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I am a postdoctoral research fellow at LOGOS, University of Barcelona.


I work on topics at the intersection of philosophy of mind and epistemology with a focus on the imagination and imagistic representation.

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BIO

I am a postdoctoral research fellow at the LOGOS research group at the University of Barcelona.

 

I recently earned my PhD in philosophy from New York University, under the supervision of Paul Boghossian, David Chalmers, and Jane Friedman.

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

When I'm not doing philosophy, I enjoy noodling around on my guitar, cooking vegetarian feasts, listening to tons of music (mostly extreme metal), playing videogames, and walking all over the place.

 

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

RESEARCH


I work primarily at the intersection of epistemology and philosophy of mind. I am especially interested in images: their nature, semantics, epistemology, and role in the mind. This interest has manifested in two distinct, but related, research projects: one on imagination and the other on analog and iconic representation.

My research on the imagination aims to develop a comprehensive account of how the imagination justifies belief. It investigates questions like: What kinds of beliefs can the imagination justify? Does the imagination generate new justification or merely preserve existing justification? How does the phenomenological, representational, and attitudinal structure of the imagination contribute to its justificatory role? In the near future, I plan to expand on this project by investigating the epistemic roles of the imagination beyond just conferring justification, such as guiding inquiry and grounding understanding.

My research on analog and iconic representations investigates questions like the following: What is representational format? What makes it the case that a representation has an analog format? Or iconic format? How are these two formats related? What kinds of contents are expressed by analog and iconic representations? Are there analog and iconic representations in the mind? What are the practical and epistemic advantages and disadvantages of utilizing these representational formats? ​

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

Noûs 2023 (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.

Revise and resubmit

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.

Revise and resubmit

Intuitively, the vividness of mental imagery is epistemically relevant. Images that are faint and sparse cannot confer as much justification as ones that are intense and detailed. But how is vividness epistemically relevant? I argue that vividness is higher-order evidence about a subject's own epistemic state, rather than first-order evidence about the world. This has important implications for the epistemologies of both imagination and memory.

THE EPISTEMIC ROLE OF VIVIDNESS

Under review

IMAGINATIVE BELIEFS

I argue for the existence of imaginative beliefs—states that are simultaneously imaginative and doxastic. The core of my argument is that there is a robust class of imaginings that play the functional and epistemic roles of belief. I also argue that this view fares better than alternative explanations that merely posit distinct imaginative and doxastic states. Along the way, I explore some of the surprising and theoretically fruitful implications of positing imaginative beliefs.

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 (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)

IMAGINATION AND THE CHALLENGE FROM VOLUNTARY CONTROL 

The imagination is under voluntary control. But if you can imagine anything you want to, then how could the imagination be a good guide to what is true? Many theorists have responded by appealing to involuntariness as a necessary condition on imaginative justification. I argue that this response fails and I defend a novel account of how robustly voluntary imaginings can confer justification.

THE EPISTEMIC STRUCTURE OF THE IMAGINATION

Dissertation, 2023

Abstract

The imagination is ubiquitous in our cognitive lives. You might imagine rotating a puzzle piece to determine whether it fits in an open space, or imagine what things are like from another person's perspective to figure out how they are feeling, or imagine a new rug in your living room to determine whether it matches the color of your sofa. These examples are mundane, but they point to a deep philosophical puzzle: how could merely imagining something give you any reason to believe that it is true? After all, you can imagine anything you want to, from the fictional to the fantastical. This has led many philosophers to be deeply skeptical of the epistemic value of the imagination. When imagination is accorded a justificatory role, it is typically limited to beliefs about what is metaphysically possible. More recently, some philosophers have begun to push back against this orthodoxy by arguing that the imagination can justify empirical beliefs about the actual world. But even then, most contemporary discussions focus on whether the imagination can justify empirical belief, rather than on how the imagination justifies empirical belief, thereby leaving many central questions about the epistemology of the imagination unanswered.


This dissertation attempts to fill this lacuna by canvassing the theoretical landscape of this exciting new literature and developing an account of the epistemic structure of the imagination. The first chapter sets the stage for the rest of the dissertation by reviewing extant arguments for and against the view that the imagination can justify empirical belief before posing a new argument in its favor. The second chapter argues that imaginative justification is mediate but non-inferential; it depends on one’s prior justification without depending on an inference from one’s prior beliefs. The third chapter argues that the imagination is informative—it can represent new content and generate new justification—in virtue of its analog representational format. The fourth and final chapter argues that some imaginings just are beliefs, and that this grounds their justificatory force. Together, the arguments of this dissertation suggest that the imagination is a distinctive kind of ampliative reasoning, and that it plays this cognitive and epistemic role by combining the analog representational format of imagery with the evidence-sensitive function of belief.

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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

As a bonus for scrolling all the way to the bottom of my site, here is a cool photo that I took of lightning over Washington DC.

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