I'm a PhD candidate in the Department of  Philosophy at New York University. My main research interests are in philosophy of mind, epistemology, and cognitive science, with a focus on the imagination.

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BIO

I am currently a PhD candidate in the Department of Philosophy at New York University. I entered the PhD program in 2017.

Before coming to New York University I was an undergraduate at the University of Miami. I graduated in 2017 with a B.A. in philosophy and psychology.

I enjoy noodling around on my guitar, cooking vegetarian feasts, listening to various forms of extreme metal, mixing funky cocktails, and running the occasional half marathon.


I am lucky to have an incredible and talented partner, Madelyn, who does a lot of cool things.

Here is my CV.

 

RESEARCH

I am interested in imagistic representations: their nature, semantics, epistemology, and role in the mind. This interest has manifested in two related research projects: (I) the epistemology of imagination and (II) analog and iconic representation.

(I) We regularly rely on the imagination in forming beliefs about the world. For example, I might use my imagination to gauge whether my leftover food will be able to fit in a small plastic container, or whether a tower of blocks is likely to fall if I remove a block. These examples are mundane, but they point to a deep philosophical puzzle: how could merely imagining something give me any reason to believe that it is true? My research attempts to answer this question by investigating the epistemic role of the imagination. I'm interested in questions such as the following: Can imaginings justify beliefs? If so, what sorts of beliefs are they capable of justifying? Under what conditions do imaginings justify beliefs? Do imaginings generate new justification or merely preserve existing justification? How does the phenomenal character of an imagining contribute to its justificatory force? Are imaginings themselves epistemically evaluable? What can the epistemic role of the imagination teach us about the nature of the imagination? Ultimately, I aim to vindicate the epistemic power of the imagination and show that it deserves to occupy a more central place in contemporary epistemology.

(II) I have an ongoing collaborative research project with Andrew Y. Lee and Gabriel Oak Rabin on the nature and semantics of analog and iconic representations. Compare a mercury thermometer to a digital thermometer. Both thermometers represent temperature. But, intuitively, they do so in very different ways. The mercury thermometer represents analogically while the digital thermometer does not. Similarly, compare a picture of a brown dog to the sentence ‘there is a brown dog.’ In some sense, both the picture and the sentence represent the same thing. But, once again, they do so in very different ways. The picture represents the dog iconically while the sentence does not. Many philosophers think that iconic and analog representations are crucial for understanding perception, cognition, consciousness, and the nature of representation more generally. But for analog and iconic representations to do this theoretical work we need a firm grip on what they are in the first place. This is the project that my collaborators and I aim to make progress on.

I have wide-ranging interests throughout much of philosophy, but especially in philosophy of mind, epistemology, cognitive science, philosophy of art, philosophy of science, and value theory.

I enjoy talking about my research interests with others! Feel free to reach out if you have questions or comments, or if you would like access to a draft paper.

Click the links below for a more comprehensive research statement and dissertation summary:

 

PAPERS

Noûs 2022 (co-authored with Andrew Lee and Gabriel Rabin)

 THE STRUCTURE OF ANALOG REPRESENTATION (PDF​)

We explicate and defend the rulebound structure theory of analog representation, according to which analog representation is a matter of interpretive rules mapping structure to structure. First, we argue that the mark of the analog is to be found in the rules of a system's interpretation function. We go on to develop measures that capture three dimensions of analogicity.

Philosophical Studies 2021

THE EPISTEMIC STATUS OF THE IMAGINATION (PDF)

I argue that imaginings are justified justifiers; imaginings can have an epistemic status and this epistemic status grounds their ability to justify beliefs. I show how this thesis best explains certain puzzling features of imaginative justification and argue that it is grounded in the fact that imaginings can be based on evidence.

Epistemic Uses of Imagination, edited by Amy Kind and Christopher Badura, Routledge, 2021

REASONING WITH IMAGINATION (PDF)

I argue that epistemic uses of the imagination are a sui generis kind of reasoning. First, I argue that they instantiate an epistemic structure that is distinctive of reasoning. Then, I argue that reasoning with imagination is not reducible to reasoning with beliefs. This provides a useful framework for theorizing about the epistemology of imagination.

