•  950
    Epistemic Modals in Context
    In Gerhard Preyer & Georg Peter (eds.), Contextualism in Philosophy, Oxford University Press. pp. 131-170. 2005.
    A very simple contextualist treatment of a sentence containing an epistemic modal, e.g. a might be F, is that it is true iff for all the contextually salient community knows, a is F. It is widely agreed that the simple theory will not work in some cases, but the counterexamples produced so far seem amenable to a more complicated contextualist theory. We argue, however, that no contextualist theory can capture the evaluations speakers naturally make of sentences containing epistemic modals. If we…Read more
  •  776
    You’re imagining, in the course of a different game of make-believe, that you’re a bank robber. You don’t believe that you’re a bank robber. You are moved to point your finger, gun-wise, at the person pretending to be the bank teller and say, “Stick ‘em up! This is a robbery!”
  •  677
    Epistemic Modals and Epistemic Modality
    In Andy Egan & Brian Weatherson (eds.), Epistemic Modality, Oxford University Press. pp. 1-18. 2009.
    There is a lot that we don’t know. That means that there are a lot of possibilities that are, epistemically speaking, open. For instance, we don’t know whether it rained in Seattle yesterday. So, for us at least, there is an epistemic possibility where it rained in Seattle yesterday, and one where it did not. It’s tempting to give a very simple analysis of epistemic possibility: • A possibility is an epistemic possibility if we do not know that it does not obtain. But this is problematic for a f…Read more
  •  466
    Disputing about Taste
    In Ted Warfield & Richard Feldman (eds.), Disagreement, Oxford University Press. pp. 247-286. 2010.
    “There’s no disputing about taste.” That’s got a nice ring to it, but it’s not quite the ring of truth. While there’s definitely something right about the aphorism – there’s a reason why it is, after all, an aphorism, and why its utterance tends to produce so much nodding of heads and muttering of “just so” and “yes, quite” – it’s surprisingly difficult to put one’s finger on just what the truth in the neighborhood is, exactly. One thing that’s pretty clear is that what’s right about the aphoris…Read more
  •  438
    Some counterexamples to causal decision theory
    Philosophical Review 116 (1): 93-114. 2007.
    Many philosophers (myself included) have been converted to causal decision theory by something like the following line of argument: Evidential decision theory endorses irrational courses of action in a range of examples, and endorses “an irrational policy of managing the news”. These are fatal problems for evidential decision theory. Causal decision theory delivers the right results in the troublesome examples, and does not endorse this kind of irrational news-managing. So we should give up evid…Read more
  •  381
    Epistemic modals, relativism and assertion
    Philosophical Studies 133 (1): 1--22. 2007.
    I think that there are good reasons to adopt a relativist semantics for epistemic modal claims such as ``the treasure might be under the palm tree'', according to which such utterances determine a truth value relative to something finer-grained than just a world (or a <world, time> pair). Anyone who is inclined to relativise truth to more than just worlds and times faces a problem about assertion. It's easy to be puzzled about just what purpose would be served by assertions of this kind, and how…Read more
  •  379
    I Can’t Believe I’m Stupid
    with Adam Elga
    Philosophical Perspectives 19 (1). 2005.
    It is bad news to find out that one's cognitive or perceptual faculties are defective. Furthermore, it’s not always transparent how one ought to revise one's beliefs in light of such news. Two sorts of news should be distinguished. On the one hand, there is news that a faculty is unreliable -- that it doesn't track the truth particularly well. On the other hand, there is news that a faculty is anti-reliable -- that it tends to go positively wrong. These two sorts of news call for extremely diffe…Read more
  •  317
    Quasi-realism and fundamental moral error
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (2). 2007.
