Research Interests

My Ph.D. research was on epistemology - mainly on the relation of knowledge to certainty and the limits of doubt - and the later Wittgenstein. After that, my research interests changed and are now mostly in the philosophy of mind and psychiatry. In particular, I am currently interested in three areas: the nature of naturalism, emergence and the philosophical and ethical implications of certain kinds of mental disorder. 

In connection with naturalism and emergence, I have been working on what it means to be a naturalist when it comes to the mind, what such a position includes and what it rules out. Though naturalism about the mind has been typically associated with some kind of physicalism and thus some form of reductionism (either explanatory or ontological), it seems to me that given the primacy of empirical evidence that should be the core of a naturalist view, a naturalist should be open to different commitments. My contention is that a naturalist ought to be an emergentist about the mind.

In my current work on emergence, I go beyond such framework questions and focus on spelling out how a plausible positive account of emergence can be given and, related to this, on elucidating the concept of a brute fact and the role that brute facts play in emergentism. Traditionally the idea of a fundamental fact has been linked with the idea of an unexplainable fact and, also, dependent or supervenient phenomena have been thought of as non-fundamental. So the emergentist’s idea that some so-called "brute facts" are both dependent and fundamental can appear mysterious. I try to dispel the appearance of mystery by addressing the three main arguments posed against brute facts, what I call the simplicity objection, the coherence objection and the empirical objection. In 2018 I co-edited an anthology on brute facts that, I hope, will help kickstart a dialogue on the topic of bruteness that so far has been largely ignored.

I am also interested in mental disorders and their philosophical implications. My current focus is on what mental disorders can tell us about the metaphysics of mind and on the kind of explanatory approach that is needed to address mental disorders effectively. Exploring such questions via actual psychiatric research, may, beyond possibly providing insights towards a better theory of mind, also contribute to practical applications (e.g. concerning social policy). I am also troubled about mental health stigma and part of my work is focused on how to effectively 
combat it. As I believe that the question of stigma is both a public health issue and a question of social justice this has led my work to also touch on ethical issues and other questions about the social determinants of health.

I have always been interested in the epistemology of religion and the nature of the relation of religion to science but I have never taken these up as a major area of research. Instead, so far, I try to review books that cover such topics hoping that one day inspiration will strike and I will delve deeper into all of this. 

Bringing philosophical thinking to the general public is something I always try to do (regrettably sometimes to the despair of my friends) so I make it a point to contribute as much as I can to non-academic projects related to philosophy, including blogging for Psychology Today and Scientific American Mind.