I was born in Sydney and grew up there and in Adelaide. I spent my teenage years as a math geek, and studied mathematics at the University of Adelaide from 1983 to 1986. After hitch-hiking around Europe en route to the University of Oxford in 1987, my little obsession with the problem of consciousness spun out of control. That resulted in a move to Indiana University in 1989, where I obtained a Ph.D. in 1993 in philosophy and cognitive science, working in Doug Hofstadter’s extremely stimulating Center for Research on Concepts and Cognition. After two more years in the midwest as a postdoc at Washington University in St. Louis, I moved first to the ocean (UC Santa Cruz) from 1995-98, then to the desert (University of Arizona) from 1999-2004, and back home to Australia (Australian National University) in 2004. I took up a part-time position in the bright lights of New York City (NYU) in 2009, and moved full-time in 2014.
I seem to like organizing things. I’m proud of co-founding the Association for the Scientific Study of Consciousness, the PhilPapers Foundation, and three different Centers for Consciousness (see the organizations I’m involved with). I’m also proud of my many terrific students and post-docs.
When I have time and run out of excuses, I sometimes do some real work. I’ve written three books and many articles on consciousness, meaning, metaphysics, epistemology, AI and computation, and various other topics in philosophy and cognitive science (see top of page). Consciousness is my first love, and it’s what I always come back to, but one of the nice things about being a philosopher is that one is allowed to be interested in all sorts of things. (If you get interested in X, you just say “I’m working on the philosophy of X”). I do a lot of fairly technical philosophy (philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology) as well as being closely involved with work in science (neuroscience, psychology, AI, physics).
My partner, Claudia Passos Ferreira, is a philosopher and a psychologist from Rio de Janeiro with two PhDs, teaching in the NYU Center for Bioethics. We divide our time between Greenwich Village and the Hudson Valley, with Australia and Brazil in the mix too.