    A common first reaction to expressivist and quasi-realist theories is the thought that, if these theories are right, there's some objectionable sense in which we can't be wrong about morality. This worry turns out to be surprisingly difficult to make stick - an account of moral error as instability under improving changes provides the quasi-realist with the resources to explain many of our concerns about moral error. The story breaks down, though, in the case of fundamental moral error. This is …Read more
  •  310
    On many of the idealized models of human cognition and behavior in use by philosophers, agents are represented as having a single corpus of beliefs which (a) is consistent and deductively closed, and (b) guides all of their (rational, deliberate, intentional) actions all the time. In graded-belief frameworks, agents are represented as having a single, coherent distribution of credences, which guides all of their (rational, deliberate, intentional) actions all of the time. It's clear that actual …Read more
  •  298
    Billboards, bombs and shotgun weddings
    Synthese 166 (2): 251-279. 2009.
    It's a presupposition of a very common way of thinking about contextsensitivity in language that the semantic contribution made by a bit of context-sensitive vocabulary is sensitive only to features of the speaker's situation at the time of utterance. I argue that this is false, and that we need a theory of context-dependence that allows for content to depend not just on the features of the utterance's origin, but also on features of its destination. There are cases in which a single utterance s…Read more
  •  289
    Subjects with delusions profess to believe some extremely peculiar things. Patients with Capgras delusion sincerely assert that, for example, their spouses have been replaced by impostors. Patients with Cotard’s delusion sincerely assert that they are dead. Many philosophers and psychologists are hesitant to say that delusional subjects genuinely believe the contents of their delusions.2 One way to reinterpret delusional subjects is to say that we’ve misidentified the content of the problematic …Read more
  •  279
    Pretense for the Complete Idiom
    Noûs 42 (3): 381-409. 2008.
    Idioms – expressions like kick the bucket and let the cat out of the bag – are strange. They behave in ways that ordinary multi-word expressions do not. One distinctive and troublesome feature of idioms is their unpredictability: The meanings of sentences in which idiomatic phrases occur are not the ones that we would get by applying the usual compositional rules to the usual meanings of their (apparent) constituents. This sort of behavior requires an explanation. I will argue that the right…Read more
  •  267
    Appearance properties?
    Noûs 40 (3): 495-521. 2006.
    Intentionalism is the view that the phenomenal character of an experience is wholly determined by its representational content is very attractive. Unfortunately, it is in conflict with some quite robust intuitions about the possibility of phenomenal spectrum inversion without misrepresentation. Faced with such a problem, there are the usual three options: reject intentionalism, discount the intuitions and deny that spectrum inversion without misrepresentation is possible, or find a way to reconc…Read more
  •  260
    Second-Order Predication and the Metaphysics of Properties
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 82 (1): 48-66. 2004.
    Problems about the accidental properties of properties motivate us--force us, I think--not to identify properties with the sets of their instances. If we identify them instead with functions from worlds to extensions, we get a theory of properties that is neutral with respect to disputes over counterpart theory, and we avoid a problem for Lewis's theory of events. Similar problems about the temporary properties of properties motivate us--though this time they probably don't force us--to give up …Read more
  •  240
    How We Feel About Terrible, Non-existent Mafiosi
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (2): 277-306. 2012.
    We argue for an imaginative analog of desire from premises about imaginative engagement with fiction. There's a bit about the paradox of fiction, too.
  •  221
    Secondary qualities and self-location
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72 (1): 97-119. 2006.
    Colors aren't as real as shapes. Shapes are full?fledged qualities of things in themselves, independent of how they're perceived and by whom. Colors aren't. Colors are merely qualities of things as they are for us, and the colors of things depend on who is perceiving them. When we take the fully objective view of the world, things keep their shapes, but the colors fall away, revealed as the mere artifacts of our own subjective, parochial perspective on the world that they are
  •  207
    Epistemic Modality (edited book)
    with Brian Weatherson
    Oxford University Press. 2011.
