More info coming shortly [spring 2018]: I have just wrapped up the first major part of a project laying out an information-theoretic metaphysics of causation (2017 J Phil, preprint at PhilPapers), and am now turning to the second part. In addition, I have an ongoing project on pragmatist philosophy of science and on agency and the present moment.



Some highlights from work published in the last couple of years:

The paper "Complements, not competitors: causal and mathematical explanations": A finer-grained delineation of a given explanandum reveals a nexus of closely related causal and noncausal explanations, complementing one another in ways that yield further explanatory traction on the phenomenon in question. By taking a narrower construal of what counts as a causal explanation, a new class of distinctively mathematical explanations pops into focus; Lange’s (2013) characterization of distinctively mathematical explanations can be extended to cover these. This new class of distinctively mathematical explanations is illustrated with the Lotka-Volterra equations. There are at least two distinct ways those equations might hold of a system, one of which yields straightforwardly causal explanations, but the other of which yields explanations that are distinctively mathematical in terms of nomological strength. In the first, one first picks out a system or class of systems, finds that the equations hold in a causal-explanatory way; in the second, one starts with the equations and explanations that must apply to any system of which the equations hold, and only then one turns to the world to see of what, if any, systems it does in fact hold. Using this new way in which a model might hold of a system, I highlight four specific ways in which causal and noncausal explanations can complement one another.

A book chapter on Shadworth Hodgson's metaphysic of experience: this chapter offers a overview of Shadworth Hodgson's account of experience as fundamentally temporal, an account that was deeply influential on thinkers such as William James and which prefigures the phenomenology of Husserl in many ways. I highlight eight key features that are characteristic of Hodgson's account, and how they hang together to provide a coherent overall picture of experience and knowledge. Hodgson's account is then compared to Husserl's, and I argue that Hodgson's account offers a better target for projects such as neurophenomenology than does Husserl's. Hodgson's account is historically important as a culmination of a certain trajectory of British Empiricist thought. It offers a substantive alternative for how to think about temporality and experience in contemporary discussions, not just of the present moment but of the relationship between experience and knowledge more broadly.

A book chapter on reduction in the biomedical sciences, now available here, discusses several kinds of reduction that are often found in the biomedical sciences, in contrast to reduction in fields such as physics. This includes reduction as a methodological assumption for how to investigate phenomena like complex diseases, and reduction as a conceptual tool for relating distinct models of the same phenomenon. The case of Parkinson’s disease illustrates a wide variety of ways in which reductionism is an important tool in medicine.

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.