My primary research lies at the intersection of traditional and formal epistemology. Broadly, I am interested in the relationship between traditional and formal epistemology: exploring ways the two subdisciplines come apart, but also their overlap and common themes. My dissertation is focused on the relationship between each subdiscipline’s doxastic building blocks: belief and credence. Making progress on the relationship between belief and credence is one way to bring together the two branches of epistemology and see their relationship more clearly. Within this framework, my research also explores questions about the nature of evidence and the relationship between practical and epistemic rationality. I apply this work in epistemology to philosophy of religion, specifically to the epistemic and practical rationality of faith and religious commitment. For more on my research, my research statement is available here. Below are abstracts of my published articles and works in progress with some drafts linked. Feel free to email me for drafts not linked here!
“How Belief-Credence Dualism Explains Away Pragmatic Encroachment.” Forthcoming in The Philosophical Quarterly.
ABSTRACT: Belief-credence dualism is the view that we have both beliefs and credences and neither attitude is reducible to the other. Pragmatic encroachment is the view that stakes alone can affect the epistemic rationality of states like knowledge or justified belief. In this paper, I argue that dualism can offer a unique explanation of pragmatic encroachment cases. First, I explain pragmatic encroachment and the motivations for it. Then, I explain dualism and some of the basic philosophical and psychological motivations for it. Finally, I show how dualism can explain the intuitions that underlie pragmatic encroachment. My basic proposal is that in high stakes cases, it is not that one cannot rationally believe that p; instead, one ought to not rely on one’s belief that p. One should rather rely on one’s credence in p. I conclude that we need not commit ourselves to pragmatic encroachment in order to explain the intuitiveness of the cases that motivate it.
“Belief and Credence: Why the Attitude-Type Matters.” Forthcoming in Philosophical Studies.
ABSTRACT: In this paper, I argue that the relationship between belief and credence is a central question in epistemology. This is because the belief-credence relationship has significant implications for a number of current epistemological issues. I focus on five controversies: permissivism, disagreement, pragmatic encroachment, doxastic voluntarism, and the relationship between doxastic attitudes and prudential rationality. I argue that the implications of each debate depend on whether the relevant attitude is belief or credence. This means that (i) epistemologists should pay attention to whether they are framing questions in terms of belief or in terms of credence and (ii) the success or failure of a reductionist project in the belief-credence realm has significant implications for epistemology generally.
“Belief, Credence, and Evidence.” Forthcoming in Synthese.
ABSTRACT: I explore how rational belief and rational credence relate to evidence. I begin by looking at three cases where rational belief and credence seem to respond differently to evidence: cases of naked statistical evidence, lotteries, and hedged assertions. I consider an explanation for these cases, namely, that one ought not form beliefs on the basis of statistical evidence alone, and raise worries for this view. Then, I suggest another view that explains how belief and credence relate to evidence. My view focuses on the possibilities that the evidence makes salient. I argue that this makes better sense of the difference between rational credence and rational belief than other accounts.
“Belief, Credence, and Faith.” Forthcoming in Religious Studies.
ABSTRACT: In this article, I argue that faith’s going beyond the evidence need not compromise faith’s epistemic rationality. First, I explain how some of the recent literature on belief and credence points to a distinction between what I call B-evidence and C-evidence. Then, I apply this distinction to rational faith. I argue that if faith is more sensitive to B-evidence than to C-evidence, faith can go beyond the evidence and still be epistemically rational.
(Winner of the Religious Studies Post Graduate Essay Prize)
(A short, popular-level summary of this paper was published on a blog called “The Open Table” here.)
“Permissivism, Underdetermination, and Evidence” (with Margaret Turnbull). Forthcoming in The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Evidence (Clayton Littlejohn and Maria Lasonen-Aarnio eds.). Routledge.
ABSTRACT: Permissivism is the thesis that, for some body of evidence and a proposition p, there is more than one rational doxastic attitude any agent with that evidence can take toward p. Proponents of uniqueness deny permissivism, maintaining that every body of evidence always determines a single rational doxastic attitude. In this paper, we explore the debate between permissivism and uniqueness about evidence, outlining some of the major arguments on each side. We then consider how permissivism can be understood as an underdetermination thesis, and show how this moves the debate forward in fruitful ways: in distinguishing between different types of permissivism, in dispelling classic objections to permissivism, and in shedding light on the relationship between permissivism and evidentialism.
“The Nature and Rationality of Faith.” Forthcoming in The New Theists (Joshua Rasmussen and Kevin Vallier, eds.). Routledge.
ABSTRACT: A popular objection to theistic commitment involves the idea that faith is irrational. Specifically, some seem to put forth something like the following argument: (P1) Everyone (or almost everyone) who has faith is epistemically irrational, (P2) All theistic believers have faith, thus (C) All (or most) theistic believers are epistemically irrational. In this chapter, I argue that this line of reasoning fails. I do so by considering a number of candidates for what faith might be. I argue that, for each candidate, either (P1) is false or (P2) is false. Then, I make two positive suggestions for how faith can be epistemically rational but nonetheless have a unique relationship to evidence: one, that Jamesian self-justifying attitudes describe a distinctive kind of faith in oneself and others, and two, that faith is not solely based on empirical evidence.
