•  227
    Form, substance, and mechanism
    Philosophical Review 113 (1): 31-88. 2004.
    Philosophers today have largely given up on the project of categorizing being. Aristotle’s ten categories now strike us as quaint, and no attempt to improve on that effort meets with much interest. Still, no one supposes that reality is smoothly distributed over space. The world at large comes in chunks, and there remains a widespread intuition, even among philosophers, that some of these chunks have a special sort of unity and persistence. These, we tend to suppose, are most truly agents and su…Read more
  •  153
    A Theory of Secondary Qualities
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 73 (3): 568-591. 2006.
    The secondary qualities are those qualities of objects that bear a certain relation to our sensory powers: roughly, they are those qualities that we can readily detect only through a certain distinctive phenomenal experience. Contrary to what is sometimes supposed, there is nothing about the world itself (independent of our minds) that determines the distinction between primary and secondary qualities. Instead, a theory of the secondary qualities must be grounded in facts about how we conceive o…Read more
  •  138
    On existing all at once
    In C. Tapp (ed.), God, Eternity, and Time, Ashgate. 2011.
    It is important to distinguish between two ways in which God might be timelessly eternal: eternality as being wholly outside of time, versus the sort of timelessness that consists in lacking temporal parts, and so existing “all at once.” A prominent but neglected historical tradition, most clearly evident in Anselm, advocates putting God in time, but in an all-at-once sort of way that makes God immune to temporal change. This is an intrinsically plausible conception of divine eternality, which a…Read more
  •  121
    Philosophy of mind and human nature
    In Brian Davies & Eleonore Stump (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas, Oxford University Press. 2011.
    A theory of human nature must consider from the start whether it sees human beings in fundamentally biological terms, as animals like other animals, or else in fundamentally supernatural terms, as creatures of God who are like God in some special way, and so importantly unlike other animals. Many of the perennial philosophical disputes have proved so intractable in part because their adherents divide along these lines. The friends of materialism, seeing human beings as just a particularly comple…Read more
  •  117
    Medieval epistemology begins as ideal theory: when is one ideally situated with regard to one's grasp of the way things are? Taking as their starting point Aristotle's Posterior Analytics, scholastic authors conceive of the goal of cognitive inquiry as the achievement of scientia, a systematic body of beliefs, grasped as certain, and grounded in demonstrative reasons that show the reason why things are so. Obviously, however, there is not much we know in this way. The very strictness of this ide…Read more
  •  114
    Democritus and secondary qualities
    Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 89 (2): 99-121. 2007.
    Democritus is generally understood to have anticipated the seventeenthcentury distinction between primary and secondary qualities. I argue that this is not the case, and that instead for Democritus all sensible qualities are conventional.
  •  113
    Epistemology Idealized
    Mind 122 (488): 987-1021. 2013.
    Epistemology today centrally concerns the conceptual analysis of knowledge. Historically, however, this is a concept that philosophers have seldom been interested in analysing, particularly when it is construed as broadly as the English language would have it. Instead, the overriding focus of epistemologists over the centuries has been, first, to describe the epistemic ideal that human beings might hope to achieve, and then go on to chart the various ways in which we ordinarily fall off from tha…Read more
  •  105
    Disagreement and the value of self-trust
    Philosophical Studies 172 (9): 2315-2339. 2015.
    Controversy over the epistemology of disagreement endures because there is an unnoticed factor at work: the intrinsic value we give to self-trust. Even if there are many instances of disagreement where, from a strictly epistemic or rational point of view, we ought to suspend belief, there are other values at work that influence our all-things considered judgments about what we ought to believe. Hence those who would give equal-weight to both sides in many cases of disagreement may be right, from…Read more
  •  102
    This is a major new study of Thomas Aquinas, the most influential philosopher of the Middle Ages. The book offers a clear and accessible guide to the central project of Aquinas' philosophy: the understanding of human nature. Robert Pasnau sets the philosophy in the context of ancient and modern thought, and argues for some groundbreaking proposals for understanding some of the most difficult areas of Aquinas' thought: the relationship of soul to body, the workings of sense and intellect, the wil…Read more
  •  99
    The event of color
    Philosophical Studies 142 (3). 2009.
    When objects are illuminated, the light they reflect does not simply bounce off their surface. Rather, that light is entirely reabsorbed and then reemitted, as the result of a complex microphysical event near the surface of the object. If we are to be physicalists regarding color, then we should analyze colors in terms of that event, just as we analyze heat in terms of molecular motion, and sound in terms of vibrations. On this account, colors are not standing properties of objects, but events, …Read more
  •  84
  •  84
    Review: Aquinas (review)
    Mind 114 (453): 203-206. 2005.
  •  83
    In a recent book, I attempt to use the metaphysics of Thomas Aquinas to defend a moderate view regarding abortion: that an abortion at any time during a pregnancy should be considered a grave loss, but that it should be considered murder only after roughly the middle of the second trimester. John Haldane and Patrick Lee contend that I have misunderstood the implications of Aquinas's view, and that in fact his metaphysics supports the conclusion that a human being comes into existence at the mome…Read more
  •  77
    Aquinas and the Content Fallacy
    Modern Schoolman 75 (4): 293-314. 1998.
