Published and forthcoming:
Understanding and Philosophical Methodology - PDF
2012 in Philosophical Studies (with B. Balcerak Jackson)
Abstract: According to Conceptualism, philosophy is an independent discipline that can be pursued from the armchair because philosophy seeks truths that can be discovered purely on the basis of our understanding of expressions and the concepts they express. In his recent book, The Philosophy of Philosophy, Timothy Williamson argues that while philosophy can indeed be pursued from the armchair, we should reject any form of Conceptualism. In this paper, we show that Williamson’s arguments against Conceptualism are not successful, and we sketch a way to understand understanding that shows that there is a clear sense in which we can indeed come to know the answers to (many) philosophical questions purely on the basis of understanding.
Conceptual Analysis and Epistemic Progress - PDF
2013 in Synthese
Abstract: This essay concerns the question how we can make genuine epistemic progress through conceptual analysis. I argue that the paradox of analysis that is mostly treated as a semantic puzzle raises a more fundamental epistemic problem that withstands the semantic proposals. I solve this problem by presenting an account of how the process of conceptual analysis can yield justification for a candidate analysis. This account draws crucially on some analogies between scientific enquiry and philosophical practice, and treats conceptual analysis as an abductive search for a good philosophical theory.
Reasoning as a Source of Justification - PDF
2013 in Philosophical Studies (with B. Balcerak Jackson)
Abstract: In this paper we argue that reasoning can sometimes generate epistemic justification, rather than merely transmitting justification that a subject already possesses to a new belief by discussing three cases. We also suggest a way to account for it in terms of epistemic normative requirements, justification and cognitive capacities.
Justification by Imagination - PDF
forthcoming in “Perceptual Memory and Perceptual Imagination” (eds. F. Dorsch / F. Macpherson), OUP
Abstract: The goal of this paper is to elucidate the epistemological and methodological role of imagination by reflecting on the similarities and differences between imaginings and perceivings. I argue that even though what we imagine is up to us, imaginings - in virtue of their recreative nature - have evidential value just as perceptions do. But they provide us with evidence of a different kind: They justify us in beliefs about the structure of our experience.
On Imagining, Supposing and Conceiving - PDF
forthcoming in “Knowledge Through Imagination” (eds. A. Kind / P. Kung), OUP
Abstract: To explain how we achieve our cognitive goals when we make decisions about further actions, when we perform thought experiments, and when we engage in games of pretense, philosophers frequently invoke our ability to imagine, conceive and/or suppose various things. But what is the relationship between imaginings, conceivings and supposings? And exactly what epistemic roles do they play in the cognitive projects in which they are involved? In this paper, I provide answers to these questions by first bringing out a contrast between what we do when we imagine and when we suppose, and when by showing how to fit conceivings into the emerging systematic picture of how we use different forms of hypothetical thinking to acquire knowledge.
Intentional Horizons. The Mind from an Epistemic Point of View - Publisher’s Website
2009, Monograph, mentis (Mind, Language and Communication series, ed. T. Metzinger/ C. Fehige)
Abstract: This book is a defense of intentionalism. According to intentionalism the phenomenal character of all mental states - such as thoughts, perceptions, emotions or bodily sensations - is determined by their intentional properties, that is by their meaning. Many philosophers of mind are attracted to intentionalism because they assume that an intentional description of mental phenomena contributes to a reduction of mental properties to physical properties. This book adopts a different point of view: We can see intentionality more fruitfully as the basis for a theory that explains how various different mental states are epistemically significant for us. Once we adopt an epistemological perspective on the mind, we can formulate an intentionalist theory that not only has more explanatory force, but is also more phenomenologically adequate than accounts available so far.
Under review, under revisions and in progress (drafts not available here might be available on request):
What’s Wrong With A Priori Bootstrapping - PDF
Abstract: Perceptual Fundamentalists, such as Dogmatists, maintain that we can have justified perceptual beliefs without having a priori justified belief that perception is reliable. Recently, Ralph Wedgwood and Stewart Cohen have independently argued that Perceptual Fundamentalism entails that we can gain an a priori justified belief that our perception is reliable or at least not undetectably unreliable. They both claim that we can acquire this belief by engaging in a suppositional reasoning process of a priori bootstrapping. If Wedgwood and Cohen were correct, this would certainly be - whether welcome or not - a surprising consequence of Perceptual Fundamentalism. But in this paper I show why a priori bootstrapping is not a rational reasoning procedure. Moreover, seeing why Perceptual Fundamentalists are not committed to a priori bootstrapping, will help to understand the nature of the perceptual entitlements they posit, or should posit.
