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Alison Fernandes

Title | Organization: 
Job Candidate | Ph.D. in Philosophy
Areas of Specialization: 

Philosophy of Science, Metaphysics, Philosophy of Physics

Areas of Competence: 

Epistemology, History of Philosophy (German Idealism), Ethics

Research: 

My dissertation, A Deliberative Account of Causation: How the Evidence of Deliberating Agents Accounts for Causation and its Temporal Direction (2016), investigated the relation between causation and deliberation. The aim was to determine how causation fits into a physical picture of the world by examining its relevance for deliberating agents. I argued that, based on an epistemic characterisation of deliberation, causal relations correspond to the evidential relations agents use when they decide on one thing in order to achieve another. Tamsin’s taking her umbrella, for example, is a cause of her staying dry if and only if her deciding to take her umbrella is grounds for thinking she’ll stay dry. The account explains why causation matters: knowing about causal structure helps us make decisions that are evidence of outcomes we seek. The account also relates causation to laws and physical asymmetries and so maintains the objectivity of causation and explains why causes come before their effects.

My research more broadly explores how features of agents can be used to pick out objective scientific relations, explain their temporal features, and reconcile them with the picture of the world presented by fundamental physics. I am currently a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Warwick on an interdisciplinary AHRC project, ‘Time: Between Metaphysics and Psychology’ <http://gtr.rcuk.ac.uk/projects?ref=AH%2FP00217X%2F1>, led by Christoph Hoerl and Teresa McCormack. It is often assumed that our experience of time provides intuitive support for metaphysical views according to which time passes. The project aims to determine whether empirical work actually bears this out—or whether aspects of our experience of time might actually favour accounts that deny passage. My current work explores how asymmetries in how we value future and past events might be explained in causal terms, and how these asymmetries relate to our sense of a fixed past and an open future.
 
In 2016−2017 I was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh. My work at the centre concerned the relations between deliberation, evidence and causation in the context of time travel. I argued that current responses to the apparent paradoxes of time travel often assume an open future, but that we need more temporally neutral methods of evaluating counterfactuals to handle cases of backwards time travel. I also completed work on the metaphysics chance, where I argued that reductive accounts can’t both provide chances that explain, and claim a special advantage over their rivals in justifying chance−credence principles.
Articles / Publications: 

 ‘A Deliberative Approach to Causation’, forthcoming. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

 ‘Varieties of Epistemic Freedom’, 2016. Australasian Journal of Philosophy. 94(4): 736–751.
 
‘Time, Flies, and Why We Can’t Control the Past’, in press, in Barry Loewer, Eric Winsberg and Brad Weslake (eds.) Time’s Arrows and the Probability Structure of the World, Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.