    There is a lot that we don't know. That means that there are a lot of possibilities that are, epistemically speaking, open. For instance, we don't know whether it rained in Seattle yesterday. So, for us at least, there is an epistemic possibility where it rained in Seattle yesterday, and one where it did not. What are these epistemic possibilities? They do not match up with metaphysical possibilities - there are various cases where something is epistemically possible but not metaphysically possi…Read more
  •  165
    Very often, different people, with different constitutions and comic sensibilities, will make divergent, conflicting judgments about the comic properties of a given person, object, or event, on account of those differences in their constitutions and comic sensibilities. And in many such cases, while we are inclined to say that their comic judgments are in conflict, we are not inclined to say that anybody is in error. The comic looks like a poster domain for the phenomenon of faultless disagreeme…Read more
  •  151
    The following theses form an inconsistent triad. REPRESENTATIONISM: The phenomenal properties of a perceptual experience are identical to (some of) the experience’s representational properties. PHENOMENAL INTERNALISM: The phenomenal properties of a perceptual experience supervene on the intrinsic properties of the experience’s subject. STRONG EXTERNALISM: None of the representational properties of a perceptual experience is fixed by the intrinsic properties of the experience’s subject. The f…Read more
  •  146
    Projectivism without error
    In Bence Nanay (ed.), Perceiving the World, Oxford University Press. pp. 68. 2010.
    I argue that a theory according to which some of the content of perception is self-locating gives us the resources to cash out the central thought behind projectivism, without having to go in for an error theory about the projected qualities. I first survey some of the phenomena that might motivate what I take to be the central projectivist thought, and then look at some ways of cashing out just what it would amount to for the thought to be correct. I make some objections to some of the standa…Read more
  •  143
    Relativist Dispositional Theories of Value
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 50 (4): 557-582. 2012.
    Adopting a dispositional theory of value promises to deliver a lot of theoretical goodies. One recurring problem for dispositional theories of value, though, is a problem about nonconvergence. If being a value is being disposed to elicit response R in us, what should we say if it turns out that not everybody is disposed to have R to the same things? One horn of the problem here is a danger of the view collapsing into an error theory—of it turning out, on account of the diversity of agents' relev…Read more
  •  127
    Prankster's ethics
    Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1). 2004.
    Diversity is a good thing. Some of its value is instrumental. Having people around with diverse beliefs, or customs, or tastes, can expand our horizons and potentially raise to salience some potential true beliefs, useful customs or apt tastes. Even diversity of error can be useful. Seeing other people fall away from the true and the useful in distinctive ways can immunise us against similar errors. And there are a variety of pleasant interactions, not least philosophical exchange, that wouldn’t…Read more
  •  73
    Review: Relativism (review)
    Mind 116 (462): 387-390. 2007.
  •  52
    De Se Pragmatics
    Philosophical Perspectives 32 (1): 144-164. 2018.
    Philosophical Perspectives, EarlyView.
  •  41
    Comments on Jonathan Cohen's The Red and the Real
    Analytic Philosophy 53 (3): 306-312. 2012.
  •  30
    Secondary Qualities and Self-Location
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72 (1): 97-119. 2006.
    There is a strong pull to the idea that there is some metaphysically interesting distinction between the fully real, objective, observer-independent qualities of things as they are in themselves, and the less-than-fully-real, subjective, observer-dependent qualities of things as they are for us. Call this distinction the primary/secondary quality distinction. The distinction between primary and secondary qualities is philosophically interesting because it is often quite attractive to draw such a…Read more
  •  19
    Appearance Properties?1
    Noûs 40 (3): 495-521. 2006.
    Intentionalism—the view that the phenomenal character of an experience is wholly determined by its representational content—is very attractive. Unfortunately, it’s in conflict with some quite robust intuitions about the possibility of phenomenal spectrum inversion without misrepresentation. Faced with such a problem, there are the usual three options—reject intentionalism, discount the intuitions and deny that spectrum inversion without misrepresentation is possible, or find a way to reconcile…Read more