Visiting Professor of Philosophy
He has taught at the University of Hawaii, the University of London, Idaho State University, and at other colleges and universities in the U.K. and the U.S. He was an Alexander von Humbolt Fellow at the University of Munich, and is a Permanent Member of the Senior Common Room at University College, Oxford.
He has written a book on the philosophy of colour (Colour: a Philosophical Introduction, Blackwell, Oxford, 1991, 2nd ed,) and a number of articles on time, the latest one on the concept of the future.
His deepest loves are colour and composition in painting, and the meaning in words in poetry. He has strong research interests in philosophy of mind, and his most recent publication in the area is "'My Body,' 'my X' and 'I,'" American Philosophical Quarterly, 3 (2008), and also in diagrammatic and visual logics, "Logic as a Vector System," Journal of Logic and Computation, 3 (2005).
How can the mind and the body interact, as they are two entirely different sorts of things? Or are they two entirely different sorts of things? This course explores some of the history and the logic of the mind-body problem, and focuses on solutions from Descartes to the present, including the instructor's own solution, to be presented in a book published by the MIT Press in 2015-16. A large part of the course will be the reading and discussion of the author's manuscript for the Press.
Topics to be discussed include: Platonism about time, the topology of time, if any, the McTaggart Argument, Presentism vs. Eternalism, the nature of the present, the reality of the past, time travel, space-time worms and the four-dimensional view of time
Kafka wrote, "Belief is a frozen sea. Philosophy is an axe." I would like students to get to know the ins and outs of philosophical problems, so that they can wield their own "axes" with skill and accuracy. This introduction to philosophy aims to get to the bottom of each of the philosophical problems discussed, without any sacrifice of technical correctness or historical sensitivity. The problems to be discussed will be: the nature of philosophy; the nature of logic; the problem of evil; the existence of God; what knowledge is; personal identity; the mind-body problem; freewill and determinism; and the meaning of life. There will be two papers, question sets, a one-hour mid-term and a one-hour final. The questions on the exams will be drawn from the question sets. Also required are two short (6-page) papers.
The freewill problem. Are human beings free? If not, why not? What happens if God, or anyone else, people in the NSA, for example, or even our friends, know the future? Does that make us unfree? If time travel is possible, does that tend to make us unfree? Is there any way of squaring freewill and what we know from science, especially neuroscience and psychology, and is so called hard determinism true, the proposition that no human action is free because all human actions are events caused as a part of nature? There will be two papers, question sets, a one-hour mid-term and a one-hour final. The questions on the exams will be drawn from the question sets. Also required are two short (6-page) papers. Prerequisite: At least one prior philosophy course.
An introduction to the theory of knowledge, its principal questions and theories. What is the basis of knowledge, if any? Might we all be stuck in the Matrix, lacking any real knowledge? How would we know, since if we were stuck in the Matrix our belief that we are stuck in the Matrix would only be the belief that we were stuck in another Matrix within the Matrix, not the real one, since we have no access to that. It becomes vital to know what knowledge is, and how it is related to truth and to belief. Can there be knowledge in the Matrix? What is the justification of knowledge? Does justification involve an endless regress of justifying propositions? What is the structure of knowledge (the so-called "architecture" of knowledge) if there is not to be an infinite regress of justifying propositions? There will be two papers, question sets, a one-hour mid-term and a one-hour final, whose questions will be drawn from the question sets, and two 6 pp. papers.
An introduction to the philosophy of perception, and its questions. Do we perceive things as they really are, or are we aware only of our own representations of things? Is our perception of the world a grand illusion, as some, including some religious thinkers, believe, or an accurate copy of the world, like a photograph? What is the difference between misperceiving and correctly perceiving? Does perception consist of the occurrence of interior and psychological events called "sense-data", or is it about properties of things apprehended directly and as they are: "direct realism"? Can skepticism, the view that all our perception is somehow tainted or unreliable, be sustained? Is perception the end of a causal process, so that we are only indirectly in touch with the external world? What are the consequences of our answers to these questions for the practice of empirical (or sense-based) science, and common sense? The course requirements are Question Sets, a Mid-Term and Final drawn from the question sets, and two six-page papers. Prerequisite: One philosophy class or permission of the instructor.
Whether other animals have minds that are anything like ours is a problem that has long excited (and challenged) scientists and philosophers. This course will be a reading seminar in which we examine an array of difficult questions about the cognitive abilities of non-human animals: Is consciousness a uniquely human property? Can other animals hold beliefs? Can they represent concepts (and what is a concept, anyway)? Do animals acquire "knowledge?" How might it be related to the kind of justification or understanding that is a requirement when we say that a human knows something? Do animals experience emotions? How are animal communication systems like - or unlike - human languages? What are the similarities and differences between human and animal perceptual systems? In attempting to address these and other issues, we will read and discuss material from the professional literature in a wide variety of fields, including philosophy, linguistics, cognitive science, neuroscience, animal behavior and genetics and evolutionary biology. Prerequisite: Prior coursework in animal behavior, philosophy, cognitive science, or biology.