Research Interests

Over the past twenty years I have pursued research projects in three areas, in addition to some incidental papers on a few other topics.

Philosophical Projects

I have defended and pursued a naturalistic approach to epistemology, the philosophy of science, and the philosophy of psychology. As a naturalist I have explored the implications of the findings of the cognitive sciences for our conceptions of knowledge, science, mind, and consciousness. My major focus in this domain concerns philosophical models of cross-scientific relations and their implications for the connections between the cognitive sciences (especially cognitive psychology) and both neuroscience and neurocomputational modeling below and the socio-cultural sciences above.

Relevant Publications

Project on the Cognitive Foundations of Religion

I have also written on the psychological foundations of cultural forms. My work in this area (most of it pursued collaboratively with E. Thomas Lawson) has concentrated on the cognitive foundations of religion and of religious ritual, in particular. Lawson and I have advanced our theory of religious ritual competence and explored–in particular detail–one of its principal consequences, viz., the ritual form hypothesis. We have examined their implications for such topics as ritual repetition, reversal, and substitution as well as how the connections between religious ritual form and performance frequency, sensory pageantry, and emotional arousal account not only for rituals’ motivational and mnemonic effects but for various dynamic patterns religious ritual systems manifest the world over.

Relevant Publications

Project on Modern Conceptions of Liberal Education

I have also written on issues of teaching and learning and on their connections to our conceptions of liberal education and the university. I argue that the core mission of the university is inquiry and that the projects of teaching and learning should be conceived within that framework. The goal of inquiry is the improvement (including the expansion) of our knowledge. The principal means for achieving this goal are the development of our rational powers (in the broadest sense) and the pursuit of research (in very nearly the broadest sense as well). The former task is primarily the job involved in pursuing a liberal education, the central goal of which is learning how–both individually and collectively–to live better lives (again in the broadest sense).

Relevant Publications