Research

My primary areas of research are in epistemology, and in the philosophy of language, particularly, issues concerning linguistic meaning and cognition. The list of drafts and works in progress below gives you an idea into the kinds of issues that interest me. (Updated Aug. 3rd, 2013).

Justified Believing is Tracking Your Evidential Commitments

Logos and Episteme III.4 (545-564), 2012

According to my Commitment-tracking theory of the rationality of inference, an inference is rational only if it is properly evidence-tracking. What counts as evidence for a subject is a matter of a subject's commitments. This commitment- tracking theory of evidence states that, for a subject S, what counts as evidence for what depends both on the structure and content of S's knowledge, beliefs, and credences, and on a set of objective, subject-independent normative principles that generate from that noetic structure a new structure, the class of beliefs and credences to which S is committed. This latter class of commitments is what S's inferences must track in order to be rational. The Commitment-Tracking theory makes sense of the way in which evidence seems to be both subjective and objective, and it blocks a certain kind of skepticism regarding the rationality of inferences.

 

Calibrated Probabilities and the Epistemology of Disagreement

forthcoming in Synthese. Link is to penultimate draft. Please reference and cite final draft only.

 

This paper uses two different measures of reliability for probabilistic belief-revision rules, Calibration and Brier Scoring, to assess the comparative reliability of two belief-revision rules relevant to the epistemology of disagreement, the Equal Weight and Stay the Course rules. On the Calibration measure of reliability, epistemic peerhood is easy to come by, and employing the Equal Weight rule in the case of peer disagreement generally renders you less reliable than Staying the Course. On the Brier-Score measure of reliability, epistemic peerhood is much more difficult to come by, but employing the Equal Weight rule in the case of peer disagreement always renders you more reliable than Staying the Course. I conclude with some lessons we can draw from these formal results for the normative issues rational belief-change in the face of peer disagreement, foreshadowing part II of my work on this topic, ``On the Rationality of Belief-Invariance in Light of Peer Disagreement."

Click Here to download the two partitioning programs mentioned in the paper. Instructions are also enclosed.

 

The Rationality of Belief-Invariance in Light of Peer Disagreement

Philosophical Review 120:2 Apr. 2011. Link is to penultimate draft. Please reference and cite final draft only.

 

This is part II of the work on the epistemological significance of disagreement and a continuation of the paper posted above, "Calibrated Probabilities and the Epistemology of Disagreement". This paper draws two anti-skeptical lessons from the formal results of the first paper, namely, that it is not the case that you are always rationally obliged to change your mind in the face of disagreement, and that when you are so-obliged, the result is that you increase your knowledge. In the process, I respond to the Elga objection to Stay the Course views in the epistemology of disagreement by showing how, on any measure of reliability and epistemic peerhood, the inference from disagreement to epistemic inferiority or superiority is invalid.

 

 

Are Cantonese Speakers Really Descriptivists? Revisiting Cross-cultural Semantics Cognition 115 (2010) 320-329

This is a response to Machery, Mallon, Nichols, and Stich's 2004 "Semantics, Cross-cultural Style" in which I provide data that native Cantonese-speakers are not descriptivists about the referents of proper names.

 

 

Reasoning about Knowledge: the Role of Evidence and Stakes

(manuscript. Please request permission to cite)

This is an empirical study of the role that visual evidence and monetary stakes play in third-party knowledge ascriptions. Subjects are given an "online" task in which they use information about the evidence available to two third parties who are investigating whether P, and information about what is at stake for the third-parties in getting things right or wrong about P, to draw a conclusion about which third party is likeliest to know that P. The conclusion is that whether stakes play a role in knowledge-ascriptions might in fact be task-dependent.

 

 

 

 Vagueness and Ambivalence

forthcoming in Acta Analytica

What is the proper attitude toward what is expressed by a vague sentence in the face of borderline evidence? Many call this attitude “ambivalence” and distinguish it from uncertainty. It has been argued that Classical Epistemicism and classical probability theory fail to characterize this attitude, and that we must therefore abandon classical logic or classical probabilities in the presence of vagueness. In this paper, I give a characterization of ambivalence assuming a supervaluationist semantics for vague terms that does not revise either. The theory, which I call the theory of Superprobabilities, identifies the proper attitude toward a vague sentence, in the presence of exact borderline evidence, as the set of classical probabilities of the evidence on each member of the set of all precisifications of a vague sentence. I defend the use of sets of probabilities against objections by generalization the theory of Superprobabilities to a theory of rational betting called Superrationality. I then compare the merits of the theory of Superprobabilities to Classical Epistemicism and nonclassical probabilities theories with respect to the problem of ambivalence.

The Dynamic Foundations of Epistemic Rationality

PhD Thesis, Princeton University. January 2007

 

Abstract: Classical theories of epistemic rationality take an agent’s individual beliefs to be the only things that are rational or irrational. For them, rationality is wholly static. Recent work in epistemology take sets of individual beliefs and also changes of belief over time to be rational or irrational. For these theories, rationality is both static and dynamic. However, for both groups, static rationality is fundamental. In my dissertation, I argue to the contrary that, in fact, all rationality is dynamic rationality. Epistemic reasons, rationality, and justification as applying only to changes of belief. This wholly dynamic view of rationality, which I call "Dynamicism" has wide-ranging epistemological consequences. A small set of simple, elegant, and independently motivated principles of dynamic rationality can illuminate and solve otherwise interminable epistemological disputes.

 

 

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