•  11
    Certainly useless: empiricists’ uncomfortable relationship with intuition
    British Journal for the History of Philosophy 31 (4): 724-743. 2023.
    During the early modern period, a framework broadly attributable to Descartes sought to establish all knowledge on a foundation of indubitable truths that are fully clear and totally certain: intuitions. A powerful challenge to treating these seemingly unassailable intuitions as epistemic foundations is that the only truths which can be known in this fashion are so obvious and useless that they could not produce any other knowledge. Rationalists typically respond to this worry by maintaining tha…Read more
  •  200
    Adam Smith
    In Robert J. Stainton Benjamin Hill Margaret Cameron (ed.), Sourcebook in the History of Philosophy of Language. pp. 853-858. 2017.
    Smith proposes an account of how languages developed. He did so not as historian, but as a philosopher with a special concern about how a nominalist could account for general terms. Names for individuals are taken as fairly unproblematic – say ‘Thames’ and ‘Avon’ for each of the respective rivers. But whence the word ‘river,’ applicable to more than one, if all that exist are particular objects? Smith’s view is not the usual one, according to which people deploy a powerful ability to abstract me…Read more
  •  372
    Just Imagining Things: Hume's Conception-Based Account of Cognition
    Dissertation, University of Southern California. 2011.
    Philosophers have routinely taken a pessimistic view of the account of cognition offered by David Hume in his Treatise of Human Nature, claiming that Hume's limited explanatory resources cannot capture the rich complexity of our thought, judgment, and reasoning. I provide a qualified defense of Hume's attempt to analyze a cognitive activity in terms of objectual conception, ie conceiving or imagining an object. I defend Hume from objections offered by his contemporary Thomas Reid (and echoed by …Read more
  •  306
    Locke, Hume, and Reid on the Objects of Belief
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 35 (1): 21-38. 2018.
    The goal of this paper is show how an initially appealing objection to David Hume's account of judgment can only be put forward by philosophers who accept an account of judgment that has its own sizable share of problems. To demonstrate this, I situate the views of John Locke, David Hume, and Thomas Reid with respect to each other, so as to illustrate how the appealing objection is linked to unappealing features of Locke's account of judgment.
  •  418
    There is a tension between John Locke’s awareness of the fundamental importance of a shared public language and the manner in which his theorizing appears limited to offering a psychologistic account of the idiolects of individual speakers. I argue that a correct understanding of Locke’s central notion of signification can resolve this tension. I start by examining a long standing objection to Locke’s view, according to which his theory of meaning systematically gets the subject matter of our di…Read more
  •  310
    Reid on Favors, Injuries, and the Natural Virtue of Justice
    In Todd Buras & Rebecca Copenhaver (eds.), Thomas Reid on Mind, Knowledge and Value, Oxford University Press. pp. 249-266. 2015.
    Reid argues that Hume’s claim that justice is an artificial virtue is inconsistent with the fact that gratitude is a natural sentiment. This chapter shows that Reid’s argument succeeds only given a philosophy of mind and action that Hume rejects. Among other things, Reid assumes that one can conceive of one of a pair of contradictories only if one can conceive of the other—a claim that Hume denies. So, in the case of justice, the disagreement between Hume and Reid is, at bottom, a disagreement o…Read more
  •  467
    Thomas Reid on Signs and Language
    Philosophy Compass 12 (3). 2017.
    Thomas Reid's philosophy of mind, epistemology, and philosophy of language all rely on his account of signs and signification. On Reid's view, some entities play a role of indicating other entities to our minds. In some cases, our sensitivity to this indication is learned through experience, whereas in others, the sensitivity is built in to our natural constitutions. Unlike representation, which was presumed to depend on resemblances and necessary connections, signification is the sort of relati…Read more
  •  74
    How To Avoid Mis‐Reiding Hume's Maxim Of Conceivability
    Philosophical Quarterly 63 (250): 105-119. 2013.
    In his Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man, Thomas Reid offers a barrage of objections to the view, held by David Hume, that conceivability implies possibility. In this paper, I present Reid's first two objections to the ‘maxim of conceivability’ and defend Hume from them. The first objection concerns our ability to understand impossible claims, while the second concerns thoughts about impossible claims (such as, for instance, the thought that they are impossible). Reid's objections have sp…Read more
  •  226
    Hume's Treatment of Denial in the Treatise
    Philosophers' Imprint 14. 2014.
    David Hume fancied himself the Newton of the mind, aiming to reinvent the study of human mental life in the same way that Newton had revolutionized physics. And it was his view that the novel account of belief he proposed in his Treatise of Human Nature was one of that work’s central philosophical contributions. From the earliest responses to the Treatise forward, however, there was deep pessimism about the prospects for his account. It is easy to understand the source of this pessimism: The con…Read more
  •  1018
    Conceiving without Concepts: Reid vs. The Way of Ideas
    ProtoSociology 30 221-237. 2013.
    Thomas Reid is notorious for rejecting the orthodox theory of conception (OTC), according to which conceiving of an object involves a mental relationship to an idea of that object. In this paper, I examine the question of what this rejection amounts to, when we limit our attention to bare conception (rather than the more widely discussed case of perception). I present some of the purported advantages of OTC, and assess whether they provide a genuine basis for preferring OTC to a Reidian alternat…Read more
  •  413
    How to refrain from answering Kripke’s puzzle
    Philosophical Studies 161 (2): 287-308. 2012.
    In this paper, I investigate the prospects for using the distinction between rejection and denial to resolve Saul Kripke’s puzzle about belief. One puzzle Kripke presents in A Puzzle About Belief poses what would have seemed a fairly straightforward question about the beliefs of the bilingual Pierre, who is disposed to sincerely and reflectively assent to the French sentence Londres est jolie, but not to the English sentence London is pretty, both of which he understands perfectly well. The ques…Read more