Papers

Here are some published papers and works in progress. You can access both by clicking the links following their abstracts.

Publications

Anti-Intellectualism — Mind (2017) , DOI: 10.1093/mind/fzw039

Intellectualists disagree with anti-intellectualists about the relationship between truth and knowledge. According to intellectualists, this relationship is intimate. Knowledge entails true belief, and in fact everything required for knowledge is somehow relevant to the probability that the belief in question is true. According to anti-intellectualists, this relationship isn’t intimate. Or, at least, it’s not as intimate as intellectualists think. Factors that aren’t in any way relevant to the probability that a belief is true can make a difference to whether it counts as knowledge. In this paper, I give a new argument for anti-intellectualism and draw out consequences of this argument for the pragmatic encroachment debate. The standard purist objection to pragmatism is that pragmatism entails anti-intellectualism. As I show, anti-intellectualism follows from premises that are plausible even if purism is true, so the standard purist objection to pragmatism fails.

Click here for penultimate draft, and here for final draft.

Reasons to Not Believe (and Reasons to Act) — Episteme (2016), Vol. 13, No. 4, pp. 439-48 

In “Reasons to Believe and Reasons to Act,” Stewart Cohen argues that balance of reasons accounts of rational action get the wrong results when applied to doxastic attitudes, and that there are therefore important differences between reasons to believe and reasons to act. In this paper, I argue that balance of reasons accounts of rational action get the right results when applied to the cases that Cohen considers, and that these results highlight interesting similarities between reasons to believe and reasons to act. I also consider an argument for Cohen’s conclusion based on the principle that Adler, Moran, Shah, Velleman and others call “transparency.” I resist this argument by explaining why transparency is itself doubtful.

Click here for penultimate draft, and here for final draft.

The Pragmatic Encroachment Debate — Nous (2016), DOI: 10.1111/nous.12156.

Does knowledge depend in any interesting way on our practical interests? This is the central question in the pragmatic encroachment debate. Pragmatists defend the affirmative answer to this question while purists defend the negative answer. The literature contains two kinds of arguments for pragmatism: principle-based arguments and case-based arguments. Principle-based arguments derive pragmatism from principles that connect knowledge to practical interests. Case-based arguments rely on intuitions about cases that differ with respect to practical interests. I argue that there are insurmountable problems for both kinds of arguments, and that it is therefore unclear what motivates pragmatism.

Click here for penultimate draft, and here for Early View version of final draft.

Minimalism and the Limits of Warranted Assertability Maneuvers — Episteme (2014), Vol. 11, No. 3, pp. 245 – 260

Contextualists and pragmatists agree that knowledge-denying sentences are contextually variable, in the sense that a knowledge-denying sentence might semantically express a false proposition in one context and a true proposition in another context, without any change in the properties traditionally viewed as necessary for knowledge. Minimalists deny both pragmatism and contextualism, and maintain that knowledge-denying sentences are not contextually variable. To defend their view from cases like DeRose and Stanley’s high stakes bank case, minimalists like Patrick Rysiew, Jessica Brown, and Wayne Davis forward “warranted assertability maneuvers.” The basic idea is that some knowledge-denying sentence seems contextually variable because we mistake what a speaker pragmatically conveys by uttering that sentence for what she literally says by uttering that sentence. In this paper, I raise problems for the warranted assertability maneuvers of Rysiew, Brown, and Davis, and then present a warranted assertability maneuver that should succeed if any warranted assertability maneuver will succeed. I then show how my warranted assertability maneuver fails, and how the problem with my warranted assertability maneuver generalizes to pragmatic responses in general. The upshot of my argument is that, in order to defend their view from cases like DeRose and Stanley’s high stakes bank case, minimalists must prioritize the epistemological question whether the subjects in those cases know over linguistic questions about the pragmatics of various knowledge-denying sentences.

Click here for final draft.

