Book

Perception and Knowledge: A Phenomenological Account. Cambridge University Press, 2011.



Papers


Phenomenal Conservatism and the Principle of All Principles, forthcoming in E. Elpidorou, D. Dahlstrom, and W. Hopp, eds., Philosophy of Mind and Phenomenology, Routledge.


This paper compares and contrasts Michael Huemer's Principle of Phenomenal Conservatism with Husserl's well-known Principle of All Principles. Despite some similarities, I argue that the two are quite different. I examine several cases in which the theories provide different assessment's of a belief's epistemic status, and argue that Husserl's gives the correct answer in each case. I also argue that Husserl's theory specifies an intelligible connection between the content of an experience and its seeming true, while phenomenal conservatism does not.


Empty Intentions and Phenomenological Character: A Defense of Inclusivism, forthcoming in T. Breyer and C. Gutland, eds., Phenomenology of Thinking: Philosophical Investigations into the Character of Cognitive Experiences, Routledge.

In this paper, I will defend phenomenological inclusivism. According to phenomenological inclusivism, the phenomenological character of many of our experiences is, at least in part, constituted by non-sensory mental acts or states. After introducing Husserl’s distinction between empty and intuitive intentions, I argue that empty intentions make a constitutive contribution to the phenomenological character not only of one’s thoughts, but of one’s perceptual experiences themselves. 


Experiments in Thought, Perspectives on Science 22 (2014), 76-97.

What are thought experiments, and how do they generate knowledge? More specifically, what sorts of intentional acts must one perform in order to carry out a thought experiment, what sorts of objects are such acts directed toward, and how are those objects made present in such acts? I argue on phenomenological grounds that the proper objects of thought experiments are, in certain cases, uninstantiated universals and relations among them. I will also argue that, in the best of cases, we intuit or “see” these universals and their relations to one another, and respond to some objections to this view.

 

No Such Look: Problems with the Dual Content Theory, Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 12 (2013), 813-833.

It is frequently alleged that a round plate viewed from an oblique angle looks elliptical, and that when one tree is in front of another that is the same intrinsic size, the front one looks larger than the rear one. And yet there is also a clear sense in which the plate viewed from an angle looks round, and a clear sense in which the two trees look to be the same size. According to the Dual Content Theory (DCT), what explains these and other similar phenomena is that perceptual experiences present us with two different sorts of spatial properties: intrinsic and perspectival spatial properties.
I
argue that the Dual Content Theory rests on flawed phenomenological descriptions of the experience of spatial properties. The only conditions under which a plate tilted away and an ellipse look alike, or two objects which are different in size look the same size, is when at least one of the objects being compared is misperceived. I will consider several responses to the arguments I present, and conclude by suggesting that abandoning DCT would constitute an improvement upon Noë’s enactive theory of perception.



The (Many) Foundations of Knowledge, in D. Zahavi, ed., The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Phenomenology (2013), 327-348. Oxford University Press.

Here I present the outlines of a phenomenologically based account of immediate justification, according to which the facts or states of affairs towards which our beliefs are intentionally directed can, under extremely familiar but philosophically noteworthy circumstances, serve as reasons or evidence for what we believe. A large part of the paper will consists in answering objections to this view.

Critical Review of The Philosophy of Edmund Husserl by Burt C. Hopkins (see here), Husserl Studies 28 (2012), 239-249. Also available here

A discussion of Hopkins's rich work, with an emphasis on the compatibility of Husserl's turn to history with the methodological strictures of phenomenology.


Perception, in S. Luft and S. Overgaard, eds., The Routledge Companion to Phenomenology (2011): 146-157.

An overview, written for non-specialists, of some of the central features of Husserl's, Merleau-Ponty's, and Gurwitch's theories of perception.


How to Think About Nonconceptual Content,
The New Yearbook for Phenomenology and Phenomenological Philosophy 10 (2010): 1-24. Available here.

This paper provides a general account of what nonconceptual content is, and some considerations in favor of its existence. After distinguishing between the contents and objects of mental states, as well as the properties of being conceptual and being conceptualized, I argue that what is phenomenologically distinctive about conceptual content is that it is not determined by, and does not determine, the intuitive character of an experience. That is, for virtually any experience E with intuitive character I, there is no conceptual content C such that undergoing E entails that one is entertaining C, and that for virtually any conceptual content C, there is no experience E with intuitive character I such that entertaining C entails that one is undergoing E. I then argue that while perceptual states and conceptual states can, and in certain cases must, have the same objects, they have different sorts of intentional contents. Perception, I argue, has two kinds of mutually dependent contents that can be varied independently of any conceptual content: intuitive content and horizonal content. I finish by distinguishing between the manner in which intuitive contents “fulfill” conceptual contents in epistemic fulfillment, and the manner in which they fulfill empty horizonal contents in intuitive fulfillment.


Conceptualism and the Myth of the Given, European Journal of Philosophy 17 (2009): 363-385. Also available here.

