Integrated Search Menu

Jeffrey Watson

Biography

Jeffrey Watson is a lecturer with the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University. His primary research is on the Metaphysics of Mind. He teaches courses in Metaphysics, Epistemology, Philosophy of Mind, History of Modern Philosophy, History of Ethics, and Symbolic Logic.

Watson's primary research centers around emergentism in the philosophy of mind. This includes the relationships between emergence and mental causation, metaphysical grounding, questions about a priori deducibility, and "weak" and "strong" emergence.

Other areas of research include the nature of vague predicates and the sorites paradox, the relationship between counterfactuals and norms of reasonable expectation, the relationship between judgements of what is possible and "how" it is possible, the nature of representational content in perception, and ways in which moral responsibility is extended beyond individuals into the distant past or the distant future.

Prior to joining the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies faculty, he taught for Northern Arizona University, Yavapai College, and Arizona State University - West. He is a native of Arizona.

Fax
480-965-0310
Education
  • Ph.D. Philosophy Arizona State University 2013
  • M.A. Philosophy Arizona State University 2012
  • B.A. Political Science and Linguistics University of Arizona 2002
Research Interests

Dr. Watson's primary research interest is in the metaphysics of mind, and specifically defenses of Emergentism. Emergentism serves as a potential "middle ground" between reductive materialism and Cartesian dualism. The Emergentist simultaneously maintains that there is an ontological distinction between the nature of conscious experiences and the nature of physical states such as brain states, and yet that conscious experiences depend entirely for their existence on physical states, which are fully sufficient for them. Watson argues that (1) emergent mental causation provides the best non-reductive response to Jaegwon Kim's problem of causal overdetermination, (2) drawing a distinction between "ontological" and "metaphysical" grounding allows us to characterize emergence as committed to "ontological" physicalism but "metaphysical" dualism, (3) considering the conceptual resources needed to deduce a priori some supervening property from its subvening basis, or "cosmic hermeneutics", provides a useful way of classifying degrees of emergence as more "weak" or more "strong", and (4) the many widespread cases of "weak" emergence in the special sciences provide inductive evidence for the plausibility of "strong" emergence in the case of consciousness.

Dr. Watson also as an interest in Vagueness and the Sorites Paradox, and defends a novel form of epistemicism for vague predicates. Watson accepts bivalence, holding that there is unknowable fact of the matter about every possible instance of every vague predicate, but unlike conventional epistemicists, he argues that we can still reject that there are sharp "borderlines", "threshholds", or "cut off points" within a domain where vague predicates begin or cease to apply. Instead, on this model, the "true" and "false" true values of vague predicates are "scattered" throughout the borderline region of a domain. This allows a meaningful sense in which vague predicates are genuinely "vague": the random scattering of black and white at a lower-level constitutes on a higher-level many shades of grey.

Other areas of research interest include (1) the relationship between counterfactuals and norms of reasonable expectation, (2) the relationship between our judgements that something is possible and the availability of an explanation for "how" it is possible, (3) questions about what counts as a representation, what sorts of things might not be representable, how the structure of various forms of representation are structured, and the representational content of perception, and (4) ways in which moral responsibility extends beyond individual boundaries, both in cases of historical responsibility, collective responsibility, and responsibilities to the future. 

Research Activity

Presented Papers

"Overdetermination is not the Problem"
American Philosophical Association, Central Division, Denver, CO. Feb. 24, 2019.

"Marvin Mooney's Paradox"
American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division. New York, NY. Jan. 7-10, 2019

“Sustainability, Conservation, and the Categorical Imperative”
International Society for Environmental Ethics. Allenspark, CO. June 2, 2017

“Can I Know What I Would Have Freely Done?”
American Philosophical Association, Central Division. Seattle, WA. April 12, 2017

“Lifting Two Burdens on Epistemicism”
American Philosophical Association, Central Division. Kansas City, MO. Mar. 1, 2017

“Borderline Cases without Borderlines”
Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium – Analytic Group. Washington, PA. Sept. 10, 2016

“Just Reasons to Refuse Just Reparations”
American Philosophical Association, Central Division. St. Louis, MO. Feb. 19, 2015

