My research interests cluster around a set of foundational questions regarding the nature and epistemology of consciousness:
1. What is consciousness? How, and in what ways, does (or should) emerging work in the science of consciousness constrain philosophical answers to this question? What would a good philosophical answer to this question look like - and why?
2. Is there such a thing as a level or state of consciousness? If so, what does being in a particular state of consciousness - being awake, dreaming, being in a state in which one has insight into the fact that one is dreaming - consist in? Which mental phenomena, beyond paradigmatic states such as wakefulness and dreaming, can be best explained in terms of changes to a subject's global state of consciousness?
3. Which entities or organisms are conscious? How can we come to know this? How do we come to have knowledge about minds (our own and those of others) more generally? In what ways is the epistemology of mental phenomena sensitive to ontological accounts of mental phenomena - and, even more broadly, different theories about nature of mental categories themselves?
4. What are the standard concepts of consciousness - phenomenal consciousness, access consciousness, the concept of a conscious state, good for? Which, if any, of these concepts are morally significant? Which, if any, are of primary epistemic significance?
My doctoral research works to develops a unified framework for the scientific and philosophical study of consciousness which can work to answer these seemingly disparate set of questions. This takes as its starting point the claim that phenomenal consciousness ought - for epistemic and moral purposes - to be re-engineered, in the popular meta-philosophical sense, as a natural kind concept.
2020, Philosophical Studies.
Abstract: Aphantasia is a recently discovered disorder characterised by the total incapacity to generate visual forms of mental imagery. This paper proposes that aphantasia raises important theoretical concerns for the ongoing debate in the philosophy and science of consciousness over the nature of dreams. Recent studies of aphantasia and its neurobehavioral correlates reveal that the majority of aphantasics, whilst unable to produce visual imagery while awake, nevertheless retain the capacity to experience rich visual dreams. This finding constitutes a novel explanandum for theories of dreaming. Specifically, I argue that the recent dream reports of aphantasics constitute an empirical challenge to the emerging family of views which claim that dreams are essentially imaginative experiences, constitutively involving the kinds of mental imagery which aphantasics, ex-hypothesi, lack. After presenting this challenge in the context of Jonathan Ichikawa’s recent arguments for this view, I argue that this empirical challenge may be overcome if the imagination theorist abandons Ichikawa’s account of dreaming in favour of a modified version. This involves the claim that dreams are essentially inactive and constitutively involve non voluntary forms of imagination. I conclude with a suggestion for further research which can test the viability of this alternative hypothesis, and move the debate forward.