Content Conceptualism is the view according to which the only kind of representational content, including the content of perceptual states, is conceptual content.  The principal consideration in its favor is that it alone intelligibly explains how perceptual states justify beliefs. Underwriting this argument is Epistemic Conceptualism, according to which only mental states with conceptual content can provide reasons for or justify beliefs. This paper argues against Epistemic Conceptualism.  More specifically, this paper argues that because mental states with the same conceptual content can differ in phenomenologically obvious and epistemically relevant ways, one cannot explain the distinctive reason-giving role of perceptual experiences in terms of their conceptual content alone. The price the Epistemic Conceptualist must pay to deny this, moreover, is that she must water down the notion of conceptual content so much that the resulting position is hardly distinguishable from the ‘Myth of the Given’.


Husserl, Dummett, and the Linguistic Turn, Grazer Philosophische Studien 78 (2009), 17-40. Also available here.
 


Michael Dummett famously holds that the “philosophy of thought” must proceed via the philosophy of language, since that is the only way to preserve the objectivity of thoughts while avoiding commitments to “mythological,” Platonic entities.  Central to Dummett’s case is his thesis that all thought contents are linguistically expressible.  In this paper, I will (a) argue that making the linguistic turn is neither necessary nor sufficient to avoid the problems of psychologism, (b) discuss Wayne Martin’s argument that not all thought-contents are linguistically communicable, and (c) present another, stronger argument, derived from Husserl’s early account of fulfillment, that establishes the same conclusion.


Reply to Heffernan, Husserl Studies 25 (2009), 45-49. Also available here.

This is a response to George Heffernan's marvelous reply to my "Phenomenology and Fallibility." Check out Heffernan's contributions here and here

Phenomenology and Fallibility, Husserl Studies 25 (2009): 1-14. Also available here.

If Husserl is correct, phenomenological inquiry produces knowledge with an extremely high level of epistemic warrant or justification. However, there are several good reasons to think that we are highly fallible at carrying out phenomenological inquiries. It is extremely difficult to engage in phenomenological investigations, and there are very few substantive phenomenological claims that command a widespread consensus. I introduce a distinction between method-fallibility and agent-fallibility, and use it to argue that the fact that we are fallible phenomenologists does not undermine Husserl’s claims concerning the epistemic value of phenomenological inquiry. I will also defend my account against both internalist and externalist objections.


Husserl, Phenomenology, and Foundationalism, Inquiry 51 (2008): 194-216. Also available here.

Husserl is often taken, and not without reason, to endorse the view that phenomenology’s task is to provide the “absolute foundation” of human knowledge. The most natural interpretation of this view is what I call Epistemological-Phenomenological Foundationalism (EPF), according to which all human knowledge depends for its justification, at least in part, on phenomenological knowledge. I argue that this view is philosophically untenable, and that Husserl himself held no such view. I distinguish between (a) reasons which justify the content of one's beliefs and (b) reasons in virtue of which one's states of believing are justified, and argue that Bonjour's famous argument against foundationalism conflates them. I argue that internalism with respect to (a) is plausible, while internalism with respect to (b) is not. I then argue that if EPF were true, then internalism with respect to (b) would have to be true. I then present evidence that Husserl did not endorse that sort of internalism. Phenomenology's task is to discover the laws in virtue of which ordinary belief states are justified, not to provide justifying reasons in support of their contents. I conclude with a discussion of a few of the ways in which phenomenology positively contributes to human knowledge.


Minimalist Truth and Realist Truth, Philosophia Christi 10 (2008): 87-100.

In this paper I examine and reject Alston’s minimalist realism.  According to minimalist realism, anyone who grasps the “conceptual necessity” of any arbitrary instance of the schema “The proposition that p is true if and only if p” will thereby have acquired a realist conception of truth.  After clarifying the sense in which Alston’s theory is ‘minimal’, I argue that, given plausible constraints on a realist theory of truth, grasping the necessity of any instance of the T-schema is far from sufficient to qualify as an alethic realist.  I conclude with a discussion of the motivations behind and desirability of a minimalist theory of truth.  

Husserl on Sensation, Perception, and Interpretation, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 38 (2008): 219-246. Also available here.

In this paper I argue that Husserl's theory of perception, according to which perception involves the "interpretation" of intrinsically non-intentional sensory or "hyletic" data, is flawed in many ways. First, it requires Husserl to conflate perception and fulfullment, despite the fact that fufillment is a complex, higher-order act. Second, Husserl's theory is founded upon a misconception of sensations as features of mental acts that literally resemble the sense-perceptible features that they are of. Third, Husserl never successfully manages to specify just what "interpretation" is, and some of his remarks on the topic are inconsistent. I argue that the phenomenological facts that his theory is designed to explain, particularly object-constancy, can be explained in terms of the role of horizons in perception. 

Review Essay of J.N. Mohanty's The Philosophy of Edmund Husserl, Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal 29 (2008): 175-84. Available here.

This is exactly what it sounds like. The main topics are Mohanty's take on Husserl's platonism, his theory of the noema, and his idealism.