My research is organized around the question of what we should believe, both as individuals and as groups. This research touches on many topics in Epistemology, Metaethics, and Social Epistemology (including where they intersect with Political Philosophy and Philosophy of Science).
I’m currently working on a book titled Right Belief and True Belief that’s under contract with Oxford University Press. The book advances a truth-loving epistemic consequentialist view of what we should believe. According to this view, the right belief (or credence) is the belief (or credence) that best conduces to having true beliefs and not having false beliefs (or having accurate credences). Truth-loving epistemic consequentialism is well-motivated by intuitions about the role of truth in determining what we should believe, but many theorists have taken the view to be a complete non-starter. The second chapter of the book works out the motivation for the view, and most of the remaining chapters defend truth-loving epistemic consequentialism from a long list of objections. Truth-loving epistemic consequentialism, I argue, is uniquely positioned to vindicate the idea that what we ought to believe is determined by the truth. I have several publications defending this view already, but the book works out the idea a lot more in depth.
A second part of my research uses agent-based computer modelling to better understand how groups of people can and should reason together. This work has resulted in a number of insights about topics like diversity and polarization in groups, the nature of expertise, how information moves in groups, how democracies can improve or hinder information flow, and how representative and direct democracies compare. My co-authors and I are currently thinking a lot about the dynamics of juries, the role of diversity in juries, and how scientific institutions should be structured to better advance scientific aims. I describe some of that work below, but for more information, see the page for the Computational Social Philosophy Lab.
Truth-Loving Epistemology and the Source of Epistemic Norms
It’s natural to think that we can make sense of epistemic norms in terms of an ultimate goal of having true beliefs and avoiding false ones. While I think that’s right, this kind of goal-oriented epistemology is subject to many objections that have convinced most theorists to abandon the view. I defend a version of true-belief-maximizing epistemic act-consequentialism that I term “Truth-Loving Epistemic Consequentialism.” The view captures the intuitive motivation behind the truth-focused views, clarifies the roles of different epistemic normative notions, and takes seriously the complexities and limitations of real human reasoning. I also argue that we should think of the truth goal as being constitutive of our agency, which explains why we’re subject to epistemic norms.
Selected Related Publications:
Right Belief and True Belief (forthcoming, Oxford University Press)
“Demoting Promoting Objections to Epistemic Consequentialism” (2019, Philosophical Issues)
“What Epistemic Reasons are For: Against the Belief-Sandwich Distinction” with Sara Aronowitz (Forthcoming, Meaning, Decision, and Norms)
“Constitutivist Grounding Explanations and Naturalism” (under review)
Social Epistemology, Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Science
What does a truth-centered epistemology mean for real epistemic agents, groups, and institutions? That is the kind of question investigated by the Computational Social Philosophy Lab, an interdisciplinary group of researchers that investigates questions in 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 the role of diversity in group deliberations 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.
Selected Related Papers:
For more CSPL papers, see the Computational Social Philosophy Lab website.