My papers


Phenomenal Concepts: Neither Circular Nor Opaque (Philosophical Psychology, 29 (2), October 2016, pp. 1186-99)

Abstract: In this paper, I focus on an influential account of phenomenal concepts, the recognitional account, and defend it from some recent challenges. According to this account, phenomenal concepts are recognitional concepts that we use when we recognize experiences as “another one of those.” Michael Tye has argued that this account is viciously circular because the relevant recognitional abilities involve descriptions of the form “another experience of the same type,” which is also a phenomenal concept. Tye argues that we avoid the circularity worry if we explain the reference-fixing of phenomenal concepts in terms of dispositions to re-identify tokens of the same type without appealing to any further phenomenal concepts. However, he argues, this account is incompatible with the intuitive claim that phenomenal concepts seem to involve rich modes of presentation of their referents. Philip Goff and others have similarly argued that a recognitional account of phenomenal concepts would make phenomenal concepts opaque, that is, unable to reveal anything about their referents, which seems problematic. In this paper, I present a new version of the recognitional account that avoids the circularity worry without entailing that phenomenal concepts are opaque.

Do A Posteriori Physicalists Get Our Phenomenal Concepts Wrong? (Ratio, 27 (1), March 2014, pp. 1-16)

Abstract: A posteriori physicalism is the combination of two appealing views: physicalism (i.e. the view that all facts are either physical or entailed by the physical), and conceptual dualism (i.e. the view that phenomenal truths are not entailed a priori by physical truths). Recently, some philosophers such as Goff (2011), Levine (2007) and Nida-Rümelin (2007), among others, have suggested that a posteriori physicalism cannot explain how phenomenal concepts can reveal the nature of phenomenal properties. In this paper, I wish to defend a posteriori physicalism from this new and interesting challenge, by arguing that a posteriori physicalists have the resources to explain how phenomenal concepts can reveal at least something of what it would take for the corresponding phenomenal property to be instantiated.

Can Phenomenal Concepts Explain the Epistemic Gap?    (Mind, Vol. 119 (476), October 2010, pp. 933-51)

Abstract: The inference from conceivability to possibility has been challenged in numerous ways. One of these ways is the so-called phenomenal concept strategy, which has become one of the main strategies against the conceivability argument against physicalism. However, David Chalmers has recently presented a dilemma for the phenomenal concept strategy, and he has argued that no version of the strategy can succeed. In this paper, I examine the dilemma, and I argue that there is a way out of it. I conclude that Chalmers has not posed any serious problem for the phenomenal concept strategy to succeed in blocking the conceivability argument. In doing so, my aim is not only to show that Chalmers’s argument has not refuted the phenomenal concept strategy, but also to clarify what any version of the strategy should achieve in order to be successful.

Defending the Phenomenal Concept Strategy (Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Vol.86 (4), December 2008, pp. 597-610)

This paper aims to clarify the structure of the phenomenal concept strategy and defend it from the objections raised by D. Stoljar's "Physicalism and Phenomenal Concepts", Mind and Language 20, 2005.

Huiming Ren has written a reply to my paper, 'On "Defending the Phenomenal Concept Strategy"', The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 88(2), pp. 347-51, 2010.


Norms of Judgement, Naturalism, and Normativism about Content (Philosophical Explorations 19(1), pp. 48-58, January 2016)

Abstract: David Papineau (1999) argues that norms of judgement pose no special problem for naturalism, because all such norms of judgement are derived from moral or personal values. Papineau claims that this account of the normativity of judgement presupposes an account of content that places normativity outside the analysis of content, because in his view any accounts of content that place normativity inside the analysis of content cannot explain the normativity of judgement in the derivative way he proposes. Furthermore, he argues that normative accounts of content along those lines are independently problematic. In this paper I aim to respond to both objections, by arguing that normative accounts of content can be seen as naturalist accounts, even if they place normativity inside the analysis of content; and that normative accounts of content are compatible with a derivative account of norms of judgement of the sort Papineau advocates.

Actors are not like Zombies(Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 112(1), pp. 115-22, April 2012)

This paper discusses Stoljar's comparison of the conceivability argument against physicalism (i.e. the zombie argument) and the conceivability argument against behaviourism (i.e. the actor argument), which can be found in Stoljar's "Physicalism and Phenomenal Concepts", Mind and Language 2005, and Stoljar's "Two Conceivability Arguments Compared", Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 2007. Stoljar argues that both arguments stand or fall together, but I argue that there are crucial differences, so that a posteriori physicalists can reject the zombie argument against physicalism and accept the actor argument against behaviourism.

Are Ghosts Scarier than Zombies? (Consciousness and Cognition 21(2), 2012, pp. 747-8in a special volume with papers and commentaries from the II Online Consciousness Conference).

