Danielle & David-60.jpg.jpeg

The primary focus of my research is applied ontology. I work in the Department of Philosophy at the University at Buffalo as an Intelligence Community Postdoc funded by the Department of Energy through the Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education (ORISE).


Ph.D. Philosophy, University at Buffalo (2014-2018)

Dissertation: Modality, Representation, and Powers

Abstract: This dissertation is about flexibility as a dimension of reality, an objective—independent of mind and language—phenomenon typically referred to as ‘metaphysical modality’. It develops a novel modal account of why reality could be different: that is, why claims like “Possibly, there are talking donkeys,” or “Humphrey could have won the election” are true or false. I contend that primitive dispositional properties called ‘powers’ explain such claims, and do so better than possible-world accounts of modality. The problem with possible-world accounts is that they fail to capture what we mean by modal terms like ‘possibly’, ‘can’, or ‘necessarily’. The phenomenon they capture with possible worlds cannot adequately explain, for instance, that Humphrey regrets not winning the election because: he could have made a difference. Humphrey is told that he could have won the election because some entity represents him as such. But what does some entity’s representing Humphrey have to do with whether Humphrey could have won the election? Simply calling that entity a ‘possible world’ is no help. Powers do better in this regard, preserving a common-sense notion of modality where, because of what a power can do it acts as a cross-roads in history, marking places where reality could have unfolded differently. As such, powers are more clearly modally significant than possible worlds. The conclusion shows how to use powers to underwrite possible-world semantics without possible worlds.

M.A. Philosophy of Religion, Biola University (2011-2014)

B.A. Philosophy, Auburn University (1999-2003)

Interests: Applied Ontology, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Religion, Philosophy of Medicine, and Applied Ethics

Applied Ethics

I have a strong interest in applying ethics.  I worked as an ethics consultant at Buffalo's Department of Veterans Affairs Hospital for the 2015-2017 calendar years.  I sat on three permanent committees aimed at improving patient care by addressing individual consults, identifying systemic issues, and improving policy.  I was also on two task forces, one that examined when and how patients are given the opportunity to create an advance directive at the hospital, and another addressing the opiod epidemic in Western New York. 

I am currently a fellow at the Romanell Center for Clinical Ethics and the Philosophy of Medicine.

Selected Publications

“The Harm of Medical Disorder as Harm in the Damage Sense.” Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics (Forthcoming).

“Libet and Freedom in a Mind-Haunted World.” American Journal of Bioethics Neuroscience (Forthcoming)(With Robert Kelly).

“Animals, Prudence, and Advance Directives: Should We Allow the Cheerfully Demented to Die?” Ethics, Medicine and Public Health 2(4): 481-489 (2016).

“A Dispositionalist Theory of Possibility with Representation” (Under Review) 

Selected Presentations

“The Harm of Medical Disorder as Harm in the Damage Sense” (November 22, 2017) Grand Rounds, Buffalo General Hospital, Buffalo, NY“A

"Dispositional Theory of Possibility with Representation” (October 2017) Society for the Metaphysics of Science, Fordham University, New York, NY

“Animals, Prudence, and Advance Directives: Should We Allow the Cheerfully Demented to Die?” (August 2016) Rocky Mountain Ethics Congress (RoME), University of Colorado at Boulder, Boulder, CO

“Setting the Stage for a Problem with Animalism and Sparse Ontologies in Bioethics” (September 2014) Indiana Philosophical Society Conference, Fort Wayne, IN