Research

My primary areas of research are contemporary philosophy of mind and metaphysics, and I often approach issues in these fields by employing resources that can be found in historical thinkers like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas. In my recent dissertation, for example, I focused on our ability to achieve mutual awareness with other persons, and I suggested that we can make progress in explaining this phenomenon by utilizing an Aristotelian powers ontology. For more information on this project, please visit the following link for my dissertation summary. In current projects I explore issues concerning the ontology of the human person, the relation between mind and world, the structure of social relations, our unique social cognitive capacities, and the nature of collective agency. I am also interested in medieval philosophy, especially the cognitional theory of Thomas Aquinas, and I am developing an account that shows how his approach benefits contemporary metaphysics of mind.

Below are listed published/forthcoming papers, paper presentations, and selections of work in progress.

Published or forthcoming papers:

“The Illuminative Function of the Agent Intellection,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy, forthcoming.
Abstract: Thomas Aquinas argues that the agent intellect’s function is to abstract an intelligible species from a phantasm. However, insofar as he claims that the intelligible species is not present in the phantasm, it is unclear how the agent intellect accomplishes this task. In this paper I explore two models of abstraction – the extraction model and the production model – suggesting that each fails to capture Aquinas’ account. I then offer my own interpretation of the function of the agent intellect – the illumination model – by employing Aquinas’ comparison of the agent intellect to light. I argue that the agent intellect neither extracts nor produces an intelligible species, but rather makes the nature that is already present in the object intelligible by actualizing its passive power of intelligibility. This involves the co-actualization of partner powers in the intellect and in the intelligible object, and ultimately makes it possible to cognize a particular, material object in a universal way.

“Forgiveness Then Satisfaction: Why The Order Matters for a Theory of the Atonement,” Religious Studies, available online (forthcoming in print).
Abstract: Central to a theory of the atonement is one’s position on forgiveness and satisfaction. These two issues are interrelated, but it is unclear whether one takes precedence over the other. Specifically, must one make satisfaction to remove the guilt incurred by sin prior to forgiveness, or can a victim forgive a wrongdoer independently of any work of satisfaction? Richard Swinburne argues that satisfaction must precede forgiveness, but I defend the view that forgiveness is a manifestation of love, and as such satisfaction is not required prior to forgiveness. Instead, I argue that forgiveness can and should precede satisfaction, and I highlight important implications of this view for a theory of the atonement.

“The Unity of the Knower and the Known:
The Phenomenology of Aristotle and the Metaphysics of Husserl,” Epoché: A Journal for the History of Philosophy, Vol. 22(2), Spring 2018.
Abstract: Aristotle famously asserted that the mind is identical with its object in an act of cognition. This “identity doctrine” has caused much confusion and controversy, with many seeking to avoid a literal interpretation in favor of one that suggests that “identity” refers to a formal isomorphism between the mind and its object. However, in this paper I suggest that Aristotle’s identity doctrine is not an epistemological claim about an isomorphism between a representation of an object and the object itself, but is a phenomenological claim about the character of human cognition and intelligible being. Drawing on texts from Edmund Husserl and Aristotle, I offer a phenomenological interpretation of Aristotle’s identity doctrine. I ultimately argue that, for Aristotle, mind and being are essentially unified, for intelligible being is partially constitutive of the mind.

Presentations: 

“Becoming Oneself Through Another: A Relational Ontology of Persons”
American Catholic Philosophical Association, Panel Discussion on “Thomistic Flourishing: A Second-Person Approach,” with Matthew Shea and Andrew Pinsent, University of San Diego, November 11, 2018.

“Acting Together: The Co-Constituted Nature of Shared Agency”
Northern New England Philosophy Association Annual Meeting, Plenary Session, University of Vermont, October 27, 2018. Commentary from Michael Bratman.

“Revisiting the Substance-Artifact Distinction: Or, Why Aristotle Went Organic Before It Was Cool”
American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division Meeting, San Diego, California, March 29, 2018.

“Joint Attention, Symmetrical Sharing, and the First-Person Plural”
American Philosophical Association, Central Division Meeting, Chicago, Illinois, February 23, 2018
Central States Philosophical Association, 2017 Meeting, Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, October 28, 2017.

“Social Interactions, Aristotelian Powers, and the Ontology of the I-You Relation”
American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division Meeting, Savannah, Georgia, January 5, 2018.

“Me and You, and You and Me: How a Powers Ontology Clarifies the Second-Person Relation (and Makes us ‘So Happy Together’)”
Copenhagen Summer School in Phenomenology and Philosophy of Mind, University of Copenhagen, Denmark, August 14, 2017. Commentary from Soren Overgaard.

“‘Got to Get You into My Life’: A Case for Primitive Second-Person Thoughts”
American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division Meeting, Seattle, Washington, April 12, 2017.
North Texas Philosophical Association, 49th Meeting, University of Dallas, Texas, April 1, 2017.

