In 1989 I undertook a BA (MA) in PPE from Oriel College, Oxford, before moving to Birkbeck College, London, to do my MPhil in 1991. After that I stayed at Birkbeck to do my PhD and then went to Oxford University 1994-96 to become a junior lecturer. Between 1996 and 2000 I was a fellow and tutor in Philosophy at Merton College Oxford, before coming to York in 2000 to take up a post as a lecturer here. In 2004 I became a Reader in Philosophy and in 2006 I took up the post of Head of Department, until 2014. I was made Professor of Philosophy in 2008 and in 2015, after stepping down as Head of Department, I took up a post as Dean of the Graduate Research School.
- Chair of Graduate Research School Board and all its sub-commitees
- University Research Committee
- Special Cases Committee
- Standing Committee on Assessment
- Employability Strategy Group
- International Committee
My research interests lie in the following areas: 17th century British philosophy (Herbert to Berkeley; Methodology in metaphysics (e.g. recombination, ontological commitment, truthmaking); Perceptual consciousness, imagination, and dreaming.
- I am in the early stages of writing a book about consciousness. My view is that perception is the paradigm case of consciousness, but that perceiving does not involve a mental state. So the phenomenal character of consciousness in perception is not determined by phenomenal or representational properties of some mental state but the properties of the 'external' objects of perception. But in imaginings and dreamings there are no such objects, so I deny that these are conscious experiences: rather they are a special kind of thought about possible conscious experiences. What about illusions and hallucinations? Well, I an unconvinced that phenomena philosophers allude to really exist in the forms which might create problems for my view.
- I am still writing quite a lot about Berkeley. I have been working on Alciphron for a while – inspired by teaching it to third year undergraduates – exploring the dialectic, the argument for Divine Language and the ‘non-cognitivism’ in a series of papers. I am also writing on his account of universal knowledge for a major historical project on universals sponsored by the Scuola Normale Superiore in Pisa, and going back to the Three Dialogues and the role of immediate perception in Berkeley's arguments.
- I am interested in some more minor British philosophers of the early modern period, especially Arthur Collier (Clavis Universalis, 1713), Richard Burthogge (Organum Vetus et Novum, 1678) and Edward, Lord Herbert of Cherbury (De Veritate, 1624). Not only do these philosophers provide useful historical context to the canonical figures, but also they have intriguing ideas which have been all but washed away in the sea of history.
- Stemming in part from various curious passages I have come across in early modern philosophical texts, passages which made me realize that mirrors can be and have been conceived of rather differently from how we think of them now, I am planning an inter-disciplinary research project on 'Mirrors: Materials, Metaphors and Models' with colleagues from English, History of Art, Archaeology and Psychology. If you think you could contribute, let me know!
Current Ph.D. Students: John Blechl (Berkeley), Declan Hartness (Metaphysics of consciousness), Adam Timmins (Historiographical practise)
Recent Ph.D. Students: Ro Smith (Transcendental Anti-sceptical Arguments), Louise Moody (Disjunctivism and Naïve Realism), Tae Kim (Perceptual Content), Rob Davies (Self-knowledge), Sam Thornton (Evolution, language and cognition)