About Nick

SUMMARY

I am currently a grad student. I am usually thinking about how minds work or how lives can go better or worse. In short, I think about reasoning and well-being. Since these topics have broad implications, I also think about related topics such as metaphilosophy, policy, and education. To understand reasoning and well-being, I turn to philosophy and science.

As a philosopher, I am drawn to philosophy of mind, philosophy of science, ethics, political science, and epistemology. My ancillary philosophical interests are metaphysics and logic. And since I believe that good philosophy is continuous with science, I am also interested in science, particularly cognitive science, physiology, biology, psychology, and medicine.

MY INTERESTS

Reasoning. I am interested in the empirical and philosophical work on reasoning, broadly construed. I am also interested in particular areas of the research on reasoning. I am intrigued by learning (associative learning, learning modalities, etc.); philosophical reasoning (e.g., moral, metaphysical, logical, reasoning under conditions of uncertainty, intuitive/automatic inference, analytic/reflective inference, etc.), alleged distinctions between reasoning styles (e.g., dual-process theories), alleged distinctions between novice and expert reasoning (e.g., physicists vs. undergraduate physics majors, philosophers vs. laypeople); alleged distinctions between human reasoning and predictive modeling (e.g., doctors’ diagnoses vs. model-based diagnoses), and alleged distinctions between reasoning domains (e.g., logical/mechanical reasoning vs. social reasoning). I find that both empirical and philosophical work on reasoning can (a) reveal opportunities to improve our reasoning and (b) make sense of our judgments and behaviors.

Well-being. I am interested in both armchair and experimental approaches to well-being and I am increasingly convinced that accounting for both approaches will yield optimal results. This is because each the armchair approach can benefit from the experimental approach and vise-versa. Also, by accounting for both approaches, one might be able to glean the best from each approach.

Metaphilosophy. My first major academic interest was philosophy, but I eventually studied a bit of science and the philosophy thereof. In doing so, it has become increasingly clear to me that standard analytic philosophy could improve by understanding and appreciating a bit more science. For example, I think that philosophers might do well to understand the basics of what cognitive science reveals about reasoning. Why? Because higher-order reasoning is, more or less, what philosophers try to do. Some philosophers might have a folk theory about how they do it, but cognitive science might reveal shortcomings in such theories and maybe even offer insight to what is actually going on.

Policy. I take it that good policy is empirically informed and intellectually sensible. Philosophy is well-suited to promote intellectual sensibility and various strains of science are well-suited to offer empirical insight to policy-makers. So given my interests in both philosophy and science, I am interested in how these fields might contribute, individually and jointly, to improve policy.

Education. I think that a healthy society depends, in part, on the reasoning and motivational capacities of its members. For example, in a democracy, various outcomes are dependent on voting outcomes, which might be optimized when constituents are optimally motivated to improve their society and optimally prepared to reason well. And I think that education is among the best venues by to enhance our reasoning and motivational capacities. In particular, I think that the methods of philosophy and science are particularly helpful in understanding and enhancing our reasoning and motivational capacities. So, I am interested in making philosophy and science education as accessible as possible.

MY WORK

I am currently writing about ill-being, will-power, and implicit bias. I have also written about other topics: cosmopolitan egalitarianism, racial integration, implicit bias, unconscious cognition, free will, belief, personal identity, the non-identity problem, posthumous harm, cognitive therapy, depression, and philosophical reasoning.

I also do empirical work. I’ve conducted studies to discern correlations between cognitive style, personality, philosophical training/selection, philosophical judgment, and various demographic variables. I have also created a 7.5 million word philosophy text corpus, the analysis of which will help answer a variety of questions about philosophy — e.g., do philosophers appeal to intuition?

When I am not working on these projects, I am interested in finding ways to engage the public in philosophy and critical thinking in general. Before starting grad school, I was working on a Western philosophy anthology eBook for middle school and high school students. Now that I am in grad school, I have little time for this project. However, I am still on the lookout for opportunities to demonstrate the value of philosophy outside of the walls of academia. This is partly why I try to have a social media presence and maintain a blog. But I am still interested in additional opportunities for outreach. It seems that video and animation can be outstandingly viral and compelling, so I am often thinking about ways to present the value philosophy in these forms. One idea is for philosophy outreach to assume a SciShow or Crash Course model where brief, fast-paced, and entertaining videos are vehicles for philosophical content. I’d be thrilled to have a hand in something like that.

MY GOALS

I look forward to completing a PhD, teaching, researching, collaborating, capitalizing on opportunities to improve philosophy, contributing to innovation in higher education, and broadening my horizons in general.

MY OTHER LIFE

When I am not working towards my academic goals, I am probably enjoying exercise, a hike, a casual game of soccer/frisbee, a book, a documentary, a cup of tea, an adventure, a woodworking project, time with my wife (pictured above), or some combination of the above.