Assistant Professor

Contact Information

Office: HH 322Nicholas Ray


PhD, MA, University of Western Ontario
BA, Wilfrid Laurier University

Areas of Interest

Philosophy of Mind and Cognitive Science; Philosophy of Science; Epistemology of Perception; History of Analytic Philosophy

Current Research

My current research is concerned with the analysis of empirical judgments in the post-Kantian empiricist tradition, especially in the work of Helmholtz and Mach. I am interested in the influence this period had on the development of analytic philosophy; in particular, I am concerned with how the lack of modern logic lead many 19th century empiricists to take recourse in psychological theories about perception or the physiology of sensation, developing interestingly naturalized theories of perceptual knowledge. I am also working on some questions regarding theoretical continuity/discontinuity as it arises in realism-instrumentalism debates. In particular, I want to get clear on what some structural realists mean by "continuity", and what it has to do with mathematical representations of the theories in question.

Academic Biography

My PhD dissertation, Ordinary Empirical Judgments and Our Scientific Knowledge, is concerned with providing an empiricist account of scientific progress, especially as regards modern theories of space, time, and motion in physics—an idea that hasn’t been very popular since the early 1960s. I argue that ordinary judgments about how objects move in a space (even fairly unscientific judgments) presuppose proto-mathematical frameworks that can be revised in light of experience and conceptual analysis, so that key developments in modern theories of space and time can be seen as arising out of these frameworks in empirical ways.

This research is just part of my more general philosophical interests, which are (perhaps a little too) broad. My main areas of interest are in metaphysics and epistemology and the philosophy of science (physics; space and time theories), but I always pursue these interests in historically motivated ways, and usually with an eye to the importance of the early analytic tradition. I really like how folks like Frege, Russell, and Carnap ask questions and think through problems, though I don’t always like their answers.

I have previously taught at Western, King’s University College, and Wilfrid Laurier University, and have taught in Philosophy, Communication Studies, and Cultural Studies. In other words, if you ever want to have a chat about pretty much any topic, I am probably interested, and eager to learn!

Selected Publications

“An Empirical Analysis of Perceptual Judgments,” Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication: Vol. 9 (under the direction of Eduard Machery and Jesse Prinz), December 2014, pp. 1-35.

“Interpreting Russell’s Gray’s Elegy Argument”, Dialogue Vol. 51, Issue 4, December 2012, pp. 667-682.

Ordinary Empirical Judgments and Our Scientific Knowledge Monograph

Selected Conference Presentations:

  • “The Story has No Villains: Mach’s Critique of Newton,” Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Science (CSHPS) Annual Congress, University of Waterloo, Waterloo ON (May 2012).
  • “Russell’s Theories of Denoting,” The Inaugural Meeting of the Society for the Study of the History of Analytic Philosophy. McMaster University, Hamilton ON (May 2012)
  • “Daniel Dennett’s Problematic Semantics of Counterfactuals,” Canadian Philosophical Association (CPA) Annual Conference, Concordia University, Montreal QC (May 2010).
  • “Conceptual Freedom in Carnap’s Der Logische Aufbau der Welt,” CSHPS Annual Conference, Concordia University, Montreal QC (May 2010).
  • “What’s So Wrong with Russell’s Denoting Concepts?” CPA Annual Conference, Carleton University, Ottawa ON (May 2009).

Recent Graduate Supervision and Teaching

Fall 2014:

  • Biomedical Ethics, PHIL 226 (section 002)

Winter 2013:

  • Introduction to Formal Logic, PHIL 240
  • Introduction to Philosophy: Knowledge and Reality, PHIL 110A

Fall 2012:

  • Great Works: Modern, PHIL 250B
  • Philosophy of Science, PHIL 258/SCI 267
  • Introduction to Philosophy: Knowledge and Reality, PHIL 110A
University of Waterloo

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