I am a Professor in the Philosophy
Department at the University of Arkansas. My main areas of research are
in metaphysics and the philosophy of psychology and mind. I also serve
as the Director of Graduate Studies for the Philosophy Department.
I have published a book—The Logical
Structure of Kinds
(Oxford, 2014)—in which I develop and defend
a theory of properties and kinds, with special applications to debates
over multiple realizability and reduction in the philosophy of mind. I
like the theory that I advanced in that book, but I was pretty brief
when it came to drawing out all the consequences and applying it to
particular cases. Somewhat relatedly, I have recently written a paper
criticizing the Lewisian conception of naturalness.
Most of my current research is more in philosophy of psychology and mind.
I am currently working on two new and interrelated books. The first is tentatively entitled Nonrational Belief: A Theory of Belief as Robust Dispositions
This book is about the fundamental nature of belief. I argue, against a
common philosophical view, that belief is not, by its very essence,
rationally sensitive to evidence and reality. Instead, belief consists
simply in possessing a set of robust dispositions. This set includes
dispositions to reason in certain ways, but it also includes
dispositions toward behavior, emotions, physiological responses, and
perception. Because it downplays the role of rationality and takes
belief to be continuous with the imagination and similar psychological
states, I describe my view as neo-Humean.
The second new book is tentatively entitled The
Signaling Mind: A Theory of Belief as Social Manipulation
This book builds off of the other, in particular the claim that belief
need not be rationally sensitive to evidence and reality. In this
book I argue that many beliefs serve a signaling function—
much like animal signals used to manipulate other animals—
explains various cognitive biases and pro-social beliefs. I also
apply the theory to self-deception. The signaling function I advance generalizes to
other mental states and attitudes. Related to both of these book projects, I am also working on a few more
papers on self-deception and imagination.
In all of my work, but especially in my book projects, I tend to favor
the development of positive views and theories as opposed to sustained
criticial engagement with the nuances of a large literature. I am
willing to sacrifice a bit of scholarship for the sake of creativity,
breadth, and advancement.
I also am the Co-PI on a Templeton funded project
the philosophy and psychology of self-control.