Here you can view my current research statement.

You can also view my current CV for information about my academic presentations and (some of my) works in progress.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Inquiring for Yourself for Others (Forthcoming in Episteme)

Why should you inquire for yourself as a novice in a domain of inquiry when, for most questions within most domains, there are established experts to consult instead? In the face of this question, recent discussants of ‘autonomous-yet-novice’ inquiry have sought to defend its epistemic value for the inquirer. Here I argue that autonomous-yet-novice inquiry can also be epistemically beneficial for agents other than the inquirer herself. Paradigm cases are those in which one agent improves her zetetic skills or virtues through an encounter or interaction with a more skillful or virtuous autonomous-yet-novice inquirer.

Self-Knowledge and Interpersonal Reasoning (Forthcoming in Dialectica)

Many philosophers contend that we often possess “privileged” and “peculiar” self-knowledge of our mental states. Self-knowledge is privileged insofar as it is systematically more epistemically secure than the knowledge that others have of one’s propositional attitudes, and it is peculiar insofar as it is obtained in a way that is only suited for delivering self-knowledge. In this paper, focusing on privileged and peculiar self-knowledge of propositional attitudes like beliefs, I offer an account of its instrumental value. On my account, privileged and peculiar self-knowledge of one’s propositional attitudes enables one to be a more efficient and reliable interpersonal reasoner.

Extended Mentality and Ascriptive Authority (In Synthese)

Self-ascriptions of one’s current mental states often enjoy a distinctively strong presumption of truth. Some philosophers claim that this ascriptive authority is non-transferable in the sense that it cannot be matched or surpassed by anyone else. In this paper I examine this non-transferability claim in the light of potential extended mentality cases. These cases threaten to show that popular accounts of ascriptive authority do not vindicate its alleged non-transferability. However, I also argue that a less popular account of ascriptive authority can do so.

Inferential Self-Knowledge Reimagined (In Philosophical Psychology)

In the epistemology of self-knowledge, ‘Inferentialism’ denotes the view that one’s current mental states are normally known to one through inferences from evidence. This view is often taken to conflict with widespread claims about normally-acquired self-knowledge, namely that it is privileged (essentially more secure than knowledge of others’ minds) and peculiar (obtained in a way that fundamentally differs from how others know your mind). In this paper I argue that Inferentialism can be reconceived so as to no longer conflict with these claims. On a positive framing, Inferentialism earns a seat at the table alongside other theories of self-knowledge that take its potentially privileged and peculiar status seriously. On a less positive framing, Inferentialism’s plausibility now hinges on the plausibility of viewing self-knowledge as at least peculiar, and perhaps as privileged as well.

Authority as (Qualified) Indubitability (in Inquiry)

Self-ascriptions of one’s current mental states often seem authoritative. It is sometimes thought that the authority of such self-ascriptions is, in part, a matter of their indubitability. However, they do not seem to be universally indubitable. How, then, should claims about self-ascriptive indubitability be qualified? Here I consider several such qualifications from the literature. Finding many of them wanting, I nevertheless settle on multiple specifications of the thesis that self-ascriptions are authoritatively indubitable. Several of these specifications concern how other agents ought to treat one’s self-ascriptions, while a final specification concerns how one is entitled to respond to others’ doubts about one’s self-ascriptions. The result is a pluralistic view of self-ascriptive indubitability: different types of mental state self-ascriptions are indubitable in different ways, and for different people.

How to Commit to Commissive Self-Knowledge (in European Journal of Philosophy)

At least some of your beliefs are commitments. When you believe that P as a commitment, your stance on P is such that you believe it on the basis of your considered judgement. Sometimes, you also believe that you believe P. Such self-beliefs can also be commissive in a sense, as when they are higher-order reflective endorsements of one’s lower-order commissive beliefs. In this paper I argue that one’s commissive self-beliefs ontologically constitute one’s lower-order commissive beliefs because one’s commissive self-beliefs instantiate the same inferential dispositions that are constitutive of one’s lower-order commissive beliefs. Constitutive relations between commissive self-beliefs and first-order commissive beliefs are maximally epistemically secure because they do not result from any epistemic procedure by which one must try (and possibly fail) to detect one’s first-order commissive beliefs. This maximal epistemic security suffices to warrant one’s commissive self-beliefs, such that one possesses commissive self-knowledge of an especially privileged sort.

