Papers in Progress

"Against the New Pragmatists" (Email me for a draft) 

  • Abstract: The debate between alethists and pragmatists has recently hit a standstill, with each side trying to shift the burden of explanation onto the other. For instance, alethists argue that the pragmatists countenance the burden of explaining transparency, the fact that the deliberative question of whether to believe p inevitably gives way to the question of whether p is true. Pragmatists, by contrast, argue that that alethists face the burden of explaining why practical considerations are normative reasons for action but not belief. In this paper, I will flesh out recent pragmatists’ attempt to shift the dialectical burden onto the alethists and argue that it is insufficiently motivated. I then point to important differences between how reasons for belief and reasons for action combine, which should lead us to think that reasons for belief are importantly more constrained than reasons for action. The alethists can easily explain why they are more constrained, since they claim that all reasons for belief are all epistemic, i.e. related to getting at the truth and avoiding error I build on these points in order to explicitly argue that there are different ‘should’s’ governing actions and beliefs. I then point to a particular problem for Susanna Rinard’s version of pragmatism, on which there are only practical reasons, since it offers unintuitive verdicts not only about reasons for belief but also for many other attitudes as well as emotions. Finally, I argue that the question of how practical and epistemic reasons relate arises for any view on which both types of reasons exist, including most pragmatist views besides Rinard’s, and I canvas a few plausible ways an alethist might offer an account of their relationship. While Rinard’s view is indeed more simple insofar as it does not countenance this question, it comes at too high of a theoretical cost. Thus if Rinard is right that if you are a pragmatist, then you should endorse her brand of pragmatism, then we should conclude that you should not be a pragmatist at all.

"Anti-Luminosity & Consent"

  • Currently thinking about the implications of anti-luminosity (and related phenomena) for consent discourse.

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. 

In January 2019, I'll present this paper at a symposium session at the Eastern APA. In the past, I've presented it at the IIFS-UNAM Graduate Philosophy Conference and at a Michigan Graduate Student Working Group. I'm grateful to audiences there as well as to Sarah Moss, Dustin Locke, and Maria Lasonen-Aarnio for invaluable feedback. 

Here's the paper.