projects.

Here are some of my recent projects - feel free to get in touch for more information!

Memory Structures
What is the function of long-term memory? In short: an ongoing project of structuring and restructuring stored information so that we can retrieve accurate and relevant facts over time. This activity of structuring is an active process that generates knowledge and supports offline learning.

  • “Memory is a Modeling System”, forthcoming in Mind and Language. [penultimate version here]. A paper about the role of memory structures, inspired by memory systems in computers and changes to human and animal memory during sleep.
  • “Retrieval is Central to the Distinctive Function of Episodic Memory” (commentary), in Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 2018 [here]. A short paper about the different features of retrieval in semantic and episodic memory.
Incoherence in Epistemology
Could it be rational to believe something at random? What about something that is inconsistent with other things you believe? Incoherence and arbitrariness might be irrational if we only consider a single belief at a single time, but I argue that they are critical parts of the process of long-term learning.

  • “Exploring by Believing”, under review, [email me] for a draft. A theoretical paper about the exploration/exploitation trade-off, an idea from formal theories of decision-making. I extend this trade-off from practically rational action to epistemically rational belief.
  • “Memory Anomalies”, in preparation, [email me] for a draft. A project about how incoherent or incomplete memories might help us figure things out in the long run.
Learning by Imagining
How do simulations (whether mental or scientific) help us learn? I’m exploring the idea that simulations allow us to connect theories, evidence, and evaluative standards. This kind of learning is a little bit like observation, a little bit like inference, but ultimately distinct from either of these.

  • “Learning by Simulating” with Tania Lombrozo, [email me] for a draft. A theoretical and empirical project about how simulations work as on-shot learning, and iterated moves in developing an internal model.
  • “What Epistemic Reasons Are For: Against the Belief-Sandwich Distinction” with Daniel Singer. A paper about epistemic reasons to ask questions, imagine new possibilities, and even eat a sandwich. [email me] for a draft.
  • “What Makes Unsupervised Learning Learning?”. A theoretical project about how learning can work without reliable information about how well we’re doing at it.
History as a Source of Normativity
We seem to rely on history to teach us lessons about morality, politics, and generally, the way we should act. But if history is just a pile of random facts, this seems like a strange way to learn. This project is about the connection between theories of what history is, and what history can teach us.

  • “History as a Science in Islamic Modernism”, under review, [email me] for a draft. A paper about Muhammad Iqbal’s Reconstruction of Religious Thought in Islam, exploring the normative consequences of his ideas about history.