I teach contemporary analytic philosophy. My courses include the theory of knowledge, philosophy of science, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, philosophy of religion, and logic. Each of my courses are typically organized around a few key problems, and we spend our time working through recent arguments philosophers have debated on these topics. The material is usually drawn from journal articles, but occasionally there is cause to study an entire text by just one author. In the classroom I try to encourage discussion that is carefully focused on the text since this is I think the first step in achieving comprehensive understanding of the issues.
My research area is the philosophy of science. I have published several papers on the problem of scientific realism, and while continuing to research that topic, I am now also working on essays about scientific understanding.
The problem of scientific realism boils down to this: science is remarkably successful, which leads naturally to the conclusion that it is probably describing the underlying causal structure of reality in an approximately correct way. However, past scientific theories have always been incorrect in at least some sense, otherwise they would not have been discarded for more recent theories. So, while the success of science encourages belief, past failures encourage disbelief. What are we to believe about science?
In my work I have disputed a very popular argument for scientific realism (the ‘no miracles argument’), but I have also suggested that a new reading of the history of science undermines anti-realist conclusions. I am currently working on a positive account of scientific realism that is motivated by a solution to some ‘deep’ problems in epistemology.
The second area I am working on is how we ought to characterize scientific understanding—what it is, and how we identify it once achieved. Most people assume that problem-solving is intimately connected with understanding in science, and while not dismissing this idea, I think it overlooks a more important way of conceiving understanding—as situation model comprehension. I draw on the resources of recent cognitive studies to develop a theory of scientific understanding that places the concept carefully between that of knowing and problem-solving in science.
I grew up in the south of England, but moved to California in 1992. After receiving my PhD from UC San Diego 2006, I moved to Duluth to join the department of philosophy at the University of Minnesota. In the Fall of 2010 I brought my family down to the warmer climate of Memphis and joined the department here at Rhodes. Outside of Rhodes I spend most of my time with my family, either enjoying the zoo or trying to maintain our house near campus. I can also be found at the Rhodes squash courts, where I make a simple sport look very difficult.
Ph.D., University of California San Diego (2006)
B.A., California State University Sacramento (1999)
Philosophy of Science
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy of Religion
“EMU and Inference: What the Explanatory Model of Scientific Understanding Ignores.” European Journal for Philosophy of Science (accepted; forthcoming)
“Refining the Inferential Model of Scientific Understanding.” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, Volume 27, Issue 2 pp. 173-197 | DOI:10.1080/02698595.2013.813253.
“An Inferential Model of Scientific Understanding.” International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 26 (2012): 1-26.
“The No-Miracles Argument, reliabilism, and a methodological version of the generality problem.” Synthese 177 (2010): 111-138.
“Beyond Structural Realism: pluralist criteria for theory evaluation.” Synthese 174 (2010): 413-443.
“Ramsey-Sentence Realism as an Answer to the Pessimistic Meta-Induction.” Philosophy of Science 72 (2005): 1373-1384.