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My research

Psychological unity of one form or another is often claimed to be essential to our ordinary self-understanding and to our relationships, social practices, political philosophies, legal institutions—to human life as we know it. At the same time, it is also often said that the sciences of the mind/brain undercut all our claims to being unified. One major strand of my work investigates claims of the former sort, that is, whether and in what sense we assume we are unified. A second strand investigates claims of the latter sort, that is, whether and in what sense science reveals us to be disunified.

 

 

Some current and recent projects

Avowing the avowal view (forthcoming in AJP)

This paper defends the avowal view of self-deception, according to which the self-deceived agent has been led by the evidence to believe that ~p and yet is sincere in asserting that p. I argue that the agent qualifies as sincere in asserting the contrary of what they in the most basic sense believe in virtue of asserting what they are committed to believing.  It is only by recognizing such commitments and distinguishing them from the more basic beliefs whose rational regulation is automatic that the tension between the self-deceived agent’s actions and assertions can be explained in a core subset of cases of self-deception.

Introducing plurals (forthcoming in Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics)This paper introduces to the philosophical literature on personal identity a new candidate case of multiple persons in one body. Plurals are human beings who identify as multiple persons sharing a brain. I unpack the meaning of the plural identity claim and attempt to say something about its phenomenological basis. I argue that it makes sense to delineate the plurals in terms of their shared identity, despite plurals’ etiological diversity, and offer some possible explanations for the overlap between plural, trans, and autistic populations. The paper neither defends nor rejects that claim, but argues that, on the one hand, the claim is not clearly delusional, and, on the other hand, that there is a difficulty with trying to make sense of it from a third-person perspective.This paper introduces to the philosophical literature on personal identity a new candidate case of multiple persons in one body. Plurals are human beings who identify as multiple persons sharing a brain. I unpack the meaning of the plural identity claim and attempt to say something about its phenomenological basis. I argue that it makes sense to delineate the plurals in terms of their shared identity, despite plurals’ etiological diversity, and offer some possible explanations for the overlap between plural, trans, and autistic populations. The paper neither defends nor rejects that claim, but argues that, on the one hand, the claim is not clearly delusional, and, on the other hand, that there is a difficulty with trying to make sense of it from a third-person perspective.

Consciousness after split-brain surgery: The recent challenge to the classical picture 

[with Tim Bayne(in Neuropsychologia)

In a recent series of experiments, Pinto and colleagues found that the split-brain patient D.D.C. was able to respond accurately to stimuli in either visual field, whether using his right hand, his left hand, or verbally. Pinto and colleagues argue that this demonstrates that a split-brain patient remains a unitary agent and thus continues to possess a unified consciousness. This paper provides a critical evaluation of that claim. First, we argue that two conceptions of the unity of consciousness need to be distinguished: an agency-based conception and an experience-based conception. Second, we argue that it is an open question whether the data presented by Pinto and colleagues is best understood in terms of the unity of agency. Whether that interpretation is correct depends not only on the mechanisms that produce split-brain behaviour, but also on what is involved in being a single agent. Third, we argue that even if the behavioral data indicated that D.D.C has a unified consciousness in the agency-based sense of the term, it is difficult to reconcile them with the claim that his consciousness is fully unified in the experience-based sense.

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