My research stands at the intersection of epistemology and the philosophy of mind and action, with a particular focus on perception and its relationship to self-consciousness and agency. Throughout this work I try to engage traditional philosophical issues in ways that are sensitive to recent empirical discoveries, especially in neuroscience and cognitive psychology, showing how the results of experimental work and "armchair" philosophical reflection can mutually illuminating. (For a brief methodological manifesto, see the concluding section of my paper 'Does Visual Spatial Awareness Require the Visual Awareness of Space?'.) Though my usual point of departure is the (so-called) analytic tradition, I draw also on the resources of classical phenomenology (Husserl, Heidegger, Merleau-Ponty, and Sartre), and have interests in figures throughout the history of philosophy (esp. Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Hume, Reid, and Kant).
Below are summaries of the main areas of my research, together with links to relevant papers (note that some of these fall under several headings):
A main focus of my doctoral dissertation was on the nature of spatial representation in visual perception. I have long been intrigued by Kant's idea that there is something "a priori" in the perceptual representation of space, though in some of my published work I have tried to bring this idea into question. Another of my major interests in this area is "Molyneux's question", which asks whether a person born blind whose sight was restored would be able immediately to recognize shapes by sight. Recent work in neuroscience has been thought to answer this question negatively, but I have criticized this conclusion.
Relevant papers: 'Does Visual Spatial Awareness Require the Visual Awareness of Space?', 'Vision, Self-Location, and the Phenomenology of the "Point of View"', 'Do Things Look the Way They Feel?', 'Conscious Vision in Action'
This is the central focus of my current research. I defend a version of G.E.M. Anscombe's influential thesis that human agents have a special form of "practical", "non-observational" knowledge of the things they are intentionally doing. However, my version of this thesis is not the standard one: in particular, I deny that the knowledge of one's intentional actions is necessarily independent of perception, and I hold that there are some cases where it is possible to be doing something intentionally without knowing that one is doing it. Instead, on my view the cognitive standpoint of the agent is distinguished by the way we (usually knowingly) guide our intentional behaviors. I argue that this account is able to resolve some stubborn problems in the theory of action, and can help us better to understand the connection between self-consciousness and rational agency.
Relevant papers: 'Perception and Practical Knowledge', 'Non-Observational Knowledge of Action', 'Why We Know What We're Doing', 'Understanding "Practical Knowledge"', 'Perception and Self-Consciousness', 'Conscious Vision in Action'
Much of my work is concerned with understanding the nature of self-consciousness, especially as it extends to aspects of our bodily and worldly lives. I have argued that bodily awareness meets traditional criteria to be counted as a form of perception, that the self-conscious awareness of one's position in space is a part of visual perception, and that perception can be a source of the self-conscious awareness of what one is intentionally doing. As this quick account of my position may suggest, I am motivated in general by the idea that there should be nothing essentially "inner" about self-consciousness, in either its subject-matter or its source.
Relevant papers: 'The Objects of Bodily Awareness', 'Vision, Self-Location, and the Phenomenology of the "Point of View"', 'Perception and Self-Consciousness'
Though it was not a focus of my dissertation, I do have significant interests in epistemology, especially in self-knowledge and the epistemological status of testimony. I defend a version of Richard Moran's claim that first-personal authority is rooted in rational agency: I believe when it is understood correctly, this thesis holds true in the domain of the psychological attitudes, and also -- with some important qualifications qualifications -- applies to bodily actions as well. In future work, I plan to defend this position against empirically-motivated challenges to the idea that humans have any sort of authoritative knowledge of their psychological lives.
Relevant papers: 'The Transparency of Self-Knowledge to Deliberation', 'Perception and Practical Knowledge', 'Non-Observational Knowledge of Action', 'Why We Know What We're Doing', 'Understanding "Practical Knowledge"'