Published

Non-literal lies are not exculpatory
To appear. The Philosophical Quarterly. [Pre-print]

Abstract. One can lie by asserting non-literal content. If I tell you ``You are the cream in my coffee'' while hating you, I can be rightfully accused of lying if my true emotions are unearthed. This is not easy to accommodate under many definitions of lying while also preserving the lying-misleading distinction. The essential feature of non-literal utterances is their falsity when literally construed. This interferes with accounts of lying and misleading, because such accounts often combine a literal construal of what is said by an utterance with a falsity requirement for lying. In the presence of non-literal lies such definitions struggle to make plausible predictions for non-literal lies and merely misleading utterances together. In this article I aim to fix this by extending Daniel Hoek's pragmatic account of conversational exculpature to assertions in general. Since this mechanism is designed to compute the intended meanings of non-literal utterances, it straightforwardly predicts non-literal lies to be as such. The lying-misleading distinction is also preserved, because merely misleading utterances arise out of exploiting a different pragmatic mechanism---Gricean additive implicatures. Along the way I also draw some general lessons about assertion and implicatures.

Razian prophecy rationalized
2023. British Journal for the History of Philosophy. 32(3):401-425. [Pre-print] [Journal]

Abstract. Abū Bakr Muḥammad bin Zakariyya’ al-Rāzī (865–925) is generally known as a freethinker who argued against prophecy and revealed religion based on arguments from fairness of God and rationality. Recently some scholars argued that Razi was not as radical as the general interpretation takes him to be. Both the freethinker and conservative interpretations seem well supported based on difference bodies of evidence. However, the evidence is based on secondhand reports. In this paper I argue there is an interpretation of prophecy which is supported by primary sources and can reconcile these putatively contradictory positions. Under my interpretation Razi allows for prophecy based on the rationality of moral deference in certain circumstances. In this picture one function of prophets is to act as moral experts for deference. This interpretation provides a synthesis of the freethinker and conservative views. Razi is conservative in having room for prophecy because of his dualist nature of humanity, and Razi is still a freethinker who values reason above all, because moral expertise requires excellent command of reason.

Counterfactuals, hyperintensionality and Hurford disjunctions
2023. Linguistics and Philosophy. 46(1):169-195. [Pre-print] [Journal]

Abstract. This paper investigates propositional hyperintensionality in counterfactuals. It starts with a scenario describing two children playing on a seesaw and studies the truth-value predictions for counterfactuals by four different semantic theories. The theories in question are Kit Fine’s truthmaker semantics, Luis Alonso-Ovalle’s alternative semantics, inquisitive semantics and Paolo Santorio’s syntactic truthmaker semantics. These predictions suggest that the theories that distinguish more of a given set of intensionally equivalent sentences (Fine and Alonso-Ovalle’s) fare better than those that do not (inquisitive semantics and Santorio’s). Then we investigate how inquisitive semantics and Santorio can respond to these results. They can respond to them by helping themselves to considerations from Hurford disjunctions, disjunctions whose disjuncts stand in an entailment relation to one another. I argue that considerations from Hurford disjunctions are ad hoc modifications to less fine-grained theories to predict the expected results and they are not independently motivated. I conclude that the scenarios suggest a need for more fine-grained theories of sentential meaning in general.

That solution to Prior's puzzle
2022. Philosophical Studies. 179(9):2765-2785. [Pre-print] [Journal]

Abstract. Prior’s puzzle is a puzzle about the substitution of certain putatively synonymous or coreferential expressions in sentences. Prior’s puzzle is important, because a satisfactory solution to it should constitute a crucial part of an adequate semantic theory for both sentence-embedding expressions and attitudinal verbs. I argue that two recent solutions to this puzzle are unsatisfactory. They either focus on the meaning of attitudinal verbs or content nouns. I propose a solution relying on a recent analysis of that-clauses in linguistics. Our solution is superior, as it not only avoids the problems faced by previous solutions, but it also brings developments in linguistics in line to solve an old puzzle in philosophy.

