Academic Work

Here, you can find some of my academic work.  Most of my work is at the intersection in philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.  Below are a few drafts of papers that I’ve been working on.  This list will expand as there are more projects become presentable.

Indexicality Opacity and Perspectivality

In a 1979 paper entitled “The Problem of The Essential Indexical,” John Perry provides some examples which compelled some philosophers think that we need to think of first-personal thoughts (thoughts that one would express using the first-person pronoun “I”) as having a different kind of content than other kinds of thoughts, and essentially first-personal kind of content.  In another 1979 paper, David Lewis provides a formal model that lets us incorporate distinctively first-personal contents into a formal theory of content of natural language expressions.  Thus, a tradition in semantics was borne, one that we wight call the “essential indexical” tradition.  In a recent monograph, entitled The Inessential Indexical, Herman Cappellen and Josh Dever argue that this tradition is mistaken.  They argue that sort of examples that Perry provides are not specific to first-personal thoughts at all; rather, they are simply an instance of a more general phenomenon,  referential opacity.  The upshot of this claim is, roughly, that thoughts that one would express using the first-person pronoun “I,” ought not be understood as different in content than thoughts that Lois Lane would express using the names “Superman” or “Clarke Kent.”  They conclude, on the basis of this claim, that perspective is not a “deep” issue in philosophy of language and philosophy of mind.  Working within the semantic framework of Robert Brandom’s Making It Explicit, I argue that Cappellen and Dever are right in their main claim, but they draw the wrong conclusion.  The essential indexical tradition, in positing distinctively pserspectival semantic contents, is indeed mistaken.  The mistake, however, is not the tradition’s thinking that perspective is deep.  Rather, it is its to fail to realize how deep it is.  If thought and language is essentially a matter of the coordination of perspectives, as is the case on Brandom’s framework, all semantic content is perspectival.  

The Skeptical Thought and Its Dissolution

“The skeptical thought” is the thought that the world might not exist outside of your own experience.  In this paper, I draw from Thompson Clarke and Ludwig Wittgenstein to argue that this apparent thought doesn’t make any sense.  Drawing from Clarke, I argue that it hinges on a conception of the conceptual that many people take for granted, what I call a “detached conception of the conceptual.”  In the consideration of the skeptical thought, this conception breaks down, leading to a certain sort of paradox.  The right response to the paradox that arises when we try to make sense of the skeptical thought is not that there is some question that we shouldn’t ask, a question that inevitably leads to paradox.  Rather, we should simply conclude that the detached conception of the conceptual is the wrong way to think about what it is to have concepts.  Drawing from Wittgenstein, I argue that we should opt for an engaged conception of the conceptual, a conception in which concepts and practices are inextricably intertwined.  From the standpoint of such a conception, the skeptical thought is, on its face, nonsense.