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Eddy Eddy Nahmias
office:    1116, 34 Peachtree Street (directions)
phone:   (404) 413-6117
email:    enahmias(at)gsu(dot)edu



  About Me


I am an associate professor in the Philosophy Department and the Neuroscience Institute at Georgia State University.  I have been at GSU since 2005, when I returned to my hometown of Atlanta, where I grew up, attended Emory University 1988-1992, and met my wife, Cheryl. From 2001-2005, I was an assistant professor at Florida State University. Before that, I received my PhD in 2001 from Duke University, where I wrote my dissertation, Free Will and the Knowledge Condition under the direction of Owen Flanagan. Between college and grad school, I spent a year at St. Andrews University in Scotland, studying philosophy on a Bobby Jones Scholarship (yes, the golfer, but not for golfing!), and I taught for two years at Yeshiva High School in Atlanta.

At GSU, I am the Director of Undergraduate Research, and I am leading a search for three position in Neuroethics, which will include one ethical/legal theorist who considers the ethical or legal issue raised by neuroscience, a cognitive neuroscientist who works on moral cognition, emotion, or behavior, and a philosopher of mind/cognitive science who considers the implications of neuroscience for moral theory and moral psychology.   


My research is devoted to the study of human agency: what it is, how it is possible, and how it accords with scientific accounts of human nature. My primary focus right now is the free will debate. I am currently working on a book project, Rediscovering Free Will, which is contracted with Oxford University Press and partially funded by a Wisdom Grant (2008-2010) from the University of Chicago’s Arete Initiative and the John Templeton Foundation. In the book I argue that the free will debate should not be focused on the traditional question of whether free will is compatible with determinism. Rather, the free will debate should be focused on distinct threats posed by the sciences of the mind (e.g., neuroscience and psychology). I examine these threats and argue that they do not show that free will is an illusion. However, they do suggest that we have less free will than we tend to think. I also argue that these sciences can help to explain free will, rather than explaining it away. To set up these conclusions about what the modern mind sciences tell us about free will, I offer a naturalistic theory of free will focusing on the importance of self-knowledge—especially our ability to know what we really want and know how to act on it. This account of free will, which analyzes it as set of psychological capacities that agents possess and exercise to varying degrees, is amenable to scientific inquiry. I also discuss empirical research on ordinary people’s intuitions about free will and moral responsibility—i.e., ‘experimental philosophy.’ For synoposes of my views, see my New York Times article, "Is Neuroscience the Death of Free Will?" or my interview with Richard Marshall at 3:AM Magazine.

 

I have conducted experimental philosophy research with several graduate students at FSU and GSU. Our studies suggest that most ordinary people do not take determinism, properly understood, to be incompatible with free will and moral responsibility. Rather, people take determinism to be threatening when they misinterpret it to entail reductionism, epiphenomenalism, or fatalism. In these papers, we also discuss the role such data should play in the philosophical debates.  In the “Research” section on the left side of this website, see, for instance, “Experimental Philosophy on Free Will: An Error Theory for Incompatibilist Intuitions” (with Dylan Murray), “Free Will, Moral Responsibility, and Mechanism: Experiments on Folk Intuitions” (with Trevor Kvaran and Justin Coates), and with Thomas Nadelhoffer, Jason Turner, and Stephen Morris:  “Is Incompatibilism Intuitive?”, “Surveying Freedom,” and “The Phenomenology of Free Will.”  In “The Past and Future of Experimental Philosophy” Thomas Nadelhoffer and I classify various projects of experimental philosophy and defend the methodology against objections.

 

I have written several papers that discuss the relevance of scientific research to free will and agency, including "Scientific Challenges to Free Will", The Psychology of Free Will," Why ‘Willusionism’ Leads to ‘Bad Results’,” which offers an explanation for why recent scientific claims that free will is an illusion may lead people to behave worse, “Autonomous Agency and the Threat of Social Psychology,” which considers how research in situationist social psychology potentially threatens free will, and two papers that examine Daniel Wegner’s claims about the illusion of conscious will, “Agency, Authorship, and Illusion” and “When Consciousness Matters.”

 

In “Close Calls and the Confident Agent,” I consider the significance of alternative possibilities for free will. In the unpublished paper, “The State of the Free Will Debate: From Frankfurt Cases to the Consequence Argument,” I discuss the structure of incompatibilist arguments. And in an unpublished talk, “Free Will and Knowledge,” I consider the auspicious implications of understanding free will as a set of capacities to obtain knowledge about oneself and the world.


I believe the free will debate is less about the question of determinism than the question of the mind-body relation. I am interested in how to understand that relation, especially in the study of consciousness and introspection (see my “Verbal Reports on the Contents of Consciousness: Reconsidering Introspectionist Methodology” and “The Problem of Pain”). I am also interested in the development of agency in children (e.g., theory of mind research) and the evolution of agency in primates (e.g., inhibition, theory of mind, reciprocity, and deception): see the co-authored papers “Is Human Intelligence an Adaptation?” and “Darwin's Continuum and the Building Blocks of Deception”.


I also examine the intersection of the above questions with questions about moral responsibility and the moral sentiments. Along with Thomas Nadelhoffer and Shaun Nichols, I have co-edited a volume, Moral Psychology: Historical and Contemporary Readings (Wiley-Blackwell, 2010). The volume brings together contemporary texts by philosophers, psychologists and other cognitive scientists with foundational works from both philosophy and psychology that discuss key debates in moral psychology, including moral motivation, altruism, responsible agency, virtues, and intuitions.

 

I enjoy teaching very much and find that my research is motivated by my attempts to make philosophical questions interesting and relevant to my students.  In the Teaching section, see “Polling as Pedagogy” and “Some Practical Suggestions for Teaching Small Philosophy Classes”. Recent graduate seminars include “Free Will and the Sciences of the Mind”, “Moral Psychology”, “Ethics, Agency & the Sciences of the Mind,” “Philosophy of Mind: Consciousness and Mental Causation” and “Issues in Free Will,” and I have also taught a course on “Teaching Philosophy” for graduate students at FSU. At the undergraduate level, I teach Philosophy of Mind, Introduction to Philosophy, and various Honors seminars. In 2003 I won the Superior Honors Teaching Award from the Florida State Honors program. 


I am active in SPP, the Society for Philosophy and Psychology (serving as program chair for the 2005 meeting) and SSPP, the Southern Society for Philosophy and Psychology.  I also like to blog occasionally at, for instance, Flickers of Freedom, Experimental Philosophy, and AskPhilosophers.

 

I love to play soccer (but since my knee blew out, now I just coach my kids and watch it), watch Duke basketball, read the newspaper, watch movies, and play guitar.  My wife Cheryl is an Instructional Coach at a middle school.  In addition to Cheryl, the loves of my life are my sons, Lucas and Sam, and my daughter Eve.