Area of Specialization
Systematic: Metaphysics and Epistemology
Historical: Abrahamic Medieval Philosophy
- emphasis on Arabic and Latin traditions
Area of Competency
Philosophy of Religion
Theory of Ethics
Philosophy of Human Nature
"When to Trust Authoritative Testimony: Generation and Transmission of Knowledge in Saadya Gaon, al-Ghazali, and Thomas Aquinas"
People have become suspicious of authority, including epistemic authorities, i.e. knowledge experts, even on matters individuals are unqualified to adjudicate (e.g. climate change, vaccines, or the shape or age of the earth). This is problematic since most of our knowledge comes from trusting a speaker—whether scholars reading experts, students listening to teachers, children obeying their parents, or pedestrians inquiring of strangers—such that the knowledge transmitted is never personally verified. Despite the recent development of social epistemology, this is not a new problem.
Ancient and Medieval philosophers largely took it for granted that most human knowledge comes from listening to a reliable speaker and is never personally verified—whether scholars reading experts, students listening to teachers, children obeying their parents, or even pedestrians inquiring of strangers. Thus, unlike contemporary Social Epistemology, few testimonial theories were explicitly laid out despite evidence of them interspersed throughout a thinker’s writings. To date, the working theory of testimony underpinning the works of medieval philosophers has not been codified (with few exceptions). Thus, there is a large gap in the recorded epistemologies of most medieval scholars. This is particularly relevant for the Abrahamic faiths since they originate with testimony from God himself. The goal of this dissertation is to explore how the generation and transmission of religious knowledge appears in an exemplary thinker from each faith: Saadya (Saadiah) Gaon of Judaism (882-942AD), al-Ghazali of Islam (1058-1111AD), and Thomas Aquinas of Christianity (1225-1274AD). While not contemporaries, these exemplars are theological philosophers who are like-minded in their desire to maintain an orthodox faith while possessing philosophical approaches to truth. Thus, they maintained sophisticated epistemological theories of transmission within their own religious contexts. The current status quaestionis concerning theories of testimony in medieval systems of thought consists of a handful of studies pertaining to Aquinas on testimony conducted within only the past few years and a complete lack of comparable studies of this type in the current literature for Saadya and al-Ghazali. The research on Saadya and al-Ghazali will thus be innovative and insightful while the section on Aquinas will serve to build on and contribute to this burgeoning conversation in Thomistic and medieval studies. I further argue for a "transhistorical" concept of testimony that does not presume an evidentialist framework to account for pre-modern theories of testimony which predominantly rely on virtue theoretic frameworks.
“Trust and Perspectivalism in the History of Epistemology: Testimony and After Certainty”. Rivista Di Folosofia Neo-Scolastica. May 2020.
Link to article.
“Biblical Inspiration & Islamic ‘Instrumental Causality’: Aquinas on the two authors of Sacred Scripture.” Muslim World. July 2019.
Link to article
Review of Causality and Resemblance: Medieval Approaches to the Explanation of Nature, by Maria-Jesús Soto-Bruna (ed.). Hildesheim, Zürich, New York: Georg Olms Verlag, 2018. Mediterranea, Spring 2019.
Link to article
"Be Wary of Contemporary Testimonial Theories applied to Pre-Enlightenment Thinkers", Society for Medieval and Renaissance Philosophy Inaugural Conference, University of Notre Dame, South Bend, USA – Rescheduled to October 2021
“Medieval and Renaissance Testimony on When to Trust Authority,” Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions: Structures of Being, World and Mind at The Institute of Ismaeli Studies, London, England – Rescheduled to May 2021
“Al-Ghazali's Theory of Testimony,” 56th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University Medieval Institute, Kalamazoo, USA – Scheduled for May 2021
"To 'Like' a Racist Comment is to Say a Racist Comment: Social Media and Appropriated Discourse", Philosophy Department Weekly Series, Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA – Scheduled for February 2021
“Instrumental Causality and the Metaphysics of Primary and Secondary Causality,” 12th Annual Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions - Neoplatonism & Aristotelianism in Early Arabic Philosophy, Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA - June 2019
“Saadya Gaon’s Metaphysics of Revelation,” 7th Annual Symposium on Medieval & Renaissance Studies, St. Louis University, St. Louis, USA - June 2019
“Revealed Testimony in Abrahamic Faiths,” 2019 AAIWG International Meeting: Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions: Intellect, Experience and More, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy - May 2019
“Trust and Perspectivalism in the History of Epistemology: Testimony and After Certainty” De Wulf – Mansion Centre for Ancient, Medieval, and Renaissance Philosophy - Philosophical Review Club, KU Leuven, Leuven, Belgium - May 2019
“Revelation & Testimony in al-Ghazali,” 9th Annual Graduate Student Conference 2018-2019, KU Leuven, Belgium - April 2019.
“ ‘Epistemological wall’ as selection criterion: An Alternative Abrahamic trio to Averroes, Maimonides, and Aquinas,” Cordoba Near Eastern Research Unit (CNERU), Universidad de Cordoba, Cordoba, Spain - January 2019
“The Role of Testimony in Moses Maimonides’s Critique of Saadya Gaon,” Fall 2018 Annual Fall Workshop of Aquinas and the Arabs, Universidad Panamericana, Mexico City, Mexico - August 2018
“A Testimonial Defense of Saadya Gaon’s “Tradition” to Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed,” 11th Annual Philosophy in the Abrahamic Traditions - Rabbi Moses Maimonides, University of Denver, Denver, USA - June 2018
“Biblical Inspiration & Islamic “Instrumental Causality: Aquinas on the two authors of Sacred Scripture”, 53rd International Congress on Medieval studies, Western Michigan University Medieval Institute, Kalamazoo, USA - May 2018
“Aquinas on Biblical Inspiration: God Moving the Human Will via Instrumental Causality”, International Congress: Intelligence and Will in Thomas Aquinas, University of Navarra, Navarra, Spain - April 2018
“Biblical Inspiration & Islamic “Instrumental Causality: Aquinas on the two authors of Sacred Scripture”, The Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ Graduate Student Workshop, Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA - March 2018.
“al-Ghazali, the Anachronistic Analytic Philosopher of Religion”, 52nd International Congress on Medieval studies, Western Michigan University Medieval Institute, Kalamazoo, USA - May 2017
A response to Celia Byrne’s “Rethinking the Relationship between Essence and Existence in Ibn Sina’s Metaphysics”, Marquette Graduate Philosophy Conference 2017: Forgotten Philosophers (and why we should remember them), Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA - April 2017
“What does Baghdad have to do with Paris?”, Christian-Muslim Relations in America Today: An Interdisciplinary Symposium, Mellon Grant and Simmons Religious Commitment Fund, Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA - March 2017.
“Al-Ghazali the Anachronistic Philosopher”, Fall 2016 North American Workshop on Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’, Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA - September 2016.
“Al-Ghazālī the Anachronistic Philosopher: Medieval Analytic Philosophy of Religion Introduction”, The Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ Graduate Student Workshop, Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA - February 2016.
“Why We Should Use Dialogue Today: A Dialogue on Dialogue”, Marquette Philosophy Department Brown Bag, Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA - September 2015.
“Social Epistemology & Communities of Faith: Is Aquinas’s Epistemic Division of Labor ‘Elitist Fideism’?,” The Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ Graduate Student Workshop, Marquette University, Milwaukee, USA - February 2015.