Professor of Philosophy
Chair of Philosophy Department
Edward Pols House - 104
We hold people responsible for their actions: we get credit and praise for nice things we do or good papers that we write; we are blamed if we break a promise or if we plagiarize a paper. In holding one another responsible in these ways, we seem to presuppose that people have free will, for it seems that we should not hold people responsible if they did not act freely. But what if all human behavior can be explained scientifically, as is suggested by current neuroscience research? What if determinism is true, and all our behaviors have been causally determined by events that took place before we were born? Readings from contemporary philosophers (Robert Kane, Alfred Mele, Manuel Vargas, and others) and psychologists (Benjamin Libet).
The central problem of logic is to determine which arguments are good and which are bad. To this end, we introduce a symbolic language and rigorous, formal methods for seeing whether one statement logically implies another. We apply these tools to a variety of arguments, philosophical and otherwise, and demonstrate certain theorems about the formal system we construct.
Free Will and Action Explanation: a Non-Causal, Compatibilist Account. Oxford University Press, 2016
Teleological Realism: Mind, Agency, and Explanation, MIT Press, 2005
“Epistemic Issues in the Free Will Debate: Can We Know When We Are Free?,” Forthcoming in Philosophical Issues. Published Online 30 October 2012.
“Action Explanation and the Free Will Debate: How Incompatibilist Arguments Go Wrong.” Philosophical Issues (2012): 351-368.
“Taking Procrustes’ Axe to Professor Fisher’s Response,” Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, Volume 17 (2011): 1009-10, co-authored with Donald Stanley.
“A Flawed Conception of Determinism in the Consequence Argument,” Analysis, Volume 71 (2010): 30-38. Prepublication copy here.
“The Problem of Evil: Skeptical Theism Leads to Moral Paralysis,” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. 67:2 (2010)
“Evidence and Simplicity: Why We Should Reject Homeopathy,” Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, Volume 16 (2010): 276-281.Prepublication copy here.
“Applying the Simplicity Principle to Homeopathy: What Remains?” Focus on Alternative and Complementary Therapies, Volume 15:1 (2010).
“Teleology and Degrees of Freedom,” Internationale Zeitschrift für Philosophie, Volume 17:1 (2008): 123-144.
“A philosophical analysis of the evidence-based medicine debate,” BMC Health Services Research 2003, 3:14, . Co-authored with Donald E. Stanley. Also translated into Chinese and published in Medicine and Philosophy 25:2 (2004): 21-24 and 25:3 (2004): 30-33.
“An Argument Against the Causal Theory of Action Explanation,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 60:1(2000): 67-85.
“Connectionism and the Causal Theory of Action Explanation,” Philosophical Psychology, 11:4(1998): 511-531.
“Natural-Kind Terms and the Status of Folk Psychology,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 34:3(1997): 333-344.
“Deviant Causal Chains and the Irreducibility of Teleological Explanation,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 78:2 (1997): 195-213.
“Okin on Feminism and Rawls,” The Philosophical Forum, 27 (1996): 321-332.
“Teleology and the Nature of Mental States,” American Philosophical Quarterly, 31 (1994): 63-72.
“The Causal Theory of Action and the Commitments of Common Sense Psychology,” forthcoming in Reasons and Causes: Causalism and Non-causalism in the Philosophy of Action, Giuseppina D’Oro, ed. Palgrave Macmillan.
"Teleology," forthcoming in Encyclopedia of the Mind. Sage Publications.
“Teleological Explanation,” in Blackwell Companion to Philosophy of Action, Timothy O’Connor and Constantine Sandis, eds. Blackwell. (2010).
“Dementors, Horcruxes, and Immortality: The Soul in Harry Potter,” in Harry Potter and Philosophy: Hogwarts for Muggles, William Irwin and Gregory Bassham, eds. Wiley (2010).
Review of Rationality and the Good: Critical Essays on the Ethics and Epistemology of Robert Audi Mark Timmons, John Greco, Alfred R. Mele (eds.) Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, March 16, 2008.
