PDF version: MPWolf-CV-050121


Department of Philosophy • Washington and Jefferson College

60 S. Lincoln St. • Washington, PA 15301

mwolf @

Curriculum Vitae – May 2021


Ph.D. (with distinction), 1999 – Georgetown University – Washington, DC

DISSERTATION: An Inferentialist Semantics for Natural Kind Terms

COMMITTEE: Mark Lance (Director), Linda Wetzel, Bill Blattner

B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science, (summa cum laude) 1993 – University of Pittsburgh – Pittsburgh, PA

HONORS THESIS:Davidson and the Very Idea of a Conceptual Scheme (John Haugeland, Director)


WASHINGTON AND JEFFERSON COLLEGE– Washington, PA – 2008 to Present

Professor; Coordinator – African-American Studies Program, 2018-present; Coordinator – Mind, Brain and Behavior Program, 2011-2015


Assistant Professor; Associate Director, Smittcamp Honors College, 2007-2008; Director – Cognitive Science Program, 2005-2007

KALAMAZOO COLLEGE – Kalamazoo, MI– 2000 to 2003

Visiting Assistant Professor


Philosophy of Language, Epistemology, and Metaethics


Cognitive Science, Philosophy of Science, Bioethics, History of Modern Philosophy, Logic, Wittgenstein, Feminism


  1. Making Sense of the Role of Assertion.” Philosophical Investigations 42(4): 396-418, 2019. DOI: 10.1111/phin.12241
  2. The Ordinary Language Case for Contextualism and the Relevance of Radical Doubt.” (Co-authored with Jeremy Randel Koons.) Contemporary Pragmatism, 15(1):66-94, 2018.
  3. Belief, Desire, and Giving and Asking for Reasons.” (Co-authored with Donald Bruckner.) Philosophia, vol. 45 (first appeared online 31 October 2017).
  4. The Normative and the Natural. (Co-authored with Jeremy Randel Koons). London: Palgrave-MacMillan Pub, 2016.
  5. Rigid Designation and Natural Kind Terms, Pittsburgh Style.” Social Epistemology (Review and Reply Collective edition), 2 (1): 133-142, 2012.
  6. Boundaries, Reasons and Relativism.” Journal of Philosophical Research 37:205-220, 2012.
  7. “Could I Just Be A Very Epistemically Responsible Zombie?” Southwest Philosophy Review 25(2): 69-72, 2009.
  8. Language, Mind and World: Can’t We All Just Get Along?Metaphilosophy 39(3): 363-380, 2008.
  9. Reference and Incommensurability: What Rigid Designation Won’t Get You.” Acta Analytica 22(3): 207-222, 2007.
  10. “I’m Here Now: The Pragmatic Significance of Perspective.” Southwest Philosophy Review 28(2): 109-116, 2007.
  11. Rigid Designation and Anaphoric Theories of Reference.” Philosophical Studies 130 (2): 351 375, 2006.
  12. Sellars and the Revision of Theoretical Commitments.”  InThe Self-Correcting Enterprise:Essays on Wilfrid Sellars (Poznan Studies in Philosophy of the Sciences and Humanities, Vol. 93),New York: Rodopi Press, 2006, pp. 231-252.
  13. “Contextualist Responses to Greene’s Puzzle,” Southwest Philosophy Review Vol. 21, No. 2, pp. 179-182, 2005.
  14. “The Curious Role of Natural Kind Terms,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 83:81-101, 2002.
  15. Kripke, Putnam and the Introduction of Natural Kind Terms,” Acta Analytica Vol. 17, No. 28, pp. 151-70, 2002.
  16. A Grasshopper Walks Into a Bar: Humor as a Tool of Normativity.Journal for the Theory of Social Behavior 32:3, pp. 331-44, 2002.


  1.  “Wilfrid Sellars and the Nature of Normativity.” Oxford University Press Philosophy Blog. First appeared May 24th, 2017
  2. Philosophy of Language.” Oxford Bibliographies Online. (First appeared March, 2010).
  3. Wilfrid Sellars.” (With Jeremy Koons.) Oxford Bibliographies Online. (First appeared March, 2010).
  4. Philosophy of Language.”  The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (First appeared August, 2006, approx. 11,500 words.) <;
  5. Co-editor (with Mark Lance) of The Self-Correcting Enterprise:Essays on Wilfrid Sellars (Poznan Studies in Philosophy of the Sciences and Humanities, Vol. 93).  New York: Rodopi Press, 2006. (Including sole authorship of an historical introduction, pp. 9-20.)


  1. Frances Diebold Award (Professor of the Year), Kalamazoo College, 2003.
  2. Kenneth Mason Summer Research Grant, Washington and Jefferson College, 2014.