“The Ethics of Insults”
Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress. Boulder, CO. Aug. 10, 2013

“Two Notions of Sufficiency”
Philosophy Society, Australian National University. Canberra, Australia. Mar. 5, 2013

"Mental Causation: Two Notions of Sufficiency"
American Philosophical Association, Central Division. New Orleans, LA. Feb. 23, 2013

"Harm and Reasonable Expectations"
American Philosophical Association, Pacific. Division Seattle, WA. April 5, 2012

"Logic and Perceptual Content"
American Philosophical Association, Central Division. Chicago, IL. Feb. 16, 2012

"Mending the Broken Promises of the Past: On Responsibility to Repair Historical Wrongs"
American Philosophical Association, Central Division. Minneapolis, MN. April 1, 2011

Spring 2020
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 103Principles of Sound Reasoning
PHI 330Theory of Knowledge
PHI 332Metaphysics
PHI 493Honors Thesis
Summer 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 330Theory of Knowledge
PHI 334Philosophy of Mind
PHI 420Topics in Philosophy
Spring 2019
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 103Principles of Sound Reasoning
PHI 332Metaphysics
PHI 420Topics in Philosophy
PHI 493Honors Thesis
Fall 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 101Introduction to Philosophy
PHI 330Theory of Knowledge
PHI 334Philosophy of Mind
PHI 403Contemp Analytic Philosophy
PHI 492Honors Directed Study
Summer 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 330Theory of Knowledge
PHI 334Philosophy of Mind
Spring 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 103Principles of Sound Reasoning
PHI 330Theory of Knowledge
PHI 332Metaphysics
PHI 403Contemp Analytic Philosophy
Fall 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 101Introduction to Philosophy
PHI 330Theory of Knowledge
PHI 334Philosophy of Mind
PHI 335History of Ethics
PHI 493Honors Thesis
Summer 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 101Introduction to Philosophy
PHI 330Theory of Knowledge
Spring 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 330Theory of Knowledge
PHI 332Metaphysics
PHI 335History of Ethics
PHI 420Topics in Philosophy
PHI 492Honors Directed Study
PHI 493Honors Thesis
Summer 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 101Introduction to Philosophy
PHI 105Intro to Ethics
Spring 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 103Principles of Sound Reasoning
PHI 330Theory of Knowledge
PHI 332Metaphysics
PHI 493Honors Thesis
Fall 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 101Introduction to Philosophy
PHI 330Theory of Knowledge
PHI 334Philosophy of Mind
PHI 335History of Ethics
PHI 492Honors Directed Study
Summer 2015
Course NumberCourse Title
PHI 101Introduction to Philosophy
PHI 420Topics in Philosophy
Honors / Awards

Doctoral Research Grant, Arizona Board of Regents. 2013

Professional Associations

American Philosophical Association
American Association of Philosophy Teachers

Graduate Faculties / Mentoring History

Thesis Committees

Barrett Honors Faculty, Honors Thesis Advisor
Ismael Guerrero: Chief Executives and the Executive Branch
Tyler Woods: Virtue Ethics and Maximizing Enjoyment in Life 2016-2017
Dalton Woodard: Artificial Intelligence and Consciousness 2016-2017
Radu Moga: Narrative Conceptions of Identity 2015-2017
Dillyn Foy: Philosophy of Crime and Punishment 2015-2016

Barrett Honors Faculty, Honors Thesis Second Reader:
Chelsea Gulinson, The Ethics of Food Localization 2014-2015
Nathan Broderick, Ethics and Documentary Filmmaking 2013-2014

Service

Service as a Reviewer for Academic Presses

Rowman & Littlefield 2017
Broadview Press 2015
Bloomsbury Academic 2015
McGraw Hill 2014
Oxford University Press 2014

Service as a Commentator

Marco Stango, "A Category Mistake in Philosophy of Consciousness and Naturalistic Dualism"
American Philosophical Association, Eastern Division. January 4, 2018

Claire Hamlett, “A Framework for Thinking about Environmental Practices”
International Society for Environmental Ethics, Allenspark, CO. June 2, 2017

