I research on many topics in Epistemology, Metaethics, and Social Epistemology (including where it intersects with Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Science). Here are some short descriptions of my major research projects. For more information about my research, see my CV or contact me.
There is a popular idea that epistemic norms all stem from the ultimate goal of having true beliefs and avoid false ones. This kind of epistemic consequentialism has been subject to many objections in the literature. I defend a version of truth-maximizing epistemic act-consequentialism that I term “Sophisticated Epistemic Consequentialism.” The view captures the intuitive motivation behind the truth-centered views, clarifies the place of objective and subjective epistemic oughts in theorizing, and takes seriously the complex structure of epistemic values and the intricacies of human motivation. This view is inspired by sophisticated consequentialist views in ethics, like the one given by Peter Railton. In “Sophisticated Epistemic Consequentialism” (in progress), I provide a general framework for thinking about sophisticated consequentialist views (in both ethics and epistemology). That paper clarifies what these views can account for and show why epistemic consequentialists ought to be sophisticated too.
“Permissible Epistemic Trade-offs” (under review)
“What Epistemic Reasons are For: Against the Belief-Sandwich Distinction” with Sara Aronowitz (under review)
The Source of Epistemic Normativity
I defend a constitutivist account of the truth norm (the norm that says we ought to have accurate beliefs and which is central in my epistemic consequentialism). I defend a simple account that says that we’re subject to the truth norm in virtue of two facts: (1) that being a believer is constitutive of agency, and (2) that the truth norm is constitutive of belief. This kind of account is similar to constitutive accounts of norms in ethics.
To defend that account, I show that the constitutivist view is simpler than it is typically taken to be, which means the view avoids many of the objections leveled against it in the literature, such as the objection that the view violates the is-ought gap (the nature of which I clarify in my “Mind the Is-Ought Gap” in the Journal of Philosophy). I also show constitutivist explanations of norms are formally on par with paradigmatic grounding explanations in science by the lights of our best theories of scientific explanation (in my “Some Virtues of Constitutivism as Metaphysical Explanation” in progress). Finally, I argue that constitutivists account avoid Enoch’s schmagency objection (in my “How to Ignore the Schmagency Objection,” in progress). By diagnosing a subtle equivocation, I show that Enoch’s objection at most applies to constitutivist views of the epistemology and authority of norms, not their metaphysics. So overall, I claim, the constitutivist offers a productive way to approach ethical questions using notions already familiar from our best theories of agency and action, and it’s one that can naturally be used to account for why we ought to believe the truth.
“Some Virtues of Constitutivism as Metaphysical Explanation” (under review)
“Mind the Is-Ought Gap” (2015 in the Journal of Philosophy)
Social Epistemology, Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Science
Along with Patrick Grim, I direct the Computational Social Philosophy Lab, an interdisciplanary group of researchers that investiages questions of social epistemology, philosophy of science, and political philosophy using agent-based computer models and an eye toward empirical results. Our most recent research uses agent-based computer simulations to examine group deliberation and how group polarization can be produced, maintained, and destroyed by various mechanisms. Previous research has included using agent-based computer simulations to examine arguments for the value of diversity, epistemic democracy, the nature of information and information transfer, and how communication networks affect epistemic communities.
For related papers, see the Computational Social Philosophy Lab website.