Research

Publications

“Agent-Awareness in Reflective Knowledge”

Erkenntnis, published online Nov. 7, 2017. Print edition forthcoming.

Abstract:   I argue that current discussions of the epistemological significance of reflection have entangled concerns about reflection with agential concerns. I begin by showing that a central strand of internalist criticism finds externalism unsatisfactory because it fails to provide a particular kind of selfknowledge, knowledge about the epistemic status of one’s own beliefs. Identifying this internalist motivation as the desire for a kind of self-knowledge opens up new possibilities and suggests new conceptual resources. I employ one of these resources—Richard Moran’s distinction between the theoretical stance and the deliberative stance—to locate two types of reflection: mere reflective awareness of one’s attitudes and agentawareness of one’s attitudes. I then examine Ernest Sosa’s account of the importance of reflection, showing how Moran’s distinction brings out the centrality of agential concerns in Sosa’s argument for reflective knowledge. I also consider briefly its relevance to fully apt knowledge. While I focus on Sosa’s epistemology, the point extends to internalism more generally.

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In Progress

“Getting Some Perspective on Perspectives”

Abstract of conference version:

Perspectives talk is ubiquitous in philosophy. The notion of a perspective is employed in discussions of phenomena as varied as self-consciousness, higher-order knowledge, agency, practical rationality, and epistemic rationality. Usages such as the “first person perspective,” “the perspective of the agent,” and “an epistemic perspective” are familiar enough that it is easy to forget that these locutions employ the concept of perspective as a metaphor. In this paper, I argue that the use of the perspective metaphor has non-trivial implications for how the phenomena theorized about is conceptualized. I begin with a brief discussion of what metaphors are and how they work, focusing on ontological metaphors. I then argue that there are two distinct concepts of a perspective that serve as distinct source domains for perspective metaphors: an indexical objective (IO) perspective, and an holistic interpretative (HI) perspective. These two source domains form the basis for quite different ways of conceptualizing phenomena in the target domain. In the final section, I apply this analysis to a particular context where perspective metaphors are frequently employed: that of the first person perspective. Each of these source domains suggests different problems and possibilities in thinking about the first person perspective.

“Willful Hermeneutical Ignorance in Climate Change Denial”

Conference version presented at the bi-ennial conference for the Society For Philosophy in the Contemporary World, Estes Park Colorado, August 2017.

In this paper, I argue that some cases of climate change denial can be helpfully understood as instances of what Gaile Polhaus identifies as willful hermeneutical ignorance. Willful hermeneutical ignorance is a type of epistemic injustice, or harm that occurs to a person in the person’s capacity as a knower. Climate change denial is a kind of epistemic harm, for those who deny climate change fail to have knowledge of the relevant scientific facts about the reality of global climate change. However, many people who deny climate change are responsible for their own ignorance, and thus are engaged in a kind of epistemic self-harm. Adopting this framework has two benefits. First, it is consistent with current psychological research on the role of ideology and unconscious motivational biases in climate change denial. Second, it provides a practical suggestion for overcoming climate change denial by identifying specific missing conceptual resources.

“Externalism for Doxastic Agents?”

There is a tension between externalism and a central obligation of doxastic agency—the obligation to be involved in deliberately shaping one’s beliefs in light of one’s best judgments about what the reasons support. I consider the familiar case of Norman, the reliable clairvoyant, and argue that Norman’s case reveals a deliberative problem for externalism that arises from within a person’s first-person point of view. Externalism leaves open the possibility that sometimes the only way to aim at knowledge is to reject the aim of having reasonable belief, and a common distinction between various epistemological aims or concerns does not dissipate this tension. I then show that despite the fact that the tension arises from within a person’s deliberations, it cannot be settled by deliberation. Rather, it is a higher-order worry about whether pursuing knowledge can direct a person qua doxastic agent to eschew her own doxastic agency. As a result, externalists need to recognize that the onus is on them to defend the significance of doxastic agency within an externalist theory of knowledge.

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“The Perspective of Rational Deliberation”

Many philosophers take there to be something epistemologically significant about having a view of the reasonableness of one’s own beliefs. But under what conditions does a person count as having such a perspective? I argue here that there is a special circumstance in which a person who engages in an entirely first-order rational deliberation (involving no self-regarding thoughts) and draws a first-order conclusion has a second-order perspective on the reasonableness of her own beliefs. In doing so, I defend two claims: first, when a person believes that p as the result of her first-order rational deliberation, she undertakes a second-order commitment to taking herself to have good reasons for believing that p. Second, when a person believes that p as the result of her first-order rational deliberation, she will also have a second-order view that she has good reasons for believing what she does.

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