Contemporary philosophy is characterized by a trend towards hyper-specialization. As a result, there is not much communication between philosophers working in different fields and traditions, nor is there much overlap between historical and systematic perspectives on philosophical questions. I favour a “Big-Picture” approach to philosophy. This means that I try to connect seemingly unrelated debates by identifying shared metaphysical and epistemological problems they try to solve, and by consequently developing uniform solution strategies.
For example, in my monograph Ineffability and Its Metaphysics: The Unspeakable in Art, Religion, and Philosophy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), I develop a uniform metaphysical account of ineffability, a phenomenon that has fascinated and puzzled philosophers from Laozi to Wittgenstein, by drawing on a range of debates from contemporary metaphysics, epistemology, aesthetics, philosophy of language, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of mind.
My research project, Mathematical Analogies, continues this comprehensive approach by raising a question that has occupied philosophers from Plato to Kant and Wittgenstein: Can mathematics be a guide in our efforts to understand other a priori domains of philosophy, such as ethics, aesthetics, modality, or religion? Here is a summary of some published and in-progress papers relating to this project:
‘Mathematical and Moral Disagreement’ (2019, The Philosophical Quarterly)
The existence of fundamental moral disagreements is a central problem for moral realism and has often been contrasted with the alleged absence of disagreement in mathematics. Recently, however, it has been pointed out that mathematicians do in fact disagree, e.g. on which set-theoretic axioms are true, and that this increases the plausibility of moral vis-à-vis mathematical realism. I argue that the analogy between mathematical and moral disagreement is not as straightforward as those arguments present it. In particular, I argue that mathematical disagreements are compatible with mathematical realism in a way in which moral disagreements and moral realism are not.
‘Modal Structuralism and Theism’ (2018, in F. Ellis, New Models of Religious Understanding, OUP)
Drawing an analogy between modal structuralism about mathematics and theism, I offer a structuralist account that implicitly defines theism in terms of three basic relations: logical and metaphysical priority, and epistemic superiority. On this view, statements like ‘God is omniscient’ have a hypothetical and a categorical component. The hypothetical component provides a translation pattern according to which statements in theistic language are converted into statements of second-order modal logic. The categorical component asserts the logical possibility of the theism structure on the basis of uncontroversial facts about the physical world. This structuralist reading of theism preserves objective truth-values for theistic statements while remaining neutral on the question of ontology.
‘Access Problems and Explanatory Overkill’ (2016, Philosophical Studies)
I argue that recent attempts to use evolutionary data in order to dispel the problem of epistemic access for realism about a priori domains such as mathematics, ethics, and modality result in two kinds of explanatory overkill: (1) the problem of epistemic access is trivially solved for theism as well as a number of objectionable ‘realisms’, and (2) realist belief becomes viciously immune to arguments from dispensability, and to non-rebutting counter-arguments more generally.