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John Dilworth
Ph.D., University of Bristol

Professor | Department of Philosophy
Naturalism, Philosophy of Perception, Philosophy of Cognitive Science

Department of Philosophy
3007 Moore Hall

website | interview | john [dot] dilworth [at] wmich [dot] edu

HPS Research Interests
I am working on a novel defense of physicalism, which involves methodological philosophy of science issues about the status of physics in relation to the special sciences. The apparent irreducibility of the special sciences to physics can be circumvented by a representational account of their ontologies. This I provide via a representational explanation of material constitution, according to which midsized objects are nothing over and above their microphysical constituents, which represent the supposed midsized objects.

The account retains the objectivity of the special sciences because the representational relations have an intersubjective validity, based on our common evolutionary perceptual heritage. A second project, this one in cognitive science, aims at the naturalization of intentionality, reference and meaning via a comprehensive, broadly functionalist theory of perception, involving three main factors: the evolutionary development of interactive dispositional causality, a functional-role account of conscious and unconscious perceptual content, and a double-content account of perceptual representation derived from my work in aesthetics. This project also involves significant philosophy of science factors. If my project is successful in showing that intentionality and consciousness can be naturalized, potentially all of the major roadblocks to a fully scientific account of cognitive science and the philosophy of mind could be removed.

HPS Teaching Interests
Philosophy of Mind and Metaphysics. Naturalistic approaches to both areas involve fundamental issues as to how the sciences relate to traditional philosophical conceptions of their topics. For example, in the philosophy of mind, functionalist approaches to mental phenomena are frequently adopted. There are significant questions as to how such functional or causal role explanations relate to functional explanations in science generally. These issues involve not only teleological issues about the function or purpose of organs in a biological organism, but also more basic scientific issues about multiple realizations of functions in theoretical identities such as 'heat=molecular motion'.

Various issues in metaphysics are integrally related to philosophy of science issues. For example, the problem of universals, concerning whether there are real properties having many instances, is also closely related to issues about scientific laws and the causal powers of properties. Metaphysical issues about material constitution, such as whether a statue is identical with the clay it is made of, cannot be divorced from scientific issues about the reducibility of midsized objects to purely physical entities. The problem of freewill versus determinism cannot avoid issues about quantum mechanics and the causal closure of the universe. Also, metaphysical problems about the nature of time and change are fundamental philosophy of science issues as well.

HPS Representative Publications

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