Areas of Specialization: Mind, Epistemology, Cognitive Science, Artificial Intelligence, Action

Areas of Competence: Language, Philosophy of Science, Metaphysics, Feminism


My research focuses on issues concerning the nature of mental kinds and their place in the natural world. I am committed to the claim that beings with mental lives are unlike any other things. They have distinctive properties (including consciousness and intentionality), and are inherently subject to distinctive normative evaluations (such as being competent or rational). They are thus importantly unlike neural, computational, or any other kinds. Call this view distinctiveness. I am also a committed physicalist: I think that the world as described by a complete adequate physical theory grounds the rest of the world in all the variety and complexity it exhibits. There's nothing spooky about the mental: it is just as amenable to scientific explanation as other features of the world. Call this conviction naturalism.

I am developing a systematic, novel framework for better understanding the distinctive features of the mental, how they might be grounded in the non-mental natural world, and how philosophers and scientists might make progress on these questions. As such, my work spans the gamut from very ``armchair'' investigation about the nature of mental and epistemic features to empirical collaborations with Daniel E. Koditschek's lab at the GRASP robotics group at Penn, where we are investigating how the kind of framework I recommend can facilitate research in robotics. 

This framework has two key components: First is an achievement-first, competence-based theory of the most fundamental mental events, including perception and knowledge. This theory helps us to better understand the nature and distinctive features of the mental, and provides an integrated account of them. Second is a theory of how cognitive science does and should empirically investigate "in virtue of'' questions, such as investigation into the neural bases in virtue of which we are conscious, or the artificial bases that might give rise to a genuinely intelligent artificial agent. I call such explanations generative explanations, and am developing a generative methodology for research in artificial intelligence and other areas of cognitive science. This component of the framework illuminates the proper scope of such investigations, and facilitates their pursuit. Although to some extent these two components of the framework are distinct, there are many interconnections and mutual reinforcements.


(If you have difficulty accessing any of my published work, please feel free to email me for a copy.)




Works in Progress

"A Competence Framework for Artificial Intelligence Research"

"When Evidence Isn't Enough"

"What Talk of Rationality Should Do in Rational Discourse"

"A Formal Framework for Generative Explanation"

"Semantic Embedding and the Frame Problem"

"Does Consciousness Come in Degrees?"