Research

I study range of issues in empirically informed philosophy, with a focus on how cognition arises and the ways it shapes and is shaped by our moral, cultural, and social environments. You can tab to my dissertation, my posters and papers , and a list of recent conference presentations. Currently I’m working the following topics:

  • New architectures and ontologies of cognition
    • I’ve begun to argue that we need to adopt the attitude of productive pessimism (Gomez-Lavin 2019; Gomez-Lavin 2020) to build better ontologies of cognition. Our terms in cognitive science, like working memory, ought to be used to help marshall, collate, and organize data rather than play a strict role in explaining cognitive phenomenon. Especially when they, like working memory, only redescribe the thing they’re meant to explain (aka cognition). I recently discussed an attempt at this “Braheian” ontology of cognition at the 2021 International Symposium on Cognitive Ontologies at Salzburg University. (video here). Presently, I’m working on a paper that takes this pessimistic attitude to the concept of activity in neuroscience.

Seemingly unconnected, but critical to building better models of cognition is developing a better understanding of our Cultural, Moral and Social Worlds. My present empirical research with several international teams similarly prioritizes a collaborative approach (2019) towards better science and philosophy.


  • Our Moral Worlds
    • Understanding how our moral values shape personal and group identities:
      • Investigating the Moral Self grant project ($190,000), where as a Co-PI, I conducted work in experimental philosophy on the intersection of morality and personal identity.
        See video from our 2017 SMV presentation.
      • My 2019 paper with Jesse Prinz on incarceration, moral reform and parole here
      • Currently, our team is working on papers from this project, including one work in progress on perceptions of immigration and identity change.
  • Our Social Worlds
    • Matt Rachar and I have worked on an years-long interdisciplinary project that uses the methods of experimental philosophy to shed new light to longstanding debates in the philosophy of action and social ontology. In particular we’ve shown that most people are very sensitive to behavioral signals of togetherness and group membership and the norms inherent to these episodes of joint, or collective, action. To borrow and twist a term from Jerry Fodor, I like to think of it as a kind of modularity of social space.
      • In our 2019 paper in Mind and Language, we showed evidence for Margaret Gilbert’s so-called “normativist” view of togetherness.
      • And in our recent 2021 paper in The Philosophical Quarterly, we’ve shown evidence that even Gilbert’s theory is insufficient to characterize the norms that most people take as essential to togetherness. In fact, we might need a new normativism to accurate capture how folk think about togetherness.
      • Currently, we’re working on a number of extensions to our paradigm, including how COVID induced lockdowns may have changed people’s sensitivities to togetherness, and how artificial agents might perturb our normative assumptions.

some other recent work that excites me and which I’m trying to tie into a systematic view


  • Aesthetics
    • I’m also very interested in the ontology of video games and why people enjoy watching other people play video games (perhaps even more so than playing those very games themselves!). Currently I have a work in progress that suggests a new model for video games that understands them to be a kind of instrument, like a musical instrument, that we actively play and with which we can demonstrate skillful action. This Player Based Account also helps us understand why we like to watch others play, as video games are sites for skillful action and virtuosity.
  • AI
    • With a team derived from Lisa Miracchi’s MIRA group at Penn, including Hannah Read and Andrea Beltrama, we’re investigating how the use of gendered AI (especially feminized AI) might perpetuate unjust gender norms, especially when those AIs are allocated to gendered labor (e.g., care- and sex-work).
      • As part of this project, we’re developing new experimental paradigms to tests people’s perceptions of gendered AI. Check out our poster from the 2021 SPP here, and stay tuned for several papers on the topic!

Aside from this, I also enjoy the run of the mill wine tasting, working on my two cars, and spending time outdoors.


updated 07.2021