This short paper is a commentary to Philip Goff's "A Priori Physicalism, Lonely Ghosts, and Cartesian Doubt", appearing in the same volume. Philip Goff has written a rejoinder, entitled "Ghosts are still scarier than zombies", included in the same volume.

Reductive Explanation, Concepts and A Priori Entailment  (Philosophical Studies 155, pp. 99-116, August 2011)

Is physicalism committed to the a priori entailment from microphysical truths to phenomenal truths? Is the reductive explanation of consciousness committed to the a priori entailment from microphysical truths to phenomenal truths? Block & Stalnaker (1999) say NO. Chalmers & Jackson (2001) say YES. In this paper I argue for a negative answer to those questions.

We are living in a material world (and I am a material girl) (Teorema: Special Issue on Phenomenal Consciousness and Contemporary Naturalism, Vol. 27 (3), September 2008, pp. 85-101)

 This paper discusses the characterization of physicalism presupposed by conceivability arguments against physicalism and argues that it is well motivated.



AbstractAre sexual orientations freely chosen? The idea that someone’s sexual orientation is not a choice is very influential in the mainstream LGBT political movement. But do we have good reasons to believe it is not a choice? Going against the orthodoxy, William Wilkerson has recently argued that sexual orientation is partly constituted by our interpretations of our own sexual desires, and we choose these interpretations, so sexual orientation is partly constituted by choice. In this paper I aim to examine the question of whether our interpretations of our own sexual desires are constitutive of our sexual orientations. I will argue that whereas Wilkerson’s argument for the claim that sexual orientations are in part constituted by our chosen interpretations of our sexual desires is not sound, there are good reasons for endorsing a weaker claim, namely, that there are different but equally apt descriptions of the same sexual desires, depending on which concepts we have.

Saray Ayala has written a reply, entitled "Sexual Orientation and Choice", forthcoming in the Journal of Social Ontology.

‘Woman’ as a Politically Significant Term: A Solution to the Puzzle (Hypatia 31(2), pp. 245-58, Spring 2016)

Abstract: What does ‘woman’ mean? According to two competing views, it can be seen as a sex term or as a gender term. Recently, Jennifer Saul has put forward a contextualist view, according to which ‘woman’ can have different meanings in different contexts. The main motivation for this view seems to involve moral and political considerations, namely, that this view can do justice to the claims of trans women. Unfortunately, Saul argues, on further reflection the contextualist view fails to do justice to those moral and political claims that motivated the view in the first place. In this paper I argue that there is a version of the contextualist view which can indeed capture those moral and political aims, and in addition, I use this case to illustrate an important and more general claim, namely, that moral and political considerations can be relevant to the descriptive project of finding out what certain politically significant terms actually mean.

What is Social Construction?  (European Journal of Philosophy 23(4), pp. 1137-52, December 2015)

Abstract: In this paper I discuss the question of what it means to say that a property is socially constructed. I focus on an influential project that many social constructivists are engaged in, namely, arguing against the inevitability of a trait, and I examine several recent characterizations of social construction, with the aim of assessing which one is more suited to the task.

Teresa Marques has written a reply, entitled "The Relevance of Causal Social Construction", Journal of Social Ontology, 3(1), pp. 1-25, 2017.

In Defence of Historical Constructivism about Races (Ergo, 2(21), pp. 547-72, October 2015)

Abstract: Social constructivism about races holds that races are socially real, that is, they are identical with socially constructed properties, or social kinds. One particular version of social constructivism, namely, historical constructivism, claims that the properties that make a group of people a race are certain historical properties of the individuals that belong to that group (e.g., the life histories of the members of the group, or their ancestors). Joshua Glasgow has recently argued, following Appiah, Gooding-Williams and others, that historical constructivism faces several problems. In particular, he argues, it faces a trilemma: either the characterization of races provided is circular, or, if it wants to avoid circularity, it will turn out to be either redundant or indeterminate. In this paper, my main aim is to explore this interesting challenge to historical constructivism about races, and argue that it can escape Glasgow’s trilemma. I will focus on historical constructivism about races, but I hope my discussion will shed some light on the question of whether social constructivist accounts in general are tenable.

Social Kinds, Conceptual Analysis, and the Operative Concept: A Reply to Haslanger  (Humana.Mente--Journal of Philosophical Studies, 22; special issue on Making Sense of Gender, Sex, Race, and the Familypp. 57-74, September 2012)

This paper is a reply to S. Haslanger's "Philosophical Analysis and Social Kinds: What Good Are Our Intuitions?", in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 2006, Supplementary Volume 80.

How to Be a Realist About Race

This paper explores some issues in the recent debate about the new biology of race, focusing on the recent exchange by Joshua Glasgow and Robin Andreasen at the Journal of Philosophy 2003 and 2005 respectively.