Research

In Progress

"Reason without Reasons For" (version presented at SLACRR 2017)

"Self-Locating Beliefs" (Under contract with The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, to be coauthored with Andy Egan.)

Encyclopedia article on philosophical issues concerning an agent's beliefs about who she is, where she is, or what time it is.  Covers treatments from philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, formal epistemology, and decision theory.

"Precise Credences" (Under contract with the Open Handbook of Formal Epistemology, to be published in conjunction with PhilPapers.)

General introduction to the Bayesian practice of representing agents as assigning real-valued degrees of belief to claims.

Fundamentals of Bayesian Epistemology  (Under contract with Oxford University Press.)

Introduces the fundamental elements of Bayesian models of degrees of belief.  Compares degrees of belief to binary beliefs, explains the formal components of Bayesian models, applies the Bayesian formalism to decision theory and confirmation theory, assesses well-known arguments for Bayesianism, and describes important challenges to Bayesianism.
(If you're interested in trying out parts of this manuscript in your classroom, e-mail me and I can forward some draft chapters.)

Forthcoming

"When Rational Reasoners Reason Differently" (Co-authored with Matthew Kopec.  Forthcoming in Reasoning: Essays on Theoretical and Practical Thinking.  M. Balcerak-Jackson and B. Balcerak-Jackson eds.  Oxford University Press.)

Different people reason differently, which means that sometimes they reach different conclusions from the same evidence. We maintain that this is not only natural, but rational. In this essay we explore the epistemology of that state of affairs. First we will canvass arguments for and against the claim that rational methods of reasoning must always reach the same conclusions from the same evidence. Then we will consider whether the acknowledgment that people have divergent rational reasoning methods should undermine one’s confidence in one’s own reasoning. Finally we will explore how agents who employ distinct yet equally rational methods of reasoning should respond to interactions with the products of each others’ reasoning. We find that the epistemology of multiple reasoning methods has been misunderstood by a number of authors writing on epistemic permissiveness and peer disagreement. 

"Plausible Permissivism" (Co-authored with Matthew Kopec.)

Consider this a directors' cut of "When Rational Reasoners Reason Differently".  This version does a much more comprehensive job of surveying all the motivations and arguments that have been offered in favor of Feldman and White's Uniqueness Thesis.  Once they are disambiguated, many are found to be question-begging.  The rest we argue against, often by pointing out that the epistemology of rational disagreement has been widely misunderstood.

"Normative Modeling" (Forthcoming in Methods in Analytic Philosophy: A Contemporary Reader.  J. Horvath ed.  Bloomsbury Academic Press.)

Asks whether a modeling methodology like the one used in the sciences could help us discover and understand normative truths.

Published

Quitting Certainties: A Bayesian Framework Modeling Degrees of Belief  (Honorable Mention for the 2015 APA Book Prize, winner of the 2014 Arlt Award from the Council of Graduate Schools.  Available here in paperback.  Reviewed in: Philosophical ReviewNDPR, BJPSAJP, Economics&Philosophy.)

Book description: "Michael G. Titelbaum presents a new Bayesian framework for modeling rational degrees of belief, called the Certainty-Loss Framework. Subjective Bayesianism is epistemologists' standard theory of how individuals should change their degrees of belief over time. But despite the theory's power, it is widely recognized to fail for situations agents face every day—cases in which agents forget information, or in which they assign degrees of belief to self-locating claims. Quitting Certainties argues that these failures stem from a common source: the inability of Conditionalization (Bayesianism's traditional updating rule) to model claims' going from certainty at an earlier time to less-than-certainty later on. It then presents a new Bayesian updating framework that accurately represents rational requirements on agents who undergo certainty loss.

"Titelbaum develops this new framework from the ground up, assuming little technical background on the part of his reader. He interprets Bayesian theories as formal models of rational requirements, leading him to discuss both the elements that go into a formal model and the general principles that link formal systems to norms. By reinterpreting Bayesian methodology and altering the theory's updating rules, Titelbaum is able to respond to a host of challenges to Bayesianism both old and new. These responses lead in turn to deeper questions about commitment, consistency, and the nature of information.

