Research

My primary research is in traditional and formal epistemology and philosophy of religion.  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! 

Publications

Belief and Credence: Why the Attitude-Type Matters.” Forthcoming in Philosophical Studies.

(Penultimate draft)

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 Faith.” Forthcoming in Religious Studies.

(Penultimate draft)

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.

Permissivism, Underdetermination, and Evidence” (with Margaret Turnbull). Forthcoming in The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Evidence (Clayton Littlejohn, Maria Lasonen-Aarnio, and Trent Dougherty, eds.). Routledge.

ABSTRACT: Uniqueness is the view that, for every proposition and body of evidence, there is one unique rational doxastic attitude. Permissivism, on the other hand, entails that multiple doxastic attitudes toward a proposition can be rationally held, given a body of evidence.  In this paper, we explore a neglected rationale for permissivism found in underdetermination.  We argue that thinking about the permissivism debate in terms of underdetermination is fruitful, as it helps us distinguish between different types of permissivism, sheds light on the relationship between permissivism and evidentialism, and dispels several classic objections to permissivism.

The Nature and Rationality of Faith.” Forthcoming in The New Theists (Joshua Rasmussen and Kevin Vallier, eds.). Routledge.

(Penultimate draft)

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 paper, 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.

(Penultimate draft | Official version)

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 in Progress

Belief, Credence, and Evidence

ABSTRACT: In this paper, 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: lotteries, cases of naked statistical evidence, and cases where some proposition lacks normic support. 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.

How Belief-Credence Dualism Explains Away Pragmatic Encroachment

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.

A Defense of Intrapersonal Belief Permissivism

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

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.