Eric Funkhouser: Writing and Research



The Logical Structure of Kinds
(Oxford University Press, 2014)

In this book I develop a property theory, which I then apply to issues in philosophy of mind--multiple realizability, reduction, and autonomy. This property theory gives special attention to the determination relation. The determination relation is found to contain two components-- what I call determination dimensions and non-determinable necessities--which structure kinds at the same level of abstraction into property spaces. In turn, these property space models of kinds lead to conditions for individuating properties.

Fundamentally, the book is about the logical structure underlying the distinction between genuine differences in kind and mere differences in degree. Only with the former do we have autonomy. For example, do cognitive psychological taxonomies and explanations merely differ in degree from those of neuroscience, or do they differ in kind? If they differ in kind, then cognitive psychology is autonomous with respect to neuroscience. I argue that neuroscientific kinds likely realize psychological kinds, rather than serving as their determinates.


"Robust, Unconscious Self-Deception: Strategic and Flexible" (with David Barrett)
Philosophical Psychology (forthcoming)

“A Call for Modesty: A Priori Philosophy and the Mind-Body Problem”
New Waves in Philosophy of Mind (2014)

“Practical Self-Deception”
Humana Mente (February, 2012)

“Frankfurt Cases and Overdetermination”
Canadian Journal of Philosophy (September, 2009)

“Imagination and Other Scripts” (w/ Shannon Spaulding)
Philosophical Studies (March, 2009)

“Self-Deception and the Limits of Folk Psychology”
Social Theory and Practice (January, 2009)

“Multiple Realizability”
Philosophy Compass (February, 2007)

“A Liberal Conception of Multiple Realizability”
Philosophical Studies (February, 2007)

“On Privileging God’s Moral Goodness”
Faith and Philosophy (October, 2006)

“The Determinable-Determinate Relation”
Nous (September, 2006)

“Do the Self-Deceived Get What They Want?”
Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (September, 2005)

“Willing Belief and the Norm of Truth”
Philosophical Studies (August, 2003)

“Three Varieties of Causal Overdetermination”
Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (December, 2002)

In Progress

“Beliefs as Signals”

“Is Self-Deception an Effective Non-Cooperative Strategy?”

Belief, Signaling, and Deception
(book manuscript)

“The Myth of Agential Authority”

“Mistakes, Personal Relationships, and the Irreplaceable”

Research Projects

Book Manuscript: Belief, Signaling, and Deception

    In this book I develop an account of belief that counters certain rationalist assumptions--namely, that belief is governed by the norms of truth and rationality. I argue that the essence of at least some beliefs includes a signaling function. Beliefs often serve as social signals to be read by others, and as such the logic of animal signaling applies to them. Fulfilling this function often produces deviations from truth and rationality. I argue that this signaling function explains various self-enhancing beliefs, other cognitive biases, as well as certain pro-social beliefs. I also apply the signaling function to self-deception, arguing that it is a form of signaling to other parts of the self/body for manipulative purposes. The main philosophical conclusions are that truth is neither the constitutive nor normative aim of belief, and belief often fragments into various regarding-as-true stances. The resultant theory better fits with complex cases like implicit bias, alief, and self-deception. This theory has significant payoffs for the new science studying the logic of deception and biased belief. And the signaling theory generalizes to other mental states and attitudes.

Philosophy and Science of Self-Control Project: Temptation and the Self (with Jennifer Veilleux)

    We received a generous grant from the Templeton Foundation (administered through Florida State University) to conduct a series of psychological studies on how self-control is affected by how a person thinks of her temptations. People frequently speak of resisting their desire for cake, fighting the urge to smoke, or being overcome with anger, as if these temptations are external enemies to battle. But is this a healthy and effective attitude? We describe those who think of their temptations as external intruders as alienating their temptations. An alternative mindset is to accept temptations as part of the self. Such acceptance amounts to taking responsibility for these wants as one’s own. We aim to test whether alienation or acceptance of temptations is a better mindset for exercising self-control.
    We focus specifically on dieters and those wanting to quit smoking. First we will gather data from adults across the United States to discover the extent to which people view their temptations as either alien or accepted, as well as how their views relate to their success at self-control. Additionally, we will run a pair of laboratory studies. In one, we will guide smokers and dieters to think of their temptations as either an accepted part of their self or something external. We will then expose them to temptation – such as putting snack cakes before them – to test which mindset is more effective. Our second laboratory study attempts to tease apart two possible ways in which a person may accept a temptation. If a temptation is accepted as part of the self, is it better to think of oneself as in a battle against temptation or in a position to choose between a better or worse part of ourselves? We will guide dieters and smokers to accept their temptations but think of themselves as either in a battle or choice situation, and test which mindset is more effective in a temptation situation. For both of these laboratory studies we will also include a persistence task to test for more general fatigue. Overall, our focus is on self-control in practical situations in which people are truly vested and identify goals as part of their true self.

Future Projects:

*I am working on extending the property theory developed in my book The Logical Structure of Kinds to account for modality in a way that takes predicate spaces to be more fundamental than possible worlds. I also am working on the notions of naturalness and comparative naturalness as they apply to predicates (my views are skeptical). I also want to develop more rigorous applications of my property space models to actual scientific kinds (especially those that are candidates for reduction). This work might be combined into a new book on metametaphysics, modality, and naturalness. However, my predicate/property space models will still remain central.

*In the future I hope to write more on the idea of agential authority--the idea that there is a privileged aspect of one's psychology that represents the agent's stand on some matter. For example, Plato and Aristotle thought that agential authority resided with a person's rational nature--e.g., reason is the little person inside of you. I take a more skeptical view against not only this classical view, but also alternatives proposed by Harry Frankfurt, Michael Bratman, and Christine Korsgaard.

*I also hope to do more work on self-control. In particular, I wish to attend to how believing in personal essences (i.e., this is who I am) and having behavioral policies (i.e., this is what I do) affect self-control.

*I would like to return to autonomy and reduction,  utilizing cellular automata theory to explain (at least by analogy) higher level patterns--and their autonomy or reduction--in complex adaptive systems.