Marie Jayasekera

Photo of Marie Jayasekera

I’m a philosopher working on issues in moral psychology and the philosophy of mind in the early modern period, such as human freedom, human agency, the emotions, and mental representation.

I received a BS in biology from Yale, an MA in philosophy from Tufts, and then my PhD from the University of Michigan. I taught at Colgate University after that, and am currently a visiting research associate at the University of California, Irvine.

Research Summary

My research to date has been on how Descartes carves out space for human agency and freedom in the face of a number of factors—God, the laws of nature that govern human bodies, even our own mental faculties—that might seem to reduce us to conduits through which external causes operate. Because his views on the topic intersect with questions about freedom, deliberation and decision-making, perception, the emotions, moral responsibility, and the nature of God, I have explored a wide range of areas in Descartes’s philosophy (philosophy of mind, epistemology and metaphysics, moral psychology, natural science, and the philosophy of religion). Links to my published or forthcoming papers on these issues are below. Please email me for drafts of papers under review.


“Imitation and ‘Infinite’ Will: Descartes on the Imago Dei,” forthcoming in Oxford Studies in Early Modern Philosophy, Volume VIII. [PDF]

“Responsibility in Descartes’s Theory of Judgment,” Ergo 3, no. 12 (2016): 321-347.

“Descartes on Human Freedom,” Philosophy Compass 9, Issue 8 (2014): 527–539.


I have taught upper-level undergraduate seminars in the history of modern philosophy and contemporary moral psychology, an intermediate-level undergraduate survey of the history of modern philosophy, and courses that introduce students to the discipline.

See online samples of my seminar course materials: