We are rational agents. As rational agents, we don't merely experience the world and compile information about it. We evaluate it; we form judgements about whether we ought to act in this way or that and whether we ought to believe this or that; we respond to reasons for us to act or think in certain ways. In short, we are creatures whose lives are imbued with normativity: we engage critically with ourselves, each other, and our environment, with a view to changing those things for the better and in the right ways.
There are features of our mental lives which are centrally involved in our experience of normativity. To take some examples: we have the ability to recognise reasons and to respond in a way that manifests this recognition. When thinking about how we ought to respond to a certain situation, this involves a certain kind of mental agency on our part. Certain mental states -- experiences of pleasure; the complex of attitudes involved in friendship; the capacity for autonomy... -- are central to standard accounts of well-being and morality. And there are certain emotions -- shame, regret, remorse, pride... -- which are essentially imbued with normative content.
Externalism in the philosophy of mind is the view that there are aspects of our mental lives which are essentially tied to our environment: being in the relevant sorts of mental state requires one's environment to be a certain way. Externalist views have been embraced about mental features including: thought content; the mental attitude involved in propositional knowledge; and the phenomenal character of sensory experience.
In the most general terms possible, my abiding research interest is in what externalism in the philosophy of mind can teach us about the normative aspects of our mental lives. What problems in ethical theory, moral psychology, or metaethics might be helped if we adopt an externalist stance towards the relevant aspects of mind? When we try to account for phenomena like normative achievement, moral worth, autonomy, and responsibility in terms of our capacity to respond to reasons, does adopting an externalist account of the latter ease things? And does thinking of the moral emotions as essentially tied to externalist states like knowing help us in our attempt to model their character?
These are examples of the research questions I like to pursue. Below, you'll find a detailed statement of two research projects which serve to further illustrate my research interests. Do be in touch if you'd like to engage with me on any of these issues -- I'd very much welcome it.