Papers in progress
In addition to the papers included in my dissertation, I am also working on a few papers in epistemology and philosophy of language. These papers are in progress; click the titles to view the abstracts. For a draft, please email me (email@example.com).
+The Rational Impermissibility of Accepting Racial Generalizations
I argue that racialized inferences (e.g. believing Fernando is a janitor, on the grounds that he is Salvadorean and most Salvadoreans in this area are janitors) instantiate species of a more general epistemic flaw: accepting a proposition when, given the stakes of the context, one is not adequately justified in doing so. I sketch an account of the nature of adequate justification---practical adequacy with respect to eliminating the ~P possibilities from one's epistemic statespace---and suggest that whether one is justified in accepting a proposition on generalized evidence partially depends on whether the membership conditions of the generalization satisfy constraints on permissible avoidable signaling conventions. If they do, then the moral stakes are lower, as the object of belief has waived their complaint against acceptance. Finally, I suggest that since racial membership conditions do not satisfy these constraints, generalizations based on race cannot justify acceptance of a proposition P if one risks wronging the object of belief if mistaken.
+ Explaining the Justificatory Asymmetry between Statistical and Individualized Evidence
In some cases, there appears to be an asymmetry in the evidential value of statistical and more individualized evidence. For example, while I may accept that Alex is guilty based on eyewitness testimony that is 80% likely to be accurate, it does not seem permissible to do so based on the fact that 80% of a group that Alex is a member of are guilty. In this paper I suggest that rather than reflecting a deep fact about the content of types of evidence, this asymmetry might arise from the moral features of the relation between the source of evidence and the target’s agency. While relying on statistical evidence plausibly raises the stakes of error by introducing new kinds of risk to members of the reference class, paradigmatically “individualized” evidence—evidence tracing back to A’s voluntary behaviour—lowers the stakes of error. Plausibly the degree of evidential support needed to justify accepting a proposition as true depends on the stakes of error. If so, then these facts explain the apparent evidential asymmetry without positing a deep difference in the brute justificatory power of different types of evidence.
papers about slurs
+ Delimiting the Linguistic Community: Naive Slurring and Non-Derogatory Slurs
Some slurring terms (like 'queer') are eventually reclaimed; some fade from use (like 'coolie'). Others are active slurs in other communities, but operate at a remove from that history in this linguistic community (like 'gypsy' in American English). It's not clear that terms in these stages derogate; if they do, they plausibly do so differently from paradigmatic current slurs. Often speakers within a linguistic community use a term that they do not conceptualize as a slur, while other members of that community do conceptualize it as one. Theorists have been quick to categorize such speakers as linguistically incompetent naive slur-users when the terms in question are current, potent slurs, but it's less obvious what we should say for terms in one of the murkier stages just mentioned. This paper explores puzzles raised by these more ambiguous 'contested slurs', and aims to characterize some options for which facts we should take to determine whether a term is a slur in a given language, despite widespread ignorance of this fact, versus failing to count as a slur because of the widespread ignorance.
+ The Harm In Mental Illness Epithets
This paper aims to focus carefully on the topic of pejoratives relating to mental illness. I argue that though 'crazy' and similar mental illness-based epithets (MI-epithets) are not best understood as slurs, they do function to isolate, exclude, and marginalize members of the targeted group in ways similar to the harmfulness of slurs more generally. While they do not generally express the hate/contempt characteristic of weaponized uses of slurs, MI-epithets perpetuate epistemic injustice by portraying sufferers of mental illness as deserving minimal credibility. After outlining the ways in which these epithets can cause harm, I examine available legal and social remedies, and suggest that the best path going forward is to pursue a reclamation project rather than aiming to censure the use of MI-epithets.
+ Reporting Bad Beliefs: Solutions For Pragmatic Accounts Of Slurs
Pragmatic accounts of slurs are characterized by commitment to the equivalence thesis: that slurs are semantically equivalent to their neutral counterparts. I present the three most common objections to pragmatic approaches stemming from this thesis: the equivalence problem, that it makes “all (NCs) are (slurs)” a conceptual truth; the substitution problem, that the view falsely predicts slurs may be substituted into intensional contexts salva veritae; and the conversational problem, that reports omitting slurs are intuitively incomplete and thus indicate that slurs differ from NCs in semantic content. I show that pragmatic theorists have adequate responses to each objection. The substitution problem relies on principles she is free to deny, while the equivalence objection is question begging. Finally, the conversational problem relies on delicate data that does not clearly support a semantic interpretation.
papers about ethics
+ Moral Risk and Communicating Consent
Abstract not yet available.
+ Metalinguistic Moral Disagreement: In Defense of Contextualism about 'Ought'
The problem of moral disagreement has been presented as an objection to contextualist semantics for ought, since it is not clear that contextualism can accommodate or give a convincing gloss of such disagreement. I argue that independently of our semantics, disagreements over oughts in non-cooperative contexts are best understood in the framework of metalinguistic negation, which is easily accommodated by contextualism. If this is correct, then rather than posing a problem for contextualism, the data from moral disagreements provides some reason to adopt a semantics that allows variance in the meanings of oughts.