Research

 

Published and Forthcoming:


What Follows from the Possibility of Boltzmann Brains?

Forthcoming in Current Controversies in Philosophy of Science

A discussion of the cosmological implications of the possibility of Boltzmann Brains, a hypothesized observer that comes into existence by way of an extremely low-probability quantum or thermodynamic “fluctuation'” and that is capable of conscious experience (including sensory experience and apparent memories) and at least some degree of reflection about itself and its environment.


A Formal Account of Evidential Defeat

Forthcoming in Synthese Library festschrift for Peter Klein

In this paper, I provide a Bayesian account of epistemic defeat that improves upon extant accounts by handling partial defeat, the distinction between undercutting and opposing defeat, hybrid defeat, and the distinction between defeat and redundancy.


Comments on Richard Pettigrew’s Accuracy and the Laws of Credence

Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (May 2018) 96(3): pp. 776-783

A critical engagement with Richard Pettigrew’s new book on accuracy-dominance arguments in epistemology.


Probability in Epistemology

In Hajek and Hitchcock (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Probability and Philosophy (OUP  2016)

A discussion of the various ways in which probabilistic results and approaches are relevant to epistemology.


The Normativity of Humor

Philosophical Issues (2015) 25(1): pp. 396-414

In this paper, I argue that the concept of humor is doubly normative: it results from the violations of (practical, epistemic, and aesthetic) norms, and it succeeds when it manifests many of the same (practical, epistemic, and aesthetic) features that give rise to other kinds of normative successes.


The Probabilistic Explanation of Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing

Goldschmidt, T. (ed.), The Puzzle of Existence: Why Is There Something Rather Than Nothing? (2013) London: Routledge: pp. 215-34

In this paper, I critically discuss a style of argument that moves from the premise that there are “more ways” for A to be true than for B to be true to the conclusion that A is likelier than B.  I discuss an argument in this style due to Robert Nozick and Peter van Inwagen for the conclusion that it was more likely that the Universe would contain Something rather than Nothing, and argue for an approach to such arguments according to which a posteriori considerations play an ineliminable role.


Multiple Studies and Evidential Defeat

Nôus (2013) 47(1): pp. 154-80

In this paper, I address the question of whether the existence of multiple relevantly similar other studies does anything to defeat the evidence that any one study provides for its conclusion.  The orthodox view is that it does, as embodied in statistical principles such as the Bonferroni Correction.  I argue that while there are circumstances in which this view is correct, it has been applied much too widely by philosophers and statisticians.


Selection Biases in Likelihood Arguments

British Journal for the Philosophy of Science (2012) 63(4): pp. 825-39

The Fine-Tuning Argument takes the fact that various features of our universe appear to be fine-tuned for life to be evidence for the conclusion that those features were set by some sort of intelligent designer.  Proponents of the so-called “Objection from Anthropic Bias” accuse the Fine-Tuning Argument of failing to respect the Requirement of Total Evidence, by ignoring the selection bias that is constituted by the fact that we are capable of making observations only in life-friendly universes like this one.  I argue that the Objection from Anthropic Bias is unsuccessful, and I defend an account of selection bias that accommodates all of the uncontroversial cases.


Silins’s Liberalism

Philosophical Studies (2012) 159(1): pp. 61-68

Nico Silins has proposed and defended a form of Liberalism about perception that, he thinks, is a good compromise between the Dogmatism of Jim Pryor and others, and the Conservatism of Roger White, Crispin Wright, and others.  In particular, Silins argues that his theory can explain why having justification to believe the negation of skeptical hypotheses is a necessary condition for having justification to believe ordinary propositions, even though (contra the Conservative) the latter is not had in virtue of the former.  I argue that Silins’s explanation is unsuccessful, and hence that we should prefer either White/Wright-style Conservatism (which can explain this necessary condition) or Pryor-style Dogmatism (which denies that this is a necessary condition).


Dragging and Confirming

The Philosophical Review (2012) 121(1): pp. 55-93

In this paper, I address the question of when evidence for a stronger claim H1 also constitutes evidence for a weaker claim H2.  Although the answer “Always” is tempting, it is false on a natural Bayesian conception of evidence.  This paper is an exploration of the resources that a Bayesian has to vindicate apparently justified instances of this sort of reasoning.


In Defense of Objective Bayesianism, by Jon Williamson

Mind (2011) 120(480): pp. 1324-1330

A review of Jon Williamson’s In Defense of Objective Bayesianism.


Review of Decision Theory and Rationality by José Luis Bermúdez

Philosophical Books (2010) 51(1): pp. 53-62

In Progress:


The Bayesian and Frequentist Approaches to Inference

Bayesianism and Frequentism are two very different approaches to statistical inference and, I think, to inference more generally.  In this paper, I aim to do two things.  First, in Section 2--4, I will explain both the Bayesian and the Frequentist approaches by giving both analyses of the same simple coin case.  Second, in Sections 5--8, I will identify what I take to be the four most salient philosophical differences between Bayesians and Frequentists, and argue that in each case the Bayesian’s position is more defensible.