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After studying at Duke University, Princeton Theological Seminary, Edinburgh University, and Oxford University, I started at York in 2002. Following the old adage 'we teach best what we most need to learn', I taught a variety of modules in analytic philosophy for many years. This gave me a broad background in metaphysics and epistemology, philosophy of mind and language, and logic, which I came to apply to problems in religious belief. More recently, I have specialized in analytic theology, which I take to be a branch of philosophy of religion. I defend an approach to analytic theology on which it is a kind of philosophy geared to clarification by conceptual engineering. I apply this approach to diverse aspects of theological doctrine, such as the resurrection of the body, and theological practice, such as corporate worship.
My areas of specialization include: Metaphysics (especially Modality), Epistemology (especially Social Epistemology), and Philosophy of Religion (especially Analytic Theology).
In modality, I have argued for a Priorian approach to the modal operators (where they aren't duals) in response to the paradox of necessary existence; see my 'Is Timothy Williamson a Necessary Existent?'. Also in this area, I have argued with Tom Stoneham that there might have been nothing; see our paper 'The Subtraction Argument for Metaphysical Nihilism'.
In social epistemology, I have argued for the possibility of conscious, non-evidential believing on the basis of beliefs a person inherits from their culture; see 'Non-Evidential Believing and Permissivism about Evidence: A Reply to Dan-Johan Eklund'. More recently, I have examined the role others play in establishing, or dis-establishing, a person's faith in God; see 'Shattered Faith: The Social Epistemology of Deconversion by Spiritually Violent Religious Trauma'.
In analytic theology, I have argued for the possibility of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist without transubstantiation ('Experiencing the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist'), for knowing an unknowable God (see 'What an Apophaticist Can Know: Divine Ineffability and the Beatific Vision'),and for the value of corporate worship ('Common Worship'). What underlies these arguments is the role of second-personal experience of God and sharing attention with him in knowing him and experiencing his presence.
My current research focuses on analytic theology, which, broadly speaking, is the application of the concepts, arguments, and views found in analytic philosophy to advance understanding in theology. More specifically, I think of anlaytic theology as conceptual engineering, where the aim is to improve theological concepts so that they can better serve the social and intellectual purposes they are put to. A good example of this is a recent paper where I argue for the possibility of physically disabled resurrected bodies (see 'The Resurrection of the Minority Body: Physical Disability in the Life of Heaven').
I chair the cluster group on philosophy of religiona and analytic theology in the Department, affectionately termed 'The St Benedict Society'. St Benedict established an order founded on principles of mutuality, moderation, and encouragement. We aim to embody those values in working collaboratively to produce high quality research in the philosophy of religion and philosophical theology. As an example of this way of working, we have produced a number of collaborative papers, including:
With David Worsley, I ran a cluster group on the Beatific Vision from 2016-2018, thanks to generous funding from the Analytic Theology Project at Innsbruck, Austria. Speakers included Simon Gaine, Simon Kittle, Eleonore Stump, Michael Rea, Oliver Crisp, Andrew Torrance, and Kevin Timpe
The cluster group culminated in a workshop on the beatific vision, which also served as the inaugural meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers, UK region. The speakers at the workshop included: Christina Van Dyke, György Geréby, Andrew Pinsent, Simon Gaine, and Joseph Stenberg.
One of the joys of research for me is collaborating with other scholars. I had a long-standing collaboration with Tom Stoneham concerning whether there might have been nothing. The flagship paper of that collaboration is our 'The Subtraction Argument for Metaphysical Nihilism'.
More recently, I have collaborated with current and former PhD students on topics in philsoophy of religion and analytic theology, including Joshua Cockayne, Jack Warman, and David Worsley. The papers that resulted from these collaborations include:
These collaborations have resulted in some of my best work. A paper I'm particularly fond of is 'Experiencing the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist', which has no fewer than seven authors.
I would be interested in supervising projects including, but not limited to:
Modules I regularly teach:
Recent talks include: