I began teaching philosophy in graduate school, first as a teaching assistant and then teaching full courses in my last year. I enjoy the fresh perspective and enthusiasm of students. It always amazes me how original the students are: they ask questions that make you think of something that you have never thought of before, they present original examples, and they ask the very basic questions that are always the most difficult to answer.
Most of my research focuses on the philosophy of mind, and in particular on consciousness (the subjective character of experience) and intentionality (the phenomenon of one thing being about another). In the history of philosophy, these two phenomena were considered to be logically independent and so treated in isolation. For example, one may claim that a very sophisticated robot can think, i.e. represent features of the world, but it cannot feel angry or experience the taste of chocolate. I argue that intentionality and consciousness are so intimately related such that if, for example, something can’t feel, then it can’t think.
One of the joys of teaching is that quite often you are able to teach new material, which I do as much as possible. So my research inspires my teaching, because I will teach the material I am currently working on. I think the students appreciate this because they can sense when the teacher is excited about new material and trying to figure something out. To my mind, this is the best possible teaching atmosphere; with teacher and students working together.
The department organises a series of events, such as lectures on historical figures in philosophy, work in progress seminars and I organise for philosophers from other Universities to give presentations at Bristol about their work.
The best things about working at Bristol are my colleagues and the students. Our department is extremely friendly and incredibly active. There’s always something going on, and the whole place is infused with enthusiasm for the subject. This makes for an exciting place to be both for the staff and the students.