Cambridge University
Faculty of Philosophy
PhD, 2013
London, England, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Areas of Interest
PhilPapers Editorships
Political Epistemology
  •  49
    It is widely believed that open and public speech is at the heart of the democratic ideal. Public discourse is instrumentally epistemically valuable for identifying good policies, as well as necessary for resisting domination (e.g., by vocally challenging decision-makers, demanding public justifications, and using democratic speech to hold leaders accountable). But in our highly polarized and socially fragmented political environment, an increasingly pressing question is: do actual democratic so…Read more
  •  11
    Replies to Henderson, Elgin and Lawlor
    Analysis 81 (1): 114-129. 2021.
    I acquired many intellectual debts while writing What’s the Point of Knowledge?, but I am especially indebted to my three symposiasts. David Henderson’s work helped me to appreciate the value of thinking about the point of epistemic evaluation; Catherine Elgin’s writings prompted me to investigate the purpose of the concept of understanding; and Krista Lawlor’s 2013 book revealed important connections between three of my primary epistemological interests: the role of epistemic evaluation, the se…Read more
  •  369
    What is the epistemic aim of philosophy? The standard view is that philosophy aims to provide true answers to philosophical questions. But if our aim is to settle controversy by answering philosophical questions, our discipline is an embarrassing failure. Moreover, taking philosophy to aim at true answers to such questions leads to a variety of puzzles: How do we account for philosophical expertise? How is philosophical progress possible? Why do job search committees not care about the truth or …Read more
  •  21
    Précis of "What’s the Point of Knowledge?"
    Analysis 81 (1): 85-87. 2021.
    I acquired many intellectual debts while writing What’s the Point of Knowledge?, but I am especially indebted to my three symposiasts. David Henderson’s work helped me to appreciate the value of thinking about the point of epistemic evaluation; Catherine Elgin’s writings prompted me to investigate the purpose of the concept of understanding; and Krista Lawlor’s 2013 book revealed important connections between three of my primary epistemological interests: the role of epistemic evaluation, the se…Read more
  •  1282
    Are Knowledgeable Voters Better Voters?
    Politics, Philosophy, and Economics. forthcoming.
    It is widely believed that democracies require knowledgeable citizens to function well. But the most politically knowledgeable individuals also tend to be the most partisan, and the strength of partisan identity tends to corrupt political thinking. This creates a conundrum. On the one hand, an informed citizenry is allegedly necessary for a democracy to flourish. On the other hand, the most knowledgeable and passionate voters are also the most likely to think in corrupted, biased ways. What to d…Read more
  •  1003
    The Point of Political Belief
    In Michael Hannon & Jeroen de Ridder (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Political Epistemology, . forthcoming.
    An intuitive and widely accepted view is that (a) beliefs aim at truth, (b) many citizens have stable and meaningful political beliefs, and (c) citizens choose to support political candidates or parties on the basis of their political beliefs. We argue that all three claims are false. First, we argue that political beliefs often differ from ordinary world-modelling beliefs because they do not aim at truth. Second, we draw on empirical evidence from political science and psychology to argue that …Read more
  •  499
    A Guide to Political Epistemology
    In Jennifer Lackey & Aidan McGlynn (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Social Epistemology, . forthcoming.
    Political epistemology is a newly flourishing area of philosophy, but there is no comprehensive overview to this burgeoning field. This chapter maps out the terrain of political epistemology, highlights some of the key questions and topics of this field, draws connections across seemingly disparate areas of work, and briefly situates this field within its historical and contemporary contexts.
  •  36
    This handbook provides an overview of key ideas, questions, and puzzles in political epistemology. It is divided into seven sections: (1) Politics and Truth: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives; (2) Political Disagreement and Polarization; (3) Fake News, Propaganda, Misinformation; (4) Ignorance and Irrationality in Politics; (5) Epistemic Virtues and Vices in Politics; (6) Democracy and Epistemology; (7) Trust, Expertise, and Doubt.
  •  48
    Political Epistemology (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2021.
    As current events around the world have illustrated, epistemological issues are at the center of our political lives. It has become increasingly difficult to discern legitimate sources of evidence, misinformation spreads faster than ever, and the role of truth in politics has allegedly decayed in recent years. It is therefore no coincidence that political discourse is currently saturated with epistemic notions like ‘post-truth,’ ‘fake news,’ ‘truth decay,’ ‘echo chambers,’ and ‘alternative facts…Read more
  •  562
    Disagreement or Badmouthing? The Role of Expressive Discourse in Politics
    In Elizabeth Edenberg & Michael Hannon (eds.), Political Epistemology, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    A striking feature of political discourse is how prone we are to disagree. Political opponents will even give different answers to factual questions, which suggests that opposing parties cannot agree on facts any more than they can on values. This impression is widespread and supported by survey data. I will argue, however, that the extent and depth of political disagreement is largely overstated. Many political disagreements are merely illusory. This claim has several important upshots. I will …Read more
  •  696
    Skepticism, Fallibilism, and Rational Evaluation
    In Christos Kyriacou & Kevin Wallbridge (eds.), Skeptical Invariantism Reconsidered, . forthcoming.
