John and Jean Oesterle Associate Professor of Thomistic Studies
I work on medieval theories of mind, cognition, and personhood, with special focus on the thought of Thomas Aquinas and his thirteenth-century interlocutors. Themes that animate my research include, e.g., the nature of consciousness, the history of the self/person and concepts of subjectivity, what it means exactly to be "immaterial," Aristotelian hylomorphism and how it applies to mind, and problems connected with mental representation and intentionality, the relationship of imagination and intellect, and medieval theories of light and vision. In approaching these themes, I'm particularly interested in uncovering different ways of "modeling" the mind and its activities.
Another central research interest of mine is how Islamic philosophers--such as al-Farabi, Averroes, Avicenna, and the author of the "Liber de causis"--shaped Scholastic thought in medieval Christian Europe. Getting into the mindset of medieval philosophers, on my view, requires a scholarly community that is committed to rediscovering the broader shared philosophical tradition that connects Muslim, Jewish, and Christian thinkers in the Middle Ages, and tracing its patterns of development from late antiquity. To that end, I serve on the executive committee of the "Aquinas and the Arabs Project."
Current research projects:
During AY 2017-18, I'll be on leave at the National Humanities Center, working on a book tentatively titled Aquinas's Metaphysics of Intellect: Being and Being-About. The book argues for a metaphysical approach to cognition in Aquinas. It examines overlooked Neoplatonic elements in Aquinas’s philosophy of mind (especially the notion that intellectuality and intelligibility are two descriptions of a single kind of self-manifesting being), as opening up new strategies for addressing problems concerning intentionality, representation, reflexivity, and immateriality.
I'm also working on articles on the metaphysics of light in 13th-century theories of vision, the problem of whether embodiment benefits or hampers us cognitively on Aquinas's account, the "identity thesis" in Greek philosophical thought, and the process of intellectual development in Averroes's Long Commentary on De anima (with Katja Krause).
PDFs of my past (and sometimes current) research are available at my Academia page.
Aquinas on Human Self-Knowledge. Cambridge University Press, 2013.
“Knowing as Being? A Metaphysical Reading of the Identity of Intellect and Intelligible in Aquinas.” American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 91 (2017): 333–351 (2016 ACPQ Rising Scholar Award)
“Reditio completa, reditio incompleta: Aquinas and the Liber de causis, prop. 15, on Reflexivity and Incorporeality.” In Appropriation, Interpretation and Criticism: Philosophical Exchanges Between the Arabic, Hebrew and Latin Intellectual Traditions, ed. Alexander Fidora and Nicola Polloni, FIDEM Textes et Études du Moyen Âge 88 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017), 185–229
“Rethinking Abstractionism: Aquinas’s Intellectual Light and Some Arabic Sources.” Journal of the History of Philosophy 53 (2015): 607–646 (2015 JHP Article Prize)
“Attention, Intentionality, and Mind-Reading in Aquinas’s De malo 16.8.” In Aquinas’s ‘Disputed Questions on Evil’: A Critical Guide, ed. Michael V. Dougherty (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), 164–91
“Diachronically Unified Consciousness in Augustine and Aquinas.” Vivarium 50 (2012): 354–81