Research

My fields of specialization are Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology and my areas of competence include Philosophy of Language and Philosophy of Psychology. My current research investigates various issues related to self-knowledge, rationality and agency. I’m particularly interested in understanding cases of cognitive dissonance in which failures of rationality and agency seem to overlap. I’m also interested in explaining the nature of self-understanding in such cases.

I’m member of the research project ‘The Fragmented Mind‘. Please visit our webpage www.fragmentationproject.com.

Areas

  • Philosophy of Mind, Epistemology
  • Philosophy of Language, Philosophy of Psychology

Current Research

  • Assertion-Behavior Dissonance

    Assertion-Behavior Dissonance

    Recent Contributions and future research agenda

    My most significant contribution to philosophy of mind and epistemology has been a series of papers published on cases of assertion-behavior dissonance (‘dissonance cases’ for short). These are cases in which an individual’s explicit and endorsed views sharply contrast with her overall arc of linguistic and non-linguistic responses. One example is a case in which someone explicitly and vehemently defends egalitarianism while being racist in most of her unguarded responses. The debate about how to properly describe the psychology of a dissonant person has gained increasing attention in recent years. It is a rich debate that hinges on foundational questions about the mind––about, e.g., the nature of certain mental states like beliefs and criteria for their respective ascriptions.

    I contributed to this debate by defending a view according to which, in some relevant cases, the dissonant person has two mutually contradictory beliefs. I have been working on such cases since 2010, and my view was published in Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (2014) and in Dialectica (2015). My main argument is that attributing two beliefs to the dissonant person not only makes sense of this dissonance, but also explains further key features of the case, such as the irrationality of acting against one’s own defended views.

    My original research on the psychology of a dissonant person has developed into several manuscripts that examine various aspects of such cases. My manuscript published in Erkenntnis (2015) investigates the type of irrationality involved in cases of dissonance. My Dialectica (20155) paper explores the consequences of my interpretation for Moore’s paradox. In my manuscript published in Philosophical Explorations (2015), I examine whether a dissonant person can know both of her beliefs in a first personal way. I predict that my work on dissonance cases will develop into further manuscripts. I am currently working on my manuscript, ‘Acknowledge but Unendorsed Beliefs’.

    My philosophical interest in dissonance cases is informed and guided by broader questions in philosophy of mind, philosophy of psychology, and epistemology. Such questions include, for example, the nature of beliefs, norms of rationality, and questions of mental agency and self-knowledge: how much control do we have over our beliefs? What is a belief and how does it differ from other psychological states? How do we know what we believe? Thus, in the long term, I aim to make positive contributions to the field that exceed the scope of dissonance cases.

  • Self-Knowledge

    Self-Knowledge

    Recent contributions and research agenda

    Self-knowledge is one of the broad areas of philosophy that interests me, and to which I intend to make key contributions. In my work, I have followed specific debates in the field: e.g., the compatibilist debate between self-knowledge and anti-individualist accounts of the mind; and models of self-knowledge. My Ph.D. dissertation focused on the first of these topics and defended a compatibilist position. I recently published a short note for the Australasian Journal of Philosophy on a book by Brueckner and Ebbs (2012) within this debate.

    In relation to the second debate, I have pursued extensive research on different models of self-knowledge that aim to explain our authoritative, special, and peculiar knowledge of our own mental states. In particular, I have examined the so-called transparency models (proposed, e.g., by R. Moran (2001), A. Byrne (2005), (2011), J. Fernández (2013), and others). My published paper, “On Knowing one’s own resistant beliefs”, objects to two theses accepted by transparency models (particularly Moran’s): (i) if a belief self-ascription is grounded in the evidence of the person holding the belief, it is third-personal, and (ii) we cannot have first-personal knowledge of beliefs we do not control. In the paper, I offer counter-examples to both theses.

    Most recently, I have been working on a paper, ‘Basic Self-Knowledge and Transparency’, in which I argue that transparency models of self-knowledge are unable to explain how cogito judgments (a term coined by Burge in 1988) amount to privileged self-knowledge.

