I have been teaching and researching at UBC since 2011.
At the introductory level I often teach formal logic (PHIL 220) and epistemology (PHIL 240). I also sometimes teach advanced seminars in epistemology (PHIL 440) and other seminars.
At the graduate level I have taught seminars in epistemology and sexual ethics.
My main research areas are epistemology, philosophy of language, feminist philosophy, and ethics. I am particularly interested in connecting theoretical questions about the nature and significance of knowledge to moral, practical, and political questions, e.g. questions about structural oppression, rape culture, and the like. I’m thinking lately about standpoint theory quite a bit. Some of my newest work focuses on feminist sexual ethics itself, including but not limited to its intersection with epistemology.
I’m currently working on a book about epistemology, skepticism, and social justice.
Here are seven more specific research areas I’ve been working in:
(1) How do traditional questions in abstract epistemology bear on pressing practical, social, and political questions? For example, are there instructive parallels between circular reasoning in foundational issues in the epistemology of logic and in beliefs that are grounded in controversial ideological stances? How do societal epistemic norms impact phenomena like the treatment of sexual harassment and assault allegations? Much of my current research is focused on connections between the topics of my older research and these topics, such as the interaction of social power, language, knowledge ascriptions, and rape culture.
(2) Language is powerful. But in what ways, and why? For example, how and why, are particular words and concepts powerful? Why does it matter which words we attach to which ideas? I think there are hidden assumptions buried deep inside many words and concepts, and as a result, terminological choices that may seem arbitrary under certain descriptions end up being quite practically and morally important. (I am developing a critique of the way that “justified” is used in epistemology, and of how “consent” is used in sexual ethics.) I’m also interested in feminist ideas about speech acts, silencing, etc.
(3) What is consent, and is it well-suited to play its canonical central role in liberal sexual ethics? I suspect it isn’t; some of my current work in progress is dedicated to examining consent and sexual ethics from a feminist perspective, and uncovering harmful assumptions that may remain implicit in ‘consent’ discourse.
(4) What is the best way to respond to puzzles about just which propositions can count as known? I have explored and defended a contextualist response to this question, according to which the language we use to talk about knowledge is context-sensitive; like indexicals like “you” and “she”, “knows” can express different epistemic relations in different conversational contexts. There is much to explore about contextualism: in particular, I am interested in evaluating its plausibility as a semantic thesis, and considering its subtle relationship to more traditional questions about the nature and extent of knowledge. I take up all of these issues in several papers, as well as my 2017 monograph, Contextualising Knowledge (OUP). My 2017 Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism also focuses on contextualism.
(5) Contextualism is a linguistic claim; there is a straightforward sense in which it is not directly an epistemic concept. In particular, it doesn’t answer central questions in epistemology about what knowledge is, how it is possible, and under what circumstances we should be able to know what we know. But I also remain centrally interested in those topics, and I’ve published a series of papers exploring foundational epistemic questions about knowledge and perception, and internalism and externalism in epistemology. Some of this work appears alongside my discussion of contextualism in Contextualising Knowledge, but some is published independently, such as my “Basic Knowledge First” and “Faith and Epistemology”.
(6) How can we know, or even have reasonable beliefs about, abstract truths, like the truths of logic, arithmetic, or philosophy? The model of perceptual knowledge, whereby things in the world cause certain sensations via our sensory organs, eventually resulting in beliefs about the external objects, does not seem easily applicable to these realms; it is difficult to see, for example, how facts about numbers could cause beliefs about numbers. I have developed — partly in joint work with Benjamin Jarvis — an approach to these questions that explains knowledge of these kinds of subject matters without supposing either that it must ultimately be empirical knowledge, acquired in the same way as the perceptual case, or that it is in any sense merely ‘conventional’, or less than fully objective. The rationalist outlook defended is given its clearest expression in my co-authored 2013 monograph, The Rules of Thought (OUP). This is no longer one of my primary research areas, although I do continue to find and develop connections between these topics and my newer work, and I remain interested in teaching and supervising in this area.
(7) What is the relationship between imagination and knowledge? In particular, how can imagination help us to learn things, and what special epistemic challenges come from distinctively imaginative ways of coming to know? I have also argued that a clear conception of the imagination sheds important light on influential sceptical arguments that proceed from considerations about the possibility that one is dreaming. This is the area of my research that has been the most interdisciplinary, as some of my arguments — especially those in “Dreaming and Imagination,” published in Mind & Language, depend on engagement with cognitive science and developmental psychology related to imagination and dreaming. Some of this work connected to my work on thought experiments and apriority described in (2) below. This is no longer one of my primary research areas, although I published new pieces on dreaming in 2016 and 2018.
Please see my personal website for more details and links to publications and works in progress.
Here are some representative publications. For the full list, see my CV on my personal website.
- Contextualizing Knowledge, Oxford University Press, 2017.
- The Rules of Thought, co-authored with Benjamin Jarvis, Oxford University Press, 2013/16.
- Not What I Agreed To: Content and Consent, co-authored with Emily Tilton, Ethics, forthcoming.
- Presupposition and Consent, Feminist Philosophy Quarterly, 2020.
- Rape Culture and Epistemology, co-authored with Bianca Crewe, in Jennifer Lackey (ed), Applied Epistemology, Oxford University Press.
- Faith and Epistemology, Episteme, 2020.
- On Putting Knowledge ‘First’, co-authored with C. S. I. Jenkins, in J. Adam Carter, Emma Gordon, and Benjamin Jarvis (eds), Knowledge-First: Approaches to Epistemology and Mind, Oxford University Press (2017): 113–131.
- Basic Knowledge First, Episteme, 14(3), September 2017: 343–61.
- Pragmatic Encroachment and Belief-Desire Psychology, co-authored with Benjamin Jarvis and Katherine Rubin, Analytic Philosophy, 53 (4), December 2012: 323–47.
- Experimentalist Pressure Against Traditional Methodology, Philosophical Psychology, 25 (5), October 2012: 743–65.
- Dreaming and Imagination, Mind and Language, 24 (1), February 2009: 103–21.
- Thought-Experiment Intuitions and Truth in Fiction, co-authored with Benjamin Jarvis. Philosophical Studies, 142 (2), January 2009: 221–46.
- UBC Killam Faculty Research Fellowship, 2022
- Nathan Cockram, 2021
- Phyllis Pearson, in progress
- Emily C. R. Tilton, in progress
- Kelsey Vicars, in progress
- Alex Bryant (co-supervised with Alison Wylie), in progress
- Cam Gilbert (co-supervised with Alison Wylie), in progress
- Cam Gilbert, 2021
- Kyle Da Silva, 2018
- Nate Bemis, 2015
- Mira Kuroyedov, in progress