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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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  • The Rational Role of Experience. Inquiry. Forthcoming.
    If there is content that we reason on, cognitive content, it is in the head and accessible to reasoning mechanisms. This paper discusses the phenomenal theory of cognitive content, according to which cognitive contents are the contents of phenomenal consciousness. I begin by distinguishing cognitive content from the closely associated notion of narrow content. I then argue, drawing on prior work, that the phenomenal theory can plausibly account for the cognitive contents of many relatively simple cognitive contents. My main focus in this paper is the question whether the phenomenal theory can account for the apparently abstract and complex cognitive contents of "high-level" thoughts. It is dubious that the theory can account for such cognitive contents, because cognitive phenomenology is too scarce and too thin. However, I argue there are in fact few abstract or complex cognitive contents, so the phenomenal theory's predictions are correct. This position explains some apparently irrational behavior that is otherwise hard to explain, and it makes sense of the central role of inner speech and other forms of consciousness in reasoning. [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]