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 to the sciences of life, cognition, behavior, and the world around us.

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 the work of various scientists (e.g., cognitive scientists, biologists, clinical psychologists, and medicine) and in conducting my own studies and experiments.

MY INTERESTS

Reasoning. I am interested in the empirical and philosophical work on reasoning in general. I am also interested in particular areas of the work on reasoning — e.g., learning; 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); distinctions between novice and expert reasoning (e.g., physicists vs. undergraduate physics majors); distinctions between human reasoning and predictive modeling (e.g., doctors’ diagnoses vs. model-based diagnoses); and distinctions between reasoning domains (e.g., logical/mechanical reasoning vs. social reasoning). I find that empirical and philosophical work on reasoning can (a) reveal opportunities to improve our reasoning both inside and outside the academy and (b) make sense of our judgment and behavior.

Well-being. I find that a great deal of empirical work about human physiology and behavior reveals important details about the structure and dynamics of well-being and ill-being. In other words, I think philosophy and science can reveal ways to promote well-being and inhibit ill-being. So, I am interested in appealing to philosophy and science to develop views of well-being and ill-being that can offer value to academics and non-academics alike.

Metaphilosophy. As soon as I began studying science, it became abundantly clear that standard analytic a priori philosophy is often disconnected from science. For example, standard analytic epistemology seems to be woefully uninterested in the past half-century of the cognitive science of reasoning and judgment. One of my interests is to explore how various strands of philosophy could change — dare I say, improve — by taking science more seriously. One major example might involve more philosophers taking a cue from cognitive science. After all, philosophy is, among other things, an exercise in reasoning. And since cognitive science can reveal, among other things, important details about how we reason, then philosophers can improve their understanding of philosophy by understanding cognitive science.

Policy. I take it that good policy is empirically informed. But it is more than that. It is also intellectually sensible. And since philosophers are often well-suited to promote intellectual sensibility and point out pseudo-intellectual non-sense, good policy should be philosophically informed. So, another interest of mine is to see how philosophy (and science) will yield better policy suggestions, minimize existing problems with policy, and even offer practical advice to laypeople.

Education. My interest in policy might be related to an underlying interest in education. It seems patently obvious that philosophy and science are massively valuable public goods. Somehow, not everyone thinks that this is so obvious. For example, many people think of philosophy as a more or less ancient past-time that is practiced only by a select community of quirky intellectual types and which produces insight of little practical or real-world value. As I see it, this view of philosophy (or science) is dreadfully impoverished. After all, if we live in a society in which any adult can weigh in on decisions that have significant and widespread consequences, then adults need to be able to reason well and evaluate empirical claims responsibly. Surprisingly, when we are left to our own devices, we humans are not very good at this — experts included!  So, if a democratic society is to minimize negative consequences and maximize positive consequences of group decision-making, then every voting member will need some help in reasoning and making sense of empirical claims. I am not convinced that people, in the US and elsewhere, are receiving this help. This is where philosophy and science come in. The best tools and methods for reasoning and making sense of empirical claims come out of philosophy and science. So, if people need to make responsible decisions and judgments, then it is everyone’s best interest to learn how to use the tools and methods of philosophy and science.

MY WORK

I am currently developing accounts of human ill-being and will-power. I am also developing a single-process view of cognition that would run counter to many dual-process theories of cognition.

In the past, I have conducted studies to discern correlations between cognitive style, personality, philosophical training/selection, philosophical judgment, and various demographic variables. Also, I have created a 7.5 million word philosophy text corpus that to answer various questions about trends in philosophy via the methods of computational corpus linguistics. I have also written about cosmopolitan egalitarianism, racial integration, implicit bias, unconscious cognition, free will, belief, personal identity, the non-identity problem, posthumous harm, cognitive therapy, depression, and the cognitive science of philosophical reasoning.

When I am not working on these projects, I am — very slowly — working on a Western philosophy anthology eBook for middle school and high school students. I am also considering collaborating with others on an eBook that would train young people to evaluate basic empirical claims with the methods of philosophy, science, and even statistics.

MY GOALS

I look forward to completing a PhD, teaching, conducting experimental research, collaborating, and broadening my academic horizons in general.

MY OTHER LIFE

When I am not working towards my academic goals, I am running, hiking, playing soccer or frisbee, reading, drinking caffeinated stuff, traveling, woodworking, spending time with my wonderful wife (above), or doing some combination of these.

MY CONTACT INFO

You can contact me with this site’s contact form or find me on AcademiaLinked-In, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. I will respond to your correspondence promptly.