My research analyzes how knowledge and morality interact. Knowledge is relevant to morality in that possessing or lacking it impacts whether a person is morally responsible for his or her actions. And morality is relevant to knowledge because knowledge is social concept governed by moral norms and practices. My research involves an innovative approach to solving problems in ethics and epistemology. I leverage the tools of one domain to increase the depth of our understanding about the other domain. This stabilizes theoretical imbalances in the literature, and it suggests applications to everyday life regarding what we know and are responsible for.
“A Dilemma for the Knowledge Despite Falsehood Strategy,” with Christopher Buford, Episteme, 2017
One strategy for dealing with apparent cases of knowledge from falsehood is to deny that the knowledge actually is from a falsehood. Those endorsing such a move have suggested that cases of knowledge from falsehood are instead cases of knowledge despite falsehood. We here provide a dilemma for those wanting to reject the possibility of knowledge from falsehood. The dilemma is explained in part by examining recent attempts to deny that knowledge can be inferentially derived from falsehood.
“Responsibilist Evidentialism,” Philosophical Studies, 172(11), 2015
When is a person justified in believing a proposition? In this paper, I defend a view according to which a person is justified in believing a proposition just in case the person’s evidence sufficiently supports the proposition and the person responsibly acquired and sustained the evidence that supports the proposition. This view overcomes a deficiency in a prominent theory of epistemic justification. As championed by Earl Conee and Richard Feldman, Evidentialism is a theory subject to counterexamples at the hands of cases involving epistemic irresponsibility. I critically discuss such a case as put forward by Jason Baehr. After providing an argument that clarifies why the case is problematic for Evidentialism, I defend my argument from a response by Earl Conee. Then I develop a theory of epistemic justification capable of handling cases involving epistemic irresponsibility, and I defend this theory from evidentialist objections.
“Reflective Equilibrium – A Brief Introduction,” in Methods in Analytic Philosophy, ed., Joachim Horvath, Bloomsbury (forthcoming)
Larger Research Projects
Responsibility Beyond Belief: The Epistemic Condition of Moral Responsibility
While research on the knowledge condition for moral responsibility has tended to focus on whether ignorance excuses a person from moral responsibility, my work shows the importance of an additional focus on whether knowledge makes a person morally responsible. Adopting a virtue-theoretic understanding of knowledge, as a belief that is true because of a person’s intellectual abilities, shows that the standard focus on ignorance has left resources underdeveloped that are capable of handling cases involving wide-spread moral ignorance. This approach brings knowledge per se back into the analysis of the epistemic condition, opening a new direction for research on how knowledge interacts with moral responsibility.
In Praise of Credit: A Theory of Knowledge
This research project defends a theory of knowledge that is a form of virtue epistemology, which conceives of knowledge as a true belief that is creditable to the exercise of a person’s cognitive abilities. Adapting concepts from ethics and moral responsibility I revamp the credit theory of knowledge to overcome objections to the view. I argue that knowledge is a praiseworthy achievement for which the person is answerable. I demonstrate how this praise theory of knowledge successfully addresses important problems in epistemology, such as external world skepticism, the value problem, and the Gettier problem.
Manuscripts in Preparation
“Moral Ignorance is Never Exculpatory”
“Giving the Credit Theory of Knowledge the Praise It’s Due”
“Epistemic Justification, Responsibility, and Blamelessness”
“When Evidence One Should Have Had Undermines Justification”
“Divine Foreknowledge and the Zygote Argument”
“Balancing the Moral Ledger”
“Knowledge and Responsibility: The Epistemic Condition on Moral Responsibility”
In my dissertation, I argue for an account of the epistemic condition on moral responsibility. In the Introduction and Chapter 1, I examine key concepts and positions in the debate over the epistemic condition. In Chapter 2, I address a skeptical challenge involving wrongful acts done from ignorance. This challenge stems from a view called “internalism” whereby chains of culpability for one’s ignorance must always trace back to acts of clear-eyed akrasia (i.e., knowing wrongdoing in full view of the facts). Internalism is highly revisionary of our ordinary practices. If internalism is true, people are morally responsible for their actions far less often than we think. In response, I argue for a view called “externalism.” This view allows culpability for one’s ignorance to bottom out in acts done from the non-akratic exercise of epistemic vices. In Chapter 3, I consider difficult cases involving moral ignorance. I argue that when a person commits wrongful acts in ignorance that the acts are wrong this never excuses the agent from being morally responsibility and blameworthy. I do this by endorsing the idea that responsibility is a matter of answerability. It is a matter of it being right to request of the person the reasons she took to justify her actions and attitudes. Lastly, in Chapter 4, I address issues emerging from Chapter 3—whether intellectual difficulty in discovering moral truth or constitutive moral luck in becoming the sort of person that one is mitigates blameworthiness for acts done from ignorance. I argue that difficulty and luck do not mitigate blameworthiness.
Committee: Kevin Falvey, John Greco, Matthew Hanser, Pamela Hieronymi, and Aaron Zimmerman (Chair)