Florida Philosophical Review 2017

DOES PHENOMENAL CONSCIOUSNESS OVERFLOW ATTENTION? AN ARGUMENT FROM FEATURE-INTEGRATION. (PDF)

I argue that attention is necessary for phenomenal consciousness (or, at least, that arguments to the contrary fail). This paper was published as part of the Gerrit and Edith Schipper Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Paper from the Florida Philosophical Association.

Under review

HOW IMAGINATION INFORMS

An influential objection to the justificatory power of the imagination holds that imaginings cannot be informative since, as Sartre puts it, "it is impossible to find in the image anything more than what was put into it." This paper argues for a novel response to this objection that appeals to the representational format of the imagination. The core idea is that the imagination represents analogically, and that analog representations can represent more information than one started with at no extra cost.

Under review

IMAGINATIVE BELIEFS

I give two arguments for the existence of imaginative beliefs: imaginings that are also beliefs in their content. First, there are imaginings that play functional roles that are constitutive of belief. Second, imaginative beliefs offer a satisfying explanation of the epistemic roles of the imagination. I go on to consider the implications for theorizing about the nature of the imagination.

In progress (co-authored with Andrew Lee and Gabriel Rabin)

THE STRUCTURE OF ICONIC REPRESENTATION

This paper defends a theory of iconic representation. We begin by criticizing a number of influential proposals that appeal to the parts principle. Our positive view is that iconic representations are analog locative structures. We go on to show how our theory solves the longstanding functional space problem in cognitive science and yields a useful taxonomy of representational kinds.

In progress (ask for a draft)

IMAGINATIVE JUSTIFICATION: NEITHER IMMEDIATE NOR INFERENTIAL

This paper objects to two natural views of the structure of imaginative justification. On the first view, imaginings are immediate justifiers that generate new justification all on their own. On the second view, imaginings only justify in tandem with a separate inference. After exploring different ways of motivating and developing these views, I argue that both are false. Imaginative justification is mediate but non-inferential.

In progress (ask for a draft)

IMAGINATION AND SUPPOSITIONAL REASONING

Some philosophers have suggested that the imagination justifies belief in a way analogous to suppositional reasoning: by imagining a hypothetical scenario and then letting it unfold, one can come to form a conditional conclusion. I argue that this view fails to capture both the scope and grounds of imaginative justification. In its place, I argue that imaginings justify in a way analogous to model-based reasoning.

In progress (ask for a draft)

AGAINST PHENOMENALISM ABOUT IMAGINATIVE JUSTIFICATION

I argue that imaginative phenomenology is neither necessary nor sufficient for imaginative justification. Against its sufficiency I argue that phenomenally identical imaginings can differ in justificatory force. Against its necessity I argue that that aphantasic subjects, who lack conscious imagination, can form justified beliefs in the same way as non-aphantasic subjects. Finally, I argue that the vivacity of an imagining is epistemically irrelevant.

 

TEACHING

PRIMARY INSTRUCTOR

Aesthetics (Summer 2021, syllabus)

Epistemology (Summer 2020, 2 sections, syllabus)

TEACHING ASSISTANT

Early Modern Philosophy (Spring 2021, with Don Garrett)
Ancient Philosophy (Fall 2020, with Jessica Moss)
Nature of Values (Spring 2020, with Sharon Street)
Minds and Machines (Fall 2019, with David Chalmers)
Religion, Mind, and Society (Spring 2017, with William Green and Michael McCullough)

HIGH SCHOOL OUTREACH

Big Questions NYU/NYIP Outreach
(Fall 2017-Spring 2019, with Jessica Moss)

 

GET IN TOUCH

Please feel free to reach out to me at joshualmyers@gmail.com

New York University
Department of Philosophy

5 Washington Place

New York, NY, 10003