About Me

Ph.D. in Philosophy
University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Current Projects

van Inwagen's Special Composition Question
  • We argue that the SCQ should be supplemented because it does not adequately constrain the set of admissible answers. We use Markosian's recent answer (Regionalism) to show that the SCQ isn't asking the question that mereologists and ontologists actually wanted to answer in the first place. 
Metaphysical Intuitions
  • I argue that metaphysical intuitions are generated by an innate physical reasoning system, as evidenced by the fact that infants have intuitions (or, proto-intuitions) comparable to those of professional metaphysicians (e.g., the principle of spatio-temporal continuity). This, I argue, has important implications for the epistemology of intuitions in material object metaphysics. 
  • Collecting citations on papers from Philpapers. This project is massively time consuming, so it's going fairly slow. We currently have 140,000 citations from papers categorized as Objects, Ontology, Persons, and Realism/Anti-Realism on Philpapers. T 
  • Creating pictures of philosophy based on the categorization of papers on Philpapers
  • Analyzing the relations between philosophical views based on correlations between philosophers' reported positions
  • Future Projects: 
    • Predicting authors' future popularity by identifying the patterns of citations that typically precede a viral explosion in popularity
    • weighing in on philosophical debates about the meaning of term X by using semantic network analysis
XPhi: the Cognitive Benefits of Philosophical Education
  • Testing high school students before and after 7 days of philosophical education, using LSAT questions and the Cognitive Reflection Test. We know philosophers do better than most on these tests, but we don't know whether this is because of philosophy or simply the result of high scoring folks choosing to pursue philosophy. Preliminary results indicate that philosophical education improves scores on both tests. 
XPhi: Scientific Explanation
  • Through a series of studies, our lab is aiming to understand how scientists and other non-philosophers conceive of explanations. So far, the results suggest that intelligibility is necessary, but accuracy may not matter. 
  • Using semantic data from Twitter, Facebook, Lexis Nexis, and news media to evaluate the real world impact of social justice films. The aim of this project is to help Sundance determine which film makers should receive greater funding, based on how successful they have been in spreading their message with previous films. 
  • We seem to have an obligation to speak well of the dead. This is most clearly seen in obituaries. Drawing from thousands of obituaries, Mark Alfano and I are developing a (partial) ramsification of virtue-talk in ordinary discourse to develop maps of the values we ascribe to the dead. 

Contact Information
aahiggi (at) gmail (dotcom)