My current work is mainly about the nature and importance epistemic normativity. Below are my publications, information about my work in progress, and my dissertation abstract. I also have an academia.edu page and a philpapers page.
2019. (2017 online). ''Ought' implies 'can' against epistemic deontologism: beyond doxastic involuntarism.'
Synthese. 196 (4): 1641–1656
- According to epistemic deontologism, attributions of epistemic justification are deontic claims about what we ought to believe. One of the most prominent objections to this conception, due mainly to William P. Alston (1988), is that the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ (OIC) rules out deontologism because our beliefs are not under our voluntary control. In this paper, I offer a partial defense of Alston’s critique of deontologism. While Alston is right that OIC rules out epistemic deontologism, appealing to doxastic involuntarism is not necessary for generating that tension. Deontologists would still have a problem with OIC if doxastic voluntarism turned out to be true or if deontologism did not require voluntarism. This is because, in short, epistemic justification does not imply ‘can’. If, as deontologists maintain, epistemic justification implies ‘oughts’, then epistemic justification must also imply ‘can’ given OIC. But since epistemic justification does not imply ‘can’, OIC dictates that we reject deontologism. I end by exploring the possible consequences of this incompatibility between OIC and deontologism. My conclusion is that at least one of the following claims must be true. Either (i) ‘ought’ does not imply ‘can’, (ii) attributions of epistemic justification are not deontic claims, or (iii) epistemic claims lack categorical normative authority.
2018. 'Knowledge, reasons, and errors about error theory.' with Clayton Littlejohn (Draft)
Metaepistemology: Realism and Anti-Realism. Eds. Christos Kyriacou & Robin McKenna. Palgrave Macmillan.
- According to moral error theorists, moral claims necessarily represent categorically or robustly normative facts. But since there are no such facts, moral thought and discourse are systematically mistaken. One widely discussed objection to the moral error theory is that it cannot be true because it leads to an epistemic error theory. We argue that this objection is mistaken. Objectors may be right that the epistemic error theory is untenable. We also agree with epistemic realists that our epistemological claims are not systematically in error. However, this is not because there are robustly normative facts, but rather because the truth of our epistemic claims doesn’t turn on whether there are such facts. Epistemic facts, we argue, are not robustly or categorically normative. Moral error theorists should therefore respond to the objection that their view does not commit them to the epistemic error theory
2017. 'Is epistemic normativity value-based?' (PDF) (Penultimate version)
Dialogue 56 (3): 407-430 - Winner Canadian Philosophical Association 2017 Essay Prize
- What is the source of epistemic normativity? In virtue of what do epistemic norms have categorical normative authority? According to epistemic teleologism, epistemic normativity comes from value. Epistemic norms have categorical authority because conforming to them is necessarily good in some relevant sense. In this article, I argue that epistemic teleologism should be rejected. The problem, I argue, is that there is no relevant sense in which it is always good to believe in accordance with epistemic norms, including in cases where the matter at hand is completely trivial. Therefore, if epistemology is normative, its normativity won't come from value.
2017. 'Epistemological closed questions: A reply to Greco' (PDF)
Manuscrito 40 (4): 97-111- Special issue on epistemology
- According to G.E. Moore’s famous ‘Open Question’ argument (OQA), moral facts cannot be reduced or analyzed in non-normative natural terms. Does the OQA apply equally in the epistemic domain? Does Moore’s argument have the same force against reductionist accounts of epistemic facts and concepts? In a recent article, Daniel Greco has argued that it does. According to Greco (2015), an epistemological version of the OQA is just as promising as its moral cousin, because the relevant questions in epistemology are just as ‘open’ as those in ethics. In this paper, I offer a two-part reply to Greco. First, I argue that his argument in favor of the openness of epistemology is not persuasive. Second, I offer a case against the openness of epistemology. Unlike claims linking natural and moral properties, claims linking natural and epistemological properties do give rise to closed questions. An epistemological OQA is therefore not as promising as its moral cousin.
2016. 'Can the aim of belief ground epistemic normativity?' (PDF)
Philosophical Studies 173 (12): 3181-3198.
- For many epistemologists and normativity theorists, epistemic norms necessarily entail normative reasons. Why or in virtue of what do epistemic norms have this necessary normative authority? According to what I call epistemic constitutivism, it is ultimately because belief constitutively aims at truth. In this paper, I examine various versions of the aim of belief thesis and argue that none of them can plausibly ground the normative authority of epistemic norms. I conclude that epistemic constitutivism is not a promising strategy for grounding epistemic normativity.
2015. 'Epistemic instrumentalism and the too few reasons objection.' (PDF)
International Journal of Philosophical Studies 23 (3): 337-355.
- According to epistemic instrumentalism (EI), epistemic normativity and reasons arise from and depend on facts about our ends. On that view, a consideration C is an epistemic reason for a subject S to Φ only if Φ-ing would promote an end that S has. However, according to the Too Few Epistemic Reasons objection, this cannot be correct since there are cases in which, intuitively, C is an epistemic reason for S to Φ even though Φ-ing would not promote any of S’s ends. After clarifying both EI and the Too Few Epistemic Reasons objection, I examine three major instrumentalist replies and argue that none of them is satisfactory. I end by briefly sketching a fourth possible response, which is, I suggest, more promising than the other three.
Work in Progress
Here are some of the papers I am working on right now. I have replaced titles with brief descriptions to preserve anonymity of the peer review process (some of them are under review). Please email me if you want to know more about them (charles.cote79 -at- gmail.com)
- A paper that distinguishes and critically examines different forms of epistemic instrumentalism.
- A paper about some bad epistemological consequences of the Internet, especially of filtered, personalized Web platforms.
- A paper about whether and in what sense epistemic normativity might be social.
- A couple of papers about naturalized epistemology.
- An original solution to the problem of doxastic involuntarism for epistemic deontologism (a sequel to my 2019 Synthese article).
- A paper against the claim that friendship normatively requires doxastic partiality.
- A critical assessment of action-based agency-based constitutivist accounts of epistemic normativity (a sequel to my 2016 Philosophical Studies paper)
- A paper about epistemic consequentialism and what consequentialists can and should say about the value of truth
- A critique of epistemic expressivism
- A critique of metaethical constructivism