Bots: Some Less-Considered Epistemic Problems (in Social Epistemology)

Posts on social media platforms like Twitter are sometimes the products of deceptively designed bots. These bots can cause obvious epistemic problems, such as tricking human users into believing the contents of misleading posts. However, less-considered epistemic problems involve false bot judgements where a human user mistakes another human user’s post for a bot-post, or where a human user mistakenly believes that bots are the primary vehicles for tokening certain contents on social media. This paper takes up three questions concerning false bot judgements: what exactly are their associated epistemic harms, just how harmful are they, and what should we do about them?

There is Something to the Authority Thesis (in Journal of Philosophical Research)

Many philosophers accept an ‘Authority Thesis’ according to which self-ascriptions of one’s current mental states ordinarily are or ought to be met with a distinctive presumptive of truth. Recently, however, Wolfgang Barz (2018, this journal) has argued that there is no adequately specified Authority Thesis. This, he argues, is because available specifications are either (1) philosophically puzzling but implausible, or (2) plausible but philosophically unpuzzling. I argue that there are several plausible and philosophically puzzling specifications of the Authority Thesis.

Authoritatively Avowing Your Imaginings By Self-Ascriptively Expressing Them (In Philosophical Explorations)

Neo-expressivism is the view that avowals – first-personal, present tense self-ascriptions of mental states—ordinarily express the very mental states that they semantically represent, such that they carry a strong presumption of truth and are immune to requests for epistemic support. Peter Langland-Hassan (2015. “Self-Knowledge and Imagination.” Philosophical Explorations 18 (2): 226–245) has argued that Neo-expressivism cannot accommodate avowals of one’s imaginings. In this short paper I argue that Neo-expressivism can, in fact, accommodate them.

Davidson, First-Person Authority, and Direct Self-Knowledge (in Synthese)

Donald Davidson famously offered an explanation of “first-person authority” (1984). However, he described first-person authority differently across different works—sometimes referring to the presumptive truth of agents’ self-ascriptions of their current mental states, and sometimes referring to the direct self-knowledge that agents often have of said states. First, I show that a standard Davidsonian explanation of first-person authority can at best, and with some modification, explain the presumptive truth of agents’ self-ascriptions. I then develop two Davidsonian accounts of direct self-knowledge—one accounting for its function and another accounting for its source—pushing back in the process against deflationary and quietist rejoinders to these projects. Finally, I relate my Davidsonian accounts of direct self-knowledge back to the modified Davidsonian account of the presumptive truth of agents’ self-ascriptions.

Inference and Self-knowledge (in Logos & Episteme)

A growing cohort of philosophers argue that inference, understood as an agent-level psychological process or event, is subject to a “Taking Condition.” The Taking Condition states, roughly, that drawing an inference requires one to take one’s premise(s) to epistemically support one’s conclusion, where “takings” are some sort of higher-order attitude, thought, intuition, or act. My question is not about the nature of takings, but about their contents. I examine the prospects for “minimal” and “robust” views of the contents of takings. On the minimal view, taking one’s premise(s) to support one’s conclusion only requires focusing on propositional contents and putative epistemic support relations between them. On the robust view, taking one’s premise(s) to support one’s conclusion also requires knowledge (or being in a position to have knowledge) of the attitudes one holds toward those contents. I argue that arguments for the Taking Condition do not entail or sufficiently motivate the robust view. Accordingly, contra several philosophers, the Taking Condition does not illuminate a deep relationship between inference and self-knowledge.

Critical Reasoning and the Inferential Transparency Method (in Res Philosophica)

Alex Byrne (2005; 2011a; 2011b; 2018) has argued that we can gain self-knowledge of our current mental states through the use of a transparency method. A transparency method provides an extrospective rather than introspective route to self-knowledge. For example, one comes to know whether one believes P not by thinking about oneself but by considering the world-directed question of whether P is true. According to Byrne, this psychological process consists in drawing inferences from world-directed propositions to mind-directed conclusions. In this article, I consider whether this ‘Inferential Transparency Method’ can provide us with the self-knowledge that some philosophers have thought we require in order to “critically reason” (Burge 1996), and I conclude that it cannot provide such self-knowledge. The force of this objection depends on how much stock we should place in our status as critical reasoners. However, I conclude by suggesting a more general worry for Byrne’s account.

Ontological Entanglement in the Normative Web (in Dialogue: Canadian Philosophical Review)

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.

Please contact me if you want to see any of my preprints, abstracts for papers under review, or information about any other projects described in my research statement!

Copyright © 2018 Ben Winokur