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David Miguel Gray


  • Harvard University, PhD 2008. Thesis:  What Lies Within: Essays on Phenomenology, Psychology, and Self-Knowledge
  • Harvard University, MA 2002. Thesis: Slow-Switching: Knowledge of Reference and Reference Change
  • Columbia University, BA 1997. Honors Thesis:  Events, Objects, Tropes, and Explanation


Areas of Specialization
African-American philosophy, philosophy of cognitive science, philosophy of mind, philosophy of race and racism

Areas of Competence
Philosophy of language, logic, metaphysics, philosophy of science (cognitive science and evolutionary biology)

Things I think about a lot...
Philosophy of Race. I think a lot about what races are and how we can clarify these notions. I also think a lot about how we use racial terms and what in the world they are supposed to pick out. Lately, I've been thinking about racial epithets (derogatory racial terms) and how groups of people often re-appropriate those terms.

African American Philosophy. My two main concerns (this year at least) involve changing concepts of "black" through the early 20th century and racial solidarity (in particular black nationalist movements in the United States but also the civil rights movements. I work a lot on the African-American Intellectual W.E.B. Du Bois and his early thought (1890s-1910s). Du Bois's early work is interesting in that, on my interpretation, he unites these two issues and talks about how certain notions of race can actually encourage solidarity.

Philosophy of Psychology. I think a lot about philosophical issues in psychopathology and in particular issues in cognitive psychopathology (this is something like cognitive psychology as it relates to mental illness). In particular, I try to explain how we should understand abnormal experiences (hallucinations and illusions) and how they lead to delusions (abnormal beliefs often centered around or based upon abnormal experiences).

Philosophy of Mind. I think a lot about what analytic philosophers call phenomenology or the 'what it is likeness' of certain conscious experience (this is also called 'qualia' although without further explanation, all three of these phrases can be pretty harmful to clear discussion). For instance, if I see a red flower I might form a belief that I see a red flower in front of me. This belief represents the world as being a certain way (one where there is a flower in front of me). My visual experience also represents the world as there being a flower in front of me. But in addition to this, there seems to be a special feature of seeing a flower that we may not be able to explain fully in terms of representations. This is what some philosophers try to get at when they say there is something it is like to see a red flower. I wonder if other conscious states have this same 'what it is likeness'? For instance, is there a `what it is likeness' to having a mathematical thought? To desiring that p versus intending that p or believing that p. How about understanding? Take the 'machine gun' sentence. "Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo." This might seem non-sensical, but when you realize that 'buffalo is both a singular and a plural and 'buffalo' can also mean to outwit, this sentence means something that "Buffalo that other buffalo outwit, outwit buffalo." So now when you read that sentence again, you seem to have a different experience. Should this be explained in terms of a phenomenology or 'something it is like' to understanding or can we explain it in non-phenomenological terms?

Philosophy of Language. I think a lot about how certain categories of words pick out things in the world (e.g., natural kind terms and proper names). I'm interested in both externalist theories of reference and semantics, two-dimensional semantics, and the metaphysical implications of these positions for concepts such as rigidity and necessity.


  • “Counting-ish Creatures and Conceptual Content” Mind. Forthcoming
  • “Failing to Self-Ascribe Thought and Motion: Towards a Three-Factor Account of Passivity Symptoms in Schizophrenia” Schizophrenia Research. January 2014.  152: 1
  • “Racial Norms: A Reinterpretation of Du Bois’ ‘The Conservation of Races’” The Southern Journal of Philosophy. December 2013. 51: 4
  • “How Specific Can You Get? Troubles for Cognitive Phenomenology” Southwest Philosophy Review. January 2013. 29:1.
  • “HOT: Keeping up Appearances?” Southwest Philosophy Review. January 2012. 28: 1.

Recent Presentations

“Racial Norms:  A Reinterpretation of Du Bois’ ‘The Conservation of Races’”
  • (Symposium) American Philosophical Association Eastern Division—December 27-30, 2012
  • William James Prize Winner, 2012
  • Social Political Workshop, Vanderbilt University – October 14, 2011
  • Texas A&M University – January 27, 2009
“How Specific Can You Get? Troubles for Cognitive Phenomenology”
  • Southwestern Philosophical Society – November 10, 2012
“Phenomenology and the Ascription of Thought”
  • Centre College – October 25, 2012
“HOT:  Keeping up Appearances?”
  • American Philosophical Association Pacific Division – April 4, 2012
  • Southwestern Philosophical Society – November 19, 2011
“Comments on Anderson’s ‘Why So Serious:  An Enquiry on Racist Jokes’”
  • American Philosophical Association Central Division – February 18, 2012
“‘Freedom Now’ and ‘Black Power’: Re-Envisioning Black Solidarity in the 21st Century”
  • Martin Luther King Day Teach-In, Vanderbilt University – January 16, 2012
“Slow-Switching and the Self-Ascription of Knowledge”
  • Semantics and Philosophy in Europe 4, Ruhr – University of Bochum – September 30, 2011
“Towards a Three-Factor Account of Monothematic Delusions:  How to Characterize Abnormal Experience in Thought Insertion and Alien Control”
  • Clinical Brown Bag, Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University – March 29, 2011
“Thought Insertion:  From Phenomenology to Delusions”
  • Bard College – October 18, 2010
  • Rutgers University, Newark – December 8, 2009
  • Oxford University – June 17, 2009

Teaching Experience

Race Theory
  • Philosophy of Race and Racism: spring 2014, spring 2011, spring 2013, fall 2008, fall 2004
  • Race, Racism, and Revolution: fall 2010, fall 2007        
Philosophy of Mind and Psychology
  • Consciousness: fall 2012
  • Philosophy of Mind: fall 2011
  • Philosophy of Mind: Mental Phenomena: spring 2011
  • Philosophy of Psychology: fall 2009
  • Self-Knowledge and Introspection: fall 2009
  • Philosophical Theories of Perception: spring 2009
  • Philosophy of Psychology: spring 2009
  • Self-Deception and Moral Responsibility: spring 2006
  • Self-Knowledge and Externalism: fall 2002
Philosophy of Language, Logic, Science, Metaphysics & Epistemology
  • Introduction to Philosophical Problems: spring 2014, fall 2013
  • Formal Logic: spring 2013, spring 2012, spring 2010, fall 2009
  • Philosophy of Science: fall 2012, spring 2010
  • Philosophy of Language: spring 2012
  • Metaphysics: fall 2010
  • Paradoxes and Knowledge: spring 2005