Timothy O'Connor

Timothy O'Connor

Professor, Philosophy

Affiliate, Cognitive Science Program


  • Ph.D., Cornell University, 1992
  • M.A., Cornell University, 1992
  • M.A., University of Illinois-Chicago
  • B.A., University of Illinois-Chicago

About Timothy O'Connor

My primary areas of research are metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of religion, with secondary interests in epistemology and in select topics in medieval and 17th Century philosophy. You can download a number of my articles through my personal website.

In metaphysics, I wrote a number of articles on the problem of understanding just what free will could possibly be, culminating in a book, The Metaphysics of Free Will, Oxford, 2000. The number of philosophers who thought this to be the final word on the matter dropped from 1 to 0 when I wrote "Freedom With a Human Face," Midwest Studies in Philosophy, 2005. And, despite my best intentions, I continue to get pulled into writing on this topic. I have written recently on the challenges to belief in human freedom and moral responsibility that come from neuroscience and social and clinical psychology.

The topic of free will is a nice gateway into thinking about a number of other issues in metaphysics. So, all along, I have also been working out views concerning properties, causation, the ontology of composite objects and their properties, truthmakers, essence, and modality. Some of these issues are explored in my writings on free will, and I touch on them to varying degrees in the first part of another book, Theism and Ultimate Explanation: The Necessary Shape of Contingency, Blackwell, 2008. I expect to write on several of these issues for some time to come. I am currently trying to refurbish a constituent ontology of particulars.

In that sub-area of metaphysics known as philosophy of mind, I am concerned with reductionist vs. emergentist views of the mental and the relationship of consciousness and intentionality. I am currently trying to make sense out of an emergentist, property dualist view of conscious animals such as ourselves, with efforts along these lines in a number of articles co-authored with former students. I hope to produce a monograph on the metaphysics of human persons in the near future.

In recent years, I co-edited three volumes of new work on some of the above topics: A Companion to the Philosophy of Action, Emergence in Science and Philosophy, and an interdisciplinary compendium of views on the status of empirical research on the human will, titled Downward Causation and the Neurobiology of Free Will. (Don't blame me -- the scientists liked the title.)

Finally, in the philosophy of religion, I focus on the metaphysics of theism (especially God's relationship to time, concurrence in 'secondary' causation, and necessary existence), the problem of evil, the cosmological argument from contingency, and the 'fine-tuning' design argument, some of which come up in the second part of Theism and Ultimate Explanation, in addition to several articles. In response to several reviews and journal discussions of that book, I have written an essay that refines and extends the book's argument for the claim that contingent existence is an appropriate and feasible target for explanation, published in Tyron Goldschmidt, ed., The Puzzle of Existence.) I also think about the epistemology of religious belief. Laura Frances Callahan and I are co-editing and contributing to a volume of new essays for Oxford Press under the title Religious Faith and Intellectual Virtue. In it, a diverse group of epistemologists connect recent discussions of the epistemology of trust, testimony, disagreement, and intellectual virtue to the question of the rationality of theistic religious faith. On a similar theme, I am spending the 2013-14 academic year in Oxford writing a monograph on the integration of Christian faith, reason, and science. I also have committed to writing a philosophy of religion textbook for Oxford Press's Fundamental of Philosophy series.

I regularly teach graduate courses and supervise dissertations in metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and free will/action theory, and occasionally in epistemology and philosophy of religion. I teach advanced undergraduate courses in all these areas and in medieval and early modern philosophy.

O.k., enough about such trivialities, here's the really important thing: seven years ago, in the absence of a controlling legal authority, I declared myself to be Philo-Pong World Grand Champion, or the world's leading table tennis player among properly credentialed philosophers. I have since been receiving (though also largely evading) challenges to my title.