Epistemology Personalized. abstract
Recent epistemology has focused almost exclusively on propositional knowledge. This paper considers an underexplored area of epistemology, namely knowledge of persons: if propositional knowledge is a state of mind, consisting in a subject's attitude to a (true) proposition, the account developed here thinks of interpersonal knowledge as a state of minds, involving a subject's attitude to another (existing) subject. This kind of knowledge is distinct from propositional knowledge, but it exhibits a gradability characteristic of context-sensitivity, and admits of shifty thresholds. It is supported by a wide range of unexplored linguistic data and intuitive cases; and it promises to illuminate debates in epistemology, philosophy of religion, and ethics.
Gricean Quality. [under review] abstract
Some philosophers oppose recent arguments for the Knowledge Account of Assertion by claiming that assertion, being an act much like any other, will be subject to norms governing acts generally, such as those articulated by Grice for the purpose of successful, cooperative endeavours. But in fact, Grice is a traitor to their cause; or rather, they are his dissenters, not his disciples. Drawing on Grice's unpublished papers, I show that he thought of asserting as a special linguistic act in need of its own norm, and he tied his maxim of Quality to knowledge. I develop a quite simple argument showing that the Quality maxim is not dependent on the Cooperative Principle. If it is not thus dependent, then the Cooperative Principle cannot be the explanation of, or source of normativity for, the Quality maxim. Thus, leveraging the insights informing the maxim of Quality actually provides the resources for a distinctive positive case that knowledge is the constitutive norm of assertion.
Epistemic Parentheticals. (with Martijn Blaauw) [under review] abstract
Parenthetical verbs take on a particular use in the first person present perfect tense: they commonly serve to clarify the speaker's own emotional or evidential position, or her own take on what speech act she is making. The parenthetical use (called 'slifting' in linguistics) of epistemic language in assertion---particularly 'I know,' 'I believe,' and 'I think'---attracts interest because the use of such language signals a speaker's (perceived) strength of epistemic position. Recent debate over the epistemic norm of assertion has renewed interest in how epistemic verbs, especially when used parenthetically, may be handled in a systematic way. This paper introduces new linguistic considerations from parenthetically positioned epistemic verbs, and develops an argument for how such considerations are best explained.
Expert Opinion and Second-Hand Knowledge. [under review] abstract
Expert testimony figures in recent debates over how best to understand the norm of assertion and the domain-specific epistemic expectations placed on testifiers. Cases of experts asserting with only isolated second-hand knowledge have been used to shed light on whether knowledge is sufficient for epistemically permissible assertion. I argue that relying on such cases of expert testimony introduces several problems concerning how we understand expert knowledge, and the sharing of such knowledge through testimony. Refinements are needed to clarify exactly what principles are being tested by such cases; but once refined, such cases raise more questions than they answer.
Knowledge Challenges and Presuppositions. [under review] abstract
The significance of conversational patterns involving the challenge questions 'How do you know?' and 'Do you know that?' is debated in the norms of assertion literature. I introduce important new data from such patterns which reinforce the 'presupposition view' of such questions and thereby support the Knowledge Norm of Assertion. Evaluating such data provides a more complete interpretation of the relevant conversational examples.
Pragmatic Encroachment and Theistic Knowledge. [under review] abstract
If knowledge is sensitive to practical stakes, then whether one knows depends in part on the practical costs of being wrong. When considering religious belief, the practical costs of being wrong about theism may differ dramatically between the theist (if there is no God) and the atheist (if there is a God). This paper explores the prospects, on pragmatic encroachment, for knowledge of theism (even if true) and of atheism (even if true), given the two ways one could be in error, namely by holding a false belief, and by missing out on a true belief. These considerations set up a more general puzzle of epistemic preference when faced with the choice between two beliefs, only one of which could become knowledge.
Iffy Predictions and Proper Expectations (with John Turri), Synthese, forthcoming. abstract
What individuates the speech act of prediction? The standard view is that prediction is individuated by the fact that it is the unique speech act that requires future-directed content. We argue against this view and two successor views. We then lay out several other potential strategies for individuating prediction, including the sort of view we favor. We suggest that prediction is individuated normatively and has a special connection to the standards of expectation. In the process, we advocate some constraints that we think a good theory of prediction should respect.
Evil, Evidence, and Skeptical Theism (with John Hawthorne and Yoaav Isaacs), in preparation for Oxford Studies in Philosophy of Religion. abstract
In the skeptical theism literature, arguments ensue over whether (and how) evil is evidence against theism, how one ought to adjust one's credence in theism given evil, and when appearances or seemings permit one to make claims about what is probable. We aim to advance the discussion by clearing up some of what we find to be confusions in this literature. (in progress)
Knowledge Norms, in preparation for the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. abstract
Covering the Knowledge Norm of Assertion (and its rivals), the Knowledge Norm of Action (and pragmatic encroachment), the Knowledge Norm of Belief, and the Knowledge Norm of Disagreement. (in progress)
Believing on Authority, in preparation for European Journal for Philosophy of Religion. abstract
Part of a symposium on Linda Zagzebski's Epistemic Authority, edited by Marcin Iwanicki. (in progress)
Dubious Objections from Iterated Conjunctions, Philosophical Studies 162 (2013): 355-358. Also here. abstract
The Knowledge Account of Assertion -- roughly: one should not assert what one does not know -- can explain a variety of Moorean conjunctions, a fact often cited as evidence in its favor. David Sosa ("Dubious Assertions," Philosophical Studies, 2009) has objected that the account does not generalize satisfactorily, since it cannot explain the infelicity of certain iterated conjunctions without appealing to the controversial 'KK' principle. This essay responds by showing how the Knowledge Account can handle such conjunctions without use of the KK principle. (Discussed by Martin Montminy here.)
Assertion, Knowledge, and Predictions, Analysis 72 (2012): 102-105. Also here. abstract
John N. Williams (1994) and Matthew Weiner (2005) invoke predictions in order to undermine the normative relevance of knowledge for assertions; in particular, Weiner argues, predictions are important counterexamples to the Knowledge Account of Assertion (KAA). I argue here that they are not true counterexamples at all, a point that can be agreed upon even by those who reject KAA.
Two More for the Knowledge Account of Assertion, Analysis 71 (2011): 684-687. Also here. abstract
The Knowledge Account of Assertion (KAA) has received added support recently from data on prompting assertion (John Turri 2010) and from a refinement suggesting that assertions ought to express knowledge (John Turri 2011). This paper adds another argument from parenthetical positioning, and then argues that KAA's unified explanation of some of the earliest data adduced in its favor recommends KAA over its rivals. (Discussed by Martijn Blaauw here, and by Rachel McKinnon & John Turri here.)
The Modal Gap: the Objective Problem of Lessing's Ditch(es) and Kierkegaard's Subjective Reply, Religious Studies 42 (2006): 27-44. abstract
This essay expands upon the suggestion that G.E. Lessing's infamous 'ditch' is actually three ditches: temporal, metaphysical, and existential gaps. It examines the complex problems these ditches raise, and then proposes that Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments and Concluding Unscientific Postscript exhibit a similar triadic structure, which may signal a deliberate attempt to engage and respond to Lessing's three gaps. Viewing the Climacean project in this way offers an enhanced understanding of the intricacies of Lessing's rationalist approach to both religion and historical truth, and illuminates Climacus's subjective response to Lessing.