My research on phenomenal consciousness can be divided into three interwoven strands. The first concerns how we should understand ‘what it is like’ talk: the ubiquitous use of phrases such as ‘what it is like’ and ‘something it is like’ to talk about phenomenal consciousness. The second concerns how inner awareness is related to consciousness. The third concerns what we claim when we talk about how things (experientially) seem some way to us. I am also interested in issues related to personal identity and quasi memories .
‘What it is like’ talk
Philosophers commonly characterise phenomenal consciousness by engaging in ‘what it is like’ talk, i.e., using phrases such as ‘what it is like’ and ‘something it is like’. But exactly what is meant when philosophers appeal to these notions is not always clear. One way of clarifying what philosophers aim to describe, investigate, or explain, when they describe, investigate or explain phenomenal consciousness is by getting clear about how we should understand these crucial notions. I have investigated this issue in a number of papers. See here for more on this.
Consciousness and inner awareness
It is often noted that consciousness is characterised by subjectivity—there is something it is like for the subject of a conscious mental state to be in that state. A popular way of understanding this is in terms of the subject’s having a kind of inner awareness. But exactly what this inner awareness amounts to—whether it requires introspection, and what it is awareness of (the subject, their mental state, the subject’s owing that mental state?)—is unclear. See here for more on this.
How things seem
In current research, I aim to show that clarifying what we claim when we say that things (experientially) seem some way to us can shed light on contemporary disputes in the philosophy of mind on the contents of perceptual experience, the transparency of perceptual experiences, and higher-order theories of phenomenal consciousness. See here for more on this.
Personal identity and quasi-memories
Psychological theories of personal identity claim that what makes a person on Sunday identical to a person on Saturday, is that the Sunday person is psychologically continuous with the Saturday person. Psychological continuity is built out of psychological connections. And quasi-memory theories of personal identity hold that one prominent example of such a connection is that which holds between a quasi-memory of an experience and the original experience itself. Some philosophers argue that quasi-memories are not up to the job of connecting persons across time. I defend the quasi-memory approach in a paper currently under review. See here for more on this.