Graduate Students

Dorit Bar-On: Students Selected to Speak at “Practical Mental Representation” Conference

Congratulations to Professor Bar-On‘s graduate students Nimra Asif and Drew Johnson for being selected to give talks at the “Practical Mental Representation” conference at Chapman University! There were only two slots available for contributed talks and both will be discussing the aspect of Ruth Millikan’s work.

The “Practical Mental Representations” conference focuses on exploring solutions to answer two questions:

 If mental representations have descriptive contents, how exactly do they fulfil their fundamentally practical functions? How can a description, whether accurate or inaccurate, itself motivate or set the normative standards for any sort of practical engagement with the world?

Check out this link for more information:

Practical Mental Representations

Alexandra Stamson: “Narcissist Fathers and Powered Daughters”

Alexandra Stamson, one of our talented philosophy graduate students, has a book chapter coming out titled “Narcissist Fathers and Powered Daughters: Examining Narcissism and Gender” in N. K. Jemisin’s The Obelisk Gate in February.


“This chapter is a deep-dive into kinship and the links between the patriarchal figure, the patriarchy system, and the agency of daughters within that system, and how narcissism plays into the roles of family by looking at the ways that the father/daughter relationship plays out in N. K. Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy.”


Check out graduate student Nimra Asif’s recent article in Synthese, “Minimal theory of mind – a Millikanian Approach.” Synthese is a philosophy journal focusing on contemporary issues in epistemology, philosophy of science, and related fields.


Minimal theory of mind (ToM) is presented in the theory of mind literature as a middle ground between full-blown ToM and mere behavior-reading. Minimal ToM seems to be a useful construct for studying and understanding the minds of nonhuman animals and infants. However, providing an account of minimal ToM on which minimal mindreading is significantly less demanding than full-blown mindreading yet more than just a behavior-reading process is a challenge. In this paper, I argue that to address this challenge, we need to depart from the traditional framework of mindreading in more radical ways than offered by current minimal theory of mind accounts. First, I explain the traditional view of mindreading on which mental state attribution is treated as essential for mindreading and analyze the general respects in which it makes mindreading demanding for the mindreader, such as requiring the mindreader to have concepts of mental states, engage in inferential reasoning processes involving mental states, and form meta-representations. Then I discuss and critically evaluate two accounts of minimal ToM and argue that these accounts either do not depart sufficiently from the demanding requirements of traditional mindreading or risk becoming re-descriptions of behavior-reading accounts. Finally, I present an alternative Millikanian account of minimal ToM that avoids this risk while departing more radically from the traditional view of mindreading by providing a way for minimal mindreaders to represent the mental states of others and respond to them without engaging in conceptual mental state attribution.

Cody Turner: “‘Augmented Reality, Augmented Epistemology, and the Real-World Web”

Check out graduate student Cody Turner's recent article in Philosophy and Technology, "Augmented Reality, Augmented Epistemology, and the Real-World Web."


Augmented reality (AR) technologies function to ‘augment’ normal perception by superimposing virtual objects onto an agent’s visual field. The philosophy of augmented reality is a small but growing subfield within the philosophy of technology. Existing work in this subfield includes research on the phenomenology of augmented experiences, the metaphysics of virtual objects, and different ethical issues associated with AR systems, including (but not limited to) issues of privacy, property rights, ownership, trust, and informed consent. This paper addresses some epistemological issues posed by AR systems. I focus on a near-future version of AR technology called the Real-World Web, which promises to radically transform the nature of our relationship to digital information by mixing the virtual with the physical. I argue that the Real-World Web (RWW) threatens to exacerbate three existing epistemic problems in the digital age: the problem of digital distraction, the problem of digital deception, and the problem of digital divergence. The RWW is poised to present new versions of these problems in the form of what I call the augmented attention economy, augmented skepticism, and the problem of other augmented minds. The paper draws on a range of empirical research on AR and offers a phenomenological analysis of virtual objects as perceptual affordances to help ground and guide the speculative nature of the discussion. It also considers a few policy-based and designed-based proposals to mitigate the epistemic threats posed by AR technology.

Mengyu Hu: “Truthmaking in a Realist Fashion”

Check out graduate student Mengyu Hu’s recent article in The Asian Journal of Philosophy, “Truthmaking in a Realist Fashion.”


A large part of Asay’s book, A Theory of Truthmaking, is dedicated to show the benefit of applying the truthmaking method to various debates in philosophy. In this paper, I will focus on Asay’s discussion of realism in chapter 8, where he aims to define “realism” in terms of truthmaking and proposed three conditions to satisfy for an account to be realist. The third condition, “to maintain that those truths are true in virtue of that ontology in a relevant fashion”, is mainly invoked to properly characterise quasirealism as anti-realist. This condition itself is intriguing but hard to understand. I will look into Asay’s articulation on this condition and demonstrate the difficulties in interpreting it in a way that is consistent with Asay’s methodological commitments. I will explore three interpretations of condition (iii): the second-order truthmaking interpretation (SOTI), the epistemic interpretation (EI), and the functional interpretation (FI). I will show that SOTI poses a dilemma to Asay’s ontology-first truthmaking project, EI is undesirable because it deviates from the focus of ontology, and FI would render Asay’s truthmaking account redundant.

Hu, Mengyu. 2022. “Truthmaking in a Realist Fashion.” AJPH 1, 5.


Christopher Rahlwes: “Nāgārjuna’s Negation”

Check out graduate student Christopher Rahlwes’ recent article in The Journal of Indian Philosophy, “Nāgārjuna’s Negation.”


The logical analysis of Nāgārjuna’s (c. 200 CE) catuṣkoṭi (tetralemma or four-corners) has remained a heated topic for logicians in Western academia for nearly a century. At the heart of the catuṣkoṭi, the four corners’ formalization typically appears as: A, Not A (¬A), Both (A &¬A), and Neither (¬[A∨¬A]). The pulse of the controversy is the repetition of negations (¬) in the catuṣkoṭi. Westerhoff argues that Nāgārjuna in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā uses two different negations: paryudāsa (nominal or implicative negation) and prasajya-pratiṣedha (verbal or non-implicative negation). This paper builds off Westerhoff’s account and presents some subtleties of Nāgārjuna’s use of these negations regarding their scope. This is achieved through an analysis of the Sanskrit and Tibetan Madhyamaka commentarial tradition and through a grammatical analysis of Nāgārjuna’s use of na (not) and a(n)- (non-) within a diverse variety of the catuṣkoṭi within the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.

Rahlwes, Christopher. Nāgārjuna’s Negation. J Indian Philos (2022).