Academic Publications

Articles:

Epistemic Trespassing and Expert Witness Testimony. Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy (forthcoming).

Abstract: Epistemic trespassers have competence in one field but pass judgment on matters in other fields where they lack competence. I examine philosophical questions related to epistemic trespassing by expert witnesses in courtroom trials and argue for the following positions. Expert witnesses are required to avoid epistemic trespassing. When testifying as an expert witness, merely qualifying one’s statements to indicate that one is not speaking as an expert is insufficient to avoid epistemic trespassing. Judges, litigators, and jurors can often recognize epistemic trespassing by examining a purported expert’s credentials and track record. Judges should not permit recognizable epistemic trespassers to testify as expert witnesses. Litigators should seek to expose recognizable epistemic trespassers during cross-examination. Jurors should treat recognizable instances of epistemic trespassing as a reason to downgrade the testimony of epistemic trespassers.

Multi-Forum Institutions, the Power of Platforms, and Disinviting Speakers from University Campuses. Public Affairs Quarterly 35, 2 (2021): 94–118.

Abstract: Much attention has been devoted recently to cases where a controversial speaker is invited to speak on campus and subsequently some members of the university seek to have that speaker disinvited. Debates about such scenarios often blur together legal, normative, and empirical considerations. I seek to help clarify issues by separating key legal, normative, and empirical questions. Central to my examination is the idea of the university as a multi-forum institution—i.e. a complex public institution whose parts contain different types of forums. I conclude that it is sometimes legally and normatively permissible (1) for universities to disinvite speakers, and (2) for students to seek to get speakers they consider unacceptable disinvited. I also suggest that my arguments sometimes extent to shouting down speakers.

George Orwell on the Relationship Between Food and Thought. George Orwell Studies 5, 2 (2021): 76–89.

Abstract: This paper examines Orwell’s views on the relationship between food and thought. By examining Orwell’s nonfiction books, the paper argues that Orwell understood food as impacting thought in a variety of important ways. These ways include the creation or elimination of boredom, the provision or removal of sufficient comfort to think and write, the ability or inability to choose the objects of one’s thought, and the forced reconceptualization of what it means to be human. The paper then argues that Orwell’s writings on the relationship between food and thought exemplify a broader focus on embodied cognition in his work. Finally, it examines the ways in which Orwell’s views on the relationship between food and thought influence the plots of Animal Farm and Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which food functions as a locus for propaganda, memory, motivation and revolution, among other things.

Evil Twins and the Multiverse: Distinguishing the World of Possibility Between Epistemic and Physical Possibility. Synthese 198 (2021): 1153–1160.

Abstract: Physicists Brian Greene and Max Tegmark both make variants of the claim that if the universe is infinite and matter is roughly uniformly distributed that there are infinitely many “people with the same appearance, name and memories as you, who play out every possible permutation of your life choices.”  In this paper I argue that, while our current best theories in astrophysics may allow one to conclude that we have infinitely many duplicates whose lives are identical to our own from start to finish, without either further advances in physics or advances in fields like biology, psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, Greene’s and Tegmark’s claims about the ways in which our duplicates lives will differ from our own are not a consequence of our best current scientific theories. Rather, I argue that Greene and Tegmark’s conclusions rely on philosophically imprecise usages of the language of “possibility.”

Unclear Hostility: Supreme Court Discussions of “Hostility to Religion” from Barnette to American Legion. Buffalo Law Review 68, 2 (2020): 641-708.

Abstract: Appeals to “hostility to religion” have been a regular part of the Supreme Court’s First Amendment jurisprudence for the last eighty years, but in all that time the Court has never provided a clear explanation of what constitutes “hostility to religion.” This lack of explanation has recently become increasingly troubling given the significant role that the concept of “hostility to religion” has played in several high-profile Supreme Court decisions within the last two years, including Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado, Trump v. Hawaii, and American Legion v. American Humanist Association. In this paper, I provide a thorough and detailed history of the Court’s appeals to “hostility to religion.” Through the lens of that historical examination of the Court’s use of the concept of “hostility to religion,” I argue that the Court has come to use “hostility to religion” ambiguously to mean both the broad category of anything that fails to be neutral toward religion and the narrower category of specifically that which exhibits active animosity toward religion. I argue that this ambiguity has resulted in confused outcomes and may contribute to ratcheting up the culture wars. I further argue that the best remedy is for the Court to be clearer and more judicious in its appeals to “hostility to religion” going forward. I offer four suggestions for how the Court can do so.

