Etiological Proper Function and the Safety Condition (forthcoming in Synthese).
In this paper, I develop and motivate a novel formulation of safety in terms of etiological proper function. After testing this condition against the most pressing objections to safety-theoretic accounts of knowledge, my conclusion will be the following: once safety is suitably understood in terms of etiological proper function, it stands a better chance as the right anti-Gettier condition on knowledge.
Knowledge, Individualised Evidence and Luck (Philosophical Studies). [Link to Published Version, Open Access]
The notion of individualised evidence holds the key to solve the puzzle of statistical evidence, but there's still no consensus on how exactly to define it. To make progress on the problem, epistemologists have proposed various accounts of individualised evidence in terms of causal or modal anti-luck conditions on knowledge like appropriate causation (Thomson 1986), sensitivity (Enoch et al. 2012) and safety (Pritchard 2018). In this paper, I show that each of these fails as satisfactory anti-luck condition, and that such failure lends abductive support to the following conclusion: once the familiar anti-luck intuition on knowledge is extended to individualised evidence, no single causal or modal anti-luck condition on knowledge can succeed as the right anti-luck condition on individualised evidence. This conclusion casts serious doubts on the fruitfulness of the move from anti-luck conditions on knowledge to anti-luck conditions on individualised evidence. I expand on these doubts and point out further aspects where epistemology and the law come apart: epistemic anti- luck conditions on knowledge do not adequately characterise the legal notion of individualised evidence.
The Explanationist and the Modalist (Episteme). [Link to Published Version, Open Access]
Recent epistemology has witnessed a substantial opposition between two competing approaches to capturing the notion of non-accidentality in the analysis of knowledge: the explanationist and the modalist. Because explanationism promises to deliver an analysis of knowledge without any appeal to modal notions, it looks like an elegant proposal with prima facie appeal. However, appearances are misleading: in this paper I raise some objections to a recent explanationist analysis of knowledge and defend a novel version of modalism. I conclude with a reassessment of the explanationist’s initial ambition to provide an analysis of knowledge without modal notions. The upshot will be that even if the prospects for such analysis remain dim, our money should be on the modalist, not the explanationist.
A New Solution to the Safety Dilemma (Synthese). [Link to Published Version, Open Access]
Despite the substantial appeal of the safety condition, Kelp (2009, 2016, 2018) has raised a difficult challenge for safety-theoretic accounts of knowledge. By combining Gettier-style fake barn cases with epistemic Frankfurt cases, he concludes that no formulation of safety can be strong enough to predict ignorance in the former and weak enough to accommodate knowledge in the latter. In this note, my contribution is two-fold. Firstly, I take up Kelp’s challenge and I show that, once properly understood, safety successfully rises to it. Secondly, I draw a more general lesson on the safety condition: a satisfactory solution to Kelp’s challenge calls for a revision of the standard formulation of safety, which must be indexed to both methods and environments. My conclusion will be that an environment-relative version of safety not only meets Kelp’s challenge, but it also advances our understanding of the safety condition on knowledge.
Work in Progress
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Title redacted (R&R).
Normic support is a non-probabilistic relation of evidential support: a body of evidence E normically supports a proposition P if it generates the need for a special explanation in the case that P is false (Smith 2010; 2016). Normic support also illuminates the legal category of eye-witness testimony: if in a court of law an eye-witness testifies to a proposition P, this will also generate the need for a special explanation in the case that P is false. The present paper puts pressure on exactly this claim. I begin with a survey of key empirical findings on eye-witness testimony, and I draw the attention to the wording of jury instructions that warn the fact-finders against its unreliability. Next, I show how these jury instructions carry considerable defeating power that prevents key instances of eye-witness testimony from providing normic support; this phenomenon particularly affects eye-witness identifications. I discuss ways to reject and accommodate this result, but the final upshot will be the following: absent a further piece of corroborating evidence, key instances of eye-witness testimony such as eye-witness identifications cannot provide normic support in a court of law.
Title redacted (under review).
Recent experimental epistemology has devoted increasing attention to folk attributions of epistemic justification. Empirical studies have tested whether lay people ascribe justification in specific lottery-style vignettes (Friedman & Turri 2014, Turri & Friedman 2015, Ebert et al. 2018), and also to more ordinary beliefs (Nolte et al. 2021). In this paper, I highlight some crucial but hitherto uncritically accepted assumptions underlying these studies, and I argue that they are untenable. Central to my criticism is the observation that epistemic justification is a philosophical term of art foreign to lay people: as such, it is not suitable for direct empirical testing without previously being introduced. This point reveals a folk conceptual gap between the subject-matter of these experimental studies and the conceptual repertoire we can reasonably expect lay people to possess. I elaborate on this worry, and I end on a cautiously optimistic note: after suggesting better strategies to survey folk attributions of epistemic justification, I conclude that the challenge raised by the folk conceptual gap remains difficult but can in principle be addressed.