A philosopher who is not taking part in discussions is like a boxer who never goes into the ring.
- Ludwig Wittgenstein -
My research centers on two, inter-related research clusters in epistemology and philosophy of psychology. The first research-cluster focuses on motivating and developing new (virtue-theoretic), non-reductive models of knowledge and includes projects on the Gettier Problem, the nature of luck, fallibilism, the interface between epistemology and ethics, and the epistemic import of peer disagreement. The second research-cluster focuses on the methodologies and implications of psychology and includes projects on the nature of intellectual virtues in light of heuristics and biases, the epistemic implications of cognitive science, and the philosophical psychology of intellectual virtues.
Epistemology Research Cluster
Early in my career, I was struck by two dominant trends within contemporary epistemology: (i) the growing dissatisfaction with the reductive analysis of knowledge and (ii) the surging popularity of virtue-theoretic epistemologies. The ultimate goal of my research has been to endorse both trends, to endorse non-reductive virtue epistemology. Given that almost all prominent renditions of virtue epistemology assume the reductive model, however, achieving such a goal is not straightforward. My research has aimed (i) to motivate the move away from reductive models of knowledge, in general, (ii) to motivate the move away from reductive virtue epistemology, in particular, and (iii) to develop non-reductive virtue epistemology.
"The Gambler" by Vladimir Nemukhin
(i) Motivating the Move Away From Reductive Models of Knowledge, in General
The first part of my research involves diagnosing what is wrong with the reductive model and defending that diagnosis against objections. The problem with the reductive project is the Gettier Problem. In work like “Getting ‘Lucky’ with Gettier” (2013) ,
“Luck and Gettier Problems” (forthcoming), and “Giving up on Gettier” (in progress), I argue that—given the nature of luck, the key component of Gettier problems—Gettier problems cannot be viably avoided. And because of this, I suggest that reductive accounts of knowledge are systematically doomed to fail.
(ii) Motivating the Move Away from Reductive Virtue Epistemology, in Particular
The second leg of my research involves applying the above diagnosis of Gettier Problems to prominent versions of (reductive) virtue epistemology. In “Manifest Failure Failure ”(2013), “50 Years of Gettier” (2015), and "Virtue Epistemology and the Gettier Dilemma” (in progress), I argue again and again that the prominent versions of virtue epistemology systematically and predictably fail to viably surmount the Gettier problem.
(iii) Developing Non-Reductive Virtue Epistemology
Having diagnosed what is wrong with the reductive project and applied this diagnosis to prominent versions of (reductive) virtue epistemology, the final part of my research explores the possibility of non-reductive virtue epistemology. In papers like “Non-Reductive Virtue Epistemology” (submitted) and my monograph Knowledge as Virtue (prospects submitted to publishers), I consider prominent non-reductive models of knowledge and argue that such models need to incorporate virtue-theoretic elements. And, happily, I also argue that this can easily be done, and it can be done to a powerful effect: providing truly exciting, new solutions to perennial problems in epistemology (e.g. the value problem) and paving the way to new interfaces between epistemic and moral virtues.
Philosophy of Psychology Research Cluster
Over the past several years, I have developed collaborative relationships with psychologists and cognitive scientists. These relationships have proven to be extremely fruitful—leading to a number of exciting interdisciplinary projects joining the conceptual clarity and interests of philosophy with the strength and energy of empirical research. I’ll now very briefly describe three of these projects.
Heuristics and Biases and the Nature of Intellectual Virtues: One of the biggest challenges to virtue epistemology (and one of the biggest challenges the non-reductive virtue epistemology I am trying to develop!) comes from psychology: given the host of heuristics and biases at work in our cognitive faculties, perhaps (so the worry goes) they are actually not that well suited to intellectual virtues. In work like “When Cognition Turns Vicious: Heuristics and Biases in Light of Virtue Epistemology” (2014), Dr. Peter Samuelson and I have argued that there is actually a surprising harmony between the philosophical and psychological research—a harmony that can help dissolve such worries.
Cognitive Science of Religious Epistemology: Recent work in cognitive science of religion (CSR) is beginning to converge on a very interesting thesis: that, given the ordinary features of human minds operating in typical human environments, we are naturally disposed to believe in the existence of gods, among other religious ideas. This project has largely centered on exploring the broader epistemic ramifications of this research. Justin Barrett and I's article “Should CSR Give Atheists Assurance?” (2013) explores some of this terrain, as well as my new article "Divine Hiddenness and the Nonresistant Non-Belief Assumption" (in progress).
The Philosophical Psychology of Intellectual Virtues: Disagreements about religion are arguably the most intractable and the most in need virtues like intellectual humility. Whether it’s Christian fundamentalism, Islamic jihadism, or militant atheism, religious dialogue often remains tinted by a terrifying and dehumanizing arrogance, dogma, and ignorance. In a series of short articles, “Is Intellectual Humility Compatible with Dogmatism?” (forthcoming), “Virtuous Religious Dogmatism” (forthcoming), and “Trenches, Evidence, and Intellectual Humility” (forthcoming), I am engaging with and responding to prominent psychologists as I try to set out a theoretical framework that might best undergird an empirical understanding of such an intellectual virtue. Psychologists Dr. Joshua Hook and Dr. Don Davis’s have helpfully responded to some of this work in their paper, “Intellectual Humility in the Trenches: A Reply to Church” (forthcoming). Other work in this direction includes my monograph (co-authored with Peter Samuelson), Intellectual Humility: An Introduction to the Philosophy and Psychology, and my forthcoming article (also co-authored with Samuelson) "Humility in Positive and Personality Psychology" (forthcoming).