"Quitting Certainties presents the first systematic, comprehensive Bayesian framework unifying the treatment of memory loss and context-sensitivity. It develops this framework, motivates it, compares it to alternatives, then applies it to cases in epistemology, decision theory, the theory of identity, and the philosophy of quantum mechanics."

"One's Own Reasoning"  (Published online in Inquiry, 2016.)

Argues that facts about the outcomes of one's own reasoning processes have a different evidential status than facts about the outcomes of others'.

"Self-Locating Credences" (In The Oxford Handbook of Probability and Philosophy.  A. Hájek and C.R. Hitchcock eds.  Oxford University Press (2016).)

A plea: If you're going to propose a Bayesian framework for updating self-locating degrees of belief, please read this piece first.  I've tried to survey all the extant formalisms, group them by their general approach, then describe challenges faced by every formalism employing a given approach.  Hopefully this survey will prevent further instances of authors' re-inventing updating rules already proposed elsewhere in the literature.

"The Uniqueness Thesis" (Co-authored with Matthew Kopec.  Philosophy Compass 11 (2016): 189–200.)

Surveys the burgeoning literature on Richard Feldman's Uniqueness Thesis.

"Continuing On" (Canadian Journal of Philosophy 45 (2015): 670–691.)

Considers why there's rational pressure for an agent's beliefs to remain constant over time.

"Intuitive Dilation?" (Co-authored with Casey Hart. Thought 4 (2015): 252–262.)

Roger White objects to interval-valued credence theories because they produce a counterintuitive “dilation” effect in a story he calls the Coin Game. We respond that results in the Coin Game were bound to be counterintuitive anyway, because the story involves an agent who learns a biconditional. Biconditional updates produce surprising results whether the credences involved are ranged or precise, so White’s story is no counterexample to ranged credence theories.  

"Reply to Kim's 'Two Versions of Sleeping Beauty'" (Erkenntnis 80 (2015): 1237–1243.)

In his "Titelbaum's Theory of De Se Updating and Two Versions of Sleeping Beauty", Namjoong Kim proposes a counterexample to the Certainty Loss Framework I described in Quitting Certainties.  I explain how my framework handles Kim's example, and more generally address Bayesian difficulties with selecting the right language over which to construct a credence function. 

"Rationality's Fixed Point (Or: In Defense of Right Reason)" (Winner of the 2013 Sanders Prize in Epistemology.  Recognized by The Philosopher's Annual as one of "the ten best articles published in philosophy" in 2015.  Published in Oxford Studies in Epistemology 5 (2015): 253–294.)

Starting from the premise that akrasia is irrational, I argue that it is always a rational mistake to have false beliefs about the requirements of rationality.  Using that conclusion, I defend logical omniscience requirements, the claim that one can never have all-things-considered misleading evidence about what's rational, and the Right Reasons position concerning peer disagreement.  

"How to Derive a Narrow-Scope Requirement from Wide-Scope Requirements" (Philosophical Studies 172 (2015): 535–542.)

A brief piece showing that from generally-accepted wide-scope rational requirements (including the Enkratic Principle), one can derive a narrow-scope rational requirement using standard deontic logic.

"Deference Done Right" (Co-authored with Richard Pettigrew.  Philosophers' Imprint 14 (2014): 1–19.)

We consider three formal principles for deferring to epistemic experts, inspired by three relatives of David Lewis' Principal Principle.  Asking whether each of the principles allows for epistemic modesty and whether each is consistent with updating by Conditionalization, we conclude that two should be rejected and the third may be adopted in a modified form.

"Ten Reasons to Care about the Sleeping Beauty Problem" (Philosophy Compass 8 (2013): 1003–1017.)

The Sleeping Beauty Problem attracts so much attention because it connects to a wide variety of unresolved issues in formal epistemology, decision theory, and the philosophy of science.  The problem raises unanswered questions concerning relative frequencies, objective chances, the relation between self-locating and non-self-locating information, the relation between self-location and updating, Dutch Books, accuracy arguments, memory loss, indifference principles, the existence of multiple universes, and many-worlds interpretations of quantum mechanics.  After stating the problem, this article surveys its connections to all of those areas.

"De Se Epistemology" (In Attitudes "De Se": Linguistics, Epistemology, Metaphysics.  A. Capone and N. Feit eds.  CSLI Publications (2013).)

