Research

BOOKS

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  • The Epistemic Significance of Disagreement. (2015) Palgrave Macmillan.
    • Discovering someone disagrees with you is a common occurrence. The question of epistemic significance of disagreement concerns how discovering that another disagrees with you affects the rationality of your beliefs on that topic. This book examines the answers that have been proposed to this question, and presents and defends its own answer.

 

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  • The Ethics of Belief: Individual and Social. Co-Edited with Rico Vitz. (2014) New York: Oxford University Press.
    • How do people form beliefs, and how should they do so? This book presents seventeen new essays on these questions, drawing together perspectives from philosophy and psychology. The first section explores the ethics of belief from an individualistic framework. It begins by examining the question of doxastic voluntarism-i.e., the extent to which people have control over their beliefs. It then shifts to focusing on the kinds of character that epistemic agents should cultivate, what their epistemic ends ought to be, and the way in which these issues are related to other traditional questions in epistemology. The section concludes by examining questions of epistemic value, of whether knowledge is in some sense primary, and of whether the ethics of belief falls within the domain of epistemology or ethics. The second section extends this traditional debate to issues concerning the social dimensions of belief formation. It begins with essays by social psychologists discussing the past three decades of research in ‘lay epistemics’. It continues by examining Humean, Kantian, and feminist insights into the social aspects of belief formation, as well as questions concerning the ethics of assertion. The section concludes with a series of essays examining a topic that is currently of great interest to epistemologists: namely, the significance of peer disagreement.

 

PAPERS

  • “Moral Caution and the Epistemology of Disagreement”Journal of Social Philosophy (forthcoming).
    • In this paper, I propose, defend, and apply a principle for applied ethics. According to this principle, we should exercise moral caution, at least when we can. More formally, the principle claims that if you should believe or suspend judgment that doing an action is a serious moral wrong, while knowing that not doing that action is not morally wrong, then you should not do that action. After motivating this principle, I argue that it has significant application in applied ethics. The application to applied ethics comes by way of the epistemic significance of disagreement. Though such a principle has perhaps a number of applications in applied ethics, my focus here is limited to the question of whether it is morally permissible to eat animals for pleasure.

 

  • “Disagreement and the Ethics of Belief.”In James Collier (Ed.) The Future of Social Epistemology: A Collective Vision. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield (2015) 139-148.
    • According to the Equal Weight View, we should eliminate disagreements by ‘splitting the difference’ or suspending judgment on controversial matters..  However, the idea that we should abandon controversial beliefs and eliminate the disagreements surrounding them is challenged by psychological evidence about group inquiry.  In brief, there is evidence that groups with members who genuinely disagree about a proposition, do better with respect to determining whether that proposition is true.  This evidence is evidence that the elimination of disagreements is bad – and not just any kind of bad, it is epistemically bad.  So, the prescriptions of the Equal Weight View appear to be in tension with psychological findings regarding group inquiry.  In this paper I argue that the apparent tension is illusory.

 

  • “Disagreement and Epistemic Peers.” Oxford Handbooks Online in Philosophy. (2015). DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935314.013.13
    • This article examines the epistemic significance of peer disagreement. It
      pursues the following questions: (1) How does discovering that an
      epistemic equal disagrees with you affect your epistemic justification for
      holding your belief? and (2) Can you rationally maintain your belief in the
      face of such disagreement? This article explains and motivates each of the
      central positions in this debate, while at the same time, raising challenges
      for each of them. It concludes by speculating about new directions that
      the debate will take.

 

  • “Are Conciliatory Views of Disagreement Self-Defeating?” Social Epistemology (2015) 29(2): 145-159.
    • An intuitive view on the epistemic significance of disagreement is a conciliatory view of disagreement. Such a view claims that making conciliation is often required upon discovering that another disagrees with you. One of the chief objections to such a view of the epistemic significance of disagreement is that it is self-defeating. Since there are disagreements about the epistemic significance of disagreement, such a view can be turned on itself, and this has been thought to be problematic. In this paper I examine several different incarnations of this objection and defend conciliatory views of disagreement from each of them while making a modification regarding how such views should be understood. 