Jason Hanschmann, “A Problematic Approach to Resolving the Sorites Paradox”
Mountain-Plains Philosophy Conference, Colorado Springs, CO. October 6, 2016

Analytic Working Group: Language, Mind & Metaphysics
Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium. September 10, 2016

Matt Smith, “Luck and Responsibility in Politics”
Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress, Boulder, CO. August 10, 2013

Nick Cesare, “Absurd Results from Posthumous Harm”
Southwest Grad. Conference, Tempe, AZ. April 5, 2013

Ralf Bader, "Aggregating vs. Balancing Harms"
American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division. April 5, 2012

Jonathan Spelman, "A Defense of Phenomenal Conservativism"
Southwest Grad. Conference, Tempe, AZ. March 3, 2012

Neil Mehta, "Is there a Phenomenological Argument for Representationalism?"
Southwest Grad. Conference, Tempe, AZ. March 6, 2011

Benjamin Jarvis, “The Instrumental Value of Truth”
Southwest Grad. Conference, Tempe, AZ. March 21, 2009

Service as a Session Chair

31st Conference on the History and Philosophy of Science, Boulder, CO October 17, 2015
Sessions by Nora Berenstein, “Strengthening Weak Emergence”; Kevin Morris, “Truthmaking, Levels of Reality, and
the Mysteries of Emergence.”; Fatema Amijee, “Emergence and Metaphysical Explanation”

American Philosophical Association, Pacific Division, Vancouver, BC April, 2015
Session by Chris Melenovsky, “Rawlsian Objectivity”

University and Departmental Service

Philosophy Awards Committee 2016-2017
Canvas Pilot Program, University Technology Office 2016-2017
PHI 101 “Master Class” Development Team, SHPRS 2015-2017
The LEAD Project, Office of the University Provost 2015-2016
Philosophy Summer Hiring Committee Summer 2016
CLAS Demofest Presenter March 2016
CLAS Humanities Early Start Planning Meetings December 2015
“Mini-Seminar” for High School Philosophy Students January 2015
SHPRS FAC Talks, “Teaching Philosophy Online” September 2014
Mini-Conference Planning Committee, Philosophy Unit Fall 2013

Student Organization Advisor

Faculty Co-Advisor, Graduate Philosophical Society 2013-2018
Presentations: "Marvin Mooney's Paradox" (2017), “Responsibility for Harm” (Fall 2015), “Funding Conference
Travel” (Fall 2015), “New Graduate Student Q & A” (Fall 2014), “Just Reparations” (Fall 2014)

Faculty Co-Advisor, Online Undergraduate Philosophy Club 2013-2018

Other Service

ASU Online Courses Developed (2013-2017): PHI 101 Introduction to Philosophy, PHI 330 Theory of Knowledge, PHI 332 Metaphysics, PHI 334 Philosophy of Mind, PHI 420 Metaphysics / Philosophy of Mind, PHI 403 Contemporary Analytic Philosophy.

Honors Enrichment Contracts: 2017: 6, 2016: 2, 2015: 8, 2014: 3, 2013: 1

Independent Study Courses Directed: PHI 499: B. Hoogstra, J. Berger (Fall 2016); HPS 495: B. Hoogstra, with Prof. Karin Ellison (Fall 2015, Spring 2016)

Independent Non-Credit Research by Undergraduate Students: (2016) C. Postlewaite, (2015) T. Campbell, F. Schreick, T. Woods, (2014) B. Johnson, J. Watkins-Quesada, A. Farvin

Other Teaching Support Activities: PHI 101 Master Course Development (2015-2017), Canvas Pilot Project with CLAS UTO (2016-2017), Pedagogy Discussion Group (2017)

Other Mentoring & Student Support: Advising Students Seeking Admission to Barrett Honors College (2015 - 2016); Advising graduates pursuing graduate study (2014-2017); 1st Year SHPRS Majors Philosophy Chats (Fall 2014); Student Video Interview, Alyssa Clark, “Philosophy and Gender” (Spring 2014); Student Podcast, Roddy Nikpour, “The Soul" (Fall 2016)

Expertise Areas