I'm a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Cambridge. 

 

My core areas of research are philosophy of mind, epistemology, and philosophy of psychology. I also enjoy thinking and writing about philosophy of psychiatry.  

Some of my research is in philosophy of perception. I'm currently thinking about the ways in which visual experience extends through and develops over time. I'm also interested in perceptual uncertainty. I'd like to find ways of modeling perceptual experience that can accommodate the dynamism and uncertainty of our perceptual experience.  

I also work on bias: when is something a bias, and when is it just a case of legitimately learning from experience? Must problematic biases always involve false or unjustified beliefs? What can we learn from bias about the limits of epistemic evaluation? I'm particularly interested at the moment in figuring out how we can epistemically evaluate the ways in which we order information in terms of relevance. Related to that bigger question, I'm currently working on a book about salience and prejudice, and thinking about the epistemology of search engines.

I like to do philosophy by talking to other people, so if you're working on any of those questions and want to discuss them, get in touch! 

Before coming to Cambridge in 2018 as a Junior Research Fellow at St John's College, I was a Bersoff  Faculty Fellow at NYU in for the 2017-2018 academic year. Before that, I completed my PhD at Yale University, and a BPhil in philosophy and a BA in classics and philosophy, both at Oxford University. I have also spent time undertaking legal training, and legal research focusing on capital punishment in Sub-Saharan Africa. 

email: jm2200[at]cam[dot]ac[dot]uk

If CV's are your thing, you can see mine here

New and Upcoming Things...

In July I taught a short course on philosophy of mental health specifically designed for mental health service users, through Recovery College East. If you'd be interested in using my materials send me a message. 

Here's a recording of a session at SSP I took part in on philosophy of vision science, organised by Chaz Firestone and Kevin Lande. 

Here's a recording of me giving a talk at LSE on "Base rate neglect in the service of modal knowledge"

My review of Liz Lenz's book "Belabored: A Vindication of the Rights of Pregnant Women" is out in the TLS and you can read it here.

My paper "How to see Invisible Objects" is forthcoming in Noûs. 

Here's an abstract: It is an apparent truism about visual perception that we can see only what is visible to us. It is also frequently accepted that visual perception is dynamic: our visual experiences are extended through, and can evolve over time. I argue that taking the dynamism of visual experience seriously renders certain simplistic interpretations of the first claim, that a subject at a given time can see only what is visible to her at that time, false: we can be meaningfully said to see invisible objects. This counterintuitive result in turn focuses our attention on the relationship between perception and memory. I show that it is difficult to draw a clear or simple distinction between the two. Memory and perception rely on, and blend with, one another. Together, these claims point us away from understanding visual perception as a simple reflection of the environment, and instead as closer to a process of dynamic modelling that draws together occurrent stimulation and stored information.

I won the Sanders Prize in Philosophy of Mind for my paper "Prejudice as the misattribution of salience." You can read the paper here

And here's the abstract: What does it take to be prejudiced against a particular group? And is prejudice always epistemically problematic, or are there epistemically innocent forms of prejudice? In this paper, I argue that certain important forms of prejudice can be wholly constituted by the differential accessibility of certain pieces of information. These accessibility relations constitute a salience structure. A subject is prejudiced against a particular group when their salience structure is unduly organised around that category. This is significant because it reveals that prejudice does not require the presence of any explicit cognitive or emotive attitude, nor need it manifest in behaviour: it can be solely constituted by the organisation of information, where that information may be accurate and well-founded. Nonetheless, by giving an account of ‘undue organisation’ in epistemic terms, I show that this account is compatible with an understanding of prejudice as a negatively-valenced epistemic category.

I was interviewed for the awesome podcast Hear This Idea. Listen to me burble here 

I reviewed Philippa Perry's "The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read" and Emily Oster's "Cribsheet" for the TLS, here.

My paper "Visual Indeterminacy and the Puzzle of the Speckled Hen" is now forthcoming in Mind and Language. You can read a penultimate version here.

 

And here's the Abstract: I identify three aspects to the puzzle of the speckled hen: a general puzzle, an epistemic puzzle, and a puzzle for the representationalist. These puzzles rely on an underlying ‘pictorialist’ assumption, that we visually perceive general, determinable properties only in virtue of determinate properties or more specific, local features of our visual experience. This assumption is mistaken: visual perception starts from a position of uncertainty, and is routinely able to acquire information about general properties in the absence of more specific information. Acknowledging that visual indeterminacy is structured this way resolves all three puzzles of the speckled hen.

 

My paper "Beyond Accuracy: Epistemic Flaws with Statistical Generalizations" is now out in Philosophical Issues. You can read the final on-line version here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/phis.12150  and a penultimate version is available here.

Here's an Abstract: What, if anything, is epistemically wrong with beliefs involving accurate statistical generalizations about demographic groups? This paper argues that there is a perfectly general, underappreciated epistemic flaw which affects both ethically charged and uncharged statistical generalizations. Though common to both, this flaw can also explain why demographic statistical generalizations give rise to the concerns they do. To identify this flaw, we need to distinguish between the accuracy and the projectability of statistical beliefs. Statistical beliefs are accompanied by an implicit representation of the statistic's modal profile. Their modal profile determines the circumstances in which they can legitimately be projected to unobserved instances. Errors in that implicit content can be compatible with the accuracy of the “bare” statistic, whilst systematically leading to downstream errors in reasoning, in a manner which reveals an epistemic flaw with an important aspect of the belief state itself.

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