As you interact with the environment (including your own body) you come to experience the stuff stimulating your sensory receptors. The stimuli show up in your phenomenal consciousness. Driven by the offline (re)activation of sensory neural circuits, roughly similar sorts of experiences arise in dreams, hallucinations, imagination, and memory. I’m interested in fundamental questions about these experience.

My work clusters into a number of overlapping themes and projects. These include:

  1. Could what it’s like for you to perceptually experience your environment really be duplicated in a dream, like Descartes thought? I’ve argued maybe not.
  2. Do dreams involve a feeling of presence, like normal waking perception, or are they more like imagination, which lacks that feeling? I’ve argued that it’s complicated.
  3. What, exactly, is the feeling of presence (characteristic of normal perception), vs the feeling of pastness (characteristic of memory)? How do these feelings differentiate waking perception, memory, imagination, and dreams?
  4. What is it that we experience when we hallucination and dream? I argue that, at least in some cases, we’re experiencing past-perceived objects.
  5. Is mental time travel real time travel? (yes)
  6. Does normal sensory perception itself ever involve experience of the past? (I think so.)
  7. Do you ever experience things not represented by your sensory neural activity? Is everything represented in conscious sensory neural activity experienced? (I argue not, for both cases.)
  8. How is it that perception makes objects available for thought? Against the dominant tradition, I don’t think it’s by providing information channels which feed mental files.
  9. Does phenomenal consciousness (i.e., experience) play a role in how perception makes objects available for thought? (Yes, but it’s complicated.)

My work