    Aside from these contributions, my objective in the following years is to elaborate a particular picture of self-knowledge that explains both our basic self-knowledge (that is exemplified by cogito judgments) as well as our more substantial self-knowledge that involves self-reflection. The debate between different models of self-knowledge originating in the late nineties has focused on how to explain authoritative knowledge of very simple mental states. For example, how can I know directly and authoritatively that I believe it is raining (when I do so)? However, in recent years, an increasing number of philosophers have noticed that the topic of self-knowledge deserves a broader treatment (for example, Cassam 2014, Self-Knowledge for Humans). I am sympathetic to such a concern, and want to understand the connection between our capacity for critical self-reflection and the immediacy by which we know certain states of our minds.

    My current view on self-knowledge is partly informed by the views on self-knowledge proposed by Burge. I believe that Burge is correct in his claim that our capacity to be critical reasoners is an indication (and actually requires) that we have privileged self-knowledge. Brute errors of self-knowledge amount to failures of rationality rather than mere mistakes of reasoning. I also think that Burge is correct in holding that part of the epistemic explanation of why certain mental self-ascriptions amount to privileged self-knowledge has to do with how the cognitive capacities involved in forming such self-ascriptions serve as epistemic entitlements to the subject. However, a lot of work still needs to be done in the field of self-knowledge. In particular, there is an open question about the relationship between the types of epistemic warrant of direct, ‘easy self-knowledge’ and the self-knowledge generated by self-reflection. I want to pursue an answer to this question.

  • The Nature of Belief

    The Nature of Belief

    Recent contributions and research agenda

    My work on unendorsed beliefs is part of a broader research agenda on the nature of beliefs that I aim to pursue over the following years. My main objective is to advance a non-dispositionalist notion of belief, according to which a belief’s normative aspects develop from its psychological structure. I currently hold that belief is a representational mental state that disposes an individual to act in certain ways, but whose nature is identified by its constitutive functions. Beliefs’ constitutive functions are aspects of their psychological structure, and some functions are themselves normative aspects of beliefs. Arguably, two of these constitutive functions are: to produce true representations and to be sensitive to reasons. A belief fulfills its functions if it is true and if it correctly responds to reasons. Development of this research objective dialogues with much-debated questions concerning norms of beliefs.

    I consider that questions about the nature of beliefs are directly connected to questions about norms of rationality, and thereby to further normative issues: e.g., those normative issues surrounding mental agency. We are in a position to form and to modify our beliefs by reasoning with and about them. Thus, there seem to be overlapping issues connecting the type of agency we are able to exercise over our beliefs and standards of good reasoning.

    The recent debate on epistemic akrasia, to which I also contributed, deals with such issues. How is it possible that an individual can reason from a set of evidence, conclude that the evidence supports a belief that P, but fail to form a corresponding belief that P? In addition to a published manuscript on this topic (2014c), I have been working with my colleague Yannig Luthra (UCLA) on a joint paper on the possibility of epistemic akrasia.

    Another research project, ‘The Fragmented Mind’ (of which I am co-author and a core member), explores a complementary set of issues related to beliefs — without reducing to my personal research. The objective of the project is to explore the idea that our entire belief system is divided into separate belief fragments. The notion of belief fragmentation is explained more clearly in works by David Lewis (1982), Robert Stalnaker (1984), and more recently, in works developed by Agustín Rayo (2013) and Adam Elga (e.g., 2015). The idea of fragmentation was proposed to make sense of a series of cases in which an individual holds inconsistent beliefs and/or does not draw some obvious inferences from her held beliefs. My core dissonance cases are notable examples; however, the notion of belief fragmentation also covers simpler cases, in which holding inconsistent beliefs does not clearly entail any type of irrationality. Because these cases are so ubiquitous, the hypothesis of fragmentation, still under scrutiny, proposes that a better picture of our minds is one according to which a single subject has separate belief systems. This project’s development also draws from empirical research on the mind, proposing that a focus on memory can help us better understand the belief fragmentation hypothesis.

    The Fragmented Mind project team — composed of Marian David (the project leader), Dirk Kindermann and myself — has planned to produce a series of papers on the topic. We are currently working on a joint paper that explores the notion of fragmentation and its relationship to different conceptions of belief. The paper maps onto recent discussion about fragmentation of mind, examining positions held by Stalnaker, Elga, Rayo, Cherniak, and Davidson. For more information on the fragmentation project, please visit our website: fragmentationproject.com