"Epistemic Responsibility and Criminal Negligence", forthcoming (published online-first) in Criminal Law and Philosophy. (penultimate draft) (published version)
We seem to be responsible for our beliefs in a distinctively epistemic way. We often hold each other to account for the beliefs that we hold. We do this by criticising other believers as ‘gullible’ or ‘biased’, and trying to persuade others to revise their beliefs. But responsibility for belief looks hard to understand because we seem to lack control over our beliefs. This paper argues that we can make progress in our understanding of responsibility for belief by thinking about it in parallel with another kind of responsibility: legal responsibility for criminal negligence. Specifically, I argue that that a popular account of responsibility for belief, which grounds it in belief’s reasons-responsiveness, faces a problem analogous to one faced by H.L.A. Hart’s influential capacity-based account of culpability. This points towards a more promising account of responsibility of belief, though, if we draw on accounts of negligence which improve on Hart’s. Broadly speaking, the account of negligence which improves on Hart’s account grounds culpability in a (lack of) concern for others’ interests, whereas my account of epistemic responsibility grounds responsibility for belief in a (lack of) concern for the truth.
"Should I Believe All the Truths?", forthcoming (published online-first) in Synthese. (penultimate draft) (published version)
Should I believe something if and only if it’s true? Many philosophers have objected to this kind of truth norm, on the grounds that it’s not the case that one ought to believe all the truths. For example, some truths are too complex to believe; others are too trivial to be worth believing. Philosophers who defend truth norms often respond to this problem by reformulating truth norms in ways that do not entail that one ought to believe all the truths. Many of these attempts at reformulation, I’ll argue, have been missteps. A number of these different reformulations are incapable of carrying out a central role a truth norm is meant to play, that of explaining justification. The truth norm I’ll defend, however, avoids the implausible results of a prescription to believe all the truths, but doesn’t thereby fail to explain justification. This norm, introduced (but not defended) by Conor McHugh, states that if one has some doxastic attitude about p — i.e. if one believes, disbelieves, or suspends judgement about whether p — then one ought to believe that p if and only if p is true.
"Constitutive about Epistemic Normativity" (with Christopher Cowie), for Metaepistemology: Realism and Anti-Realism, Palgrave MacMillan. 2018. (penultimate draft)
Suppose that you possess strong, perhaps decisive, evidence for a proposition that you’re considering. It is natural to think that that you thereby possess a reason to believe that proposition. What explains this? Why is there such a connection between evidence for (or against) propositions and reasons for believing them? What, in other words, are the grounds of epistemic normativity? One answer to this question is constitutivism about epistemic normativity, the view that epistemic reasons are grounded in the nature of belief. This view promises to provide a happy middle-ground between extreme versions of metanormative realism about epistemic normativity and extreme versions of anti-realism. In this paper, we reject this view, principally by focusing on the arguments that have been given in defence of it. The claim that belief is constitutively normative has been alleged to explain a number of distinctive psychological features of belief. We argue that arguments of this kind fail for a common reason: they either rely on an implausible claim about following prescriptions, or they don’t best explain the psychological feature of belief in question.
"Is the Norm on Belief Evaluative? A Response to McHugh" (with Christopher Cowie), Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 98(S1), 2017. (penultimate draft) (published version)
We respond to Conor McHugh's claim that an evaluative account of the normative relation between belief and truth is preferable to a prescriptive account. We claim that his arguments fail to establish this. We then draw a more general sceptical conclusion: we take our arguments to put pressure on any attempt to show that an evaluative account will fare better than a prescriptive account.
"Concept Empiricisms, Ancient and Modern". This will be a chapter for The Aristotelian Tradition: Cognition and Conceptualization, edited by Christina Thomsen-Thörnqvist and Juhana Toivanen. (penultimate draft)
Review of Philosophy of Action from Suarez to Anscombe, Constantine Sandis (ed.), Routledge, 2018 (with Lucy Campbell), in Metapsychology Online 23(35), 2019. (published version)
Work in Progress
Please email for drafts
"Can a Truth Norm Guide?"
Say you’re considering whether Richard III killed the Princes in Tower. What attitude should you have to this proposition? A plausible and intuitive answer is that you should believe Richard III killed the Princes in the Tower if and only if it’s true. This is the claim that belief is subject to a truth norm. A number of philosophers have claimed we should reject such a truth norm because it cannot guide belief formation. I argue against this objection. This involves two main steps: arguing against those who argue that a truth norm cannot guide directly and against those who argue that it cannot guide indirectly. In response to the first objection, I argue that philosophers who claim that a truth norm cannot guide directly rely on implausible assumptions about what it is for a norm to guide. The second objection concerns the way a truth norm is often claimed to guide indirectly, by being the fundamental reason why one follows other epistemic norms such as evidence norms. Philosophers often object to this picture on the grounds that truth and evidence norms conflict. I answer this objection disjunctively. Either this conflict is transparent to the believer or it is not. If it is not, then this is not a kind of conflict that undermines a truth norm guiding indirectly. If this conflict is transparent to the believer, then this is a problem, but is not a problem about guidance.
"There is No 'Norm of Assertion'"
There are norms on action and norms on assertion. That is to say, there are some things we should and shouldn’t do, and there are some things we should and shouldn’t say. In this paper, I discuss the relations between these two kinds of norm. In particular, I consider whether or not norms on assertion are reducible to norms on action. Many philosophers think that they are not. These philosophers think that there is a sui generis norm that is specific to assertion. I argue against this view. The phenomenon that is claimed to support it – the intuitive wrongness of certain assertions in certain contexts – does not in fact support it. Given that assertion is an action, the wrongness of these assertions can be explained purely in virtue of norms on action. And the specifically epistemic wrongness that an assertion norm is typically supposed to explain can be explained by the norm that one shouldn’t act on epistemically faulty beliefs. No additional sui generis norm on assertion is needed.