 

  • “Is there a Well-Founded Solution to the Generality Problem?” Philosophical Studies (2015) 172(2): 459-468.
    • The generality problem is perhaps the most notorious problem for process reliabilism.  Juan Comesaña has recently proposed a solution to the generality problem, a solution which makes use of the basing relation. His claim is that every adequate epistemological theory must make use of the basing relation, and that any account of the basing relation will also give us a solution to the generality problem. In what follows I will explain Comesaña’s proposed solution to the generality problem and show how it fails to provide the reliabilist with a viable solution. 

 

 

  •  “Introduction” (co-authored with Rico Vitz, equal work). In Jonathan Matheson and Rico Vitz (Eds.) The Ethics of Belief: Individual and Social, New York: Oxford University Press, (2014) 1-14.
    • This chapter is an introduction to the general topic of the ethics of belief and provides chapter summaries.

 

  •  “Disagreement: Idealized and Everyday.” In Jonathan Matheson and Rico Vitz (Eds.) The Ethics of Belief: Individual and Social, New York: Oxford University Press, (2014) 315-330.
    • While puzzles concerning the epistemic significance of disagreement are typically motivated by looking at the widespread and persistent disagreements we are aware of, almost all of the literature on the epistemic significance of disagreement has focused on cases idealized peer disagreement. This fact might itself be puzzling since it doesn’t seem that we ever encounter disagreements that meet the relevant idealized conditions. In this paper I hope to somewhat rectify this matter. I begin by closely examining what an idealized case of peer disagreement looks like and what the Equal Weight View of disagreement claims about the epistemic significance of such disagreements. After briefly defending the verdicts of the EWV in idealized disagreements I proceed to unpack the implications of stripping away the idealized conditions. In doing I show both why it is important to focus on idealized cases of peer disagreement and what we can learn from such cases that applies to the everyday cases of disagreement of which we are very familiar. 

 

  • “How Skeptical is the Equal Weight View?” (co-authored with Brandon Carey) In Diego Machuca (Ed.) Disagreement and Skepticism, Routledge, (2013) 131-149.
    • The Equal Weight View has been taken by both its critics and its proponents to have quite drastic skeptical ramifications given contingent empirical facts that we are aware of regarding disagreements in philosophy, religion, science, and politics.  In this paper we examine two routes from the Equal Weight View to skepticism about such matters.  The first claims that our awareness of peers or experts who significantly disagree with us about such issues requires that we abandon these beliefs.  The second claims that our awareness of merely possible peers or experts who significantly disagree with us requires us to abandon our beliefs.  We find both routes from the Equal Weight View to a form of skepticism defective.  However, we present nearby considerations which return many of the skeptical consequences of the Equal Weight View without the same defects.

 

  • “Epistemic Relativism.” In Andrew Cullison (Ed.) Continuum Companion to Epistemology.  Continuum (2012) 161-79.
    • This chapter examines the case for and against epistemic relativism.  Epistemic relativism is the claim that facts about what an individual is justified in believing (or what an individual knows) are not absolute, but rather are relative to either individuals or communities. So, according to the epistemic relativist, we can fi x what information a particular individual has at a particular time, and there are still no absolute facts about what that individual knows or is justified in believing at that time.  I argue that epistemic relativism is false.

 

  • “Skeptical Theism and Phenomenal Conservatism.” In Trent Dougherty and Justin McBrayer (Eds.) Skeptical Theism, Oxford University Press, (2014) 3-20.
    • There is currently a debate regarding whether epistemological views like Phenomenal Conservatism pose a problem for Skeptical Theism.  In this paper I further defend the claim that there is no tension between Phenomenal Conservatism and Skeptical Theism.   Any tension between these two views is removed by supplementing them with an account of defeat.  Further, this account of defeat is friendly to both Phenomenal Conservatism and Skeptical Theism.  In addition, I argue that this account of defeat has it that the Skeptical Theist can get what she wants.   In giving this account, I respond to several objections coming from Dougherty (2011) and Tucker (this volume), as well as to an additional worry coming from the epistemology of disagreement.

