John M. DePoe

Selected Works in progress

  • Indirect Realism with a Human Face [Abstract]
  • Epistemic Indirect Realism (EIR) is the position that justification for some contingent proposition about the world requires an inference based on a belief about a subjective, experiential mental state. One objection against EIR is that it flies contrary to common sense and practice; ordinary people do not form beliefs about things in the external world on the basis of experiential mental states. This objection implies EIR is impractical, unreasonable, and leads to skepticism. In this paper, I will defend indirect realism against this objection by distinguishing EIR based on conceptual awareness and non-conceptual awareness. In particular, I will argue that direct acquaintance provides the non-conceptual awareness that can explain both how people are capable of forming justified beliefs about the external world on EIR and how this way of knowing reality may be practiced by people who aren't versed in technical aspects of epistemology. Overall, I intend to present a framework for showing that EIR can satisfy ordinary epistemic practices without betraying human nature or over-intellectualizing the required epistemic standards for possessing a justified belief.

Recent Publications

  • The Epistemic Framework for Skeptical Theism, in T. Dougherty and J. McBrayer (eds.), Skeptical Theism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming). [Abstract]
  • Most contemporary versions of skeptical theism are motivated solely by the idea that the human cognitive situation is such that we are unable to tell if our judgment about the ultimate justifiability of any given evil is accurate. I refer to this view as negative skeptical theism, and I maintain that there is a better framework in which to situate one's skeptical theism so as to avoid the most effective objections to skeptical theism based on moral skepticism and paralysis. I propose the framework of positive skeptical theism where one remains skeptical about the human perspective to discern the justification for apparently gratuitous evils, but which positively recognizes second-order justifications that one would expect to find for the appearance of gratuitous evils if God exists. This alternative framework helps the skeptical theist to be skeptical about one's ability to discern any God-permitting reason for a specific evil, while avoiding the undesirable implications of negative skeptical theism.
  • Natural Theology and the Uses of Argument, co-authored with Timothy McGrew, Philosophia Christi 15, no. 2 (2013): 299-309. This is a specially commissioned issue of the journal on ramified natural theology. [Abstract]
  • Arguments in natural theology have recently increased in their number and level of sophistication. However, there has not been much analysis of the ways in which these arguments should be evaluated as good, taken collectively or individually. After providing an overview of some proposed goals and good-making criteria for arguments in natural theology, we provide an analysis that stands as a corrective to some of the ill-formed standards that are currently in circulation. Specifically, our analysis focuses on the relation between the veracity of the premises and their relation to the conclusion of an argument. In addition to providing a clearer account of what makes an argument good, an upshot of our account is that there remain positive contributions for "weak" arguments, especially within cumulative case arguments in ramified natural theology.

    Note: This is an uncorrected and non-finalized draft of an article that will be published in Philosophia Christi. A final copy will be able to be purchased with the Winter 2013 issue through in December 2013.
  • RoboMary, Blue Banana Tricks, and the Metaphysics of Consciousness: A Critique of Daniel Dennett's Apology for Physicalism, Philosophia Christi 15, no. 1 (2013): 119-132. This is a specially commissioned issue of the journal on the soul and neuroscience. [Abstract]
  • Daniel Dennett has argued that consciousness can be satisfactorily accounted for in terms of physical entities and processes. In some of his most recent publications, he has made this case by casting doubts on purely conceptual thought experiments and proposing his own thought experiments to "pump" the intuition that consciousness can be physical. In this paper, I will summarize Dennett's recent defenses of physicalism, followed by a careful critique of his position. The critique presses two flaws in Dennett's defense of physicalism. First, I will rebut his case against the traditional conceptual arguments against physicalism. Second, I will present some empirical grounds (empirical scientific findings on blind sight and tactile vision substitute systems) for thinking that a crucial move in the argument against physicalism is well-supported. For someone, like Dennett, who finds conceptual arguments dubious, the empirical findings make it exceptionally difficult to deny the anti-physicalist argument.

    Note: This is an uncorrected and non-finalized draft of an article that will be published in Philosophia Christi. A final copy can be purchased with the Summer 2013 issue through
  • Knowledge by Acquaintance and Knowledge by Description, Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Published 6 January 2013.
  • Bergmann's Dilemma and Internalism's Escape, Acta Anlaytica 27, no. 4 (2012): 409-423. [Abstract]
  • Michael Bergmann has argued that internalist accounts of justification face an insoluble dilemma. This paper begins with an explanation of Bergmann's dilemma. Next, I review some recent attempts to answer the dilemma, which I argue are insufficient to overcome it. The solution I propose presents an internalist account of justification through direct acquaintance. My thesis is that direct acquaintance can provide subjective epistemic assurance without falling prey to the quagmire of difficulties that Bergmann alleges all internalist accounts of justification cannot surmount.
  • Defeating the Self-Defeat Argument for Phenomenal Conservatism, Philosophical Studies 152, no. 3 (2011): 347-359. [Abstract]
  • Abstract: Michael Huemer has argued for the justification principle known as phenomenal conservativism by employing a transcendental argument that claims all attempts to reject phenomenal conservativism ultimately are doomed to self-defeat. My contribution presents two independent arguments against the self-defeat argument for phenomenal conservativism after briefly presenting Huemer's account of phenomenal conservativism and the justification for the self-defeat argument. My first argument suggests some ways that philosophers may reject Huemer's premise that all justified beliefs are formed on the basis of seemings. In the second argument I contend that phenomenal conservativism is not a well-motivated account of internal justification, which is a further reason to reject the self-defeat argument. Consequently, the self-defeat argument fails to show that rejecting phenomenal conservativism inevitably leads one to a self-defeating position.
  • For more papers see my research profile.

Recent Course Syllabi

I am an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Marywood University. My specialization is in epistemology, metaphysics (especially, philosophy of mind), and philosophy of religion. In particular, I have been concentrating on the kind of awareness that is required for justification, and the metaphysical analysis of direct acquaintance. Additionally, I am a critic of physicalist theories of mind (especially, with regard to the phenomenal properties of consciousness). In philosophy of religion, I have produced work on the justification of miraculous claims, and I'm working on the problem of evil (specifically, the epistemic framework for skeptical theism). In addition to classes related to my research, I enjoy teaching logic, early modern philosophy (Descartes, Leibniz, Spinoza, Locke, Berkeley, Hume), and introductory courses.

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