(A short, popular-level summary of this paper was published on a blog called “The Open Table” here.)
“Wagering Against Divine Hiddenness.” (2016). In The European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 8(4): 85-105.
ABSTRACT: J.L. Schellenberg argues that divine hiddenness provides an argument for the conclusion that God does not exist, for if God existed he would not allow non-resistant non-belief to occur, but non-resistant non-belief does occur, so God does not exist. In this paper, I argue that the stakes involved in theistic considerations put pressure on Schellenberg’s premise that non-resistant non-belief occurs. First, I specify conditions for someone’s being a resistant non-believer. Then, I argue that many people fulfil these conditions because, given some plausible assumptions, there is a very good pragmatic reason to be a theist rather than an atheist. I assume it is more likely that theists go to heaven than atheists, and I argue there is a non-zero probability that one can receive infinite utility and a method of comparing outcomes with infinite utilities in which the probability of each outcome affects the final expected values. Then, I show how this argument entails there is no good reason to think that there are very many non-resistant non-believers.
(I discuss this paper on “The Ultimist” podcast here!)
Works Under Review
A Defense of Intrapersonal Belief Permissivism (Revise & Resubmit)
ABSTRACT: Permissivism is the view that a body of evidence can permit more than one rational doxastic attitude toward a particular proposition. In this paper, I argue for Intrapersonal Belief Permissivism (IBP): that possibly, for some proposition p, a single agent, given her evidence, can rationally hold more than one belief-attitude toward p. First, I respond to several objections to IBP from White, Hedden, and others. Then, I give two positive arguments for IBP; the first involves epistemic supererogation and the second involves doubt. I conclude that IBP is a view that philosophers should take seriously.
Belief, Faith, and Hope (Under Review)
ABSTRACT: In this paper, I examine three attitudes: belief, faith, and hope. I argue that all three attitudes can play the same role in rationalizing action. First, I explain two models of rational action – the decision-theory model and the belief-desire model. Both models entail there are two components of rational action: an epistemic component and an affective component. Then, using this framework, I show how belief, faith, and hope that p can all make it rational to accept, or act as if, p. I conclude by showing how my picture can explain how action-oriented commitments can be rational over time, both in the face of counterevidence and in the face of waning affections.
Works in Progress
On the Independence of Belief and Credence
ABSTRACT: Belief-credence dualism is the view that we have both beliefs and credences, and neither attitude is reducible to the other. In this paper, I assume that dualism is true: belief and credence are minimally irreducible. Given this, I explore the independence question: just how independent are belief and credence? I look at this question from two angles: a descriptive one (as a psychological matter, how much can belief and credence come apart?) and a normative one (how far ought one’s beliefs and one’s credence to come apart in various epistemic situations?). Ultimately, I suggest that the two attitudes may be more independent than one might think.
Credence: A Belief-First View (with Andrew Moon)
ABSTRACT: This paper explains and defends a belief-first view of the relationship between belief and credence. On this view, credences are a species of beliefs, and the degree of credence is determined by the content of what is believed. We begin by developing what we take to be the most plausible belief-first view. Then, we offer several arguments for this view. Finally, we show how it can resist a prominent objection in the literature that has been raised to belief-first views. We conclude that the belief-first view is more plausible than many have previously supposed.
Epistemic Akrasia and Belief-Credence Dualism (with Peter Tan)
ABSTRACT: We argue that familiar cases of epistemic akrasia support belief-credence dualism. Belief-credence dualism the view that belief and credence are distinct, equally fundamental attitudes. Consider the case of an agent who both believes p and has a low credence in p. We argue that dualists, as opposed to belief-firsters (who say belief is more fundamental than credence) and credence-firsters (who say credence is more fundamental than belief) can best explain features of akratic cases, including the observation that akratic beliefs seem to be held despite possessing a defeater for those beliefs, and the observation that, in akratic cases, one can simultaneously believe and have low confidence in the very same proposition.
Credences are not Beliefs: An Argument from Graspability
ABSTRACT: On a belief-first view, what is it to have a credence just is to have a particular kind of belief, that is, a belief who content involves a probability judgment or epistemic modal. Here, I argue that belief-first views of this sort cannot account for agents who have credences in propositions they can barely comprehend. This gives us good reason to think that, however credences differ from beliefs, they do not differ in virtue of adding additional content to the believed proposition.
Epistemic Permissivism and Pascal’s Wager
ABSTRACT: Epistemic Permissivism is the thesis that, given a body of evidence and a proposition P, there is more than one rational doxastic attitude that one can take toward P. Pascal’s Wager is the idea that one ought to believe in God for practical reasons, because of what one can gain if theism is true and what one has to lose if theism is false. In this paper, I argue that if Epistemic Permissivism is true, then the defender of Pascal’s Wager has powerful responses to two objections. First, I argue that if Permissivism is true, then Permissivism is likely true about theistic belief. Then, I show how Epistemic Permissivism about theistic belief dispels two objections to Pascal’s Wager: the objection that wagering is impossible, and the objection that wagering is epistemically impermissible.