- Accuracy or Coherence?
- Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (forthcoming)
- How should rational believers pursue the aim of truth? Epistemic utility theorists have argued that by combining the tools of decision theory with an epistemic form of value—gradational accuracy, proximity to the truth—we can justify various epistemological norms. I argue that deriving these results requires using decision rules that are different in important respects from those used in standard (practical) decision theory. If we use the more familiar decision rules, we can’t justify the epistemic coherence norms that epistemic utility theory had hoped to justify. In short, those of us who are attracted to the project of epistemic utility theory face a dilemma. If we choose "consequentialist" rules, then we can vindicate the idea that rational belief has the aim of accuracy—but at the cost of giving up attractive epistemic norms. If we choose "nonconsequentialist" rules, then we can avoid predicting rational violations of probabilistic coherence, conditionalization, and so on—but our epistemic decision rules will stand in need of a philosophical interpretation.
- Subjective Probability and the Content/Attitude Distinction
- Oxford Studies in Epistemology (forthcoming)
On an attractive, naturalistically respectable theory of intentionality, mental contents are a form of measurement system for representing behavioral and psychological dispositions. This paper argues that a consequence of this view is that the content/attitude distinction is measurement system relative. As a result, there is substantial arbitrariness in the content/attitude distinction. Whether some measurement of mental states counts as characterizing the content of mental states or the attitude is not a question of empirical discovery but of theoretical utility. If correct, this observation has ramifications in the theory of rationality. Some epistemologists have argued that imprecise credences are rationally required, while others have argued that precise credences are rationally required. If the measure theory is correct, however, then neither imprecise credences nor precise credences can be rationally required.
- Deontic Modals
- Routledge Handbook of Metaethics (forthcoming)
- Don't Stop Believing
- Canadian Journal of Philosophy (forthcoming)
- It's been argued there are no diachronic norms of epistemic rationality. These arguments come partly in response to certain kinds of counterexamples to Conditionalization, but are mainly motivated by a form of internalism that appears to be in tension with any sort of diachronic coherence requirements. I argue that there are, in fact, fundamentally diachronic norms of rationality. And this is to reject at least a strong version of internalism. But I suggest a replacement for Conditionalization that salvages internalist intuitions, and carves a middle ground between (probabilist versions of) conservatism and evidentialism.
- Chancy Accuracy and Imprecise Credence
- Philosophical Perspectives 2016, 29 (1): 67–81
Can we extend accuracy-based epistemic utility theory to imprecise credences? There's no obvious way of proceeding: some stipulations will be necessary for either (i) the notion of accuracy or (ii) the epistemic decision rule. With some prima facie plausible stipulations, imprecise credences are always required. With others, they’re always impermissible. Care is needed to reach the familiar evidential view of imprecise credence: that whether precise or imprecise credences are required depends on the character of one's evidence. I propose an epistemic utility theoretic defense of a common view about how evidence places demands on imprecise credence: that your spread of credence should cover the range of chance hypotheses left open by your evidence. I argue that objections to the form of epistemic utility theoretic argument that I use will extend to the standard motivation for epistemically mandatory imprecise credences.
- Subjective Ought
- Ergo, 2(27), 2015, pp. 678-710
- The subjective deontic ought generates counterexamples to classical inference rules like modus ponens. It also conflicts with the orthodox view about modals and conditionals in natural language semantics. Most accounts of the subjective ought build substantive and unattractive normative assumptions into the semantics of the modal. I sketch a general semantic account, along with a metasemantic story about the context sensitivity of information-sensitive operators.
- Epistemic Expansions
- Res Philosophica, proceedings of the Res Philosophica Transformation Experiences Conference, vol. 2, 2015
- Epistemology should take seriously the possibility of rationally evaluable changes in conceptual resources. Epistemic decision theory compares belief states in terms of epistemic value. But it's standardly restricted to belief states that don't differ in their conceptual resources. I argue that epistemic decision theory should be generalized to make belief states with differing concepts comparable. I characterize some possible constraints on epistemic utility functions. Traditionally, the epistemic utility of a total belief state has been understood as a function of the epistemic utility of individual (partial) beliefs. The most natural ways of generalizing this account generate a kind of repugnant conclusion. I characterize some possible alternatives, reflecting different epistemic norms.
- Ecumenical Expressivism Ecumenicized
- Analysis, 2015 75 (3): 442-450
- The 'If P, ought P' problem
- Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, proceedings of the USC Deontic Modality Workshop
I discuss the so-called "Zvolenszky problem": that possible worlds semantic accounts of modals, combined with the widely accepted restrictor analysis of conditionals, validate the following schema: If P, ought P. But this schema isn't valid. For example, it's false to say that if you beat up elderly people, you ought to beat up elderly people. I consider two inadequate solutions to this problem and show how they can be combined to generate a more adequate solution. Then I offer a puzzle case for the new account which suggests that we might need a less conservative amendment to the standard semantics. I offer two semantic accounts that make sense of the puzzle case and explain these accounts' merits and risks.
- Deontic Modals Without Decision Theory
- Proceedings of Sinn und Bedeutung 17, pp. 167-182. (2012)
Works in Progress
- Imprecise Evidence without Imprecise Credences
- Defenders of imprecise credences hold that unspecific evidence requires unspecific credences. I offer a natural strategy for addressing some of the challenges this view faces. But adopting my strategy amounts to going precise in a particular way: instead of attributing to agents sets of credence functions, we attribute them uncertainty over sets of credence functions. I argue that the reasons that have been offered for going imprecise are equally good, and sometimes better, reasons for adopting this kind of precise view.
- Normative Uncertainty and Normative Pluralism (email me for a recent draft)
- I show a way in which normative uncertainty and normative pluralism are functionally equivalent (with some caveats). I argue that the normative noncognitivist can do without normative uncertainty altogether.