Office: 301 Griffin-Floyd Hall
Phone: (352) 273-1830
Dept. Fax: (352) 392-5577
Department of Philosophy
330 Griffin-Floyd Hall
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-8545
Associate Professor of Philosophy
Ph.D., Rutgers University, 1997
Areas of research: Metaphysics, philosophy of mind, physicalism, consciousness, a priori knowledge
I joined the faculty at the University of Florida in 1997 after doing my doctoral degree at Rutgers. My research has been in metaphysics and philosophy of mind, often focusing on the doctrine of physicalism, the claim, roughly, that everything that exists is in some sense ultimately physical in nature. I've also worked on such topics as the nature of intrinsic properties, questions about mental causation, functionalist treatments of the mind, and the role of conceptual analysis and/or a priori knowledge in metaphysics generally. My interest in epistemology and philosophy of religion has grown over the years and I might inflict my musings on such on the academic community in the future.
Recent graduate seminars have included courses on metaphysical grounding, the history of analytic philosophy, physicalism, and the problem of consciousness. By way of undergraduate teaching, I have frequently taught courses in philosophy of religion, epistemology, metaphysics, and philosophy of mind. I have also spent eight (very long) years as Department Chair (2009-2017), an experience that may well qualify me for martyrdom, though no divinity stands ready to recognize such sacrifices.
If you are curious, you can check out my answers to the PhilPapers Survey here. If you are not curious, you can still do it, but it would be pretty silly of you to do so.
"ItÕs been said in many places before: A degree in the humanities isnÕt exactly marketable to employers (less kind critics have called those degrees "useless"). But thereÕs one humanities major whose graduates are doing quite well in the job market—and itÕs philosophy majors."
Office hours for Fall 2017:
Mondays 12:00 PM - 3:00 PM
And by appointment
Regular office hours are not held during holidays, spring break, or after the last day of classes (during reading days and exam week). Appointments may still be made during those times. If a class is cancelled on a particular day, any office hours on that day will be cancelled as well.
Teaching Fall 2017
PHI 2010 Introduction to Philosophy (Online)
Co-taught with Dr. Elizabeth Palmer
The patient and thorough exploration of philosophical questions is an ideal way to develop skills in clear writing and critical thinking. This course introduces the discipline of philosophy with a focus on developing those skills. Most of the semester is devoted three traditional issues: (a) What is knowledge? What can we know? (b) What is free will? Is there reason to think we don't have any free will? (c) What is morality all about? Are there facts about what is morally right and wrong? At the end of the semester, we will more briefly explore some famous questions about happiness and the meaning of life. The emphasis throughout is on writing clearly about such elusive questions and presenting good reasons to endorse one answer over another.
The course provides 4000 words of credit towards the Writing Requirement at UF as well as satisfying the State Core General Education requirement for Humanities. Assignments include three argumentative essays, four short writing assignments, regular quizzes, and weekly activity assignments. Students are divided into smaller groups for the purpose of enabling both general discussion with each other and peer feedback on activity assignments. There are no major exams (no mid-term or final exam). No book purchases are required, as all readings are made available online through the Canvas system.
This is an entirely online course. Because there is no regular meeting time during which we all meet to discuss the material, it is especially important to keep up with all assignments, to participate in discussion boards, and to ask for help when needed. While the structure of assignments is designed to ensure that students challenge themselves, it is also designed so as to minimize the amount of stress placed on any particular assignment. Success requires, instead, regular and serious effort throughout the semester.
PHI 6506 Seminar in Metaphysics: Physicalism
A graduate research seminar focusing on recent controversial topics related to physicalism. After a basic review of the issues, specific recent controversis will be decided, determined in part by student interest.
Selected Recent Publications
"Platonistic Physicalism without Tears." Forthcoming in Journal of Consciousness Studies.
"Physicality for Physicalists." In a special edition of Topoi edited by Andreas Elpidoru on the topic of the characterization of physicalism. First Online: 14 July, 2016. DOI: 10.1007/s11245-016-9415-y
"Chudnoff on our Awareness of Abstract Objects." Florida Philosophical Review 16 (1): 105-116. Winter 2016. Online at http://philosophy.cah.ucf.edu/fpr/files/16_1/Witmer.pdf.
"Physicalism and Metaphysical Naturalism." Oxford Bibliographies Online. 2015.
