2021: The Philosophy of Group Polarization. Epistemology, Metaphysics, Psychology (with J. Adam Carter). Routledge.
We argue that group polarization (roughly, the tendency of some groups to move to extremes) is epistemically neutral in itself, just as moving from suspicion to belief (or from low to higher credence) and show that it is the way groups polarize that make group polarization an epistemically good or bad phenomenon. We pin down the factors that lead polarized groups to blunders (or to avoid them) and elucidate the epistemic status of such factors. We also develop four possible ways to think about group polarization in philosophical terms and finally defend the (non-reductionist, reliabilist) view that group polarization is (on occasions) epistemically virtuous (as in science, expert debates, Bayesian agents), but (often) epistemically vicious (as in Twitter, politics, moral issues). All this following an empirically-informed approach to social epistemology, with a strong focus on empirical research in social psychology.
2021: The Epistemology of Group Disagreement (edited with J. Adam Carter). Routledge.
The current approach to the epistemology of disagreement puts idealized, peer disagreement methodologically first. We argue, first, that the prospects of ‘stripping off’ the idealizations of peer disagreement, and, ultimately, of giving an answer to the general question of what is permissible for one to believe in the face of disagreement (simpliciter) are dim, so long as the only methodological approach to the epistemology of disagreement remains the current one. Then, we investigate the prospects of an alternative, knowledge-first approach to disagreement.
Many think it's a platitude that an individual's belief does not qualify as knowledge if it is true by luck. Many think groups can know. Why not think then that collective beliefs can fall short of knowledge due to collective epistemic luck? Interestingly, accounting for collective epistemic luck is significantly different from accounting for individual epistemic luck, and should not be done in modal terms. Another interesting result: there are collective Gettier cases. Yet another interesting result: deliberation is more vulnerable than voting to knowledge-undermining collective luck.
The epistemology of disagreement needs a methodological turn, away from focusing on highly idealized cases of peer disagreement and towards an increased focus on disagreement simpliciter. To substantiate this claim, we propose and develop a normative framework for evaluating all cases of disagreement as to whether something is the case independently of their composition—i.e., independently of whether they are between peers or not. The upshot is a norm of disagreement on which what one should do when faced with a disagreeing party is to improve the epistemic properties of one’s doxastic attitude or, alternatively, hold steadfast.
Suppose an inquiring group wants to let a certain view stand as the group's view. But there’s a problem: the individuals in that group do not initially all agree with one another about what the correct view is. What should the group do, given that it wants to settle on a single answer, in the face of this kind of intragroup disagreement? Should the group members deliberate and exchange evidence or else take a vote? We approach the deliberation versus voting question from a pluralist perspective, in that we hold that a group’s collective endeavor to solve an internal dispute can be aimed at different, albeit not necessarily incompatible, epistemic goals, namely the goals of truth, evidence, understanding, and epistemic justice.
2020. Epistemic Care and Epistemic Paternalism [preprint]
Epistemic Paternalism Reconsidered. Axtell, G. & Amiel, B (eds.). Rowman and Littlefield
I argue for the following claim: an epistemically paternalistic act is justified if it is an instance of proper epistemic care.
Some things are more difficult to know than others. For example, proving the Poincaré conjecture is more difficult than coming to know what does 2 + 2 equal. However, as obvious as it seems, explaining that knowledge can be difficult in familiar epistemological terms (e.g., in evidentialist or simple reliabilist terms) is less straightforward than one could initially think. I argue that virtue reliabilism (unlike virtue responsibilism) provides a promising framework for accounting for the relationship between difficulty and knowledge, and propose the view that knowledge is a special kind of challenge with varying degrees of difficulty.
Why mere reflection on the long odds that one will lose the lottery does not yield knowledge that one will lose? More generally, why true beliefs merely formed on the basis of statistical evidence do not amount to knowledge? Some have thought that the lottery problem can be solved by appeal to a violation of the safety principle for knowledge, i.e., the principle that if S knows that p, not easily would S have believed that p without p being the case. I argue that understanding safe belief as belief that directly covaries with the truth of what is believed in a suitably defined set of possible worlds forces safety theorists to make a series of theoretical choices that ultimately prevent a satisfactory solution to the problem. I also offer an alternative conception of safe belief according to which what safe beliefs directly track is the appropriateness of the circumstances and, indirectly, the truth, and, on that basis, I explain why mere statistical evidence is not a safe source of knowledge.
I offer an account of the notion of cognitive ability according to which our epistemic resources are not exhausted by abilities to produce true beliefs as outputs, but also include dispositions to stop belief-formation when actual or modal circumstances are not suitable for it (precautionary cognitive abilities). Knowledge, I argue, can be accordingly conceived as a cognitive success that is also due to the latter. The proposed virtue-theoretic account exemplifies how the thesis that knowledge is a cognitive success because of cognitive ability (robust virtue epistemology) is compatible with the idea that whether or not an agent’s true belief amounts to knowledge can significantly depend upon factors beyond her cognitive agency (epistemic dependence).
2019. A Taxonomy of Types of Epistemic Dependence: Introduction to the Synthese Special Issue on Epistemic Dependence (with J. Vega) [open access published version]
Synthese (Special Issue: Epistemic Dependence)
What is epistemic dependence? In its most general form, the notion of epistemic dependence can be articulated with the following schema: x depends on y to ϕ. Epistemic dependence, as characterized by this schema, is a goal-oriented relation, in that x’s reliance on y is for the achievement of some epistemic goal (ϕ). Types of epistemic dependence can be accordingly distinguished in terms of what kind of goal the state of being epistemically dependent on aims at. Also, in terms of its relata: whether epistemic dependence is a relationship between a belief and something else (e.g., another belief) or between an agent and something else. Accordingly, several forms of agent-based epistemic dependence can be distinguished. Finally, further types of epistemic can be distinguished in terms of formal properties (e.g., transitive vs. intransitive epistemic dependence, reflexive vs. irreflexive, etc.).