“The Illuminative Function of the Agent Intellect”
American Philosophical Association, Central Division Meeting, Kansas City, Missouri, March 3, 2017.
Northwest Philosophy Conference, Gonzaga University, Washington, October 15, 2016.

“The Phenomenology of the I-You Relation” with Jeffrey Bishop
Philosophical Collaborations Conference, Southern Illinois University – Carbondale, Illinois, February 24, 2017.

“Self-Consciousness and Neural Mapping: Problems for a (Purely) Neuroscience-Based Theory of Subjectivity”
Midsouth Philosophy Conference, Rhodes College, Tennessee, February 20, 2016.

“Ontological Independence, Epistemological Priority, and The Principle of Self-Realization: Why Artifacts Are Not Substances for Aristotle”
Society for Ancient Greek Philosophy, 33rd Annual Meeting, Fordham University, New York, October 24, 2015.

“Thomistic Mindreading: Why We Ought To Reconsider Aquinas’ Theory of Cognition”
American Catholic Philosophical Association, 90th Meeting, ACPA Sponsored Satellite Session, Boston College, Massachusetts, October 11, 2015.

“Forgiveness Then Satisfaction: Why the Order Matters for a Theory of The Atonement”
The Society of Christian Philosophers, Eastern Regional Meeting, Messiah College, Pennsylvania, September 25, 2015.

“The Unity of the Knower and the Known: The Phenomenology of Aristotle and the Metaphysics of Husserl”
Ancient Philosophy Society Conference, University of San Francisco, April 22, 2012.

“The Necessity of Virtue in Aesthetic Experience”
American Maritain Association Conference, St. Mary’s College, Indiana, October 13, 2011.

Work in progress (selections)

“Social Interactions, Aristotelian Powers, and the Ontology of the I-You Relation”
Abstract: While there has been much promising work on the second-person in the philosophy of mind, very little has been said concerning the ontological nature of the second-person relation. Yet if those defending a second-person approach to intersubjectivity are correct that this is a unique type of relation, then we need a more precise account of what makes this relation distinct. In this paper I seek to provide an ontological analysis of the I-You relation. I develop my account by employing an Aristotelian powers ontology, arguing that an I-You relation forms as a result of the activation of ontologically interdependent social powers. Moreover, I suggest that unlike other relations, the I-You relation is bidirectional, dynamic, and transformative. By offering an Aristotelian analysis of the I-You relation I suggest that we gain greater clarity on the nature and importance of this relation.

“Revisiting Aristotle’s Substance-Artifact Distinction”
Abstract: The difference between substances and artifacts has always been important within Aristotelian metaphysics. Aristotle gave ontological priority to substances, demoting non-substantial beings like artifacts to a secondary ontological status. Yet this Aristotelian position is somewhat counterintuitive, for we tend to think of artifacts like tables and houses as having the same “level” of being as substances like trees and cats. In this paper I recount what are often taken to be the salient differences between substances and artifacts for Aristotle, arguing that this distinction is undermined when we note that substances and artifacts share many features in common. Nevertheless, I maintain that there are important differences between substances and artifacts – viz. substances have epistemological priority, ontological independence, and the principle of self-realization. Thus whatever else may be true of artifacts, Aristotle was correct to suggest that substances are ontologically primary. I close by highlighting the importance of these three criteria of substancehood for contemporary hylomorphism.

Acting Together: The Co-Constituted Nature of Shared Agency
Abstract: Collective agency has received much attention in recent literature, but while there are many approaches to this issue, most theorists seem to adopt the view that shared agency can be reduced to the cognitive, conative, and agential capacities of individuals.  However, in this project I argue that a reductive analysis such as this ultimately fails to explain why certain social activities are truly shared. On my view, some of our mental states essentially involve other persons, and thus cannot be achieved solely by oneself. Operating on this insight, I develop an account of shared agency based on a model of triadic joint attention. The mutual awareness that obtains in central cases of joint attention seems to be distinct from having an experience by oneself, and I utilize a neo-Aristotelian ontology to argue that this highlights the need for distinctively interpersonal cognitive capacities. I then extend this model of joint attention to shared agency, arguing that joint action does not occur merely by syncing up self-sufficient cognitive states, but instead requires the co-actualized and co-dependent mental agency of the persons involved. On my account, neither person could engage in the kind of mental activity needed to bring about a case of shared agency without the other. When we actualize these interpersonal cognitive capacities with others the result is a shared activity that is co-constituted by each person.

Becoming Oneself Through Another: A Relational Ontology of Persons
Abstract: There are numerous theories of personhood within the philosophical corpus, many of which seem to suggest that things like interpersonal relations have no bearing on one’s status as a person. That is, one can exist as a person regardless of the relations that she forms with others. However, in this paper I challenge this account of personhood. Operating on a Thomistic powers ontology, I note that since powers must be co-actualized with other powers, objects must stand in the right relation to one another in order for their powers to be actualized. I then call attention to capacities that are unique to persons, and that can only be realized in social interactions. Given the relationality and mutual interdependence of persons, I ultimately argue that personal relations are essential to one’s individual personhood.