My research at present is concerned with natural kind terms and rigid designation; its most basic goal is to provide a semantic account of the role these play in scientific discourse.  Since my broad semantic approach follows Sellars and Brandom in looking to the pragmatically articulated inferential role of sentences among themselves rather than to their relation to the world, I set aside metaphysical questions regarding the nature of kinds.  Rather, I begin with an account of the central role played by natural kind terms in theoretical explanation, showing how natural kind terms are essential to the explanatory function of scientific laws as inference licenses.  My account demonstrates the utility and indispensability of kind terms in explanation, with special attention to their curious role as both parts of attributive predicates (Simba is a lion) and as apparently singular referents (The Lion is warm-blooded).

My most recent publications integrate a notion of rigid designation into anaphoric theories of reference.  Anaphoric theories, which stress the inheritance of commitments and entitlements to make assertions from other speakers over word-world relations in their analysis, have been accused of carving the world out of our account of language entirely.  I argue that the two semantic notions should be seen as complementary: the right account of rigid designation resolves our sense that we are “spinning in the void,” while anaphoric theories can offer us a better account of what it is to make some of our terms rigid. My most significant recent project has been a book, The Normative and the Natural (2016, Palgrave) with my colleague, Jeremy Koons, that addresses questions about normativity in metaethics, epistemology, and metaphysics.


  1. “On Not Representing the Cruelty of Vlad the Impaler.” Mid-Atlantic Philosophy of Language Workshop. West Virginia University, July 25, 2019.
  2. “Deflationism and Hyperpluralism.” Mid-Atlantic Philosophy of Language Workshop. West Virginia University, July 24, 2018.
  3. “A Third Way: The Manifest and Scientific ‘Images’ are Always Already Interwoven.” Wilfrid Sellars Society Meeting, APA Eastern Division Meetings, January 2016.
  4. “Weak Externalism and Absent Kinds.” Mid-Atlantic Philosophy of Language Workshop. West Virginia University, August 8, 2015.
  5. “Cross-Discourse Contribution (Themes from Unity Without Uniformity).” Books-in-Progress Session at the Summer Institute in American Philosophy. University College Dublin, June 8, 2015.
  6. “The Normative And Practical Character of Knowledge Ascriptions in Social Epistemology.” Future Fundamentals of Social Epistemology Conference, Virginia Polytechnic and State University, August 1, 2014.
  7. “The Ordinary Language Case for Contextualism and the Relevance of Radical Doubt” (with Jeremy Koons). The Contemporary Significance of Ordinary Language Philosophy Conference (coordinated by the Nordic Wittgenstein Society). Åbo Akademi University, Turku, Finland, May 24-25, 2013. (Paper was co-authored with Koons, but presented solely by Koons.)
  8. “Semantic Concerns About Natural Kind Terms With Empty Extensions, or, How I Learned to Surf Dry Earth.” ‘External Determinations of Meaning – New Work on and Old Topic’ Workshop. University of Pittsburgh, April 15-16, 2013.
  9. “Humor, Norms and Solidarity: Taking a Joke and Taking It Too Far.” Colby College, February 28, 2013
  10. “Communication Without Miracles.” The Sellars Centenary Conference, University College Dublin, June 4-8, 2012.
  11. “To Save the Pragmatist Soul of Jeremy Randel Koons.” Georgetown University Philosophy Colloquium, November 2010.
  12. “Why Are There Indexicals?” APA Pacific Division Meetings, March 2007.
  13. “Norms and the Goals of Naturalism.” Nature and Value Conference (CSU Fresno), Bass Lake, CA April, 2007.
  14. “Contextualism and Fallibilism.” Mountains-Plains Philosophy Conference, Topeka, KS, September, 2006.
  15. “Rigidity Without Directness.” University of Nevada, Las Vegas Philosophy Colloquium, March 2006.
  16. “Humor and Confronting Norms: Why Andy Kaufmann Wasn’t Funny.” APA Pacific Division Meetings, March 2006.
  17. “Naming and Not Knowing What You’re Talking About.” APA Central Division Meetings, April 2005.
  18. “Persons, Norms and Social Practices.” APA Pacific Division Meetings, March 2005.
  19. “Responding to Rorty on Language, Mind and World: It’s Just Like Surfing!” Life Among the Living Conference, Bass Lake, CA, April, 2005.
  20. “Naming and Not Knowing What You’re Talking About.” Sonoma State Philosophy Symposium, November, 2004.
  21. “Reference and Incommensurability: What Rigid Designation Won’t Get You.” Mountains-Plains Philosophy Conference, Hays, KS, October, 2004.
  22. “Some Thoughts on Meaning Change.” CSUF Philosophy Colloquium Series, March, 2004.
  23. “Humor as a Tool of Normativity.” APA Pacific Division Meetings, March, 2001.