In Progress

[A paper on serious possibilities and belief revision]
Under review

Abstract. Isaac Levi’s theory of belief-change crucially incorporates the notion of serious possibility. Levi defines serious possibilities as sentences consistent with a special body of information—one that can represent a realistic agent’s state of mind. However, Levi does not allow judging or learning of serious possibilities any role in his theory of belief-change. Levi defends this choice by noting the dispensability of modal language in a theory of belief-change as well as the gratuitous ontology modal expressions invite. This paper challenges Levi’s charge of dispensability by showing his analysis of serious possibility is not extensionally adequate unless it includes modal expressions. Since the basic structure of Levi’s theory is still appealing, I provide a way to allow modal language in a theory of belief-change without the gratuitous ontology. In this theory, judgments of serious possibility allow changes of beliefs without commitment to judgments of serious possibility. Such a theory fulfills Levi’s wish for a sparse ontology because it involves no belief in or commitment to modal content while also providing modal expressions a role in Levi’s theory of belief-change.

[A paper on epistemic necessity]
Under review

Abstract. Epistemic necessity gives rise to a puzzle about its logical strength. Conflicting evidence suggests that epistemic necessity modal ⌜□φ⌝ is both logically strong and weak by appearing to both entail and not entail φ. Given that only one of these claims can be true, the evidence for both positions is puzzling. This paper explores a novel truthmaker approach to modality in which epistemic necessity is both strong and weak—strong, because ⌜□φ⌝ entails φ by being incompatible with ⌜¬φ⌝, and weak, because it does not contain φ. The truthmaker framework distinguishes the consequence relation entailment from containment. It also assigns a novel analysis of modality which assigns epistemic necessity a meaning which makes it entail but not contain its prejacent. This explains both strength and weakness. The distinctions indispensable for our proposal imply the rejection of the standard possible-worlds framework for modality. Despite its appearance as a niche problem for epistemic modality, this puzzle requires a rethinking of consequence relations, attitudes and modality in general.

[A paper on possibility]
Under review

Abstract. Possibilities are indispensable to philosophy and everyday decision-making. In philosophy many important theses about metaphysics, language and epistemology rest on the use of possibilities. In everyday decision-making people also respond to and act based on which possibilities they consider salient, open or ruled out. This paper argues that widely accepted proposals for what possibilities are cannot fulfill the roles played by possibilities in language and reasoning. Then I offer a novel nonreductive conception of possibility which can do better. This proposal treats possibilities as a kind of states of affairs distinct from mere possible states of affairs. I conclude by proposing an interpretation for possibilities by relying on evidence from experimental psychology which allows for perception of possibilities.

[A paper on Abu Bakr al-Razi and epistemology]
In preparation

Abstract. Abū Bakr Muḥammad bin Zakariyya’ al-Rāzī (c. 865–925) attributes great importance to epistemology by placing attainment of knowledge as one of the two fundamental goals for humans tout court. For Razi attainment of knowledge depends on the most important quality of humans: use of reason. So the natural question for Razi is what kinds of uses of reason are conducive to knowledge and certainty. Razi’s medical and philosophical works suggest two disunified uses of reason. On the one hand, Razi’s philosophical works suggests that there is a use of reason which affords absolute certainty, especially use of reason in philosophical matters. On the other hand, his medicinal works suggests use of reason resembling modern scientific methodology—formulating possible explanations and testing them. The latter use of reason affords only likely results and promises no certainty. A natural explanation would be to have multiple uses of reason in Razian epistemology, but this seems unlikely, since Razi follows Galen in taking a good physician to be also a philosopher. In this paper I provide a system of Razian epistemology which resolves the problem of unification for the evidence at hand. In my reconstruction of Razian epistemology Razi is what we would call today a proponent of Inferece to the Best Explanation (IBE). The evidence which has Razi demanding and professing absolute certainty features Razi demanding the best possible explanation for some phenomena: either causal or deductive explanation. The evidence which has Razi cautioning against certainty features situations where the evidence cannot settle the best explanation for the phenomena tout court, though it favors some explanations over the others. In addition to many passages from Razi to support this interpretation, I also draw attention to the Epicurean notion of pithanon in their debate against Stoics, which also appears to be a precursor to IBE.

The Picture Gallery of Cornelis van der Geest by Willem van Haecht (1628)