 

  • “A Puzzle about Disagreement and Rationality.” Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective (2014) 3(4): 1-3.
    • According to the Equal Weight View, we should eliminate disagreements by ‘splitting the difference’ or suspending judgment on controversial matters..  However, the idea that we should abandon controversial beliefs and eliminate the disagreements surrounding them is challenged by psychological evidence about group inquiry.  In brief, there is evidence that groups with members who genuinely disagree about a proposition, do better with respect to determining whether that proposition is true.  This evidence is evidence that the elimination of disagreements is bad – and not just any kind of bad, it is epistemically bad.  So, the prescriptions of the Equal Weight View appear to be in tension with psychological findings regarding group inquiry.  In this paper I argue that the apparent tension is illusory.

 

  • “The Case for Rational Uniqueness.” Logos & Episteme: An International Journal of Epistemology, (2011) 2(3): 359-73.
    • The Uniqueness Thesis, or rational uniqueness, claims that a body of evidence severely constrains one’s doxastic options. In particular, it claims that for any body of evidence E and proposition P, E justifies at most one doxastic attitude toward P. In this paper I defend this formulation of the uniqueness thesis and examine the case for its truth. I begin by clarifying my formulation of the Uniqueness Thesis and examining its close relationship to evidentialism. I proceed to give some motivation for this strong epistemic claim and to defend it from several recent objections in the literature. In particular I look at objections to the Uniqueness Thesis coming from considerations of rational disagreement (can’t reasonable people disagree?), the breadth of doxastic attitudes (can’t what is justified by the evidence encompass more than one doxastic attitude?), borderline cases and caution (can’t it be rational to be cautious and suspend judgment even when the evidence slightly supports belief?), vagueness (doesn’t the vagueness of justification spell trouble for the Uniqueness Thesis?), and degrees of belief (doesn’t a finegrained doxastic picture present additional problems for the Uniqueness Thesis?).

 

  • “Epistemological Considerations Concerning Skeptical Theism: A Response to Dougherty.”  Faith and Philosophy, (2011) 28(3): 323-331.
    • Recently Trent Dougherty has claimed that there is a tension between skeptical theism and common sense epistemology—that the more plausible one of these views is, the less plausible the other is. In this paper I explain Dougherty’s argument and develop an account of defeaters which removes the alleged tension between skeptical theism and common sense epistemology.

 

  • “Bergmann’s Dilemma: Exit Strategies for Internalists.” (co-authored with Jason Rogers).  Philosophical Studies (2011) 152(1): 55-80.
    • Michael Bergmann claims that all versions of epistemic internalism face an irresolvable dilemma. We show that there are many plausible versions of internalism that falsify this claim. First, we demonstrate that there are versions of ‘‘weak awareness internalism’’ that, contra Bergmann, do not succumb to the ‘‘Subject’s Perspective Objection’’ horn of the dilemma. Second, we show that there are versions of ‘‘strong awareness internalism’’ that do not fall prey to the dilemma’s ‘‘vicious regress’’ horn. We note along the way that these versions of internalism do not, in avoiding one horn of the dilemma, succumb to the dilemma’s other horn. The upshot is that internalists have many available strategies for avoiding dilemmatic defeat.

 

  • “Conciliatory Views of Disagreement and Higher-Order Evidence.”  Episteme: A Journal of Social Philosophy(2009) 6(3): 269-279.
    • Conciliatory views of disagreement maintain that discovering a particular type of disagreement requires that one make doxastic conciliation. In this paper I give a more formal characterization of such a view. After explaining and motivating this view as the correct view regarding the epistemic significance of disagreement, I proceed to defend it from several objections concerning higher-order evidence (evidence about the character of one’s evidence) made by Thomas Kelly (2005).