Overview

I'm an Associate Professor at Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, British Columbia. I work in philosophy of science, and in metaphysics and epistemology broadly construed. Much of my work relates in one way or another to causation: causal explanation, application of causal methodology to case studies in philosophy of science, problems related to mental causation or action, and the metaphysics of causation. I also have ongoing work in time and temporal experience.


I am now starting on a project funded by the Foundational Questions Institute (FQXi) on Consciousness in the Physical World. My project will consider the behavior of specifically temporal variables in information theory as it is used in the Integrated Information Theory of Consciousness. This approach will bypass details from neuroscience to consider constraints and possibilities on the specifically temporal structure(s) of any consciousness, as modeled in IITC, and to compare the fit between known temporal features of consciousness and the representation of these temporal features in IITC. This project will commence work in late 2020 and take about two years.


My ongoing central project focuses on patterns and pattern identification, mathematical versus causal explanation, and on implications of the causal nexus from Salmon for pattern ontologies for phenomena. This is a development and extension of the information theoretic account of causation (see Patterns, Information, and Causation, J Phil). This is a multi-year ongoing project, so do feel free to email and ask about the current works in progress.


I am editing a very focused volume, The Pragmatist Challenge (OUP), with chapters that have emerged from the talks and discussions in the Pragmatism, Metaphysics, and Philosophy of Science workshops (see Other Professional Info tab). The volume will lay out a vision of pragmatist approaches to contemporary philosophy of science, especially topics at the intersection of metaphysics and phil of science, and will hopefully be rich territory for future discussions to explore further. The timeline has been delayed (even before anything that could be called 'present cicumstances'!) but the final version should be together by late Fall 2020.


I am currently the Graduate Chair of the SFU Philosophy Department. We have a great MA program here. Our students are often those whose previous work was in a non-North American institution, students who are making the jump from a different field into Philosophy, students whose original undergraduate transcripts tend to run 'hot and cold' (great grades alongside less than stellar ones), or who have taken a break from academic pursuits for some length of time. We fully fund all our students, and have refined some great processes by which to get everyone ready for successful PhD applications, or to use their time with us to decide that academic philosophy is not the path for them and leave with a solid skillset for writing, communication, and pedagogy. Our student cohort is usually 70-80% international students; SFU is a supportive environment in which to transition to English language instruction. I love talking about what makes our program work and where we can improve, so do feel free to contact me about how we run things here.


You can find preprints and electronic versions of my work online here at PhilPapers. Many items, including online proceedings items, are available for download on PhilSci Archive. A moderately recent CV can be found here. Information on courses I have taught and some material for courses can be found here.

In Current Research, there is info on upcoming talks, and highlights of recently published, in progress, and upcoming works. This page is not updated often, so may be out of date.


To get in touch, email me at handerse [at] sfu [dot] ca.


Nota Bene: I've been asked to put a photo of myself here, so that e.g. people citing my work in a presentation can put my face up there next to the text. This is a common practice, growing more common as powerpoint grows more ubiquitous.

So, I post a photo, but only if you read this rant first. Short version: don't put anybody's face up there. Get more creative. Even if you use my not-male face, the whole practice still skews male because of philosophy's past and current gender distribution. Don't deepen the philosophy=male association by enforcing the sexism of philosophy's past on present audiences.

Longer version: I make a practice of not using anybody's faces when going over their views (not even favorite faces like Carnap and Neurath!) but use some other kind of visual imagery instead. 1), this usually isn't that hard given an extra couple seconds of thought and some creative googling. It also often improves the point I am making, because there are ways to illustrate a point that are more suggestive to the audience of what is going on philosophically than some person's face. 2), and this one is the important one: We know the history of Western philosophy to be a very gender-biased and racially-biased trajectory. Putting up pictures of people next to their views is going to result in an overwhelming dominance of large male faces staring down at audiences. This matters because implicit associations are formed in exactly this way - by repeated viewings of images like faces in association with fields like philosophy.

We could not have designed a better practice to take the past sexism of the field and use it to deepen and strengthen the association between men and philosophy in the present. Even if you use lots of faces of women in presentations, this practice will still involve a heavy skew towards men in terms of percentages. Don't reinforce on audiences today the incredibly skewed gender distributions of philosophy's past.

Perhaps you want to make sure that those in the audience know that a certain author is a woman or nonbinary. What about using faces for them, and not using any faces for men? Here is something to consider about that approach: it means that women are depicted with faces, and men are depicted with ideas. It still treats them differently in how their ideas are represented through the images on the slide. It still reinforces a problematic gender divide, just a different one than the one found through the history of philosophy. It reinforces a broader social tendency to gauge women in terms of physical appearance (even when using 'not sexy' versions of physical imagery), and to evaluate men by the content of their work, or ideas connected to that content. It invites a needless moment of judgement on the appearance of women and nonbinary people. This impacts them, because they might want their work discussed without having to think about what they look like. It also impacts the students in the class, because it invites continuation of those judgements of women on appearance as being one way or another, a tendency of which many college-aged people are already too aware of and wish for a break from. Representation is particularly important in settings like undergraduate classes. But instead of using faces for women, and non-faces for men, consider similar imagery on slides for all authors, and finding ways to ensure you use correct pronouns, written on slides and when you speak in presenting those slides. We can decide to make Philosophy more of a place where really, it does not matter what you look like.

That said, some people insist on having a face anyways, and I would prefer the imagery of me that is used be ones I am ok with. So, some headshots: