My work is currently centered on three sometimes overlapping areas: epistemology, philosophy of logic, and the theory of normativity. In epistemology, I’m interested in what it is to do something for a reason, especially as this relates to the nature of inference. In philosophy of logic, I’ve been exploring the question of whether logic is normative, and the upshot for logical pluralism. In the theory of normativity, I’m particularly interested in how reasons and rationality are bound up with first-personal deliberation.
Forthcoming. “Fake News, Relevant Alternatives, and the Degradation of Our Epistemic Environment”. Inquiry. (Show/hide abstract)
This paper contributes to the growing literature in social epistemology of diagnosing the epistemically problematic features of fake news. I identify two novel problems: the problem of relevant alternatives; and the problem of the degradation of the epistemic environment. The former arises among individual epistemic transactions. By making salient, and thereby relevant, alternatives to knowledge claims, fake news stories threaten knowledge. The problem of the degradation of the epistemic environment arises at the level of entire epistemic communities. I introduce the notion of an epistemic environment, roughly the totality of resources and circumstances relevant to assessing epistemically interesting statuses, such as knowledge. Fake news degrades our epistemic environment by undermining confidence in epistemic institutions and altering epistemic habits, thereby making the environment less conducive to achieving positive epistemic statuses. This is problematic even if the decrease in confidence and the altering of habits are rational. I end by considering solutions to these problems, stressing the importance of reproaching each other for proliferating fake news. I argue that we should reproach even faultless purveyors of fake news. This is because fake news typically arises in abnormal epistemic contexts, where there is widespread ignorance of, and noncompliance with, correct epistemic norms.
Forthcoming. “Deflationism about Logic”. Journal of Philosophical Logic. (Show/hide abstract)
Logical consequence is typically construed as a metalinguistic relation between (sets of) sentences. Deflationism is an account of logic that challenges this orthodoxy. In Williamson’s recent presentation of deflationism, logic’s primary concern is with universal generalizations over absolutely everything. As well as an interesting account of logic in its own right, deflationism has also been recruited to decide between competing logics in resolving semantic paradoxes. This paper defends deflationism from its most important challenge to date, due to Ole Hjortland. It then presents two new problems for the view. Hjortland’s objection is that deflationism cannot discriminate between distinct logics. I show that his example of classical logic and supervaluationism depends on equivocating about whether the language includes a “definitely” operator. Moreover, I prove a result that blocks this line of objection no matter the choice of logics. I end by criticizing deflationism on two fronts. First, it cannot do the work it has been recruited to perform. That is, it cannot help adjudicate between competing logics. This is because a theory of logic cannot be as easily separated from a theory of truth as its proponents claim. Second, deflationism currently has no adequate answer to the following challenge: what does a sentence’s universal generalization have to do with its logical truth? I argue that the most promising, stipulative response on behalf of the deflationist amounts to an unwarranted change of subject.
2018. “Logical Pluralism without the Normativity”. Synthese. Coauthored with Gillian Russell. (Show/hide abstract)
Logical pluralism is the view that there is more than one logic. Logical normativism is the view that logic is normative. These positions have often been assumed to go hand-in-hand, but we show that one can be a logical pluralist without being a logical normativist. We begin by arguing directly against logical normativism. Then we reformulate one popular version of pluralism—due to Beall and Restall—to avoid a normativist commitment. We give three non-normativist pluralist views, the most promising of which depends not on logic’s normativity but on epistemic goals.
Dissertation: A Theory of Inference
There are three central questions that a theory of inference ought to answer.
- What is inference? In particular, what distinguishes transitions between mental states that count as inferential from those that do not?
- What is good inference? Some inferences transfer positive epistemic status from premises to conclusions. Others do not. Why?
- Why, if at all, must agents accept the conclusion of an inference?
A promising partial answer to these questions is given by a necessary constraint on inference. Taking. S infers a conclusion from some premises only if S takes the premises to support the conclusion.
Taking is subject to a version of Lewis Carroll’s regress, however.
I develop a theory of inference that secures Taking without regress, and that answers three central questions. Along the way, I apply some of these results to adjacent issues, like the problem of deviant causal chains.
The project is still nascent. I’ll update this page as its shape crystallizes.