My research in philosophy is focused in the areas of Epistemology and Metaethics.
My work defends a novel meta-normative theory of the sources and authority of our different kinds of normative reasons- including moral reasons, reasons of self-interested practical rationality, and epistemic reasons. The view seeks to provide a unified account of these different kinds of normative reasons, according to which they are all fundamentally instrumental in nature, but are differentiated by their sources in the contingent aims of different sorts of agents. The view is intended to be responsive to the sorts of metaethical considerations that generally draw philosophers to forms of antirealism (especially epistemological concerns and a commitment to naturalism), while also avoiding some of the least plausible implications of previous antirealist views.
As part of this approach, I defend an inherently social version of epistemic instrumentalism, the view that epistemic rationality is a special kind of instrumental (means-ends) rationality. I also defend a form of moral relativism that draws from the literature on group agency in order to attribute ends, and normative reasons, directly to societies. Additionally, I have ongoing interests in the nature of agency and responsibility and the epistemology of moral beliefs.
My full-length Research Statement is here.
See below for a list of publications, and works in progress, organized by topic.
PAPERS BY TOPIC
I. Epistemic Normativity: Collective Epistemic Instrumentalism
(Noûs, 55(4), pp. 842-862, 2021)
I argue that by drawing upon the idea of epistemic communities with investigative goals, we can account for epistemic reasons in an instrumental manner. The resulting view is immune to the main objections to epistemic instrumentalism emphasized by Thomas Kelly (2003), as well as to epistemic analogues of familiar metaethical objections to moral realism.
- [title suppressed - paper under review]
I argue that my own collective version of epistemic instrumentalism is uniquely poised to vindicate some of our intuitions about the appropriateness of a distinctively epistemic kind of blame.
- I'm contributing a piece on "Epistemic Instrumentalism" to the forthcoming 3rd edition of the Blackwell Companion to Epistemology, Ed. Kurt Sylvan. (Email for manuscript.)
II. Moral Normativity: Moral Relativism and Group Agency
(in Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 15, Ed. Russ Shafer-Landau, 2020, Oxford University Press, 219-240)
I show how we can draw upon the claim that societies are agents in their own right in order to formulate a novel version of relativism about moral reasons and reasons of practical rationality. The view avoids key problems faced by well-known version of relativism while still answering to the same metaethical motivations (such as epistemological arguments) that typically attract philosophers to those views.
- "Relativism" (email for manuscript)
I'm contributing a piece for The Oxford Handbook of Meta-Ethics, Eds. David Copp and Connie Rosati, under contract with Oxford University Press.
(now online; forthcoming in a special volume of Inquiry on reductionism about group agency, eds. Olof Leffler and Lars Moen)
According to the form of moral relativism that I defend, we can sensibly attribute ends, and thus reasons, directly to societies. This paper provides an independent defense of the claim that we can attribute functional states to societies that play roles analogous to those of ends (motivational states) in individual persons. The paper concludes by reflecting on some broader implications regarding what it is to be an agent and to possess ends. For instance, one need not be consciously aware of one’s ends.
III. Epistemological Objections to Value Realism
(and Broader Implications for our Understanding of Epistemic Justification)
(Philosophical Studies, 177, pp. 2115-2128, 2020)
I defend Street’s (2006) 'Darwinian Dilemma' for value realism against the third-factor replies popularized by Enoch (2010, 2011), Skarsaune (2011) and Wielenberg (2010, 2014). I argue that these replies are question-begging. I do so by drawing upon the epistemic literature on bootstrapping, which is an intuitively illegitimate form of reasoning.
- "Evolutionary Debunking Arguments and the Modal Safety of our Moral Beliefs"
I presented this work in progress as a symposium paper at the 2023 Central APA. The paper responds to a recent argument from Clarke-Doane and Baras (2021), who suggest that evolutionary debunking arguments cannot succeed in providing a source of undermining defeat for our moral beliefs because they do not establish that our moral beliefs fail to meet conditions of either safety or sensitivity for belief. I argue that evolutionary debunking arguments may, after all, be interpreted as giving us reason to doubt that the method in which our moral beliefs were formed renders them “safe,” because evolutionary debunking arguments highlight the contingency of our moral beliefs. The paper concludes by drawing broader epistemological lessons about the relationship between undermining defeat and the conditions of safety and sensitivity. There are additional sorts of epistemic “luck” at odds with the justification of our beliefs that are not ruled out by either safety or sensitivity conditions.
- I'll also be contributing a piece on "Evolutionary Debunking Arguments" to the 3rd edition of the Blackwell Companion to Epistemology. (Email for manuscript.)