Michelle Elena Pefianco Thomas is a doctoral student in philosophy at Western University. She received her B.A. in English from the University of California at Berkeley and an M.A. in Philosophy from San Francisco State University. Her philosophical interests are in philosophy of mind, philosophy of neuroscience, consciousness, attention, epistemology and artificial intelligence. Before her doctoral program, she worked in mental health specializing in work with youth and TAY populations culminating in being asked to testify before the California State Senate as an expert in Youth Suicide Prevention in 2013. She most recently presented a paper in 2018 at the Brain-Based and Artificial Intelligence: Socio-ethical Conversations in Computing and Neurotechnology Conference in Chicago. She is a newly elected member of the Graduate Student Council of the American Philosophical Association (2019-2021) and holds a two-year term seat.
Michelle Elena Thomas’ master’s level research broadly asked how closely related or independent are processes of consciousness to processes of attention. What would it mean for epistemological theories of mind if the processes of consciousness and attention were fully dissociated? There are a significant number of debates about whether consciousness and attention being exactly identical, to various forms of isomorphic or overlapping processes, or completely separate, or fully dissociative processes with absolutely no overlap.
She argued that there is ample empirical evidence for a possible dissociation between processes of consciousness and processes of attention. such that the two independent systems work in tandem and simultaneously. She aimed to show what the full dissociation of processes of consciousness and attention would mean for epistemological and perceptual theories. She is inspired by the work of Ned Block, Alex Byrne, Daniel Dennett, David Chalmers, Jesse Prinz, Susanna Siegel and Ernest Sosa. Another realm of consciousness and attention that is compelling to her is the burgeoning field of cognitive science and artificial intelligence. Will machines begin in the near future to be able to halt inquiries, start inquiries, task themselves, and create their own goals?
She has tangential interests in the various aspects of history of philosophy of mind. In the summer of 2018, she worked on an independent research project with Professor Mohammad Adzapur at San Francisco State University and provided minor editorial suggestions on his manuscript on Sellars and Avicenna. It offered her an unexpected and absolutely thrilling opportunity to observe how mature philosophical analyses take shape. In May 2018, she presented her paper on virtue epistemology and artificial intelligence at ITT’s Technology Brain-based and Artificial Intelligence: Socio-ethical Conversations in Computing and Neurotechnology Conference. Additionally, she was invited to respond to a paper at the Stanford-U.C. Berkeley-U.C. Davis Philosophy Graduate Conference.
“If Processes of Consciousness and Processes of Attention are Fully Dissociated, What Effect does that have on Siegel’s Epistemological Theories of Inference and Perception?”
1. Brain-Based and Artificial Intelligence: Socio-ethical Conversations in Computing and Neurotechnology Conference, Chicago 2018, presented paper titled “AI Machines Need an Agency-Based, Virtue-Reliabilist Epistemic Theory.”
2. Stanford-UC Berkeley-UC Davis Philosophy Graduate Conference 2018, response paper to “Memory & Disjunctivism” by Arieh Schwartz.
3. American Association of Suicidology Conference 2015, “Creating a Thriving, Sustainable, and Ongoing Youth, TAY or LGBT Suicide Prevention Program in Your Community by Getting Connected.”
4. American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Depression: Pathways to Resilience and Recovery Conference University of California San Francisco 2014, “Suicide Prevention: Talking with Someone at Risk.”
5. Mental Health Association of San Francisco’s Tools for Change Conference 2014, “Training, Teaching and Collaborating with Youth and TAY on Suicide Prevention.”
6. Bay Area Suicide and Crisis Intervention Alliance’s Strengthening Your Role in Suicide Prevention, San Francisco State University 2014, “Understanding Your Role as a Community Gatekeeper & Suicide Prevention in the Youth & TAY Community.”
Fall, 2017, Formal Logic, San Francisco State University, ‘TA’
Fall, 2017, Environmental Ethics, San Francisco State University, ‘TA’
Fall, 2017, Modern Philosophy, San Francisco State University, ‘TA’
Spring, 2018, Introduction to Philosophy, San Francisco State University, ‘Lecturer/Graduate Teaching Associate’
Fall, 2018, Introduction to Philosophy, San Francisco State University, ‘Lecturer/Graduate Teaching Associate’
Fall, 2018, Critical Thinking, San Francisco State University, ‘Lecturer/Graduate Teaching Associate’
Spring, 2019, Introduction to Philosophy, San Francisco State University, ‘Lecturer/Graduate Teaching Associate’
Spring, 2019, Critical Thinking, San Francisco State University, ‘Lecturer/Graduate Teaching Associate’
Fall, 2019, Reasoning and Critical Thinking, Western University, ‘TA’