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General Research Interests

Normality, Perception, Action, and Cognition, Metaphysics, Scholastic Medieval and Contemporary.


The Explanatory Link Account of Normality, Philosophy, forthcoming.

Normality Judgments: Content and Structure

Abstract: There are (at least) three sorts of generalizations that cognitive beings make. One is a universal or nomic judgment, where any counterexample refutes the generalization. Another is a statistical or frequency judgment, where any change in the prevalence of the ascribed feature falsifies the generalization. There is a third sort of judgment which is often overlooked: a sort of generalization where there don’t appear to be straightforward counterinstances and there don’t appear to be specific prevalence attached to the generalization. This sort of generalization I’m calling a “normality judgment.” The project of the dissertation is to elucidate this form of judgment. This conversation overlaps with extant literatures, such as discussions of generic sentences, ceteris paribus claims, functions, dispositions, non-monotonic logics, et al. Rather than engaging directly in those discussions, though, the goal is to carve out some room for a different sort of conversation. Instead of giving a semantics for a class of sentences or attempting to describe what scientists are up to when they employ certain sorts of judgments in their rarefied practice, the goal is instead to ask a folk psychological question: what are cognitive beings like humans up to when they make normality judgments?

The resulting dissertation will consist of 6 chapters making step-wise progress toward understanding these judgments more clearly:

  1. What is the distinction between universal, statistical, and normality generalizations?
  2. Is merely specifying an individual an explanation of its possession of certain features?
  3. What is the general content shared by perhaps all normality judgments?
  4. What are some implications and potential worries for this account?
  5. Why did Aquinas think that the normal would be frequent and the frequent would be normal?
  6. What can we say at this early stage about the inferential structure of normality judgments?

Current Research Projects outside Dissertation:

  • Aquinas on Organization
    • When we read Aquinas not in terms of what he explicitly argues for, but in terms of what he presupposes and utilizes in his arguments, we find a remarkably coherent and unified natural philosophy. At the core of this natural philosophical picture is a metaphysical structure that is presupposed in the positing of any being, description, or activity. This paper attempts to elucidate the features of this structure I am calling an ‘organization.’
  • An Alternative to Accuracy
    • Most theorists of perception take as common sense the claim that perceptual experiences can be compared with the way the world is and so can be assessed for accuracy or fit with the objective world. This paper tests this claim against an argument derived from one levied against the correspondence theory of truth. If the account of perceptual success according to which success means fit with the objective world is found wanting, then we’ll need an alternative account of perceptual success. In the final section of the paper, I attempt to describe what that alternative will look like.