Commentary, Public Presentations and Sessions Chaired

  1. Commentary on “Pretense and Reference” by Adam Podlaskowski at the Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium, September 2013.
  2. Chair for “How Troubling is the Concept of a Person?” by Ben Abelson at the Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium, September 2012.
  3. Chair for “Incompatibility and the Logic of Proscribed Contents” by David Beisecker at the Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium, September 2011.
  4. Commentary on “On the Virtues of Cursory Scientific Reduction” by Joel Press at the Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium, September 2010.
  5. Chair for “Life is Not a Box-Score” by Mark Norris Lance (keynote session) at the Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium, September 2010.
  6. Commentary on “High-Order Vaguess and the Trickle-Down Problem” by Martin Montminy at the APA Eastern Division Meetings, December 2009.
  7. Commentary on “That Isn’t the Problem” by Alex Grznakowski at the Mountain Plains Philosophy Conference, October 2009.
  8. Commentary on “Zombies and the Phenomenal Concept Strategy” by David Beisecker at the Southwestern Philosophy Society Conference, November 2008.
  9. Commentary on “Consciousness, Self-Consciousness and Internalist Foundationalism” by Jeremy Green at the Mountain-Plains Philosophy Conference, September 2007.
  10. “Minds, Brains and How We Get Stuff Done.” (A presentation on cognitive science and business practices.) Presented to MJR Media, Fresno, CA, August, 2005.
  11. Chair for “Predication and Cartographic Representation” by Michael Rescorla at the APA Pacific Division Meetings, March 2006.
  12. Commentary on “A Puzzle About Epistemic Standards,” by Richard Greene at the Southwestern Philosophical Society Annual Meetings, November 13, 2004.
  13. Chair for “Living Well” Panel Discussion at “Living Well: The Goals of the Human Being in Philosophical and Religious Tradition” Conference, Yosemite, California, April 2004.
  14. Chair for “Unsafe Knowledge” by Juan Comesaña at the APA Pacific Division Meetings, March, 2004.
  15. Chair for “Rigidity and Response-Dependence” by Mark LeBar at the APA Pacific Division Meetings, March 2003.
  16. Commentary on “Anti-Realism and Possibility” by Berit Brogaard and Joe Salerno at the APA Pacific Division Meetings, March 2002.


  1. Epistemology
  2. Philosophy of Language
  3. Senior Seminar on Wittgenstein
  4. Senior Seminar on Philosophy of Language
  5. Philosophy of Science
  6. Cognitive Science
  7. Philosophy of Mind
  8. Metaphysics (Seminar on Ontology and Philosophy of Mind)
  9. History of Modern Philosophy
  10. History of Ancient Philosophy
  11. History of 20th Century Philosophy
  12. Philosophy of Action
  13. Biomedical Ethics
  14. Moral Epistemology
  15. Introduction to Ethics
  16. Introduction to Logic
  17. Introduction to Philosophy
  18. Introduction to Mind, Brain and Behavior
  19. Philosophy and Gender
  20. Pragmatism Seminar


  • Director, African-American Studies Program, Washington and Jefferson College (2018-present).
  • Member, Committee on Health Professions, Washington and Jefferson College (2009-present).
  • Member, Committee on Arts and Lectures Series, Washington and Jefferson College (2009-present).
  • Faculty Development Committee, 2012-2015 (chair, 2013-14).
  • Program Coordinator, Pittsburgh Area Philosophy Colloquium, 2010-present.
  • Program Coordinator, Mountain-Plains Philosophy Conference (University of Colorado, Denver), October 2011.
  • Local Coordinator, Mountain-Plains Philosophy Conference (Washington and Jefferson College), October 2010.


  • Director, Cognitive Science Group, CSU Fresno.  (2005-2007)
  • Member, Cognitive Science Group, CSU Fresno.  (2003-2008)
  • Member, Task Force on Implementation of General Education Assessment. (2003-2005)
  • Member, College Technology Committee (CSUF).  (2006-2008)
  • Member, College Curriculum Review Committee (CSUF).  (2004-2006)
  • Member, Center for Complex Systems Studies – Kalamazoo College (2002-2003)
  • Referee for the Mountain-Plains Philosophy Conference, 2007-2014.
  • Referee for Dialectica, Erkenntnis, Philosophical Studies, The Australasian Journal of Philosophy, Philosophy and the Contemporary World, The Southwestern Philosophical Review, Acta Analytica, Synthese, Pearson Publishing, and Continuum Publishing.  (Titles available on request.)
  • Grant reviewer for the Swiss National Science Foundation (FNNF), “Le rire, l’humour et leurs cadres normatifs” (“Laughter, humor and normativity”).  (More information is available at (Summer 2013)
  • Grant reviewer for the Civilian Research and Development Foundation for the Independent States of the Former Soviet Union, “Ontological Semantics for Georgian Language Technology”.  (More information is available at (Summer 2002)


GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY – Washington, DC; Lecturer (1998 to 1999), Visiting Assistant Professor (1999 to 2000);

UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND – BALTIMORE COUNTY – Baltimore, MD; Lecturer (Spring 1999)


Jim Behuniak: Associate Professor of Philosophy; Colby College.

William D. Blattner: Professor of Philosophy; Georgetown University.

Lorin Lachs: Associate Professor of Psychology, Director, Cognitive Science Program; California State University, Fresno.

Mark Lance: Professor of Philosophy; Georgetown University.

Gregg Osborne: Associate Professor of Philosophy, Washington and Jefferson College.

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