Is There a Duty-Generating Special Relationship of Creator to Creatures? Sophia 59 (2020): 637-49.

Abstract: Mark Murphy has argued that the relationship between a creator and their creatures is not a special relationship that generates new moral obligations for the creator. Murphy’s position is grounded, in part, on his claim that there are no good arguments to the contrary and that the creator-creature relationship (at least in the case of God) is not a relationship between equals. I argue that there are good reasons to think that a creator and creature being equals is not required for such an obligation. I offer an argument for such an obligation based on the moral significance of thrusting upon sentient or rational beings significant, unsought, and wholly new circumstances. More specifically, I argue that it is reasonable to conclude that a creator enters into a duty-generating special relationship with their creatures to promote their creatures’ well-being, when (1) the creator is the voluntary source of the creatures’ wholly new and unconsented to circumstances from which to flourish or languish and (2) it would cost the creator virtually nothing to promote the creatures’ welfare.

Contextualism and the Ambiguity Theory of ‘Knows’. Episteme 17, 2 (2020): 209-29.

Abstract: The ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ is the view that ‘knows’ and its cognates have more than one sense, and that which sense of ‘knows’ is used in a knowledge ascription or denial determines, in part, the meaning (and as a result the truth conditions) of that knowledge ascription or denial. In this paper, I argue that the ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ ought to be taken seriously by those drawn to epistemic contextualism. In doing so I first argue that the ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ is a distinct view from epistemic contextualism. Second, I provide independent philosophical and linguistic considerations to motivate the ambiguity theory. Third, I argue that the ambiguity theory has the same central, generally agreed upon virtues ascribed to epistemic contextualism (namely, the ability to solve certain persistent epistemological problems relating to skeptical arguments and the ability to preserve the truth of most of our everyday, ordinary usages of ‘knows’ and its cognates). Finally, I provide an ambiguity-theory-friendly account of why contextualism may be initially appealing, and why this shouldn’t dissuade us from taking the ambiguity theory seriously nonetheless.

Semantic Blindness and Error Theorizing for the Ambiguity Theory of ‘Knows’. Analysis 78, 2 (2018): 275-84.

Abstract: The ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ is the view that ‘knows’ and its cognates have more than one propositional sense – i.e. more than one sense that can properly be used in ‘knows that’ etc. constructions. Given that most of us are ‘intuitive invariantists’ – i.e. most of us initially have the intuition that ‘knows’ is univocal – defenders of the ambiguity theory need to offer an explanation for the semantic blindness present if ‘knows’ is in fact ambiguous. This paper is an attempt to offer such an explanation. Section 1 contains a general argument for the ubiquity of semantic blindness for ambiguity; the upshot being that semantic blindness for the ambiguity of ‘knows’ is unsurprising as a result. Section 2 offers more specific arguments for why ‘knows’ is the type of ambiguous word we’re very unlikely to quickly recognize is ambiguous.

A Linguistic Grounding for a Polysemy Theory of ‘Knows’. Philosophical Studies 175, 5 (2018): 1163-82.

Abstract: In his book Knowledge and Practical Interests, Jason Stanley offers an argument for the conclusion that it is quite unlikely that an ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ can be ‘‘linguistically grounded’’. His argument rests on two important assumptions: (1) that linguistic grounding of ambiguity requires evidence of the purported different senses of a word being represented by different words in other languages (i.e. represented by more than one word within other languages) and (2) that such evidence is lacking in the case of ‘knows’. In this paper, I challenge the conclusion that there isn’t a linguistic grounding for an ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ by making cases against both of Stanley’s major assumptions. I will do this by making a case for a prime facie linguistic grounding for a polysemy theory of ‘knows’ without appealing to word use in other languages. Given that a polysemy theory of ‘knows’ is a type of ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ (as will be explained shortly), if I succeed in linguistically grounding a polysemy theory of ‘knows’, then I have shown that at least one type of ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ can be linguistically grounded.

