Academic Papers


Deepfakes and the Epistemic Apocalypse (forthcoming) Synthese pre-print

This is a sceptical look at some of the more dire predictions about deepfakes, which looks at how to think about the epistemology of photography, the history of photographic manipulation, and how technochauvanism distorts our understanding of social problems.

Can a Good Philosophical Contribution be made just by asking a Question? (2023) Metaphilosophy, Publishers link (OA)

We think this is probably the second-shortest philosophy paper ever. A commentary on the paper is available in a supplementary paper here.

‘What’s the Point of Authors?’ (2024) British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, pre-print, publisher’s link.

Who should be an author of a collaboratively produced academic paper? This question vexes researchers, journal editors, and readers but has recevied relatively little attention in philosophy. In this paper, I consider what use(s) the status of authorship has, using this question to build a set of functions for authorship practices. I argue that these functions are in tension, and offer a proposal for ameliorating this situation, involving doing away with the status of authorship, replacing it with tailor-made statuses for the different functions hitherto associated with authorship.

Towards A Critical Social Epistemology of Social Media, (forthcoming) Oxford Handbook in Social Epistemology Pre-print

This is a (very) opinionated overview of how to think about the social epistemology of social media sites. The big theme running through the whole essay is that there are substantive political choices being made in design decisions about the epistemic values which social media platforms will promote. You can try to maximise good epistemic outcomes, but that might come at the cost of inequality in outcomes; you might try to get something close to the epsitemic ideal, but that will likely be non-ideal for marginalised groups. Besides trying to make these compromises clear, this is also a shot at trying to gather up literature in critical technology studies that social epistemologists ought to be on top of.

‘Collective Practical Knowledge is a Fragmented Interrogative Capacity’ (2022) Philosophical Issues, pre-print

This paper puts together my accounts of practical knowledge and collective knowledge, arguing that they yield an attractive picture of collective practical knowledge, which meets important desiderata, including elucidating appeals to tacit knowledge in social science.

‘Knowing More (About Questions)’ (2022) Synthese, pre-print.

How should we think about what it is to know more? This paper develops a question-relative (knowing more about a question), and contextualist (the question is partially supplied by context) approach to thinking about this question. Part of the upshot is that general claims about people knowing more than one another are pretty fishy.

‘Group Knowledge and Mathematical Collaboration: A Philosophical Examination of the Classification of Finite Simple Groups’ (2022) Episteme, with Fenner Tanswell. pre-print

This paper is about how to think about the social epistemology of the proof of the classifcation of finite simple groups, plausibly the most striking example of large-scale mathematical collaboration, and still a somewhat contested proof. We try to figure out what this case tells us about proofs, individual and collective mathematical knowledge, and the role of tacit knowledge in proof.

‘Fake news, Conceptual Engineering, and Linguistic Resistance: Reply to Pepp, Michaelson, and Sterken, and Brown’, (2022) Inquiry. pre-print, publisher’s link

This is a response to two responses to Stop Talking About Fake News! from Jessica Pepp, Eliot Michaelson, and Rachel Sterken, and Étienne Brown. I try to say something about the general form of arguments for abandoning terms, do some work situating ‘fake news’ in fascist discourse, and situate arguments about ‘fake news’ in the general project of anti-fascist conceptual engineering.

‘Group Inquiry’, Erkenntnis (2020) publisher’s link (open access)

This paper uses work on formal pragmatics by Robert Stalnaker and Craige Roberts to offer an account of group inquiry, along the way considering the nature of group action, group knowledge, and collective ignorance. It hopefully functions both as a primer on partition-semantics for interrogatives for epistemologists, and as a general framework for thinking about collective knowledge-production.

‘Group Knowledge, Questions, and the Division of Epistemic Labour’, (2020) Ergo. Publisher’s link.

Gives an account of group knowledge, building on linguistic treatments of  the cumulative reading of knowledge-wh ascriptions, arguing that a group can know the answer to a question in virtue of members of the group knowing answers to parts of that question which are accessible to group action.

‘Stop Talking about Fake News!’, (2019) Inquiry, Publisher’s link, philpapers.

Argues that we ought to abandon the phrases ‘fake news’, and ‘post-truth’. I give three reasons for abandonment: that these terms are linguistically defective, that they are unnecessary given the rich vocabulary we already have for thinking about deception, and that they are tools for authoritarian and reactionary propaganda. If I’d known about the phrase before, I’d have said that this paper makes the case for semantic no platforming (h/t Liam Bright).

(A short summary of this paper is available here, and I talked about this paper on the podcast Journal Entries).

‘What’s the point of knowing how?’ (2019) European Journal of Philosophy Publisher’s link, pre-print

Why do we think and talk about knowledge-how? Using Edward Craig’s genealogical approach to knowledge, this paper argues that there are two possible reasons: one relating to our interest in gaining new abilities, and the other relating to our need for mutual reliance in collective action. These functions are in tension, and give different predictions about who knows how to do stuff, meaning the concept of knowledge-how in tension. To resolve the tension, I suggest that we’d better endorse a revisionary account of knowledge-how that reflects our interests in mutual reliance.