"A Simple Theory of Intrinsicality." In Robert M. Francescotti, ed., Companion to Intrinsic Properties. Berlin: DeGruyter, 2014.
Review of Robert Kirk, The Conceptual Link from Physical to Mental (Oxford University Press, 2013). In Analysis Reviews 0, 1-5 (2014).
"Naturalism and Physicalism." Encyclopedia entry in Robert Barnard and Neil Manson, eds., The Bloomsbury Companion to Metaphysics, Bloomsbury Publishing (formerly Continuum), 2012.
Review of Jens Kipper, A Two-Dimensionalist Guide to Conceptual Analysis (Ontos Verlag, 2012). Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. January 11, 2013.
"Stalking the Elusive Physicalist Thesis." Review of Daniel Stoljar, Physicalism (Routledge, 2010). Metascience 21: 71-75. 2012.
Review of Jakob Howhy and Jesper Kallestrup, eds., Being Reduced: New Essays on Reduction, Explanation, and Causation (Oxford University Press, 2008). Mind 120 (479): 882-888. July 2011.
Review of Timothy Williamson, The Philosophy of Philosophy (Blackwell, 2007). Metaphilosophy (2011) 42: 155-160.
"Necessity, Identity, and A Priori Access." Philosophical Topics 35 (1-2): 241-263. Spring/Fall 2007.
"How To Be A (Sort of) A Priori Physicalist." Philosophical Studies 131 (1): 185-225. October 2006.
"Intrinsicality without Naturalness." Co-authored with William Butchard and Kelly Trogdon. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 70 (2): 326-350. March 2005.
Selected Recent or Upcoming Presentations
Comments on Zach Blaesi, "Grounding, Physicalism, and the Explanatory Gap," to be presented in January 2018 at the Eastern Division, American Philosophical Association. Savannah, GA.
Comments on Fermin Fulda, "Three Grades of Naturalistic Involvement," to be presented in October 2017 at the Society for the Metaphysics of Science. New York, NY.
Comments on Todd Ganson, "What are Sensory Powers?"
¥ January 7, 2017. Eastern Division, American Philosophical Association. Baltimore, MD.
Comments on Kenneth L. Pearce, "Counteressential Conditionals."
¥ March 3, 2016. Central Division, American Philosophical Association. Chicago, Illinois.
"Physicality for Physicalists."
¥ Invited talk for the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. New York, NY. September 30, 2015.
Comments on Andreas Elpidorou, "Defending Actualist Physicalism."
¥ September 18, 2015. First conference of the Society for the Metaphysics of Science. Newark, NJ.
Comments on Louis deRosset, "The Scrying Game."
¥ April 3, 2015. Pacific Division, American Philosophical Association. Vancouver, British Columbia.
Comments on Alyssa Ney, "Microphysical Causation and the Case for Physicalism."
¥ February 21, 2015. Central Division, American Philosophical Association. St. Louis, MO.
¥ December 28, 2014. Eastern Division, American Philosophical Association. Philadelphia, PA.
¥ November 16, 2013. Florida Philosophical Association. DeLand, FL.
"Determinism and Intervention: Reply to Scott Sehon." Co-authored with Andreas Falke.
¥ November 4, 2014. Florida Philosophical Association. Tampa, FL.
"Remarks on Chudnoff's Intuition."
¥ November 4, 2014. Part of a critical symposium on Elijah Chudnoff's book Intuition (Oxford University Press, 2013). Florida Philosophical Association. Tampa, FL.
"A Priori Externalism and Privileged Access."
¥ February 8, 2014. Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology. Charleston, SC.
¥ November 3, 2012. Florida Philosophical Association. Orlando, FL.
Comments on Klaas Kraay, "Can God Satisfice?"
¥ February 22, 2013. Central Division, American Philosophical Association. New Orleans, LA.
Comments on Douglas Keaton, "Exclusion, Yet Again."
¥ April 6, 2012. Pacific Division, American Philosophical Association. Seattle, WA.
Comments on Justin Tiehen, "Grounding and Mental Causation."
¥ March 23, 2012. Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology. Savannah, GA.
Comments on Barbara Montero, "Must Physicalism Imply the Supervenience of the Mental on the Physical?"
¥ February 17 — March 2, 2012. Fourth Annual Consciousness Online conference. http://consciousnessonline.com/2012/02/17/must-physicalism-imply-the-supervienence-of-the-mental-on-the-physical/