Does the Theist Have an Epistemic Advantage Over the Atheist? — Journal of Philosophical Research (2009), Vol. 34, pp. 305-328)

I wrote this paper my first semester as a student at Northern Illinois University. It argues that Plantinga’s Evolutionary Argument against Naturalism shows that naturalists have defeaters for everything they believe only if analogous arguments from the problem of evil show that theists have defeaters for everything they believe. Recent iterations of Plantinga’s argument bear a surprising resemblance to a famous argument in Descartes’s Third Meditation. Both arguments conclude that theists have an epistemic advantage over atheists/naturalists vis-à-vis the question whether or not our cognitive faculties are reliable. In this paper I show how these arguments bear an even deeper resemblance to each other. After bringing the problem of evil to bear negatively on Descartes’s argument, I argue that, given these similarities, atheists can wield a recent solution to the problem of evil against theism in much the way Plantinga wields the details of evolutionary theory against naturalism. I conclude that Plantinga and Descartes give us insufficient reason for thinking theists are in a better epistemic position than atheists and naturalists vis-à-vis the question whether or not our cognitive faculties are reliable.

Click here for final draft.

Works in Progress

Are Intellectual Virtues Truth-Relevant?

According to Attributor Virtue Epistemology (the view defended by Ernest Sosa, John Greco, and others), S knows that p only if her true belief that p is attributable to some intellectual virtue, competence, or ability that she possesses. Attributor Virtue Epistemology captures a wide range of our intuitions about the nature and value of knowledge, and it has many able defenders. Unfortunately, it has an unrecognized consequence that many epistemologists will think is sufficient for rejecting it—namely, it makes knowledge depend on factors that aren’t truth-relevant, even in the broadest sense of this term, and it also makes knowledge depend in counterintuitive ways on factors that are truth-relevant in the more common narrow sense of this term. As I show in this paper, the primary objection to interest-relative views in the pragmatic encroachment debate can be raised even more effectively against Attributor Virtue Epistemology.

Click here for most recent draft.

Evidence, Compulsion, and Belief at Will

You might think any number of things about your evidential situation with respect to some proposition p. You might think you have excellent evidence for p, terrible evidence for p, and so on. One thing you might think is that, while your total evidence rules out disbelief, it supports believing p and suspending on p equally well, so that both attitudes are rationally permissible responses to your evidence. And possibly, while thinking this, you might experience no compulsion to believe p, nor any compulsion to suspend on p. In this paper I argue that, if you find yourself in a situation like this, there is no reason why you couldn’t believe p at will.

Click here for most recent draft.

Is Every Theory of Knowledge False?

Is knowledge consistent with literally any credence in the relevant proposition, including credence 0? If not, is credence 0 the only credence in p that entails that you don’t know that p? Knowledge entails belief (most epistemologists think), and it’s presumably impossible to believe that p while having credence 0 in p. Is it true that, for every value of ‘x,’ if it’s impossible to know that p while having credence x in p, this is simply because it’s impossible to believe that p while having credence x in p? If so, is it possible to believe that p while having (say) credence 0.4 in p? These questions aren’t standard epistemological fare, but they have important consequences for epistemology. Let ‘improbabilism’ name the thesis that it’s possible to know that p while having a credence in p below 0.5. Improbabilism will strike many epistemologists as absurd, but reflection on these questions reveals that, if improbablism is false, then all of the most plausible theories of knowledge are also false. Or so I shall argue in this paper. Since improbabilism is widely rejected by epistemologists (at least implicitly), this paper reveals a tension between all of the most plausible theories of knowledge and a widespread assumption in epistemology.

Click here for most recent draft.

Liberal Evidentialism

Liberal evidentialists disagree with conservative evidentialists about the nature of evidential support. According to the latter, a body of total evidence must always support one attitude toward a given proposition better than it supports any alternative attitude toward that proposition. According to the former, a body of total evidence needn’t always support one attitude toward a given proposition better than it supports any alternative attitude toward that proposition. Both views come in doxastic and credal versions. Credal versions concern the question whether a body of total evidence must always support a unique credence in a given proposition. Doxastic versions concern the question whether a body of total evidence must always support a unique doxastic attitude toward a given proposition (where the doxastic attitudes in question are just belief, disbelief, and suspension of judgment). In this paper, I focus on the doxastic versions of these views. I argue that the doxastic version of liberal evidentialism is prima facie plausible, show that absurd consequences follow from rejecting it, address the most plausible arguments against the doxastic version of liberal evidentialism, and (finally) highlight some consequences of doxastic liberal evidentialism for epistemic agency and the epistemology of disagreement.

Click here for most recent draft.