© 2023 by ESS. 

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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 projects 

Perspective in dramatic imagination

One (putative) kind of imagining figuring especially in the philosophy of art but alluded to elsewhere in the philosophy of psychology is what Moran calls dramatically imagining. Dramatic imagination is generally contrasted with the kind of purely hypothetical imagining engaged by, for instance, thought experiments; Gendler argues that it is with respect to the former and not the latter that the phenomenon of imaginative resistance can arise. But what is it to dramatically imagine something? Philosophical works on dramatic imagination typically say only that it involves perspective-taking in a way that hypothetical imagination does not. I consider and reject several possible ways in which dramatic imagination might robustly involve the taking on of a perspective and ultimately argues for a somewhat deflationary account of the nature of dramatic imagination: to dramatically imagine a scenario can be no more than to take an emotional stance towards it. 

On the psychosocial possibility of plural personhood

Philosophers have often debated whether or not we should see subjects with dissociative identity disorder (DID) as containing or animated by multiple persons. If ought implies can, then it is worth asking whether or not we are capable of plural recognition: capable of recognizing a single human being as multiple persons. This paper looks at that subset of cases of DID in which the subject self-identifies as multiple persons, and looks also at other cases of human beings who have this plural self-conception. Rather than focusing on the intrinsic psychology of this population of multiples, however, the paper focuses on how its members socially relate to others, and especially to close second parties, especially romantic partners. It looks as though close second parties are capable of recognizing and relating to multiples as though they were each multiple persons, though this way of relating to them is not always automatic but may require an ongoing commitment to sustain it even when it is difficult. I also argue that plural recognition does not necessarily create a moral hazard, since many multiples insist that the human being will remain a unitary locus of responsibility. Of course this insistence, together with their identities as multiples persons, is in prima facie tension with the otherwise appealing Lockean idea that "person" is a "forensic term." 

 

The avowal account of self-deception

This paper defends the avowal view of self-deception against a competing account, the biased belief view, which has been prominently defended by Mele and by Van Leeuwen. The two accounts are starkly different; it is presumably for this reason that Van Leeuwen himself has argued against the avowal view, specifically, in the course of defending the biased belief view. The avowal view of self-deception is independently motivated by recognition of the asymmetry between the basis for attributing beliefs to other people versus that for attributing beliefs to oneself. It can also account for both verbal and non-verbal self-deceived behavior. The biased belief view meanwhile suffers from a serious internal tension between the constitutive conditions for self-deception that it offers and the picture of belief and belief-formation that it assumes. Indeed, the only way to avoid such tension is to recognize, as the avowal account does, two different kinds of belief or belief-like attitudes in our mental lives, one of them a kind of commitment.