i have been defending the value of boredom and developing an account of boredom that holds that due to its affective, volitional, and cognitive aspects, boredom motivates the pursuit of a new goal when the current goal ceases to be satisfactory, attractive, or meaningful to the agent.
boredom, i argue, helps to restore the perception that one’s activities are meaningful or significant, and acts as a regulatory state that keeps one in line with one’s projects.
a popular presentation of my position on boredom can be found in an article for aeon magazine. i presented on the benefits of boredom at a talk for creative mornings/louisville in december, 2015— a media coverage of my presentation is found here. for my academic work on boredom, go here (published) and here (drafts).
my account of boredom has attracted worldwide media attention. i was interviewed on radio new zealand and newstalk (ireland), and for articles for the following magazines: Nature, Wired, u.s. news & world report, U.S. Catholic, Women's Health, and University Affairs. my account of boredom has also been featured in articles for bbc, fast company (here and here), business insider, psychology today, live science, open culture, the federalist, the tribune (india), dezeen, curator, vps.net, peruthisweek, and others.
the good life
related to my work on boredom, i am writing a book that explores the nature and value of boredom, frustration, and anticipation (propelled toward the good life [Oxford university press, 2019]). I argue that the good life is one that requires the presence of both positive and negative experiences and show how in order to live a good life we need to cultivate the ability to respond to and learn from our negative experiences. Boredom and frustration, I argue, are indications that we find ourselves stuck in unpleasant and unfulfilling situations. they can also act as motivating forces that can get us out of such traps and help us achieve our goals.
in a series of articles, i developed an account of the nature of phenomenal concepts (i.e., the concepts that we deploy when we introspectively examine our phenomenal experiences) and use this account to respond to epistemic arguments against physicalism – that is, arguments that purport to infer an ontological gap between consciousness and physical processes from an epistemic gap between phenomenal truths and physical truths.
although i no longer accept that one can offer a satisfactory response to epistemic arguments against physicalism by appealing to features of our phenomenal concepts (yes, i changed my mind!), i still think that an understanding of the nature of these concepts is important for our understanding of the character of introspection, the type of knowledge that we can have with respect to phenomenal consciousness, and for accounting for the fact that consciousness appears to be other than physical despite what our best biological sciences tell us.
The debate surrounding the veracity of physicalism (and consequently, the ontological status of consciousness) is not the only debate that concerns physicalism. A related and equally important debate concerns the very nature of physicalism. Precisely what is the thesis of physicalism? How should it be defined? What are the commitments of physicalism? What needs to be true in order for physicalism to be true?
In my research, I seek to provide answers to these questions. First, I argue that despite claims to the contrary, proponents of physicalism have failed to articulate precisely the metaphysical relationship that purports to hold between the physical and the non-physical (“introduction: the character of Physicalism” Topoi, 2017). Second, I argue that physicalism should not be understood as a metaphysical thesis but as an explanatory research project (Consciousness and Physicalism [routledge, 2018]). Third, I reject the contention that physicalism is committed to the view that all truths can be a priori entailed by physical truths (“Blocking the A Priori Passage”). Last, in a work in progress, I examine the possibility of offering an account of the relationship between the physical and the non-physical that is both consistent with the mandates of physicalism and which utilizes the notion of part-whole (“Part- Whole Physicalism: The neglected ontological significance of the third Logical Investigation”).
phenomenology + other interests
coming to terms with the nature of mentality requires more than an examination of the mind’s ontological status. it also requires an investigation into what the mind does and how it does it.
for that reason, i also confront issues pertaining to the nature of the mind by drawing upon the phenomenological tradition. i am especially interested in what phenomenology can teach us about the nature of emotions and imagination. i've rewritten extensively on sartre and heidegger's respective accounts of affectivity.
i've also argued that one can see the impossible!