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. Jerry Fodor read it, put a smiley face in the margin, and wrote “Cute.” I guess that’s better than “Ugly.” This paper 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

How to Argue for Pragmatic Encroachment

Purists think that changes in our practical interests can’t affect what we know unless those changes are truth-relevant with respect to the propositions in question. Pragmatists disagree. They think changes in our practical interests can affect what we know even if those changes aren’t truth-relevant with respect to the propositions in question. I argue that pragmatists are right, but for the wrong reasons, since pragmatists haven’t appreciated the best argument for their own view. Together with “Minimalism and the Limits of Warranted Assertability Maneuvers,” “The Pragmatic Encroachment Debate,” and “Anti-Intellectualism” (above), this paper constitutes my attempt to refute the entire pragmatic encroachment debate. As I show in this paper, there is an argument for pragmatism sitting in plain sight that is considerably more plausible than any extant argument for pragmatism.

Click here for most recent draft.

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, Judgment, and Belief at Will

Doxastic involuntarists have paid insufficient attention to two debates in contemporary epistemology: the permissivism debate and the debate over norms of assertion and belief. In combination, these debates highlight a conception of belief on which, if you find yourself in what I will call an ‘equipollent case’ with respect to some proposition p, there will be no reason why you can’t believe p at will. While doxastic involuntarism is virtually epistemological orthodoxy, nothing in the entire stock of objections to belief at will blocks this route to doxastic voluntarism. Against the backdrop of the permissivism debate and the literature on norms of belief and assertion, doxastic involuntarism emerges as an article of faith, not the obvious truth it’s usually purported to be.

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 a single 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 a single 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. This paper picks up where “Evidence, Judgment, and Belief at Will” (above) leaves off. I argue that, even if the credal version of conservative evidentialism is true, the doxastic version of conservative evidentialism has unacceptable theoretical costs, if it doesn’t have straightforward counterexamples. I then address the most plausible arguments against doxastic liberal evidentialism, and highlight some consequences of doxastic liberal evidentialism for epistemic agency (specifically, belief at will) and the epistemology of disagreement.

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? Of course not. But 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 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, at least in part because many epistemologists think their answers are obvious, but they have unanticipated 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 careful reflection on these questions reveals that, if improbabilism is false, then all of the most plausible theories of knowledge are also false. Or so I 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.