Vancouver Summer Philosophy Conference - Photography by Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa


My primary research revolves around a few themes – rationality, language, and virtue – and their importance for accounts of human excellence and achievement. These central concerns manifest themselves in particular interests in epistemology, ethics, social and political philosophy, philosophy of language, and metaphysics.


1."Ignorance and Awareness," Noûs, with Paul Silva  (Forthcoming) (Draft)

  • Knowledge implies the presence of a positive relation between a person and a fact.  Factual ignorance, on the other hand, implies the absence of some positive relation between a person and a fact. The two most influential views of ignorance hold that what is lacking in cases of factual ignorance is knowledge or true belief, but these accounts fail to explain a number of basic facts about ignorance. In their place, we propose a novel and systematic defense of the view that factual ignorance is the absence of awareness, an account that both comes apart from the dominant views and overcomes their deficiencies. Given the important role that ignorance plays in moral and legal theory and our understanding of various epistemic injustices, a precise and theoretically unproblematic account of the nature of ignorance is important not only for normative epistemology, but also for law, ethics, and applied epistemology. 

2. "Being Rational Enough: Maximizing, Satisficing, and Degrees of Rationality," Australasian Journal of Philosophy (Forthcoming) (Draft)

  • Against the maximizing conception of practical rationality, Michael Slote has argued that rationality does not always require choosing what is most rational. Instead, it can sometimes be rational to do something that is less than fully rational. In this paper, I will argue that maximizers have a ready response to Slote’s position. Roy Sorensen has argued that ‘rational’ is an absolute term, suggesting that it is not possible to be rational without being completely rational. Sorensen’s view is confirmed by the fact that, by the lights of contemporary linguistics, ‘rational’ is an absolute gradable adjective. Because ‘rational’ is an absolute gradable adjective, being rational requires being at the top of the scale of rationality, making anyone who is not fully rational positively irrational. Contra Slote, the only way to be rational enough is to be maximally rational.

3. "Grounding, Understanding, and Explanation" Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (Forthcoming) (Draft)

4. "Epistemic Democracy and the Truth Connection" Public Reason (Forthcoming) (Draft)

  • Modal metaphysics consumed much of the philosophical discussion at the turn of the century, yielding a number of epistemological insights.  Modal analyses were applied within epistemology, yielding sensitivity and safety theories of knowledge as well as counterfactual accounts of the basing relation.  The contemporary conversation has now turned to a new metaphysical notion - grounding - opening the way to a fresh wave of insights by bringing grounding into epistemology.  In this paper, I attempt one such application, making sense of the epistemic regress problem in terms of grounding.  I argue that the relation that generates the epistemic regress is a grounding relation, showing that grounding can make sense of proposals by epistemic foundationalists and charting the course for similar applications to epistemic coherentism and epistemic infinitism.  If it is right that grounding is involved in the epistemic regress, this points the way forward both for epistemologists and metaphysicians, revealing the prospects of solutions to the epistemic regress problem while providing grounding advocates with yet another example of grounding with which to theorize. 

6. "Checking and the Argument from Inquiry," Acta Analytica (Forthcoming) (Draft), Invited Commentary on Guido Melchior's Knowing and Checking

  • In n his recent book, Knowing and Checking, Guido Melchior argues that, when we attempt to check whether p, we tend to think that we do not know p. Melchior then uses this assumption to explain a number of puzzles about knowledge. One outstanding question for Melchior’s account, however, is why this tendency exists. After all, Melchior himself argues that checking is not necessary for knowing, so why would we think that we fail to know that p when we are in the midst of checking that p? I will explore one such suggestion for why this occurs, arguing that the connection between checking and inquiry can shed light on the impact that checking has on knowing.

7. "Seeking to Understand" | Teaching Philosophy, with Zac Odermatt (Forthcoming) (Draft)

  • It is no secret that we, as a society, struggle to have productive conversations about race and gender.  Discussions about these issues are beset with obstacles, from the inherent power dynamics between conversation partners to the fear that participants feel about saying something harmful.  One practice that can help address these difficulties is intergroup dialogue - sustained, small group discussions with participants from a variety of social identities.  In this paper, we detail how we incorporated intergroup dialogue into a 120 student ``Philosophy of Race, Class, and Gender'' course, providing a blueprint for anyone who wants to help their students develop the ability to take part in fruitful conversations surrounding these challenging topics.  We provide strategies for how to design intergroup dialogues to avoid many of the common pitfalls of such conversations, strategies that ultimately helped our students become more likely to initiate and participate in worthwhile discussions on race and gender. We expect our experiences to be especially helpful for instructors of large courses, where making time for small group dialogue is quite challenging, but many of the practices we used can also be adapted for smaller scale courses as well.

8. "Philosophical Dialogue for Beginners" | AAPT Studies in Pedagogy, with Zac Odermatt (Forthcoming)

  • Inspired by the practice of dialogue in ancient philosophical schools, the Philosophy as a Way of Life (PWOL) Project at the University of Notre Dame has sought to put dialogue back at the center of philosophical pedagogy.  Impromptu philosophical dialogue, however, can be challenging for students who are new to philosophy.  Anticipating this challenge, the Project has created a series of manuals to help instructors conduct dialogue groups with novice philosophy students.  Using these guidelines, we incorporated PWOL-style dialogue groups into our Spring 2021 course, "The Philosophy of Race, Class, and Gender", with the hope that, through having conversations about these challenging topics, our students would both be able to practice having philosophical dialogues as well as form their views on race and gender in light of contributions from their diverse peers.  This article examines several strategies for how instructors can seek to incorporate similar dialogues into their own introductory classrooms.