Imagination and the A Priori/A Posteriori Distinction
Abstract: In this paper I argue that imagination provides us with a priori justification, and I draw consequences for the a priori/a posteriori distinction.
Can Epistemic Analyticity Explain A Priority?
for a collection of papers on "The A Priori" (eds. D. Dodd, E. Zardini)
Abstract: One of the most important motivations for the philosophical interest in the notion of analyticity has always been the prospect of using such a notion to explain our acquisition of a priori knowledge in logic, mathematics, but also in philosophy. Analyticity comes in two flavors: On the metaphysical conception of analyticity a true thought is analytic if and only if it is true purely in virtue of meaning. On the epistemic conception of analyticity a true thought is analytic if and only if understanding it puts one in a position to know it. While broadly Quinean concerns have led many to abandon the metaphysical conception of analyticity, many philosophers continue to embrace the epistemic conception of analyticity, following Paul Boghossian. On the standard elaboration of that conception, some thoughts are epistemically analytic because they are such that whoever understands the relevant concepts and the way they are composed assents to them, or is at least in some robust sense disposed to assent to them. Therefore, the crucial question any epistemic conception has to answer is the question what it takes to understand concepts and thoughts. Only against a plausible account of understanding can we see whether any thought is epistemically analytic at all, and whether a notion of epistemic analyticity can indeed explain interesting a priori knowledge. In this paper, I present a dilemma for an epistemic account of analyticity. We can construe understanding either thinly or thickly. If we construe understanding thinly – such that being able to communicate with a word within a relevant linguistic community suffices for understanding the concept the word expresses – we get a defensible conception of analyticity that is grounded in linguistic/semantic considerations, but one that is only able to account for trivial a priori knowledge. If we construe understanding thickly – as everything that a rational subject needs to be able to do to apply her concepts to actual and hypothetical cases, that is to be able to engage in some form of conceptual analysis – then we plausibly do get non-trivial analytic truths, but it becomes unclear whether analyticity can explain a priority rather than the other way around. I use these two complementary lines of thought to argue that while epistemic analyticity might be of interest to some philosophical projects, it is of very limited use for the project of explaining interesting a priori knowledge.
Thought Experiments and Model-Based Philosophy
Abstract: In this paper I distinguish two very different kinds of thought experiments: hypothetical samples and hypothetical surrogates. I argue that hypothetical surrogates should be best understood as philosophical analogs of scientific models, and show how this matters for the correct epistemic assessment of well-known thought experiments such as Rawls’ Original Position.
Intuitions as Inferential Judgments
Abstract: Despite the disagreements about the best theory of the ontological and epistemic nature of intuitions as used in philosophical practice, most philosophers agree on one thing: Intuitions are non-inferential mental states, such as either presentations or seemings of a certain sort, or immediately justified judgments. In this paper, I argue that this assumption is false by presenting arguments for the Inferentialist View according to which intuitions are inferential judgments. I also address the question why it matters whether intuitions are inferential or not.
The Perspectivity of Imagination
Abstract: It is often regarded as one of the defining features of conscious mental states that they are perspectival. While it is challenging to account for the perspectivity of conscious mental states in general, imaginings pose a special problem. There are two intuitively compelling observations about the perspectivity of imaginings that are in tension with each other. The first is that in imagination we can take the perspective of ourselves in other circumstances, as well as the perspective of other actual or merely possible subjects. The second is that imaginings are always subjective and self-involving; in imagination we always experience things from the first-person perspective. In this paper, I argue that existing views fail to capture at least one if these characteristics, and I present a more promising framework for explaining the distinctive perspectival nature of imagination.
Intentionalism and the Structure of Experience
Abstract: Intentionalism is the view according to which the phenomenal character of mental states supervenes on their intentional properties, and especially their intentional content. In this paper I present a novel argument in favor of Intentionalism: the Argument from Epistemic Significance. The argument exploits the fact that every conscious mental state of ours makes it rational for us to draw a certain set of inferences in virtue of the specific phenomenal character it has.