    This paper outlines a new type of skepticism that is both compatible with fallibilism and supported by work in psychology. In particular, I will argue that we often cannot properly trust our ability to rationally evaluate reasons, arguments, and evidence (a fundamental knowledge-seeking faculty). We humans are just too cognitively impaired to achieve even fallible knowledge, at least for many beliefs.
  •  75
    Assertion, action, and context
    Synthese 199 (1-2): 731-743. 2020.
    A common objection to both contextualism and relativism about knowledge ascriptions is that they threaten knowledge norms of assertion and action. Consequently, if there is good reason to accept knowledge norms of assertion or action, there is good reason to reject both contextualism and relativism. In this paper we argue that neither contextualism nor relativism threaten knowledge norms of assertion or action.
  •  262
    What is human understanding and why should we care about it? I propose a method of philosophical investigation called ‘function-first epistemology’ and use this method to investigate the nature and value of understanding-why. I argue that the concept of understanding-why serves the practical function of identifying good explainers, which is an important role in the general economy of our concepts. This hypothesis sheds light on a variety of issues in the epistemology of understanding including t…Read more
  •  500
    Intellectual Humility and the Curse of Knowledge
    In Michael Lynch & Alessandra Tanesini (eds.), Arrogance and Polarisation, Routledge. 2021.
    This chapter explores an unappreciated psychological dimension of intellectual humility. In particular, I argue there is a plausible connection between intellectual humility and epistemic egocentrism. Epistemic egocentrism is a well-known cognitive bias – often called ‘the curse of knowledge’ – whereby an agent attributes his or her own mental states to other people. I hypothesize that an individual who exhibits this bias is more likely to possess a variety of traits that are characteristic of i…Read more
  •  833
    Recent Work in the Epistemology of Understanding
    American Philosophical Quarterly 58 (3): 269-290. 2021.
    The philosophical interest in the nature, value, and varieties of human understanding has swelled in recent years. This article will provide an overview of new research in the epistemology of understanding, with a particular focus on the following questions: What is understanding and why should we care about it? Is understanding reducible to knowledge? Does it require truth, belief, or justification? Can there be lucky understanding? Does it require ‘grasping’ or some kind of ‘know-how’? This cl…Read more
  •  166
    Skepticism: Impractical, Therefore Implausible
    Philosophical Issues 29 (1): 143-158. 2019.
    The truth of skepticism would be depressing and impractical. Our beliefs would be groundless, we would know nothing (or almost nothing) about the world around us, and epistemic success would likely be impossible. But do these negative consequences have any bearing on the truth of skepticism? According to many scholars, they do not. The impractical consequences of skepticism are typically regarded as orthogonal to its truth. For this reason, pragmatic resolutions to skepticism are regularly dismi…Read more
  •  346
    Empathetic Understanding and Deliberative Democracy
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 101 (3): 591-611. 2020.
    Epistemic democracy is standardly characterized in terms of “aiming at truth”. This presupposes a veritistic conception of epistemic value, according to which truth is the fundamental epistemic goal. I will raise an objection to the standard (veritistic) account of epistemic democracy, focusing specifically on deliberative democracy. I then propose a version of deliberative democracy that is grounded in non-veritistic epistemic goals. In particular, I argue that deliberation is valuable because …Read more
  •  109
    This book is about knowledge and its value. The central hypothesis is that humans think and speak of knowing in order to identify reliable informants, which is vital for human survival, cooperation, and flourishing. This simple idea is used to answer an array of complex and consequential philosophical questions. (Here's a promotion code to save 30% if you order online at Oxford University Press: AAFLYG6)
  •  226
    Why Purists Should Be Infallibilists
    Philosophical Studies 177 (3): 689-704. 2020.
    Two of the most orthodox ideas in epistemology are fallibilism and purism. According to the fallibilist, one can know that a particular claim is true even though one’s justification for that claim is less than fully conclusive. According to the purist, knowledge does not depend on practical factors. Fallibilism and purism are widely assumed to be compatible; in fact, the combination of these views has been called the ‘ho-hum,’ obvious, traditional view of knowledge. But I will argue that fallibi…Read more
  •  173
    © The Author 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Analysis Trust. All rights reserved. For Permissions, please email: [email protected] is the point of epistemic evaluation? Why do we appraise others as knowers, understanders and so forth? Epistemology has traditionally focused on analysing the conditions under which one has knowledge, leaving aside for the most part questions about the roles played by epistemic evaluation in our lives more broadly. This fac…Read more
  •  630
    Stabilizing Knowledge
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 96 (1): 116-139. 2015.
