Research

Here you can view my 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

Inference and Self-Knowledge

An emerging consensus holds that inference, understood as an agent-level psychological process, is subject to a “Taking Condition” (Boghossian 2014). The Taking Condition states, roughly, that agent-level inference requires one to appreciate how one’s premise(s) epistemically support drawing a conclusion. Ongoing debates have mostly aimed to explain what sort of state these appreciations (“takings”) are. Focusing on theoretical inference, I do not dispute that agent-level inference is mediated by taking-states. My question is about the contents of taking-attitudes. Specifically, I ask whether an agent can take her premise(s) to support her conclusion even if she merely focuses on the propositions from which she infers and the relations of epistemic support between them, rather than also focusing (de dicto) on these propositions qua contents of one’s own mental states. I argue that taking-attitudes could potentially be contentful in the former sense, contra philosophers like Paul Boghossian (2014) who believe that the truth of the Taking Condition renders all inference self-conscious or self-knowledge-involving. This depends, however, on whether our capacity for inference is evolutionarily or ontogenetically rooted in practices of interpersonal argumentation (Mercier & Sperber 2011, 2012, 2017). The upshot is that, if inference requires self-knowledge, the best reason why has to do with our interpersonal argumentative capacities.

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 should accept constitutivism. In place of constitutivism, he argues for what I call ‘rational fundamentalism’: the view that privileged self-knowledge is brought about by the triggering of a fundamental disposition, enjoyed by rational agents endowed with the requisite concepts, 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 rational fundamentalism better explains self-ignorance. I deny this: constitutivism and rational fundamentalism, I argue, are equally theoretically virtuous on this front, while constitutivism is less objectionable than rational fundamentalism on one further front.

Most of my works in progress are not listed here, as several 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