9. "Rational Supererogation and Epistemic Permissivism," Philosophical Studies (2022) 179:571–591. (Draft)

10. "Thomas Reid, the Internalist" | Journal of Modern Philosophy (2022) 4.1: p. 10. (Open Access)

11. "Credal Accuracy and Knowledge" | Synthese (2022) 200.163. (Open Access)

  • Traditional epistemologists assumed that the most important doxastic norms were rational requirements on belief.  This orthodoxy has recently been challenged by the work of revolutionary epistemologists on the rational requirements on credences.  Revolutionary epistemology takes it that such contemporary work is important precisely because traditional epistemologists are mistaken -- credal norms are more fundamental than, and determinative of, belief norms.  To make sense of their innovative project, many revolutionary epistemologists have also adopted another commitment, that norms on credences are governed by a fundamental accuracy norm.  Unfortunately for the revolutionary epistemologist, it has been difficult to define a measure of accuracy while maintaining that credal norms are more basic than belief norms.  In this paper, I criticize one such proposal for measuring accuracy, that the accuracy of our credences should be assessed in terms of what we know, arguing that this picture ultimately cannot vindicate the revolutionary approach.

12. "Real and Ideal Rationality," Philosophical Studies (2022) 179: pp. 879–910. (Draft)

  • Formal epistemologists often claim that our credences should be representable by a probability function. Complete probabilistic coherence, however, is only possible for ideal agents, raising the question of how this requirement relates to our everyday judgments concerning rationality. One possible answer is that being rational is a contextual matter, that the standards for rationality change along with the situation. Just like who counts as tall changes depending on whether we are considering toddlers or basketball players, perhaps what counts as rational shifts according to whether we are considering ideal agents or creatures more like ourselves. Even though a number of formal epistemologists have endorsed this type of solution, I will argue that there is no way to spell out this contextual account that can make sense of our everyday judgments about rationality. Those who defend probabilistic coherence requirements will need an alternative account of the relationship between real and ideal rationality.

13. "Accuracy Across Doxastic Attitudes: Recent Work on the Accuracy of Belief," American Philosophical Quarterly (2022) 59.2: pp. 201–217. (Draft)

14. "Condorcet’s Jury Theorem and Democracy," 1,000 Word Philosophy: An Introductory Anthology (2022) (Open Access)

15. "Grounding and A Priori Epistemology: Challenges for Conceptualism," Synthese (2021) 199: pp. 11445–11463. (Draft)

16. "Belief, Rational and Justified," Mind (2021) 130: pp. 59-83. (Draft)

  • It is clear that beliefs can be assessed both as to their justification and their rationality. What is not as clear, however, is how the rationality and justification of belief relate to one another. Stewart Cohen has stumped for the popular proposal that rationality and justification come to the same thing, that rational beliefs just are justified beliefs, supporting his view by arguing that ‘justified belief’ and ‘rational belief’ are synonymous. In this paper, I will give reason to think that Cohen’s argument is spurious. I will show that ‘rational’ and ‘justified’ occupy two distinct semantic categories – ‘rational’ is an absolute gradable adjective and ‘justified’ is a relative gradable adjective – telling against the thought that ‘rational belief’ and ‘justified belief’ are synonymous. I will then argue that the burden of proof is on those who would equate rationality and justification, making the case that those who hold this prominent position face the difficulty of explaining how rationality and justification come to the same thing even though ‘rational’ and ‘justified’ are not synonymous.  

17. "No Work for a Theory of Epistemic Dispositions," Synthese (2021) 198.4: pp. 3477-3498. (Draft)

18. "Does Being Rational Require Being Ideally Rational?," Philosophical Topics (2021) 49.2: 245-266 (Draft)

  • A number of formal epistemologists have argued that perfect rationality requires probabilistic coherence, a requirement that they often claim applies only to ideal agents. However, in “Rationality as an Absolute Concept,” Roy Sorensen contends that ‘rational’ is an absolute term. Just as Peter Unger argued that being flat requires that a surface be completely free of bumps and blemishes, Sorensen claims that being rational requires being perfectly rational. However, when we combine these two views, they lead to counterintuitive results. If being rational requires being perfectly rational, and only the probabilistically coherent are perfectly rational, then this indicts all ordinary agents as irrational. In this paper, I will attempt to resolve this conflict by arguing that Sorensen is only partly correct. One important sense of ‘rational,’ the sanctioning sense of ‘rational’, is an absolute term, but another important sense of ‘rational,’ the sense in which someone can have rational capacities, is not. I will, then, show that this distinction has important consequences for theorizing about ideal rationality, developing an account of the relationship between ordinary and ideal rationality. Because the sanctioning sense of ‘rational’ is absolute, it is rationally required to adopt the most rational attitude available, but which attitude is most rational can change depending on whether we are dealing with ideal agents or people more like ourselves.

19. "Stoic Virtue: A Contemporary Interpretation," Philosophers' Imprint (2020) 20:  pp. 1-20. (Open Access)

20. "The Demandingness of Virtue," The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (2020) 18: pp. 1-22. (Draft

21. "Incoherent but Reasonable: A Defense of Truth-Abstinence in Political Liberalism," Social Theory and Practice, with Alex Schaefer, (2020) 46: pp. 573–603. (Draft)