“Goal-Directed Action and Teleological Explanation,” in Causation and Explanation, Joseph Keim Campbell, Michael O’Rourke, and Harry Silverstein, eds. MIT Press. (2007)
Review of A Most Unlikely God: A Philosophical Enquiry into the Nature of God, by Barry Miller, Philosophy in Review, 18:2 (1998): 129-131.
Review of Logical Learning Theory: A Human Teleology and Its Empirical Support, by Joseph F. Rychlak, The Philosophical Quarterly, 46 (1996): 246-248.
Review of Subjectivity and Reduction by Barbara Hannan, Canadian Philosophical Reviews, 15 (1995): 250-252.
“Deviant Causal Chains: Still a Problem for the Causal Theory of Action?”
Invited paper at Universität Erfurt, July 2012.
“Teleology and Free Will”
Invited paper at the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium conference on Aristotle and Philosophy of Action, March 2012.
“Epistemic Issues in the Free Will Debate: Can We Know When We Are Free?”
Bowdoin Conference on Free Will and Moral Responsibility, October 2011.
“Response to Liu on Responsibility and Choice,”
Pacific Division meetings of the American Philosophical Association, April 2011.
“What Does it Mean to Be Good?”
Invited presentation as part of the Veritas Forum at Bowdoin College, April 2011.
“The Problem of Evil and Moral Paralysis”
Invited talk at Boston University, January 10, 2011
“Franklin and the Problem of Enhanced Control”
American Philosophical Association Meetings, Pacific Division, April 1, 2010
"Free Will and Action Explanation: How Incompatibilist Arguments Go Wrong."
Invited presentation at the Socieda Filosofica Ibero Americana
Conference on Philosophy of Action, Huatulco, Mexico, January 2010.
“Free Will and Action Explanation: Where the Consequence Argument Goes Wrong.”
Invited talk, University of Bonn, July, 2009
“Robots and Free Will”
University of Twente, Society for Philosophy and Technology, July 2009.
“Design, Evil, and Moral Paralysis”
Ian Ramsey Centre, St. Anne’s College, Oxford, July, 2008.
“Précis of Teleological Realism” and “Reply to O’Connor, Stoutland, and Harman”
Author-meets-critics book session at the American Philosophical Association Meetings, Pacific Division, March, 2008
“Action Explanation and the Free Will Debate”
Invited talk, University of New Mexico, March, 2007
Northern New England Philosophical Association Conference, October, 2006
Invited talk, Auburn University, September, 2006
“Professors do much more than teach and advise,” Bowdoin Orient, October 11, 2012, (co-authored with Barbara Weiden Boyd, Kristen Ghodsee, Page Herrlinger, John Holt, Steve Naculich, and Steve Perkinson.)
“Job shortage, fraught future for students,” Bowdoin Orient, November 18, 2011 (co-authored with Kristen Ghodsee).
“Judging who’s fit to be tied” (op-ed on gay marriage), Brunswick Times Record, June 6, 2008.
"Filibuster Tactic Smacks of Hypocrisy," (PDF) Op-ed piece in Portland Press Herald, April 25, 2005.
"Tax Cap Proponents' Suggestion Would Create Free-Loaders," Op-ed piece in Brunswick Times Record,October 8, 2004.
“Iraq not ‘War on Terror,’” Brunswick Times Record, March 26, 2004.
"Arguments Against Gay Marriage Don't Hold Up," Op-ed piece in Brunswick Times Record, February 27, 2004.
“Supports the Troops; Not Bush Decisions,” Op-ed piece in Brunswick Times Record, March 28, 2003.
“Rights not absolute,” Brunswick Times Record, October 31, 2001.
“There is no ban on school prayer,” Op-ed piece in Brunswick Times Record, September, 2001.
“Immorality of homosexuality based on Bible is challenged,” Op-ed piece in Brunswick Times Record, September 29, 2000.
“Homosexuality Is Not Immoral, Despite Scriptural Prohibition,” Op-ed piece in Portland Press Herald, June 27, 1997. Also reprinted in the Binghamton, NY Press & Sun Bulletin, August 14, 1997.