Professor Peter Graham

American Philosophical Association Edinburgh Fellow

December 2018 - May 2019

Peter Graham is Professor of Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of California, Riverside. His research focuses on our knowledge of the world and each other through perception and communication.

His guiding thought is that perception and communication are cognitive capacities that have the etiological function of reliably inducing true beliefs, which then in turn explains why they are sources of knowledge and warranted belief. His challenge is then explaining why this should be so. Why should knowledge and warrant so arise? Are perception and communication so reliable? If so, why? This has drawn him into interdisciplinary inquiry in the psychology of perception, the social science of communication, the role of social norms in shaping our normative psychologies and language-using practices, and evolutionary explanations for the origins and maintenance of both perception and communication.

The American Philosophical Association IASH Fellowship supports the completion of his current project on animal minds. We perceive and communicate. But so do animals. And animals also know things. But do we know things in the same sense? Is animal knowledge a fundamentally different kind of knowledge than human knowledge? Is human knowledge unique in the animal kingdom? Descartes famously argued that animals lack reason, and so cannot know the way we know; human knowledge rises above animal kingdom. In his project on animal minds and animal knowledge, Graham pursues recent empirical and theoretical inquiry into the nature and extent of animal reasoning and propositional inference. If we can demonstrate that some animals reason, then we can know that our knowledge is not so unique after all.