top of page


My work on Descartes explores his account of the embodied self. I have written about Descartes's account of our experience of embodiment, as well as the truth--i.e., the metaphysics--in this experience. Central to my approach is the conviction that the Cartesian self is a thinking subject. An adequate account of the self's embodiment must explain how we think and experience with our bodies.

2022. In The Routledge Handbook to Bodily Awareness, edited by Adrian J.T. Alsmith and Matthew R. Longo, 83-94. London: Routledge.

Despite his reputation for neglecting the body, Descartes develops a systematic account of bodily awareness. He holds that in bodily awareness each of us feels intimately connected to our body. We experience this body as inescapable, as infused with bodily sensations and volitions, and as a special object of concern. This multifaceted experience plays an ambivalent role in Descartes’s philosophy. Bodily awareness is epistemically dangerous. It tempts us to falsely judge that we cannot exist apart from our bodies. But bodily awareness isn’t all bad for Descartes. It helps us stay alive. Descartes also appeals to bodily awareness as a corrective to overly disembodied conceptions of the self.

2020. Journal of Modern Philosophy 2(1): 1-30.

In the Meditations and related texts from the early 1640s, Descartes argues that the self can be correctly considered as either a mind or a human being, and that the self’s properties vary accordingly. For example, the self is simple considered as a mind, whereas the self is composite considered as a human being. Someone might object that it is unclear how merely considering the self in different ways blocks the conclusion that a single subject of predication—the self—is both simple and composite, which is contradictory. In response to this objection, this paper develops a reading of Descartes’s various ways of considering the self. I argue that the best reading of Descartes’s qualified claims about the self, i.e., about the self qua mind or the self qua human being, presupposes an account of the unqualified self, that is, of the self simpliciter. I argue that the self simpliciter is not a mind, and that it is not a human being either. This result might suggest the pessimistic conclusion that Descartes’s view of the self is incoherent. To avoid this result, I introduce a new metaphysical account of the Cartesian self. On my view, the self is individuated by a unified mental life. The self is constituted by the beings that jointly produce this mental life, and derives its unity from it.

2019. European Journal of Philosophy 27(1): 3-24.

How does Descartes characterize the peculiar way in which each of us is aware of our bodies? I argue that Descartes recognizes a sense of bodily ownership, such that the body sensorily appears to be one's own in bodily awareness. This sensory appearance of ownership is ubiquitous, for Descartes, in that bodily awareness always confers a sense of ownership. This appearance is confused, in so far as bodily awareness simultaneously represents the subject as identical to, partially composed by, and united to her body, without distinguishing these relations. Finally, the appearance of ownership is grounded in multiple other ways in which the body sensorily appears: namely, in the fact that the body appears to be inescapable, modified by bodily sensations, and an object of special concern.

2016. In Subjectivity and Selfhood in Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy, edited by Jari Kaukua and Tomas Ekenberg, ​219-234. Dordrecht: Springer. 

Although Descartes and Malebranche argue that we are immaterial thinking things, they also maintain that each of us stands in a unique experiential relation to a single human body, such that we feel as though this body belongs to us and is part of ourselves. This paper examines Descartes’s and Malebranche’s accounts of this feeling. They hold that our experience of being embodied is grounded in affective bodily sensations that feel good or bad: namely, sensations of pleasure and pain, hunger and thirst, and so on. These bodily sensations ground our experiential identification with the body because they represent the body’s needs and interests as though they were own, such that we experience an important aspect of our well-being as consisting in the preservation of the body. According to these Cartesians, then, we feel embodied in part because we experience ourselves as having a bodily good.

bottom of page