My current research is largely focused on the nature of epistemic norms and how they relate to other norms, such as norms of inquiry and practical norms. I’m currently working on two papers on this theme. The first argues that there are epistemic norms on evidence-gathering, and the second argues for the existence of diachronic norms more broadly. According to the first paper, one is required to gather evidence in cases where doing so is sufficiently easy and would directly result in an `epistemic upgrade’ (e.g. knowledge, understanding, etc). In the second paper, I argue that synchronic requirements underdetermine diachronic requirements using cases where someone seems to impermissibly change their mind without a change in evidence. I defend diachronic norms (including a norm on evidence-gathering) against objections on which they are too demanding or too externalist.
Works In Progress
A Puzzle About Fickleness
In this paper, I motivate a puzzle about epistemic rationality. On the one hand, there seems to be something problematic about frequently changing your mind. On the other hand, changing your mind is often permissible, sometimes even required. Why do one-off changes of mind seem rationally permissible, even admirable, while constant changes seem quintessentially irrational? I argue that any adequate solution should explain why one-off changes are permissible while fickleness is irrational. On the basis of these desiderata, I show that two existing solutions to the puzzle — the Process-Oriented Account and the Self-Binding Account — fail. The former mischaracterizes fickleness as rational, while the latter indicts thoughtful changes of mind as irrational. My solution augments the Process-Oriented account in order to explain both intuitions. I argue that by redeliberating multiple times, one gains both inductive and higher-order evidence that render fickleness irrational. Finally, I consider attempts to dissolve the puzzle from Time-Slice Epistemology. I argue they are unsatisfying and buttress these arguments by reflecting on the epistemic roles of rationality ascriptions.
Please email me for a draft!
Despite the importance of evidence gathering for getting at the truth and avoiding falsehood, the view that there are epistemic (as opposed to practical, or inquiry-based) norms on evidence gathering has found few defenders. Against this trend, we argue that there are purely epistemic obligations to gather evidence. More specifically, we argue for Gather Evidence to Upgrade: If S believes that p, then S is epistemically required to gather evidence bearing on p when doing so would result in an epistemic upgrade on the attitude toward p. We focus on a range of cases in which subjects are criticizable for their beliefs because they are distracted, avoidant, lazy, or sheltered, and thus fail to gather easily accessible evidence that would defeat those beliefs. We argue that, to fully account for our reaction to these cases, appeal to epistemic vices or to violations of practical or moral norms won't do: we need to appeal to an evidence gathering norm. We show that such a norm not only bears the hallmarks of genuine epistemic normativity but also helps illuminate what goes epistemically wrong in cases of wrongful beliefs and moral deference.
Please email us for a draft!
Argues for a non-ideal approach to norms of epistemic rationality, partly based on functionalist considerations about the roles of epistemic assessments. Very early stages!
(with Calum McNamara)
There are currently two dominant approaches to epistemology. The first, more traditional approach focuses on so-called ‘full' or ‘outright’ belief, while the second, formal approach focuses on degrees of belief, or credences. These two camps diverge on many issues (and converge on others), but a particular point of contention between them concerns the normative roles that full beliefs on the one hand, and credences on the other, are supposed to play. As it turns out, though, proponents of both approaches have argued that credences, unlike full beliefs, cannot be play the reason-giving role. In this paper, however, we push back against this common trend. We argue that credences can afford us motivating, normative, and explanatory reasons for action and attitudes We claim that arguments to the contrary have appealed an overly narrow understanding of what reasons, and credences, are. Moreover, we claim that, if the conclusions of those arguments held more generally, we would be overly skeptical of the permissibility of assigning praise and blame in many contexts. But once these corrections are made, the ground for denying that credences can play the reason-giving role becomes shaky. And while our conclusions do not yet establish that credences are more fundamental than beliefs, they do remove one argument for thinking this is so.
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Gaslighting, Implicit Bias, & Higher-Order Evidence
In this paper, I explore a practical version of the skepticism-dogmatism debate. On the one hand, phenomena such as implicit bias put pressure on us to be skeptics about our beliefs. On the other hand, phenomena such as gaslighting put pressure on us to be dogmatists about our beliefs, to stick to our guns. This gives rise to a puzzle. Intuitively, we want to say that the person with implicit bias and the person who is gaslighted differ with respect to their epistemic status, yet things look the same on the inside to each of them. Thus, the internalist faces a problem in accounting for the epistemic differences between them. In contrast, although the externalist can account for an epistemic difference between the gaslighted woman and the man with implicit bias, the externalist still faces two objections, according to which externalism fails to offer a genuinely normative epistemology. First, it fails to capture the sense in which agents who ignore misleading higher-order evidence are blameworthy. Second, it fails to offer action-guiding norms. In response to the first objection, I reject the presupposition. I argue that to blame people like the gaslighted woman is to be an epistemic fetishist. In response to the second, I endorse an Epistemic Affirmative Action proposal. Ultimately, I think that phenomena such as gaslighting encourage us to rethink what it means for an epistemological theory to be normative.
I’ve presented this paper at the 2019 Eastern APA as a Symposium Session, 2018 IIFS-UNAM Graduate Philosophy Conference, and a Michigan Graduate Student Working Group. I am very grateful to my commentators—Arianna Falbo, José Navarro, and Ege Yumusak—and to audiences there. I am also very thankful to Sarah Moss, Dustin Locke, and Maria Lasonen-Aarnio for invaluable written feedback.
Bad Sex & Consent
It is widely accepted that consent is a normative power. For instance, consent can make an impermissible act permissible. In the words of Heidi Hurd, it “turns a trespass into a dinner party… an invasion of privacy into an intimate moment.” In this paper, I argue against the assumption that consent has such robust powers for moral transformation. In particular, I argue that there is a wide range of sex that is impermissible and that deeply wrongs victims despite being consensual. Moreover, these cases are not limited to those where consent is vitiated by background conditions. For methodological reasons, I start by calling this category of consensual sex Bad Sex. I then distinguish subspecies of this category, including epistemically risky sex, trade-offs, and cases of interpersonal and social coercion where the coercion is insufficient for undermining consent. I offer diagnoses of these in terms of the background conditions being non-ideal, moral and epistemic blameworthiness, or both. I then make explicit the argument for a disjunctive account of the category of Bad Sex, on which the term can be ambiguous between blameworthy, non-ideal, and merely disappointing sex based on considerations such as hermeneutic injustice. I end by responding to an objection on which we should treat at least some subspecies of Bad Sex as rape. Though this alternative proposal is often motivated by ameliorative considerations, I argue that such considerations actually count against collapsing the categories of Bad Sex and Rape.