The Ambiguity Theory of ‘Knows’. Acta Analytica 33, 1 (2018): 69-83.

Abstract: The ambiguity theory of ‘knows’ is the view that knows and its cognates have more than one propositional sense—i.e., more than one sense that can properly be used in ‘knows that’ etc. constructions. The ambiguity theory of ‘know’ has received relatively little attention as an account of the truth-conditions for knowledge ascriptions and denials—especially compared to views like classical moderate invariantism and epistemic contextualism. In this paper, it is argued that the ambiguity theory of knows has an advantage over both classical moderate invariantism and epistemic contextualism. This advantage is that it is the only one of these views that can account for ‘diverging knowledge responses without inconsistency’ (DRWI)—i.e., cases in which, for the same subject S and proposition p, one and the same speaker says truly ‘S knows p’ but instead could have truly said ‘S does not know p’ and vice versa. This paper argues both for the existence of DRWI scenarios and the ability of the ambiguity theory of knows to best explain their existence.

Book Chapters:

Justified Social Distrust (co-written with Lacey J. Davidson) in Social Trust: Foundational and Philosophical Issues (eds.) Kevin Vallier and Michael Weber, Routledge, (2021).

Abstract: A community demonstrates social trust when most members believe that others in their community are contributing to the goals and projects of one another by complying with mutually beneficial shared social norms. Scholars have argued that social trust is a good thing because it plays an essential stabilizing role in cooperative systems and provides many important benefits. Much of the relevant literature on social trust has assumed that individuals are epistemically justified in believing that others will comply with mutually beneficial norms. This paper examines circumstances when such epistemic justification is not present. Focusing on the example of anti-Black racism in the United States, we offer an account of epistemically justified social distrust in which individuals are justified in believing that others in their community are irrelevant or harmful for achieving one another’s goals either by upholding harmful social norms or by failing to uphold beneficial social norms in an inclusive manner. We also explore potential pathways for building trust when social distrust is epistemically justified. Because justified social trust requires evidence that society is in fact trustworthy, the first step to building justified social trust must be building a society that is in fact trustworthy.

Epistemology and HIV Transmission: Privilege and Marginalization in the Dissemination of Knowledge (co-written with Lacey J. Davidson) in Making the Case: Feminist and Critical Race Philosophers Engage Case Studies (eds.) Heidi Grasswick and Nancy Arden McHugh, SUNY Press, (2021).

Abstract: In this paper, we apply the work of feminist and critical race epistemology to epistemic issues related to HIV and HIV transmission risk. We identify ways in which popular social perceptions about HIV do not properly align with empirical findings, and we develop a framework for explaining this incongruency. Central to our discussion is the identification of epistemic harms related to HIV and some of the normative implications of the presence of these harms. After providing the necessary sociological and medical background information about HIV in the United States, we identify two types of previously identified epistemic harms—hermeneutical injustice and contributory injustice—in the context of issues related to HIV and being HIV-positive. We then identify a novel type of epistemic harm, structural-linguistic epistemic injustice, and apply it to epistemic issues pertinent to HIV and HIV transmission risk.

Book Reviews:

Review of The Free Speech Century, (eds.) Lee C. Bollinger and Geoffrey R. Stone, Journal of Applied Philosophy, 37, 2 (2020): 332-334.

Review of Epistemology for the Rest of the World, (eds.) Masaharu Mizumoto, Stephen Stich, and Eric McCready, Philosophical Quarterly 69, 275 (2019): 438-440

Review of God’s Own Ethics: Norms of Divine Agency and the Argument from Evil, by Mark C. Murphy, Philosophy in Review, 34, 2 (2018): 73-75.

Review of Pragmatic Encroachment, Religious Belief, and Practice, by Aaron Rizzieri Claremont Journal of Religion. 4, 1 (2015): 169-78.

Review of Knowledge Ascriptions, edited by Jessica Brown and Mikkel Gerken, Bibliographia

Review of Probability in the Philosophy of Religion, edited by Jake Chandler and Victoria S. Harris, Bibliographia

Review of Religion without God, by Ronald Dworkin, Claremont Journal of Religion, 3, 1 (2014): 155-61.