Research

Here you will find my published and forthcoming research, organized by topic. Feel free to download the pre-print PDFs below, but please cite the published versions.

Research Articles on Stoic Epistemology:

One Stoic response to the skeptical indistinguishability argument is that it fails to account for expertise: the Stoics allow that while two similar objects create indistinguishable appearances in the amateur, this is not true of the expert, whose appearances succeed in discriminating the pair. This paper re-examines the motivations for this Stoic response, and argues that it reveals the Stoic claim that, in generating a kataleptic appearance, the perceiver’s mind is active, insofar as it applies concepts matching the perceptual stimulus. I argue that this claim is reflected in the Stoic definition of the kataleptic appearance, and that it respects their more general account of mental representation. I further suggest that, in attributing some activity to the mind in creating each kataleptic appearance, and in claiming that the expert’s mind allows her to form more kataleptic appearances than the amateur, the Stoics draw inspiration from the wax tablet model in Plato’s Theaetetus (190e–196d), where Socrates distinguishes the wise from the ignorant on the basis of how well they match sensory input with its appropriate mental ‘seal’ (σφραγίς).

Here I propose an interpretation of the ancient Stoic psychological theory on which (i) the concepts that an adult human possesses affect the content of the perceptual impressions (φαντασίαι αἰσθητικαί) she forms, and (ii) the content of such impressions is exhausted by an ‘assertible’ (ἀξίωμα) of suitable complexity. What leads the Stoics to accept (i) and (ii), I argue, is their theory of assent and belief formation, which requires that the perceptual impression communicate information suitable to serve as the content of belief. In arguing for (i), I reject a rival interpretation on which conceptualization occurs subsequently to the formation of a perceptual impression. In arguing for (ii), I deny that perceptual impressions have two kinds of content: one formulated in an assertible, the other sensory, featuring independently of this assertible. I explore the implications of (i) and (ii) for the Stoic theory of emotions, expertise, and rationality, and argue that they shed new light on the workings of impression, assent, and belief.

This paper offers a new defense of the externalist interpretation of the kataleptic impression. My strategy is to situate the kataleptic impression within the larger context of the Stoic account of expertise. I argue that, given mastery in recognizing the limitations of her own state of mind, the subject can restrict her assent to kataleptic impressions, even if they are phenomenologically indistinguishable from those which are not kataleptic.

Research Articles on Stoic Ethics:

This essay considers how ancient Stoic cosmopolitanism – roughly, the claim all human beings are members of the same “cosmopolis”, or universal city, and so are entitled to moral concern in virtue of possessing reason – informs Stoic thinking about how we ought to treat non-human entities in the environment. First, I will present the Stoic justification for the thesis that there are only rational members of the cosmopolis – and so that moral concern does not extend to any non-human part of the natural world – and explore the foundations of these views in Stoic physics. Next, I will show that, like other anthropocentric theories, Stoic cosmopolitanism allows for environmental preservation and protection of non-human entities, so long as these activities ultimately benefit human beings. However, because the Stoics include the appreciation of natural beauty as a component of the happy life, this justification is not as feeble as it might seem. Humans are naturally set up to contemplate the order and complexity of the universe, and so environmental degradation and species loss, in marring this harmonious system, frustrates the achievement of the human goal. After exploring these facets of Stoic philosophy, and assessing to what extent they might justify environmental conservation, I close with a critical appraisal of Stoic theory – specifically, of the claims that (i) only humans possess reason and (ii) only rational creatures are deserving of moral concern.