Elliot Samuel Paul

Assistant Professor


Arts and Science

  • BA, University of Toronto
  • PhD, Yale University
Specializations / Research Interests

Early Modern Philosophy, Epistemology, Philosophy of Creativity

Personal Website


Before joining the faculty at Queen's in 2018, I was a Bersoff Fellow at New York University and then Assistant Professor at Barnard College of Columbia University. 

My past and emerging work falls into three areas: (1) the history of early modern philosophy, (2) contemporary epistemology, and (3) the philosophy of creativity. Much of my research in the first two areas is focused on the phenomenon of clarity, or clear perception. This work proceeds along two parallel tracks. 

(1) The first track is historical, as I expose and explicate the role that clarity plays for Descartes and other figures going back to the Stoics. This project culminates in a book, Clarity First: Rethinking Descartes’s Epistemology (under contract with Oxford University Press). I argue that clarity is the central notion in Descartes’s epistemology and indeed in his philosophy as a whole. On my reading, every epistemic notion Descartes posits is either defined or explained in terms of clarity. Thus I attempt to systematically reinterpret his epistemology by unpacking his views on clarity: what clarity is, what clarity does, and how we make our ideas clear.

(2) The notion of "clear (and distinct) perception" has fallen out of favour in modern philosophy, but in new work I argue that we need to bring it back. I think the right conception of clarity sheds light on a wide range of philosophical concerns, including cognitive phenomenology, perception and perceptual bias, reasons for belief (and reasons for doubt), introspection (and its limits), self-knowledge, intuition, and inference.

(3) In my third area of research, on creativity, I'm interested in questions like these: What is creativity? Can it be explained? Does being creative involve a certain kind of agency, or even freedom?

  • Clarity First: Rethinking Descartes’s Epistemology (under contract with Oxford University Press)
Edited Book
Selected Journal Articles
Selected Chapters in Books
Work in progress
  • “Creativity”, with Dustin Stokes, commissioned for Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
  • “Descartes’s Epistemology”, commissioned for Blackwell Companion to Epistemology, 3rd edition, edited by Jonathan Dancy, Ernest Sosa, Matthias Steup, and Kurt Sylvan.
  • “Descartes and Leibniz on Intuition”, commissioned for a special issue of British Journal of the History of Philosophy.
  • (paper on epistemic norms), commissioned for volume on Normative Realism, co-edited by Paul Boghossian and Christopher Peacocke, contract pending at OUP.