Free, online conference on the philosophy and science of mind!

The Minds Online conference starts today, has three week-long, and ends on September 29th. So mark your calendars and set aside some time to read and comment.

You will find that each Minds Online session has a keynote and a few contributed papers — each contributed paper with its own invited commenters. Papers are posted for advanced reading the Saturday before their session. And public commenting for each session runs from Monday (8am, EST) to Friday.

To be notified when papers go up, subscribe by email (in the menu) or to the Minds Online post RSS feed to receive be notified when papers go up. You can also subscribe to the Minds Online comment RSS feed to stay apprised of comments.

Conference hashtag: #MindsOnline2017. The full program is below: Continue reading Free, online conference on the philosophy and science of mind!

Christine Korsgaard on Reflection

Christine Korsgaard’s Sources of Normativity is one of the most impressive pieces of philosophy I’ve ever read. There are many, many reasons to read the book. Right now I am reading it because I want to understand Korsgaard’s view of reflective reasoning. She thinks that reflective reasoning is important for all of morality — #NBD. And her notion of ‘reflective’ is very similar to cognitive scientists’, but not the same. In this post, I explain Korsgaards’ view and how it differs from cognitive scientists’. Continue reading Christine Korsgaard on Reflection

The Meaning Problem & Academic Lexicons

Sometimes I spend days trying to figure out what someone means when they use an otherwise common word. I spend even more time trying to the difference between two authors’ use of the same word. It’s a problem. We can call this the meaning problem. In this post I talk about the meaning problem and some solutions. I think the best solutions would be open-source academic lexicons — i.e., lexicons for every academic field edited by academics from the corresponding field. But that’s a big ask, so I will also mention a couple other (partial) solutions as well. Continue reading The Meaning Problem & Academic Lexicons

What Does Christopher Peacocke mean by ‘Reflective Self-consciousness’?

The cover of the book, The Mirror of the World.Christopher Peacocke’s The Mirror of the World (2014) is largely about self-consciousness. Peacocke distinguishes “reflective” self-consciousness from other kinds of self-consciousness. Since my dissertation is about reflective reasoning, I want to try to understand reflective self-conscious — I am especially interested in what Peacocke means by ‘reflective’.

1. Peacocke’s Reflection

A drawing of a stick figure looking in a mirror.

When someone says ‘reflection’ you might think of mirrors and of light reflecting off of them. Or, if you’re like me, you might think of conscious, deliberate reasoning. Peacocke thinks that these two notions of reflection are similar.†

For example, we explain someone’s appearance in a mirror in terms of their appearance. After all, their appearance in a mirror just is a reflection of their appearance.

A drawing of a stick figure thinking about what they look like in a mirror.

And when we reflect on a thought, Peacocke thinks that something similar is happening: we explain a state of reflection in therms of the thought being reflected. And that is because the reflected state just is a reflection of that thought. So when you just reflected about what someone looks like in a mirror, your reflective state was a reflection of the thought of what someone looks like in a mirror.

2. Peacocke’s Reflective Self-consciousness

I found myself puzzled by Peacocke’s ‘reflection’. But when I remembered that his use of ‘reflection’ is ultimately about self-consciousness, it began to make more sense. So if you’re puzzled by the mirror reference, then this part might help.


De se 

Ugh. Latin. Some academics still use latin terms to explain themselves. Bear with me.

De se just means something like “of oneself”.


† “The reflecting state of the subject is something whose properties, like that of a reflection, are explained by the nature of what is being reflected, something that exists independently of being reflected” (Peacocke, Chapter 9).







My Experience with Christian Apologetics

I took a few courses in biblical studies and Christian apologetics as an undergraduate. The courses definitely influenced my thinking, but not in the way that I expected.

0.  Context

For years, I intended to study engineering. In my senior year of high school, I was admitted to a public school with a decent engineering program. But late in the summer, I changed my mind. I had recently become a Christian and I was dating someone who was going to the Christian college. And apparently that was enough to convince 18-year-old me that I should go to the Christian college to study the Bible. (Aside: Can you believe that 18 year old me was allowed to vote and serve on a jury?) So how did I get into Apologetics? Continue reading My Experience with Christian Apologetics

Are Atheists More Reflective Than Theists?

On Saturday, I was on the Veracity Hill Podcast talking about the evidence that atheists and agnostics reason more reflectively (i.e., make fewer errors) than theists.

The Discussion

  1. What do we mean by ‘reflective’? And how do we measure reflection? Who counts as a theist? And how do we measure religiosity?
  2. What do these findings about atheists and theists tell us about atheism and theism (if anything)? And how might further research answer hitherto unanswered questions about how atheists and theists reason?
  3. What are some related findings? For instance, what does this have to do with other philosophical beliefs?

The Podcast

Continue reading Are Atheists More Reflective Than Theists?

What Is Reflective Reasoning?

Last week I was talking about intuition. I think of intuition as — among other things — unconscious and automatic reasoning. The opposite of that would be conscious and deliberative reasoning. We might call that reflective reasoning.† In this post I want to talk about reflective reasoning. How does it work? And why does it work? And — spoiler alert — why does it sometimes not work?

1.  An Example

Do some math for me, will you? Multiply 13 x 16. And try doing it in your head. Don’t use scrap paper or a calculator or anything like that.

Take all the time you need. I’ll be here.

Got it? Check your work with Google.

Question: what were you doing when you reasoned your way to the answer?

You were — among other things — reasoning reflectively. That is, you thought about some stuff — like ’16’ and ’13’ — but you also had some thoughts about thoughts about stuff — like “How might I multiply ’16’ by ’13’?”. These thoughts were both deliberate and conscious.

And that is a classic case of reflective reasoning: consciously and deliberately thinking about thought(s).

2.  Reflective Reasoning Works

We can do great stuff with reflective reasoning. Thanks to reflective reasoning, we can retrace our mental steps, spot errors, and fix those errors. We can even construct a narrative of each step in this process.

And these tasks are pretty important — and not just for doing spontaneous multiplication tasks. These tasks help us plan for the future, learn from our past, and explain our reasoning (to ourselves and to others). So if reflective reasoning is responsible for carrying out these tasks, then it is a good thing …when it works, that is.

What about when it doesn’t work? Continue reading What Is Reflective Reasoning?