Upcoming
  • I will be speaking at the University of Victoria on Friday, February 20, on something related to causation and information.
  • A celebration of Jim Bogen as a fantastic scholar and mentor is coming up on March 28 at the Center for Philosophy of Science at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition to a great slate to talks, there will be music and festing, where we get a chance to tell Jim and everyone else how influential and helpful his work and guidance have been.
  • I will join the slate of speakers at round 2 of PragMAPS: Pragmatism at the intersection of Metaphysics and Philosophy of Science, at the University in Oslo on June 4-5. I will be speaking on some specific benefits to be reaped in philosophy of science by being more explicitly pragmatist about the relationship between our representational devices and the world studied by science.
  • I will be one of the keynote speakers at the 2016 Causality in the Sciences conference at Aarhus University in Copenhagen.

The slides from my recent talk at the Causality and Complexity in the Sciences conference in Koln are now available here. The draft of the paper will also be posted here shortly.

You can find preprints and electronic versions of my work online here at PhilPapers. Many items, including the online proceedings items, are available for download on PhilSci Archive.

My current project, on which I am now writing [December 2014], is focused on causation and complexity, developing a metaphysical account of causation that encompasses both process-oriented and counterfactual-oriented accounts of causation. I demonstrate how to represent counterfactually robust causal relata in phase space, over which probability distributions can be put in order to then apply tools from information theory to get some lovely and really specific ways to evaluate the degree of causal relatedness between the relata (and to represent other features of the causal field, like a general gradient, divergence, etc.). This is the more technical side of a project that considers what a pattern ontology over the causal nexus looks like, and the consequences this view has for a number of other debates. If you are interested in this work, please contact me, or check out the slide deck from the Koln presentation, linked above.


Some highlights from recent work:

The chapter "The Representation of Time in Agency" (Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Time) concerns the close interrelationships between time, representation, and agency, from an interdisciplinary perspective. The first part is more survey-oriented, and considers several methodological perspectives from which the issue in the title is often addressed, in terms of the difference between the role that time plays in agency, versus the role of explicitly represented time. The second half of this paper, however, lays out the framework for a new project in philosophy, one that I am hoping gets some uptake. I point out shortcomings in Husserl's phenomenology of time consciousness with regards to the prospects for generalizing it to include agency, and note that these shortcomings are inherited by projects in neurophenomenology. I propose a parallel project that begins with Michael Thompson's naive action theory instead of Husserl's account, as a way of characterizing the phenomena to be explained neuroscientifically. I sketch out what one might look for in a neuroscientific explanation of those features identified as key by Thompson of how certain temporal structure of actions are differentially represented. Looking for a dissertation project? There it is!

In "When to expect violations of causal faithfulness and why it matters", (Philosophy of Science) I show how one key assumption used in drawing inferences about causal structure from probabilistic relationships in data is one that will systematically fail in complex evolved systems. The very character of homeostatic systems is such that they will involve the kinds of precisely counterbalanced causal relationships that "fool" these inference methods. Failures of causal faithfulness to apply to a system under investigation are particularly important, since CF is an assumption used to go from probabilistic relationships in data to causal structure. I draw some conclusions about this: systems that are almost-but-not-quite balanced will cause as much experimental difficulty as systems that genuinely violate CF, which means this is a much more wide-spread experimental difficulty than has yet been appreciated in the formal literature; and we should expect experimental techniques in those sciences to have already incorporated compensatory means to accommodate this feature of their target systems (what, precisely, those compensatory methodological techniques are is a very useful and open question, to which I hope to return in the future).

The chapter "Mental Causation" (Springer Handbook of Neuroethics) is not merely an overview of the state of discussion on this topic, but also offers some arguments as to how we ought to be approaching the issue of mental causation from the perspective of causation in general, rather than as a sui generis kind of causal relation. This piece offers a helpful way to categorize the wide multitude of responses to the causal exclusion problem in terms of their broad argumentative strategies, which makes it useful for teaching.

The "Field guide to mechanisms," part I and part II (Philosophy Compass) identifies five distinct senses of the term 'mechanism' that are used in contemporary discussions of mechanisms in philosophy of science and related fields (I don't address the use of this term in other historical periods, such as the early modern period). I highlight the key characteristics of each species of mechanism, where it is likely to be found, and offer some ways to distinguish each species of mechanism from other closely related ones. I diagnose a number of debates concerning mechanisms as involving distinct senses of mechanism. Each section considers the relevant sense of mechanism in terms of its ontological commitments, methodological implications, role in explanation, and status with respect to anti/reduction.