights had by both the medieval and early modern philosophers.