    If epistemic contextualism is correct, then knowledge attributions do not have stable truth-conditions across different contexts. John Hawthorne, Timothy Williamson, and Patrick Rysiew argue that this unstable picture of knowledge attributions undermines the role that knowledge reports play in storing, retrieving, and transmitting useful information. Contrary to this view, I argue that the truth-conditions of knowledge attributions are more stable than critics have claimed, and that contextualis…Read more
  •  328
    The Importance of Knowledge Ascriptions
    Philosophy Compass 10 (12): 856-866. 2015.
    Knowledge ascriptions of the form ‘S knows that p’ are a central area of research in philosophy. But why do humans think and talk about knowledge? What are knowledge ascriptions for? This article surveys a variety of proposals about the role of knowledge ascriptions and attempts to provide a unified account of these seemingly distinct views.
  •  812
    'Knows' Entails Truth
    Journal of Philosophical Research 38 349-366. 2013.
    It is almost universally presumed that knowledge is factive: in order to know that p it must be the case that p is true. This idea is often justified by appealing to knowledge ascriptions and related linguistic phenomena; i.e., an utterance of the form ‘S knows that p, but not-p’ sounds contradictory. In a recent article, Allan Hazlett argues that our ordinary concept of knowledge is not factive. From this it seems to follow that epistemologists cannot appeal to ordinary language to justify the …Read more
  •  173
    The Practical Origins of Epistemic Contextualism
    Erkenntnis 78 (4): 899-919. 2013.
    This paper explores how the purpose of the concept of knowledge affects knowledge ascriptions in natural language. I appeal to the idea that the role of the concept of knowledge is to flag reliable informants, and I use this idea to illuminate and support contextualism about ‘knows’. I argue that practical pressures that arise in an epistemic state of nature provide an explanatory basis for a brand of contextualism that I call ‘practical interests contextualism’. I also answer some questions tha…Read more
  •  164
    The Universal Core of Knowledge
    Synthese 192 (3): 769-786. 2015.
    Many epistemologists think we can derive important theoretical insights by investigating the English word ‘know’ or the concept it expresses. However, fewer than six percent of the world’s population are native English speakers, and some empirical evidence suggests that the concept of knowledge is culturally relative. So why should we think that facts about the word ‘know’ or the concept it expresses have important ramifications for epistemology? This paper argues that the concept of knowledge i…Read more
  •  883
    Skepticism and Contextualism
    In Jonathan Ichikawa (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism, Routledge. pp. 131--144. 2017.
    According to some powerful skeptical arguments, we know almost nothing. Contextualist theories of knowledge ascriptions have been developed with an eye toward resisting skepticism. Have the contextualists succeeded? After briefly outlining their view, I will consider whether contextualism about knowledge ascriptions provides a satisfactory response to one of the most popular and influential forms of skepticism. I conclude with some questions for the contextualist. As we’ll see, the effectiveness…Read more
  •  190
    Experimental philosophers are often puzzled as to why many armchair philosophers question the philosophical significance of their research. Armchair philosophers, in contrast, are often puzzled as to why experimental philosophers think their work sheds any light on traditional philosophical problems. I argue there is truth on both sides.
  •  179
    A Solution to Knowledge’s Threshold Problem
    Philosophical Studies 174 (3): 607-629. 2017.
    This paper is about the ‘threshold problem’ for knowledge, namely, how do we determine what fixes the level of justification required for knowledge in a non-arbitrary way? One popular strategy for solving this problem is impurism, which is the view that the required level of justification is partly fixed by one’s practical reasoning situation. However, this strategy has been the target of several recent objections. My goal is to propose a new version of impurism that solves the threshold problem…Read more
  •  139
    Drawing on new empirical data, a group of experimental philosophers have argued that one of the most popular and influential forms of skepticism is much less interesting and much less worrisome than philosophers have thought. Contrary to this claim, I argue that this brand of skepticism remains as threatening as ever. My argument also reveals an important limitation of experimental philosophy and sheds light on the way professional philosophers should go about the business of doing philosophy.
  •  204
    Fallibilism and the Value of Knowledge
    Synthese 191 (6): 1119-1146. 2014.
    This paper defends the epistemological doctrine of fallibilism from recent objections. In “The Myth of Knowledge” Laurence BonJour argues that we should reject fallibilism for two main reasons: first, there is no adequate way to specify what level of justification is required for fallible knowledge; second, we cannot explain why any level of justification that is less than fully conclusive should have the significance that makes knowledge valuable. I will reply to these challenges in a way that …Read more