‘Knowledge-How, Abilities and Questions’, (2019) The Australasian Journal of Philosophy 97:1, 86-104 publisher’s link, pre-print.

Argues for a novel theory of knowledge-how as a distinctive kind of ability to answer a question, which I call an ability to answer a question on the fly. One can think of this view as a kind of compromise between Intellectualist views that claim that knowledge-how is a kind of propositional knowledge, and Anti-Intellectualist views that claim that knowledge-how is a kind of ability. According to what I call the Interrogative Capacity view knowledge-how is an ability to answer questions on the fly. This view combines the idea that knowledge-how is a distinctively practical kind of knowledge with the standard question-based semantics for interrogative complements like ‘how to swim’.

Draft paper, along with presentation and commentaries from Evan Riley, Carlotta Pavese, and Jay Spitzley here.

The Generality Problem for Intellectualism,’ (2018) Mind and Language 33(3): 242-262 publisher’s link, pre-print.

I argue that Intellectualists ought to provide us with an account of the generality of the methods that figure in the propositions which they claim are involved in knowledge-how, that this problem is analogous to the Generality Problem for reliabilism, and that lots of prima facie plausible ways to give an account of the generality of these methods fail (This paper is basically a longer and much less amusing version of this sketch).

‘Knowledge-How, Showing and Epistemic Norms,’ (2018) Synthese 195(8): 3597–3620 publisher’s link, pre-print

This paper centres around cases in which a teacher teaches a student how to do something which they (the teacher) doesn’t know how to do. These cases are couisins of Jennifer Lackey’s Creationist teacher case. I use these cases to criticise the knowledge-how norm on showing (roughly, the norm that one must know how to do what one teaches others to do). A central example is Carmine Caruso, who is a super cool person to think about.

‘Knowledge-How is the Norm of Intention,’ (2018) Philosophical Studies 175(7): 1703–1727publisher’s link, pre-print

What position do you need to be in to form an intention? In this paper, I make the case for an epistemic norm on intention, according to which one must only intend to do what one knows how to do. This norm can be supported based on extensions of arguments used in favour of other epistemic norms, is distinct to other rational norms on intentions, and is much more plausible than other candidate norms for intending.

‘Knowledge-how: Free Relatives and Interrogatives,’ (2018) Episteme 15(2): 183-201 Publisher’s link, pre-print

Argues that treating the ‘how to swim’ in the sentence ‘Jane knows how to swim’ as a free relative (rather than as an interrogative) is linguistically implausible, and that this linguistic implausibility causes a problem for Bengson and Moffett’s Objectualist account of knowledge-how.


(Please ask before citing; comments welcome!)

‘Towards a Critical Social Epistemology of Social Media’ draft

Gives an overview of normative tools from social epistemology that can be used to evaluate the epistemic character of social media platforms, and argues that individual-focused, structural, and anti-oppressive epistemic aims lead to conflicts that designers of social media must negotiate.

‘Thinking Together: Advising as Collaborative Deliberation’ draft

This paper is about what advising is. It argues that paying attention to the diversity of the ordinary category of advising–including the use of indicative, imperative, and interrogative sentences–establishes that advising is rather different to what we might have thought. Advising is not a species of testimony, or a species of directive, in fact it is not a speech act at all: it is a distinctive kind of joint practical thinking, which I dub Collaborative Deliberation.

‘Collective Action, Work, and Partial Plans’ draft

Is work characterised by the division of labour a kind of collective action? Michael Bratman’s well-known account of collective action distinguishes between co-operative activity, and pre-packaged co-operation, shunting any activity involving a division of tasks into a fringe category. The goal of this paper is to show that this division of cases is mistaken: even work involving a fine division of labour is a kind of collective action. The argument for this claim procedes from an analogy with the individual case, suggesting that we think of work as a distinctive kind of centralised, front-loaded, and fine-grained collective planning. A side-goal of the paper is to elucidate the epistemic and practical structure of Harry Braverman’s category of degraded work, using the tools of Bratman’s planning theory.

Reviews and Responses

‘Caliphate and the Social Epistemology of Podcasts’ Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective, publisher’s link.

This is an invited response to Beba Cibralic’s article on podcasting and failures of testimony. It considers what differences in epistemic repsonsibilities there are between reporting a false claim and quoting or interviewing someone who makes a false claim, and tries to do some groundwork thinking about how the aesethetic features of non-fiction podcasts make them epistemically distinctive. Her response is here.

Comments on Jared Millson(5) ‘Comments on Jared Millson’s Accepting and Rejecting Questions’ In ‘Asking and Answering: Rivalling Approaches to Interrogative Methods’ (Moritz Cordes (ed.)) Narr/Francke/Attempto link to OA volume

Review: The Right to Know: Lani Watson, Australasian Journal of Philosophy publishers link.

Review: Socially Extended Epistemology, Metascience publishers link.

Review: To the Best of our Knowledge: Social Expectations and Epistemic Normativity, Sandford Goldberg, Analysis publishers link.

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