• A New Perspective Concerning Experiments on Semantic Intuitions
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 89 (2): 315-332. 2011.
    Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich [2004; forthcoming] use experimental methods to raise a spectre of doubt about reliance on intuitions in developing theories of reference which are then deployed in philosophical arguments outside the philosophy of language. Machery et al. ran a cross-cultural survey asking Western and East Asian participants about a famous case from the philosophical literature on reference (Kripke's G del example). They interpret their results as indicating that there is sig…Read more
  • Language police running amok
    Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology 27 (1): 89-103. 2007.
    In this article I critique Kathleen Slaney and Michael Maraun’s (2005) addition to the ongoing philosophical charge that neuroscientific writing often transgresses the bounds of sense. While they sometimes suggest a minimal, cautious thesis–that certain usage can generate confusion and in some cases has–they also bandy about charges of meaninglessness, conceptual confusion, and nonsense freely. These charges rest on the premise that terms have specific correct usages that correspond with Slaney …Read more
  • The proper province of philosophy
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology 1 (3): 427-445. 2010.
    The practice of conceptual analysis has undergone a revival in recent years. Although the extent of its role in philosophy is controversial, many now accept that conceptual analysis has at least some role to play. Granting this, I consider the relevance of empirical investigation to conceptual analysis. I do so by contrasting an extreme position (anti-empirical conceptual analysis) with a more moderate position (non-empirical conceptual analysis). I argue that anti-empirical conceptual analysis …Read more
  • Gene-Culture Coevolution (GCC) theory is an intriguing new entry in the quest to understand human culture. Nonetheless, it has received relatively little philosophical attention. One notable exception is Kim Sterelny’s (2006) critique which raises three primary objections against the GCC account. Most importantly, he argues that GCC theory, as it stands, is unable to resolve “the paradox of cultural accumulation” (151); that while social learning should generally be prohibitively expensive for t…Read more
  • Phenomenological obviousness and the new science of consciousness
    Philosophy of Science 76 (5): 958-969. 2009.
    Is phenomenal consciousness a problem for the brain sciences? An increasing number of researchers hold not only that it is but that its very existence is a deep mystery. That this problematic phenomenon exists is generally taken for granted: It is asserted that phenomenal consciousness is just phenomenologically obvious. In contrast, I hold that there is no such phenomenon and, thus, that it does not pose a problem for the brain sciences. For this denial to be plausible, however, I need to show …Read more
  • Two conceptions of subjective experience
    Philosophical Studies 151 (2): 299-327. 2010.
    Do philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in the same way? In this article, we argue that they do not and that the philosophical concept of phenomenal consciousness does not coincide with the folk conception. We first offer experimental support for the hypothesis that philosophers and ordinary people conceive of subjective experience in markedly different ways. We then explore experimentally the folk conception, proposing that for the folk, subjective experience is cl…Read more
  • The assumption that the concept of phenomenal consciousness is pretheoretical is often found in the philosophical debates on consciousness. Unfortunately, this assumption has not received the kind of empirical attention that it deserves. We suspect that this is in part due to difficulties that arise in attempting to test folk intuitions about consciousness. In this article we elucidate and defend a key methodological principle for this work. We draw this principle out by considering recent exper…Read more
  • Folk Psychology and Phenomenal Consciousness
    Philosophy Compass 5 (8): 700-711. 2010.
    In studying folk psychology, cognitive and developmental psychologists have mainly focused on how people conceive of non-experiential states such as beliefs and desires. As a result, we know very little about how non-philosophers (or the folk) understand the mental states that philosophers typically classify as being phenomenally conscious. In particular, it is not known whether the folk even tend to classify mental states in terms of their being or not being phenomenally conscious in the first …Read more
  • God knows (but does God believe?)
    Philosophical Studies 166 (1): 83-107. 2013.
    The standard view in epistemology is that propositional knowledge entails belief. Positive arguments are seldom given for this entailment thesis, however; instead, its truth is typically assumed. Against the entailment thesis, Myers-Schulz and Schwitzgebel (Noûs, forthcoming) report that a non-trivial percentage of people think that there can be propositional knowledge without belief. In this paper, we add further fuel to the fire, presenting the results of four new studies. Based on our results…Read more
  • Reference in the Land of the Rising Sun: A Cross-cultural Study on the Reference of Proper Names
    with Jonathan Livengood, Ryoji Sato, and Mineki Oguchi
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology 6 (2): 213-230. 2015.
