Alison Simmons

Alison Simmons

Samuel H. Wolcott Professor of Philosophy
alison simmons

Research Interests: Philosophy of Mind, Philosophy of Perception, Early Modern Philosophy

Alison Simmons received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1994. The bulk of her teaching is in early modern philosophy, natural philosophy, and theories of mind. She also has teaching interests, however, in medieval philosophy, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of psychology.

Her research interests lie primarily at the intersection of philosophy and psychology. She works on questions about the nature of mind in general, the nature of sense perception in particular, and conceptions of the relation between mind and world as they have developed historically from the ancient through the medieval and early modern periods, and also as it is discussed today. Her publications include:

  • “It’s Alive! Cavendish and Conway Against Dualism,” inThe Routledge Handbook for Women and Early Modern European Philosophy, eds. Karen Detlefsen and Lisa Shapiro. Forthcoming. 
  • “Causation and Cognition in Descartes,” in Causation and Cognition: Perspectives on Early Modern Philosophy, ed. Sebastian Bender and Dominik Perler (New York: Routledge, 2020): 39-60.
  • “Embedded EthiCS: Integrating Ethics Broadly Across Computer Science Education,” Communications of the ACM 62(8) (2019): 54-61. With Barbara Grosz, David Gray Grant, Kate Vrendenburg, Jeff Behrends, and Jim Waldo.
  • “Mind-Body Union and the Limits of Cartesian Metaphysics” Philosophers Imprint 17 (14) (2017): 1-36.
  • “Representation,” The Cambridge Descartes Lexicon, ed. Larry Nolan (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016): 645-654.
  • “Sensory Perception of Body:  Meditation 6.5” in The Cambridge Companion to Descartes’ Meditations, ed. David Cunning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014): 258-276.
  • “Perception in Early Modern Philosophy” in the Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Perception, ed. Mohan Matthen (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015): 81-99.
  • “Cartesian Consciousness Reconsidered,” Philosophers’ Imprint 12(2) (January 2012): 1-21.
  • “Leibnizian Consciousness Re-Considered” Studia leibnitiana 43(2) (2011): 196-215.
  • “Sensation in the Malebranchean Mind,” Topics in Early Modern Theories of Mind, Studies in the History and Philosophy of Mind 9, edited by Jon Miller (Springer Press, 2009): 105-129.
  • “Guarding the Body:  A Cartesian Phenomenology of Perception,” Contemporary Perspectives on Early Modern Philosophy:  Essays in Honor of Vere Chappell, edited by Paul Hoffman and Gideon Yaffe (Broadview Press, 2008), 81-113.
  • "Spatial Perception from a Cartesian Point of View" Philosophical Topics 31, 395-423 (2003)
  • "Descartes on the Cognitive Structure of Sensory Experience,"  Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 67(3), 549-579 (2003)
  • "Changing the Cartesian Mind: Leibniz on Sensation, Representation and Consciousness," The Philosophical Review 110 (2001)

In 2011, Professor Simmons was named a Harvard College Professor.  She is co-founder with Barbara Grosz of Embedded EthiCS @ Harvard, a program that develops ethics modules for courses in the computer science curriculum.

Contact Information

Emerson 315
p: 617-495-5601