Research

Here you can view my current research statement (ctrl + click for a new tab).

You can also view my cv for a short dissertation abstract on page 1, and for an extended abstract on page 5 (ctrl + click for a new tab).

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Ontological Entanglement in the Normative Web

Terence Cuneo (2007) has argued that we have to be committed to the existence of epistemic facts insofar as they are indispensable to theorizing (a project that is likewise cognitively indispensable). Furthermore, he argues that the epistemic properties of these facts are inextricably ‘ontologically entangled’ with certain moral properties, such that there exist indispensable ‘moral-epistemic’ facts. Cuneo, therefore, concludes that insofar as epistemic realism is true, moral realism is likewise true. I argue that Cuneo’s appeal to the existence of indispensable moral-epistemic facts is problematic, even granting the existence of indispensable epistemic facts. I conclude, therefore, that Cuneo’s argument fails to justify moral realism.

Papers In Progress

Agent-Level Inference: How Robust?

Many epistemologists have recently developed a deeper interest in the nature of inference, understood as an agent-level psychological process. Much of this interest has converged around the question of what distinguishes agent-level inference from sub-agential inference and merely associative mental state transitions. The new orthodoxy contends that agent-level reasoning is necessarily characterized by a kind of “Taking Condition” (Boghossian 2014). The taking condition on inference states, roughly, that agent-level reasoning requires the agent to “take” her premises to support drawing some further conclusion. Many authors have subsequently speculated about whether taking-attitudes are further beliefs, intuitions, or some other sort of information-bearing state. In this paper I focus on theoretical reasoning. I do not dispute that agent-level theoretical reasoning involves a kind of taking-attitude, nor do I defend any particular conception of what sort of this is. Instead, I ask a question about how robust the contents of taking-attitudes must be. Specifically, I argue that an agent can take her premises to support her conclusions even if she does not conceptualize herself as performing the inference or her premise-attitudes as her own attitudes. Instead, it is sufficient for “taking” that the agent sees certain propositions as supporting other propositions, and to have her beliefs determined on the basis of this recognition (cf. Peacocke 1996). So I deny that theoretical inference requires self-knowledge of belief. This leaves us with a question: when an agent *is* aware of her premises *qua attitudes*, what cognitive importance does this additional awareness provide? Contra those views that understand the cognitive importance of self-conscious inferential belief in terms of its being available for self-critical evaluation (Burge 1996, 2013c; Sorgiovanni 2019), I argue that the chief cognitive import of self-conscious inference can be found in our capacity to reason *with other agents*.

Constitutivist and Rational-Fundamentalist Privileged Self-Knowledge

Constitutivists about self-knowledge argue that rational agents frequently have self-knowledge of their own first-order propositional attitudes as a matter of necessity. This notion of constitution is often treated with metaphysical seriousness. Thus, constitutivists often argue that self-beliefs are not (ordinarily) ontologically distinct from their first-order objects. This, in turn, could mean that (1) one’s self-beliefs have their first-order objects as a proper part, (2) one’s self-beliefs just are self-conscious first-order beliefs, or (3) one’s self-beliefs necessarily supervene on their first-order objects, despite enjoying a sort of ontological independence (say, because they are independently realized in the brain). Matthew Parrott (2017) has recently argued, however, that no account of privileged self-knowledge which hopes to easily explain self-ignorance and error should accept the ontological indistinctness of our first-order attitudes and self-beliefs. Instead, to capture the privileged character of much of our self-knowledge, he argues for what I call ‘rational fundamentalism’, according to which privileged self-knowledge is brought about by the triggering of a fundamental disposition, enjoyed by rational agents endowed with the concepts of the propositional attitudes, to form higher-order beliefs about their first-order attitudes. Since this disposition–like other dispositions–can be masked, the connections it generates between the relevant attitudes are not necessary connections. The implication is that constitutivism ought to be rejected in favour of rational fundamentalism. I deny this implication: constitutivism and rational fundamentalism, I argue, are equally explanatorily and theoretically virtuous on several fronts, while constitutivism may be less objectionable than rational fundamentalism on one crucial front.

Not all of my works in progress are listed here, as some are currently under review, and some are only in their inchoate stages. Please contact me if you wish to hear about my other works in progress.

Copyright © 2018 Ben Winokur