I argue that we can settle controversies about de se degrees of belief without first settling controversies about de se content.  I do so by describing a de se updating scheme built from elements available to all theories of content.  But I then suggest that solutions to degree of belief puzzles may favor certain theories of de se content over others.

"An Embarrassment for Double-Halfers" (Thought 1 (2012): 146–151.)

"Double-halfers" think that throughout the Sleeping Beauty Problem, the agent named Beauty should keep her credence that a fair coin flip comes up heads equal to 1/2. I introduce a new wrinkle to the problem that shows even double-halfers can't keep Beauty's credences equal to the objective chances for all coin-flip propositions. This leaves no way to deny that self-locating information generates an unexpected kind of inadmissible evidence.

"Symmetry and Evidential Support" (Symmetry 3 (2011): 680–698.)

This article explains the central technical result of "Not Enough There There" (see below) in a more step-by-step, accessible fashion.  It also frames that result in terms of the language-dependence problems faced by Carnap's early confirmation theories, and briefly describes the philosophical consequences more fully explored in the latter half "Not Enough There There."

"Not Enough There There: Evidence, Reasons, and Language Independence" (Philosophical Perspectives 24 (2010): 477–528.)

Begins by explaining then proving a generalized language dependence result similar to Goodman's "grue" problem.  I then use this result to cast doubt on the existence of an objective evidential favoring relation (such as "the evidence confirms one hypothesis over another," "the evidence provides more reason to believe one hypothesis over the other," "the evidence justifies one hypothesis over the other," etc.).  Once we understand what language dependence tells us about evidential favoring, our options are an implausibly strong conception of the a priori, a hard externalism on which agents are unable to determine what their evidence favors, or a subjectivist view that makes evidential favoring relative to features of the agent.

"Tell Me You Love Me: Bootstrapping, Externalism, and No-Lose Epistemology" (Philosophical Studies 149 (2010): 119–134.)

One thing wrong with any theory of justification that generates "bootstrapping" in Vogel's gas gauge example is that it permits a no-lose investigation—an investigation that may justify a proposition but is guaranteed not to undermine it.  I give necessary and sufficient conditions for no-lose investigations then argue that they can be avoided only by a skeptic, a Closure-denier, or an internalist about justification.

"The Relevance of Self-Locating Beliefs" (Recognized by The Philosopher's Annual as one of "the ten best articles published in philosophy" in 2008.  Published in Philosophical Review 117 (2008): 555–605.  )

Formalizes and expands the traditional Bayesian framework for modeling agents' rational degrees of belief to apply to cases involving context-sensitive beliefs. Along the way, it offers a solution to the Sleeping Beauty Problem and defends that solution from alternate accounts.

"What Would a Rawlsian Ethos of Justice Look Like?" (Philosophy & Public Affairs 36 (2008): 289–322.)

A response to G. A. Cohen's argument that a prevailing "ethos" of justice would prevent a Rawlsian just society from having any income inequalities.  I suggest that Cohen's argument fails because a Rawlsian ethos would involve correlates of both of Rawls' principles of justice.

Review of David Christensen's Putting Logic in its Place (Mind 117 (2008): 677–681.)

Unpublished

"Contractualism, Chances, and Aggregation"

I propose a new way for a Scanlonian contractualist to argue that, when faced with a situation in which a number of people are threatened with the same level of harm, you should save as many people as possible from that harm.  The argument draws on a principle Sophia Reibetanz has defended for managing cases involving the chance of harm.

"De re Evidence and the Anthropic Argument for the Multiverse"

Explains why the argument from our existence to the existence of many universes fails.  After writing this, I discovered Roger White had already made the same point in his "Fine-Tuning and Multiple Universes".  Still, this piece makes that point in a simple, direct way without much mathematics.

"Does the Principal Principle Need Superbabies?"

I discuss why David Lewis framed his Principal Principle in terms of reasonable initial credence functions, then explain how the principle can be reformulated without reference to initial functions.

"An Infinitesimal Addition to Certain Frustration"

A brief response to Alan Hájek's Cable Guy Paradox.


[Page last modified 2/2017.]

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