About Me

I am a PhD student in the Philosophy Department at Loyola University Chicago. I entered the program in the Fall of 2015, and plan to finish by Spring of 2020. I have finished coursework and am preparing for my dissertation proposal while working as a Teaching Assistant at the department. I previously completed an MA at Marquette and an MPhil at KULeuven.

Much of my research has revolved around questions of epistemology and philosophy of mind and religion in the Middle Ages. In particular, I am interested in how early Scholastic thinkers adapted ideas from Greek and Arabic philosophy to answer difficult epistemological and psychological questions. Among many issues, I am fascinated by fringe cases of cognition: once we have a system that tells us how we acquire reliable beliefs under ordinary circumstances (for example, by sensation and abstraction), how do we handle abnormal cases, such as supernatural prophecy or artistic inspiration (or Gettier cases)? Do we reject them? Assimilate them to our existing epistemological-psychological matrix? Develop new structures to contain them? Give up and “just believe” (or “just feel”)? Or do we (perhaps in the face of skeptical challenges) assimilate the normal to the abnormal? All of these options were explored in the Middle Ages, particularly with regard to the philosophy of religious faith, a primary interest of mine.

Questions involving contingency, necessity, and essence are also important to me. Are things (and not just propositions) contingent or necessary? If so, is there any thing necessary? Is a thing’s possibility (or essence) ontologically distinct from is existence? I find Avicenna’s answers to these questions, and Aquinas’ adaptation of Avicennan metaphysics, provocative and helpful. Philosophy of fiction (especially philosophy of subcreation and “canon”) is a related topic that fascinates me.

Of course, I have significant interest in non-Western philosophy, primarily Islamic philosophy (which still falls within the larger Greek, Platonic-Aristotelian tradition). I also do a lot of reading in Chinese philosophy, especially Xunzi and other Confucians. I have not published or presented any work in this area, but I have lectured on classical Confucian ethics in undergraduate philosophy classes.

I am a native of inner-city Chicago and currently live in Wheaton, Illinois with my wife, Abby, and a jungle of herbs and hot peppers. When I’m not reading or writing philosophy I play chess, make things out of rope, write stories and create languages, and perfect my tea-brewing skills.

You can contact me by email at jandrews2@luc.edu.