    A standard methodology in philosophy of language is to use intuitions as evidence. Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich challenged this methodology with respect to theories of reference by presenting empirical evidence that intuitions about one prominent example from the literature on the reference of proper names vary between Westerners and East Asians. In response, Sytsma and Livengood conducted experiments to show that the questions Machery and colleagues asked participants in their study were…Read more
  • The Two Sources of Moral Standing
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology 3 (3): 303-324. 2012.
    There are two primary traditions in philosophical theorizing about moral standing—one emphasizing Experience (the capacity to feel pain and pleasure) and one emphasizing Agency (complexity of cognition and lifestyle). In this article we offer an explanation for this divide: Lay judgments about moral standing depend importantly on two independent cues (Experience and Agency), and the two philosophical traditions reflect this aspect of folk moral cognition. In support of this two-source hypothesis…Read more
  • Experimental Philosophy and Philosophical Disputes
    Essays in Philosophy (1): 9. 2011.
    One view of philosophy that is sometimes expressed, especially by scientists, is that while philosophers are good at asking questions, they are poor at producing convincing answers. And the perceived divide between philosophical and scientific methods is often pointed to as the major culprit behind this lack of progress. Looking back at the history of philosophy, however, we find that this methodological divide is a relatively recent invention. Further, it is one that has been challenged over th…Read more
  • Recent scientific work aiming to give a neurobiological explanation of phenomenal consciousness has largely focused on finding neural correlates of consciousness (NCC). The hope is that by locating neural correlates of phenomenally conscious mental states, some light will be cast on how the brain is able to give rise to such states. In this paper I argue that NCC research is unable to produce evidence of such neural correlates. I do this by considering two alternative interpretations of NCC rese…Read more
  • Dennett’s Theory of the Folk Theory of Consciousness
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (3-4): 107-130. 2010.
    It is not uncommon to find assumptions being made about folk psychology in the discussions of phenomenal consciousness in philosophy of mind. In this article I consider one example, focusing on what Dan Dennett says about the 'folk theory of consciousness'. I show that he holds that the folk believe that qualities like colours that we are acquainted with in ordinary perception are phenomenal qualities. Nonetheless, the shape of the folk theory is an empirical matter and in the absence of empiric…Read more
  • Robot pains and corporate feelings
    The Philosophers' Magazine 52 (52): 78-82. 2011.
    Most philosophers of mind follow Thomas Nagel and hold that subjective experiences are characterised by the fact that there is “something it is like” to have them. Philosophers of mind have sometimes speculated that ordinary people endorse, perhaps implicitly, this conception of subjective experiences. Some recent findings cast doubt on this view.
  • Philosophical orthodoxy holds that pains are mental states, taking this to reflect the ordinary conception of pain. Despite this, evidence is mounting that English speakers do not tend to conceptualize pains in this way; rather, they tend to treat pains as being bodily states. We hypothesize that this is driven by two primary factors—the phenomenology of feeling pains and the surface grammar of pain reports. There is reason to expect that neither of these factors is culturally specific, however,…Read more
  • Many philosophers and brain scientists hold that explaining consciousness is one of the major outstanding problems facing modern science today. One type of consciousness in particular—phenomenal consciousness—is thought to be especially problematic. The reasons given for believing that this phenomenon exists in the first place, however, often hinge on the claim that its existence is simply obvious in ordinary perceptual experience. Such claims motivate the study of people's intuitions about cons…Read more
  • In this chapter, I consider two hypotheses that have informed recent work in experimental philosophy of mind. The first is a positive hypothesis put forward by Fiala, Arico, and Nichols : Categorization of an entity as an agent through fast, automatic, and domain-specific processing produces a disposition to ascribe a wide range of mental states to that entity. The second is a negative hypothesis put forward by Sytsma and Machery: The existence of phenomenally conscious mental states is not obvi…Read more
  • Intuition, by Elijah Chudnoff (review)
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 93 (3): 610-613. 2015.
