Bill Fish

Associate Professor, Philosophy

Bill Fish is one of the top young(ish) philosophers and is world-renowned in his particular area of philosophy.

In 2012 his book was a topic of discussion at a meeting of the biggest philosophy association in the world. 

But he started off as a science boy. He took maths, physics and chemistry for his A-levels in the UK, and it was only as he was wandering around an electives fair at his university that he randomly chose Philosophy as an extra subject.

He loved it so much he ended up majoring in the subject and going on to lecture and research, first in the UK and now in New Zealand.

Weirdly, he discovered later that it’s in his blood – his father also enrolled in a science degree and ended up majoring in philosophy. Bill didn’t discover that until after he’d enrolled, but it reinforced his choices.

An associate professor at Massey University, Bill’s main areas of research and teaching are on disjunctivism – what it is to have a mind, how it hooks up to the world, the role of consciousness in all of this and epistemology (the theory around how we come to have knowledge).

“When you look around now and see your iPhone or a coffee mug on a table, you have a conscious experience of that object, but how does that work?” asks Bill.

“Why is that processing in your brain accompanied by consciousness? And if you can have that conscious experience without the object being there – as it looks like we can because of things like dreams – then how does having that experience put you in a position to know things about the world, when you could have had that experience lying asleep in bed?”

All of these questions come together in the intersection of the world and humans as minded agents. That’s Bill’s real passion.

In 2009 he had his first book published with Oxford University Press – the top book publisher in the field. It’s all about perception – and how it’s important to figure out how we perceive things, so we can then figure out how we know what we do!

Bill has presented to a conference of one of the biggest philosophical organisations in the world – the American Philosophical Association Pacific Division conference – where a number of international commentators gave talks about his book.