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John Heil FAHA

​Professor of Philosophy
PhD, Vanderbilt University
research interests:
  • Metaphysics
  • Philosophy of Mind
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    • Washington University
    • CB 1073
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Professor Heil is listed among the 50 Most Influential Living Philosophers. He works primarily in metaphysics and philosophy of mind and has teaching interests in metaphysics, logic, philosophy of mind, and early modern philosophy.

    In 2020, John Heil was elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities. He was a 2019–2020 Fulbright-Australia Fellow at Monash University, and the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Fellowship in 2018–19. Heil's most recent books include From an Ontological Point of View (Oxford University Press 2006) and The Universe as We Find It (Oxford University Press 2012). Appearance in Reality (Oxford University Press), What is Metaphysics? (Polity Press), and An Introduction to First-Order Logic (Hackett) will appear in 2021.

    Professor Heil's Institute of Art and Ideas lectures on The Universe as We Find It, delivered at Hay-on-Wye in 2014 at the 'HOWTHELIGHTGETSIN' festival, and a recent piece on the Secrets of Experience on can be found on the Institute's Philosophy for Our Times webpage.

    Further Reading

    Richard Marshall's 3:AM Magazine interview with John Heil on The Universe as We Find It

    Tony Sobrado's Biggest Questions interview with John Heil on 'What is Consciousness?'

    The Universe As We Find It

    The Universe As We Find It

    What does reality encompass? Is reality exclusively physical? Or does reality include nonphysical--mental, and perhaps 'abstract'--aspects? What is it to be physical or mental, or to be an abstract entity? What are the elements of being, reality's raw materials? How is the manifest image we inherit from our culture and refine in the special sciences related to the scientific image as we have it in fundamental physics? Can physics be understood as providing a 'theory of everything', or do the various sciences make up a hierarchy corresponding to autonomous levels of reality? Is our conscious human perspective on the universe in the universe or at its limits? What, if anything, makes ordinary truths, truths of the special sciences, and truths of mathematics true? And what is it for an assertion or judgment to be 'made true'? In The Universe As We Find It, John Heil offers answers to these questions framed in terms of a comprehensive ontology of substances and properties inspired by Descartes, Locke, their successors, and their latter day exemplars. Substances are simple, lacking parts that are themselves substances. Properties are modes--particular ways particular substances are--and arrangements of propertied substances serve as truthmakers for all the truths that have truthmakers. Heil argues that the deep story about the nature of these truthmakers can only be told by fundamental physics.

    Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction

    Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction

    When first published, John Heil's introduction quickly became a widely used guide for students with little or no background in philosophy to central issues of philosophy of mind. Heil provided an introduction free of formalisms, technical trappings, and specialized terminology. He offered clear arguments and explanations, focusing on the ontological basis of mentality and its place in the material world. The book concluded with a systematic discussion of questions the book raises--and a sketch of a unified metaphysics of mind--thus inviting scholarly attention while providing a book very well suited for an introductory course.

    The book is intended as a reader-friendly introduction to issues in the philosophy of mind, including mental–physical causal interaction, computational models of thought, the relation minds bear to brains, and assorted -isms: behaviorism, dualism, eliminativism, emergentism, functionalism, materialism, neutral monism, and panpsychism. The Fourth Edition reintroduces a chapter on Donald Davidson and a discussion of 'Non-Cartesian Dualism', along with a wholly new chapter on emergence and panpsychism. A concluding chapter draws together material in earlier chapters and offers what the author regards as a plausible account of the mind's place in nature. Suggested readings at the conclusion of each chapter have been updated, with a focus on accessible, non-technical material.

    Key Features of the Fourth Edition

    • Includes a new chapter, 'Emergence and Panpsychism' (Chapter 13), reflecting growing interest in these areas
    • Reintroduces and updates a chapter on Donald Davidson, 'Radical Interpretation' (Chapter 8), which was excised from the previous edition
    • Updates 'Descartes' Legacy' (Chapter 3) to include a discussion of E. J. Lowe's arresting 'Non-Cartesian Dualism', also removed from the previous edition
    • Includes a highly revised final chapter, which draws together much of the previous material and sketches a plausible account of the mind's place in nature
    • Updated 'Suggested Reading' lists at the end of each chapter
    From an Ontological Point of View

    From an Ontological Point of View

    From an Ontological Point of View is a highly original and accessible exploration of fundamental questions about what there is. John Heil discusses such issues as whether the world includes levels of reality; the nature of objects and properties; the demands of realism; what makes things true; qualities, powers, and the relation these bear to one another. He advances an account of the fundamental constituents of the world around us, and applies this account to problems that have plagued recent work in the philosophy of mind and metaphysics (color, intentionality, and the nature of consciousness).

    Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction

    Philosophy of Mind: A Contemporary Introduction

    When first published, John Heil's introduction quickly became a widely used guide for students with little or no background in philosophy to central issues of philosophy of mind. Heil provided an introduction free of formalisms, technical trappings, and specialized terminology. He offered clear arguments and explanations, focusing on the ontological basis of mentality and its place in the material world. The book concluded with a systematic discussion of questions the book raises--and a sketch of a unified metaphysics of mind--thus inviting scholarly attention while providing a book very well suited for an introductory course.

    This Third Edition builds on these strengths and incorporates new material on theories of consciousness, computationalism, the language of thought, and animal minds as well as other emerging areas of research. With an updated reading list at the end of each chapter and a revised bibliography, this new edition will again make it the indispensable primer for anyone seeking a better understanding of the central metaphysical issues in philosophy of mind.

    Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology

    Philosophy of Mind: A Guide and Anthology

    This anthology provides a comprehensive and self-contained introduction to the philosophy of mind. Featuring an extensive and varied collection of fifty classical and contemporary readings, it also offers substantial section introductions--which set the extracts in context and guide readers through them--discussion questions, and guides to further reading. Ideal for undergraduate courses, the book is organized into twelve sections, providing instructors with flexibility in designing and teaching a variety of courses.