Epistemic Justification: Probability, Normalcy, and the Functional Theory. Australasian Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming) [Link]
This paper puts forward a novel pluralist theory of epistemic justification that brings together two competing views in the literature: probabilistic and non-probabilistic accounts of justification. The first part of the paper motivates the new theory by arguing that neither probabilistic nor non-probabilistic accounts alone are wholly satisfactory. The second part puts forward what I call the Functional Theory of Justification. The key merit of the new theory is that it combines the most attractive features of both probabilistic and non-probabilistic accounts of justification whilst avoiding their most serious shortcomings. The paper also provides a blueprint for future pluralist projects in epistemology.
Can Groups be Genuine Believers? The Argument From Interpretationism. Synthese (forthcoming) [Link]
In ordinary discourse we often attribute beliefs not just to individuals but also to groups. But can groups really have genuine beliefs? This paper considers but ultimately rejects one of the main arguments in support of the claim that groups can be genuine believers – the Argument From Interpretationism – and concludes that we have good reasons to be sceptical about the existence of group beliefs. According to the Argument From Interpretationism, roughly speaking, groups qualify as genuine believers because we can interpret (or predict) their behaviour in much the same way that we can interpret (or predict) the behaviour of individuals. While this argument may seem initially attractive, I argue that it is ultimately unsuccessful. In particular, I argue that the argument is unsuccessful even if one is generally sympathetic towards interpretationism. The reason for this, as we will see, is that a number of problems arise when we try to apply the interpretationist strategy – originally formulated with individual subjects in mind – to plural subjects or groups. In showing why the Argument From Interpretationism fails, the paper also brings into focus some more general constraints on the scope and applicability of interpretationism.
Epistemology and the Law: Why There is No Epistemic Mileage in Legal Cases. Philosophical Studies (2020) [Link]
The primary aim of this paper is to defend the Lockean View – the view that a belief is epistemically justified iff it is highly probable – against a new family of objections. According to these objections, broadly speaking, the Lockean View ought to be abandoned because it is incompatible with, or difficult to square with, our judgments surrounding certain legal cases. I distinguish and explore three different versions of these objections – The Conviction Argument, the Argument from Assertion and Practical Reasoning, and the Comparative Probabilities Argument – but argue that none of them are successful. I also present some very general reasons for being pessimistic about the overall strategy of using legal considerations to evaluate epistemic theories; as we will see, there are good reasons to think that many of the considerations relevant to legal theorizing are ultimately irrelevant to epistemic theorizing.
Normalcy, Justification, and the Easy-Defeat Problem. Philosophical Studies (2019) [Link]
Recent years have seen the rise of a new family of non-probabilistic accounts of epistemic justification. According to these views – we may call them Normalcy Views – a belief in P is justified only if, given the evidence, there exists no normal world in which S falsely believes that P. This paper aims to raise some trouble for this new approach to justification by arguing that Normalcy Views, while initially attractive, give rise to problematic accounts of epistemic defeat. As we will see, on Normalcy Views seemingly insignificant pieces of evidence turn out to have considerable defeating powers. This problem – I will call it the Easy-Defeat Problem – gives rise to a two-pronged challenge. First, it shows that the Normalcy View has counterintuitive implications and, second, it opens the door to an uncomfortable skeptical threat.
A Bitter Pill for Closure. Synthese (2019) [Link]
The primary objective of this paper is to introduce a new epistemic paradox that puts pressure on the claim that justification is closed under multi premise deduction. The first part of the paper will consider two well-known paradoxes – the lottery and the preface paradox – and outline two popular strategies for solving the paradoxes without denying closure. The second part will introduce a new, structurally related, paradox that is immune to these closure-preserving solutions. I will call this paradox, The Paradox of the Pill. Seeing that the prominent closure-preserving solutions do not apply to the new paradox, I will argue that it presents a much stronger case against the claim that justification is closed under deduction than its two predecessors. Besides presenting a more robust counterexample to closure, the new paradox also reveals that the strategies that were previously thought to get closure out of trouble are not sufficiently general to achieve this task as they fail to apply to similar closure-threatening paradoxes in the same vicinity.
Work in Progress
Title Redacted. (Under Review)
This paper explores the prospects of moderate moral intuitionism – a more recent and increasingly popular version of moral intuitionism. I argue that while moderate moral intuitionism can successfully avoid some of the pitfalls of its more traditional predecessors it too is ultimately unsuccessful.
On Inferential Moral Knowledge: Defending Hume’s Law. (In Progress)
This paper defends Hume’s Law – the idea that we cannot gain moral knowledge through inference from wholly non-moral premises – against a number of recent objections. The paper also presents a new epistemic version of Hume’s Law that promises to illuminate what the disagreement between inferentialists and non-inferentialists in moral epistemology is really about.
Justification Pluralism and Epistemic Paradoxes: New Solutions. (In Progress)
This paper considers how the pluralist theory of justification developed in my earlier work deals with various epistemic paradoxes (including the lottery and the preface paradox). I argue that the pluralist theory offers interesting new solutions to, and diagnoses of, these puzzles. I also argue that the solutions offered by the pluralist theory are preferable to the solutions available to us on monist views of justification.
The Epistemology of Promising (In Progress)
This paper explores whether there is an epistemic constraint on what we can sincerely promise to others. To gain traction on this question, I consider cases of promising against the evidence – i.e. cases in which we make a seemingly sincere promise knowing full well that there is a good chance that we’ll be unable to keep it (e.g. the promise that one will quit smoking). I consider but reject a number of extant proposals for how to deal with these cases. I then argue that given the social role that promising plays, there is no reason to think that promising should be epistemically constrained.