Most of my work is in epistemology and ethical theory. The one big idea that I’ve defended over my career is that we can only understand how there can be categorical requirements (such as those (typically) associated with morality) if we embrace a radical and unorthodox externalism in epistemology. On my view, you cannot have false, justified beliefs about what you ought to do (and this requirement, in turn, generalizes to beliefs about non-normative matters.)
Here’s my dinner party argument for this view. Suppose you’re designing something like a robot or an autonomous car. It would need to come to some view about what to do. If those judgments about whether to go left, accelerate, stop, etc. didn’t determine what the thing did, it wouldn’t function as it should. We don’t want gaps between the thing’s judgments about what to do and what it does. It makes no sense to design the thing to be akratic, to have its behavior governed by something other than its normative judgments. So, we’d want it to conform to Enkrasia (i.e., to see to it that it didn’t both judge that it ought to X and do other than X). This rules out the possibility of rightly or justifiably judging that it ought to X when it shouldn’t. Once we’re at this point, we can show that a kind of normative judgment cannot be justified and mistaken. And once we’re at this point, considerations about priority kick in–should we think of the facts about whether we ought to X as having priority over our best judgments about whether we ought to X. I think that the facts about whether we ought to X take priority here–they aren’t shaped or shifted by our best normative judgments; they function as independent constraints that we shouldn’t violate. At this point, just about every orthodox account of justified belief is done. Add in some clever arguments about higher-order evidence, the possibility of misleading evidence, or externalism about the justification of action, all the non-factive accounts of justification are done, too.
Lately I’ve been working on general reasonology and knowledge-first epistemology. Some of this is on the ontology of reasons (here) and some is on the role(s) that normative reasons should play in our theories of justification and obligation (here and here). Some of this is on why we should think that knowledge is the norm of belief (here).
This summer I’ll probably finish a textbook on epistemology and start a monograph on knowledge-first epistemology.
Before coming to London, I received my PhD in Philosophy from the University of Nebraska (where I worked mainly with Mark van Roojen, John Gibbons, Robert Audi, and Al Casullo), taught for a few years at SMU (and a semester as an adjunct at TCU), taught at the University of Texas, San Antonio, and got a lovely dog. In my free time, I try to catch up on mindless admin.
Some of my favorite recent papers (covering epistemic akrasia, the failures of evidentialism, the proof paradoxes in philosophy of law, the reasons-first movement, the justification-excuse distinction, and the virtues of a gnostic approach to epistemic value):
- Stop Making Sense? On a Puzzle about Rationality. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2018). Prize winning essay in the 2015 Young Epistemologist Contest.
- Truth, Knowledge, and the Standard of Proof in Criminal Law. Synthese (forthcoming).
- Being More Realistic About Reasons: On Rationality and Reasons Perspectivism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (forthcoming).
- A Plea for Epistemic Excuses. In Fabian Dorsch Julien Dutant (ed.), The New Evil Demon Problem. Oxford University Press (forthcoming).
- The Right in the Good: A Defense of Teleological Non-Consequentialism in Epistemology. In Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij Jeff Dunn (ed.), Epistemic Consequentialism. Oxford University Press (forthcoming).