RESEARCH PROGRAM

My research is focused in Metaethics, Ethics, and Epistemology. 

My work defends a novel meta-normative theory of the distinct origins 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 people to forms of antirealism (especially epistemological concerns), while also avoiding some of the least plausible implications of those views. 

As part of this approach, I 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. I also defend an inherently social version of epistemic instrumentalism, the view that epistemic rationality is a special kind of instrumental (means-ends) rationality. I have ongoing interests in the epistemology of moral beliefs and in the nature of agency and responsibility.

My Research Statement and a two-page dissertation summary are available on the final page: CV & Contact.

See below for a list of papers by topic.

 

PAPERS BY TOPIC

I. Moral Normativity

Defending a Novel Form of Moral Relativism:

- “Group Agency Meets Metaethics: How to Craft a More Compelling Form of Normative Relativism

(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.

- "Societies as group agents"

(to appear 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 defends the claim that we can attribute functional states to real social groups that play roles analogous to those of beliefs and goals in individual persons.

II. Epistemic Normativity

Defending a Collective Version of Epistemic Instrumentalism:

- "Could Our Epistemic Reasons Be Collective Practical Reasons?" 

(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.

- "Epistemic Blame and Epistemic Instrumentalism"

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 presented this work in progress at the 2022 St. Louis Annual Conference on Reasons and Rationality (SLACRR). 

- 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.)

III. (Epistemological) Objections to Value Realism

Evolutionary Debunking Arguments:

- "Bad bootstrapping: the problem with third-factor replies to the Darwinian Dilemma for moral realism"

(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'll be presenting this work in progress as a symposium paper at the Central APA in Denver, CO, in February 2023.

- I'll also be contributing a piece on "Evolutionary Debunking Arguments" to the 3rd edition of the Blackwell Companion to Epistemology. (Email for manuscript.)