One strand of my current research focuses on classical Greek and Hellenistic theories of rationality. More specifically, I investigate ancient debate over the rationality of sense-perception. To what extent does, e.g., seeing a cup on the table call upon distinctly rational cognitive resources, such as the ability to use language or apply concepts? What kind of information does sense-perception convey, and how is this information related to the contents of our beliefs? Does expertise affect the qualitative character of perceptual experience? Can we literally perceive ethical properties, such as the property of being courageous or being good? Are there any perceptual experiences which are guaranteed to be true?
At the moment I am examining the ancient Stoic answers to these questions. However, I also am interested in Platonic, Platonist, Aristotelian, and Epicurean accounts of the relationship between perception and reason.
I am pleased to announce that two of my papers on Stoic epistemology have been recently accepted for publication. Drafts can be accessed through the links below:
- “What Do Our Impressions Say? The Stoic Theory of Perceptual Content and Belief Formation” (forthcoming, Apeiron)
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.
- “Creating a Mind Fit for Truth: the Stoic Account of the Kataleptic Impression”
(forthcoming, Ancient Philosophy)
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.