*Featured in The Philosopher's Annual 2021.
No Free Lunch: The Significance of Tiny Contributions, Analysis (2018). [link]
Fool Me Once: Can Indifference Vindicate Induction? (with Han Li), Episteme (2018). [link]
Work in Progress
Feel free to send an email if you're interested in hearing about any of these works in progress...
Save the Five: Meeting Taurek's ChallengeSix people are in trouble; we can save five of them or just the sixth. In a radical and influential paper, John Taurek argues that we are not required to save the greater number. Taurek's paper has persuaded some, but even those who are not persuaded agree that Taurek's paper raises a deep and important challenge: From where does the priority of the many derive? It seems difficult, or even impossible, to derive the importance of numbers in ethics from more basic principles. The paper I'm working on aims to do this. Specifically, it argues that the priority of the many can be derived from something more basic—the simple claim that if we can improve a person's chance of survival, then, other things equal, we should.
Voter Ignorance, Voter Altruism, and the Prospect of a Decisive VoteIt has recently been argued that voting to change the outcome can often be rational. The argument, though, seems to assume that the would-be voter (a) would vote for the better candidate (which can't easily be ascertained in advance) and (b) is a perfect altruist (which involves valuing the welfare of an arbitrary citizen just as highly as one's own welfare). Both assumptions look suspect, though. On examination, we'll see that both of these issues can be addressed in a way that leaves a version of the original argument for voting intact—though it will involve qualifying the argument in some important and clarifying ways.
Statistical Evidence, Accuracy, and Justified ConvictionMany of us strongly believe that it is not permissible to convict a defendant in court on the basis of purely statistical evidence. This paper explores how this widely held judgment interacts with differing theories of criminal punishment, including retributive, utilitarian, and proceduralist views. Surprisingly, it turns out that the first two approaches, which are both quite popular, are unable to explain and vindicate our unwillingness to convict on purely statistical grounds. Only the proceduralist approach has the tools to do this. This means that the anti-statistical evidence intuition and proceduralism have a close relationship; they stand or fall together.
Five Roles for InclinationInitially, you judge that p. You then learn that experts disagree. You believe that the experts are probably right. Still, p continues to seem right to you, in some sense. You don’t yet see what, if anything, was wrong with your original reasoning. Under these conditions, we’ll say that you are “inclined” toward p. This attitude of inclination can play several important roles, both within epistemology and more broadly. Inclinations can promote the accuracy of inquiring groups; they can support rational participation within philosophy in the face of pervasive disagreement; inclinations carry information about individuals’ independent judgments and for this reason must be accounted for when updating on the opinions of others; they are connected to understanding in a way that belief is not; and finally, awareness of the inclination-belief distinction enables us to respond to a provocative challenge purporting to show that ‘thinking for oneself’ typically reduces expected accuracy and hence should be discouraged.