  • On the relevance of folk intuitions: A commentary on Talbot
    Consciousness and Cognition 21 (2): 654-660. 2012.
    In previous work, we presented evidence suggesting that ordinary people do not conceive of subjective experiences as having phenomenal qualities. We then argued that these findings undermine a common justification given for the reality of the hard problem of consciousness. In a thought-provoking article, Talbot has challenged our argument. In this article, we respond to his criticism
  • Philosophy and the Brain Sciences
    Iris. European Journal of Philosophy and Public Debate 1 (2): 353-374. 2009.
    What are the differences between philosophy and science, or between the methods of philosophy and the methods of science? Unlike some philosophers we do not find philosophy and the methods of philosophy to be sui generis. Science, and in particular neuroscience, has much to tell us about the nature of the world and the concepts that we must use to understand and explain it. Yet science cannot function well without reflective analysis of the concepts, methods, and practices that constitute it. Fo…Read more
  • Revisiting the Valence Account
    Philosophical Topics 40 (2): 179-198. 2012.
    The existence of phenomenally conscious mental states is often taken to be obvious from first-person experience. Sytsma and Machery argued that if that is the case, then laypeople should classify mental states in the same way that philosophers typically do, treating states like seeing red and feeling pain similarly. We then presented evidence that they do not. This finding is interesting in its own right, however, outside of any implications for the philosophical debates concerning phenomenal co…Read more
  • Dennett’s Theory of the Folk Theory of Consciousness
    Journal of Consciousness Studies 17 (3-4): 3-4. 2010.
    It is not uncommon to find assumptions being made about folk psychology in the discussions of phenomenal consciousness in philosophy of mind. In this article I consider one example, focusing on what Dan Dennett says about the 'folk theory of consciousness'. I show that he holds that the folk believe that qualities like colours that we are acquainted with in ordinary perception are phenomenal qualities. Nonetheless, the shape of the folk theory is an empirical matter and in the absence of empiric…Read more
  • Neuroscienze e natura della filosofia
    Iride: Filosofia e Discussione Pubblica 18 (3): 495-514. 2005.
  • Hallucinating Pain
    with Kevin Reuter and Phillips Dustin
    The standard interpretation of quantum mechanics and a standard interpretation of the awareness of pain have a common feature: Both postulate the existence of an irresolvable duality. Whereas many physicists claim that all particles exhibit particle and wave properties, many philosophers working on pain argue that our awareness of pain is paradoxical, exhibiting both perceptual and introspective characteristics. In this chapter, we offer a pessimistic take on the putative paradox of pain. Specif…Read more
  • In this essay, we discuss how Descartes arrives at his mature view of material causation. Descartes’ position changes over time in some very radical ways. The last section spells out his final position as to how causation works in the world of material objects. When considering Descartes’ causal theories, it is useful to distinguish between ‘vertical’ and ‘horizontal’ causation. The vertical perspective addresses God’s relation to creation. God is essential being, and every being other than God …Read more
  • Causal Attributions and Corpus Analysis
    with Bluhm Roland, Willemsen Pascale, and Reuter Kevin
    In Eugen Fischer (ed.), Methodological Advances in Experimental Philosophy, Bloomsbury Press. forthcoming.
    Although philosophers have often held that causation is a purely descriptive notion, a growing body of experimental work on ordinary causal attributions using questionnaire methods indicates that it is heavily influenced by normative information. These results have been the subject of sceptical challenges. Additionally, those who find the results compelling have disagreed about how best to explain them. In this chapter, we help resolve these debates by using a new set of tools to investigate ord…Read more
  • In a series of articles in this journal, Michael Tye and Paul Noordhof have sparred over the correct explanation of the putative invalidity of the following argument: the pain is in my fingertip; the fingertip is in my mouth; therefore, the pain is in my mouth. Whereas Tye explains the failure of the argument by stating that “pain “creates an intensional context, Noordhof maintains that the “in” in ‘the pain is in my fingertip’ is not spatial, but has state-attributing character. In this paper, …Read more