I explore the hypothesis that luck is a risk-involving phenomenon. I start by explaining why this hypothesis is prima facie plausible in view of the parallelisms between luck and risk, and then distinguish three ways to spell it out: in probabilistic terms, in modal terms, and in terms of lack of control. Before evaluating the resulting accounts, I explain how the idea that luck involves risk is compatible with the fact that risk concerns unwanted events whereas luck can concern both wanted and unwanted events. I turn to evaluating the modal and probabilistic views and argue that they fail to account for the connection between risk and bad luck; second, that they also fail to account for the connection between risk and good luck. Finally, I argue for the lack of control view.
An explanatorily powerful approach to the modal dimension of knowledge is Robert Nozick’s idea that knowledge stands in a tracking relation to the world. However, pinning down a specific modal condition has proved elusive (e.g., there is an increasing awareness that the safety and sensitivity conditions are not necessary for knowledge). I offer a diagnosis and a positive proposal. The root of the problem, I argue, is the unquestioned assumption that tracking is a matter of directly preserving conformity between what is believed and what is the case in certain possible worlds. My proposal is that what we track is whether the conditions for belief formation are appropriate in such worlds. Accordingly, we indirectly track the truth by ensuring that we only use our methods of belief formation in conditions that make it likely that conformity is preserved between what is believed and what is the case.
A notorious objection to robust virtue epistemology—the view that an agent knows a proposition if and only if her cognitive success is because of her intellectual virtues—is that it fails to eliminate knowledge-undermining luck. Modest virtue epistemologists agree with robust virtue epistemologists that if someone knows, then her cognitive success must be because of her intellectual virtues, but they think that more is needed for knowledge. More specifically, they introduce independently motivated modal anti-luck principles in their accounts to amend the problem of eliminating luck—this makes their views instances of impure virtue epistemology. The aim of the paper is to argue, first, that such a move lacks adequate motivation; second, that the resulting impure accounts equally fail to handle knowledge-undermining luck. On a more positive note, these results bolster a more orthodox virtue-theoretic approach to knowledge that assigns a fundamental explanatory role to the notion of ability. In this sense, the paper also sketches an account of ability and a corresponding account of knowledge that explains how success from ability (of the right kind) is incompatible with success from luck.
2017. Hoops and Barns: A New Dilemma for Sosa (with C. Boult, P. Dimmock, H. Ghijsen, C. Kelp, & M. Simion) (open access published version)
Synthese (Special Issue: The Epistemology of Ernest Sosa)
This paper critically assesses Sosa’s normative framework for performances as well as its application to epistemology. We first develop a problem for one of Sosa’s central theses in the general theory of performance normativity according to which performances attain fully desirable status if and only if they are fully apt. More specifically, we argue that given Sosa’s account of full aptness according to which a performance is fully apt only if safe from failure, this thesis can’t be true. We then embark on a rescue mission on behalf of Sosa and work towards a weakened account of full aptness. The key idea is to countenance a distinction between negligible and non-negligible types of risk and to develop an account of full aptness according to which even performances that are endangered by risk can be fully apt, so long as the risk is of a negligible type. While this alternative account of full aptness solves the problem we developed for Sosa earlier on, there is also bad news for Sosa. When applied to epistemology, the envisaged treatment of barn façade cases as cases in which the agent falls short of fully apt belief will no longer work. We show that, as a result, Sosa faces a new version of a familiar dilemma for virtue epistemology. Either he construes full aptness as strong enough to get barn façade cases right in which case his view will run right into the problem we develop. Or else he construes full aptness as weak enough to avoid this problem but then he will not be able to deal with barn façade cases in the way envisaged.
What is the nature of knowledge? A popular answer to that long-standing question comes from robust virtue epistemology, whose key idea is that knowing is just a matter of succeeding cognitively—i.e., coming to believe a proposition truly— due to an exercise of cognitive ability. Versions of robust virtue epistemology further developing and systematizing this idea offer different accounts of the relation that must hold between an agent’s cognitive success and the exercise of her cognitive abilities as well as of the very nature of those abilities. This paper aims to give a new robust virtue epistemological account of knowledge based on a different understanding of the nature and structure of the kind of abilities that give rise to knowledge
Wolfgang Freitag argues that Gettier-style cases that are based on the notion of “distant” epistemic luck cannot be ruled out as cases of knowledge by modal conditions such as safety or sensitivity. I argue that (1) safety and sensitivity can be easily fixed and that (2) he provides no convincing reason for the existence of “distant” epistemic luck.
I account for the notion of luck in terms of the notion of risk and, to do that, I make two important distinctions: two senses of risk and two senses of control. The resulting account is a version of the lack-of-control-account of luck.
I account for the notion of luck in terms of the notion of risk and, to do that, I make two important distinctions: two senses of risk and two senses of control. The resulting account is a version of the so called lack-of-control-account of luck.
The traditional view of lying says that lying is a matter of intending to deceive others by making statements that one believes to be false. Jennifer Lackey has recently defended the following version of the traditional view: A lies to B just in case (i) A states that p to B, (ii) A believes that p is false and (iii) A intends to be deceptive to B in stating that p. I argue that, despite all the virtues that Lackey ascribes to her view, conditions (i), (ii) and (iii) are not sufficient for lying.