I am a Reader (Senior Associate Professor) in philosophy at the University of East Anglia. My research is in experimental philosophy (X-Phi) and the philosophy of philosophy. I direct an interdisciplinary X-Phi research group, together with psycholinguist Paul Engelhardt. We develop new empirical approaches to classical philosophical problems.
I am interested in philosophical problems about perception and conscious experience, and in the cognitive science of language comprehension, judgement and reasoning. I study how automatic cognition shapes philosophical thought, and how findings about philosophical cognition help address some philosophical problems about perception and consciousness.
Stereotypes and metaphors in philosophy
Much of my work studies how automatic inferences involved in language comprehension shape natural language reasoning, in philosophy and beyond. The focus is on how stereotypes and metaphors shape intuitions and reasoning, in philosophical thought experiments and arguments. Three interrelated research projects extend the methodological and philosophical scope of X-Phi and are now generously funded by the Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation (project summary here):
My experimental work with Paul Engelhardt and further collaborators explores how to adapt sophisticated methods from psycholinguistics for new uses, in X-Phi. These methods include pupillometry, reading time measurements with eye tracking, and cross-cultural psycholinguistics. We also use distributional semantic analysis.
The critical strand of mid-20th century ‘ordinary language philosophy’ sought to expose verbal fallacies in reasoning that motivates philosophical questions. This can help ‘dissolve’ philosophical problems like the ‘problem of perception’. Our projects provide fresh experimental methods and new empirical foundations for this resurgent enterprise, and for the examination of how ordinary discourse constrains linguistic innovation (‘conceptual engineering’), in philosophy and beyond. Our findings even help develop some metaphilosophical ideas from Wittgenstein and his followers!
We use psycholinguistic methods to study automatic comprehension inferences and deploy findings to assess
reconstructions of philosophical arguments. For proof of concept, we have analysed influential arguments from the philosophy of perception: the argument from illusion and the argument from
hallucination. Experimental findings support novel reconstructions
that expose previously overlooked fallacies.
The monograph Philosophical Delusion and its Therapy draws on philosophical case studies, models from cognitive therapy, and findings from cognitive psychology to develop and assess ‘diagnostic/therapeutic’ conceptions of philosophy in the wake of J.L. Austin and Ludwig Wittgenstein. The edited collection Experimental Philosophy, Rationalism and Naturalism discusses how X-Phi reshapes and advances longstanding debates about philosophical method. The edited volume Methodological Advances in Experimental Philosophy explores how sophisticated empirical methods from the behavioural sciences and the digital humanities can be
adapted for X-Phi. I am currently working on a monograph, Psychological Philosophy, that explores how research in psychology of philosophy can help address philosophical problems. Further books and publications here.