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David Bourget

Department of Philosophy, University of Western Ontario
Stevenson Hall, Room 3143
1151 Richmond St
London ON, N6A 5B8, Canada

About me

I'm an assistant professor in philosophy and director of the Centre for Digital Philosophy at the University of Western Ontario.

I was previously a research fellow and director of the Centre for Computing in Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy, University of London. I obtained my PhD in philosophy at the Australian National University under the supervision of David Chalmers, Daniel Stoljar, and Frank Jackson. I also hold a BSc in computer science from l'Université Laval.

Philosophical research

My philosophical research revolves around two main projects. The first concerns the representational theory of consciousness and the role it can play in constructing a scientific explanation of consciousness. The second project investigates the role of consciousness in grounding meaning, concepts, and non-conscious mental states.

Computing projects

I'm involved in a number of computing projects that support research in philosophy:

My papers

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  • Consciousness as the Engine of Reason. Inquiry. Forthcoming.
    If there is content that we reason on, cognitive content, it is in the head and accessible to reasoning mechanisms. This paper considers two consciousness-centric approaches to accounting for cognitive content: the simple phenomenal theory, on which our cognitive contents are simply the contents of our consciousness, and phenomenal functionalism, according to which cognitive contents arise from a mix of phenomenal experience and functional role. I argue that phenomenal functionalism faces the same underdetermination and other difficulties as traditional narrow functionalist views. However, because cognitive phenomenology is relatively limited, the simple phenomenal theory implies that thoughts about abstract or complex matters often don't have cognitive contents that capture these matters. I suggest that this is an acceptable consequence of the simple phenomenal theory that explains some apparently irrational behavior that is otherwise hard to explain. [Contact me for a copy]
  • Consciousness and Intentionality. In Uriah Kriegel, ed., Oxford Handbook of Consciousness. Forthcoming. Co-authored by Angela Mendelovici & David Bourget.
    Philosophers traditionally recognize two main features of mental states: intentionality and phenomenal consciousness. To a first approximation, intentionality is the aboutness of mental states, and phenomenal consciousness is the felt, experiential, qualitative, or "what it’s like" aspect of mental states. In the past few decades, these features have been widely assumed to be distinct and independent. But several philosophers have recently challenged this assumption, arguing that intentionality and consciousness are importantly related. This article overviews the key views on the relationship between consciousness and intentionality and describes our favored view, which is a version of the phenomenal intentionality theory, roughly the view that the most fundamental kind of intentionality arises from phenomenal consciousness.
  • Is Emergent Anomalous Panpsychism Viable? In William Seager, ed., Routledge Handbook of Panpsychism. Forthcoming.
    We can classify theories of consciousness along two dimensions. The first dimension is a theory's answer to the question of whether consciousness is "something over and above" the physical. Physicalism, dualism, and Russellian monism are the three possible positions on this dimension. The second dimension is a theory's answer to the question of how conscious states causally interact with physical states. The three possible answers to this question are nomism (the two interact through laws or necessary principles), acausalism (they do not causally interact), and anomalism (they interact but not through laws or necessary principles). This paper explores the potential and viability of anomalous dualism, a combination of views that has not been explored so far. I suggest that a specific version of anomalous dualism, emergent anomalous panpsychism, can address the two most pressing issues for dualist views, the problem of mental causation and the mapping problem (the problem of predicting mind-body associations). Emergent anomalous panpsychism seems to be the only theory that can reconcile all the evidence that has been offered by dualists and physicalists. [contact me for a copy]