  •  72
    What Is Cognition? A Reply to Some Critics
    American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 76 (3): 483-490. 2002.
    In an earlier work, I proposed understanding Aquinas’s theory of cognition in terms of the possession of information about the world. This proposal has seemed problematic in various ways. It has been said to include too much, and too little, and to be the wrong sort of account altogether. Nevertheless, I continue to think of it as the most plausible interpretation of Aquinas’s theory
  •  66
    Veiled Disagreement
    Journal of Philosophy 111 (11): 608-630. 2014.
    A theory of how rationally to respond to disagreement requires a clear account of how to measure comparative reliability. Such an account faces a Generality Problem analogous to the well-known problem that besets reliabilist theories of knowledge. But whereas the problem for reliabilism has proved recalcitrant, I show that a solution in the case of disagreement is available. That solution is to measure reliability in the most fine-grained way possible, in light of all the circumstances of the pr…Read more
  •  66
    Aquinas on Thought’s Linguistic Nature
    The Monist 80 (4): 558-575. 1997.
    Thomas Aquinas gives us many reasons to think that conceptual thought is linguistic in nature. Most notably, he refers to a mental concept as a verbum or word. He further says that such concepts may be either simple or complex, and that complex concepts are formed out of simple ones, through composition or division. These complex concepts may either affirm or deny a predicate of a subject. All of these claims suggest that conceptual thought is somehow language-like. Moreover, Aquinas would have …Read more
  •  52
    Bias and interpersonal skepticism
    Noûs. forthcoming.
  •  47
    Divine illumination
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2008.
  •  46
    Theories of Cognition in the Later Middle Ages
    Cambridge University Press. 1997.
    This book is a major contribution to the history of philosophy in the later medieval period (1250-1350). It focuses on cognitive theory, a subject of intense investigation during these years. In fact many of the issues that dominate philosophy of mind and epistemology today - intentionality, mental representation, scepticism, realism - were hotly debated in the later medieval period. The book offers a careful analysis of these debates, primarily through the work of Thomas Aquinas, John Olivi, an…Read more
  •  43
    Metaphysical Themes, 1274–1671
    Oxford University Press. 2011.
    The thirty chapters work through various fundamental metaphysical issues, sometimes focusing more on scholastic thought, sometimes on the seventeenth century.
  •  36
    Belief in a Fallen World
    Res Philosophica 95 (3): 531-559. 2018.
    In an ideal epistemic world, our beliefs would correspond to our evidence, and our evidence would be bountiful. In the world we live in, however, if we wish to live meaningful lives, other epistemic strategies are necessary. Here I attempt to work out, systematically, the ways in which evidentialism fails us as a guide to belief. This is so preeminently for lives of a religious character, but the point applies more broadly.
  •  32
    On Metaphysical themes: replies to critics (review)
    Philosophical Studies 171 (1): 37-50. 2014.
    Reply to NormoreCalvin Normore offers a very interesting big-picture thesis about the later medieval period, one with multiple components. First, he thinks the first quarters of the thirteenth century—the era of Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas—are “gobsmacked” by the recovery of Aristotle’s work, and hence are “anomalous.” Second he thinks that, once the gobsmacking is over, the philosophers—beginning with Peter John Olivi and onward into the fourteenth century—return to “building upon the i…Read more
  •  31
    Snatching Hope from the Jaws of Epistemic Defeat
    Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (2): 257--275. 2015.
    Reflection on the history of skepticism shows that philosophers have often conjoined as a single doctrine various theses that are best kept apart. Some of these theses are incredible – literally almost impossible to accept – whereas others seem quite plausible, and even verging on the platitudinous. Mixing them together, one arrives at a view – skepticism – that is as a whole indefensible. My aim is to pull these different elements apart, and to focus on one particular strand of skepticism that …Read more
  •  29
    Experience of God and the Rationality of Theistic Belief
    Philosophical Review 107 (4): 624. 1998.
    In August of 1989, as an eighteen-year-old atheist spending his last night at home before setting off cross-country for college, I had the one and only mystical experience of my life to date. Rather than grapple with expressing the content of that experience, let me quote from part of the record Blaise Pascal made of his own mystical experience, one that seems to have been similar in many respects to my own.
  •  28
    A review of Cory's book.
  •  27
    Therapeutic Reflections on Our Bipolar History of Perception
    Analytic Philosophy 57 (4): 253-284. 2016.
    The long history of theorizing about perception divides into two quite distinct and irreconcilable camps, one that takes sensory experience to show us external reality just as it is, and one that takes such experience to reveal our own mind. I argue that we should reject both sides of this debate, and admit that the phenomenal character of experience, as such, reveals little about the nature of the external world and even less about the mind.