Research

DSCF7617My research draws on medieval and early modern accounts of knowing and trusting to provide insights into the ethics and epistemology of communicating knowledge. My long-term project is to write a book titled Medieval Social Epistemology, with chapters on Augustine, figures between Augustine and Aquinas, Aquinas, Scotus, and the influence of scholastic accounts on early modern social epistemology (e.g., the last chapters of Arnauld and Nicole’s Port-Royal Logic).

My dissertation examined Augustine and Aquinas’s accounts of testimonial knowledge (here is a short dissertation abstract).  The next step in my project is to study John Duns Scotus on topics like group testimony and truthful communities.

Feel free to email me for my current research statement, or for drafts of the following papers, currently under review or in progress:

Augustine’s Development on Testimonial Knowledge.  I explain how Augustine developed the first account of testimonial knowledge in Western philosophy, drawing on resources in Platonic and Stoic epistemology, while inspired by Biblical and other ordinary Latin usage.  (forthcoming in Journal of the History of Philosophy)

Aquinas on Testimonial Justification.  I argue that Aquinas recognizes both merely inferential and distinctively interpersonal grounds for testimonial belief, and I explain what he means by testimonial “opinion” and by everyday “faith” in human testifiers.  (The Review of Metaphysics, vol. 69, no. 3, March 2016)

Truthfulness and Trust.  Believing someone is, as Elizabeth Anscombe said, “trusting him for the truth.” Recent accounts of how we trust speakers for the truth have said little about what it is to take a speaker to be trustworthy. I criticize the accounts of Elizabeth Fricker, Katherine Hawley, Linda Zagzebski, and Edward Hinchman, and give an Aristotelian account of speaker trustworthiness that helps explain how trusting a truthful speaker can be better for you epistemically than either following your own evidence or merely relying on a speaker. (forthcoming in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly)

Augustine on Testimonial Justification.  I argue that Augustine does not take a Defaultist view of testimonial justification, as the scholarly literature has it, but rather an inferential view.

Humble Speakers.  I argue that Aquinas’s Aristotelian account of truthfulness provides a way to understand the virtues of intellectual humility proper to speakers and hearers: a humble speaker is truthful, and a humble listener believes truthful speakers.

Courage and Prudence in Plato’s Laches and Protagoras.  I argue that Plato’s account of courage is consistent in his later and earlier dialogues, by drawing attention to common elements in the later dialogues already present in the earlier ones, and by noting three dramatic moments where these are at work in the Laches.  I also resolve an apparent contradiction between the Laches and the Protagoras.

Aquinas on Change.  Anthony Kenny and others claim that Aquinas’s argument from motion, as an argument from physical change, proves at best the existence of some immaterial being, not God.  But Aquinas criticizes Aristotle’s argument in the same way.  I argue that Aquinas does not use the term motus the way Kenny and others suppose, and I show that this usage has significant implications for Aquinas’s discussions of many topics including intellection and volition.

Advertisements