Diachronic Normativity

Abstract: There is a tension in our thinking about changing one’s mind. On the one hand, changing one’s mind is often permissible, perhaps even required. On the other hand, agents who are fickle seem less than perfectly rational. In this paper, I try to make sense of each of these claims. In particular, I argue that agents who change their mind without a change in their evidence violate a process-norm governing rationality. I argue for the existence of process-norms in general, and a norm against fickleness in particular, based on considerations from function-first and non-ideal epistemology. Moreover, I argue that when an agent violates this process-norm, she violates a higher-order reason to not to re-open inquiry. Nonetheless, if she were to re-open inquiry, she would be permitted to change her mind. I end with some reflections about the relationship between responding to such reasons and being fully rational, as well as whether one is ever all things considered permitted to change her mind without a change in her evidence.

Please email me for a draft.

Work In Progress

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, coauthored with Carolina Flores, 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. 

I’m also currently working on a paper with Calum McNamara on why credences can be reasons for action as well as a project on the various ways in which consensual sex can nonetheless be bad in ways that can wrong an agent and be blameworthy.

Easy Evidence and Epistemic Upgrades: In Defense of a Duty to Gather Evidence

Abstract: 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 non-misleading evidence bearing on 𝑝 that’s easy for 𝑆 to collect 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.

(Co-authored with Carolina Flores. Please email one of us for a draft!)

Gaslighting, Implicit Bias, and Higher-Order Evidence

Abstract: 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. 

Here's the paper. Here are slides.

Comments welcome, but please don’t cite without permission.