My current research interests include risk, recklessness, rationality, normative ignorance, reasoning under uncertainty, and epistemic incoherence.
AbstractI argue that there are some situations in which it is praiseworthy to be motivated only by moral rightness de dicto, even if this results in wrongdoing. I consider a set of cases that are challenging for views that dispute this, prioritising concern for what is morally important (de re, and not de dicto) in moral evaluation (for example, Arpaly 2002; Arpaly and Schroeder 2013; Harman 2015; Weatherson 2019). In these cases, the agent is not concerned about what is morally important (de re), does the wrong thing, but nevertheless seems praiseworthy rather than blameworthy. I argue that the views under discussion cannot accommodate this, and should be amended to recognise that it is often praiseworthy to be motivated to do what is right (de dicto).
Embracing Incoherence. Forthcoming in N. Hughes (Ed.) Epistemic Dilemmas. Oxford University Press. [Pre-Print]
AbstractIncoherence is usually regarded as A Bad Thing. Incoherence suggests irrationality, confusion, paradox. Incoherentism disagrees: incoherence is not always a bad thing, sometimes we ought to be incoherent. If correct, Incoherentism has important and controversial implications. It implies that rationality does not always require coherence. After identifying some important differences between these two ways of embracing conflict, I offer some reasons to prefer Incoherentism over Dilemmism. Namely, that Incoherentism allows us to deliberate about what we ought to believe using ordinary epistemology, and it does a better job of accommodating the positive features of incoherence.
Giving Up the Enkratic Principle. Logos & Episteme, 2021. [doi.org/10.5840/logos-episteme20211211]
AbstractThe Enkratic Principle enjoys something of a protected status as a requirement of rationality. I argue that this status is undeserved, at least in the epistemic domain. Compliance with the principle should not be thought of as a requirement of epistemic rationality, but rather as defeasible indication of epistemic blamelessness. To show this, I present the Puzzle of Inconsistent Requirements, and argue that the best way to solve this puzzle is to distinguish two kinds of epistemic evaluation – requirement and appraisal. This allows us to solve the puzzle while accommodating traditional motivations for thinking of the Enkratic Principle as a requirement of rationality.
Moral Appraisal for Everyone: Neurodiversity, Epistemic Limitations, and Responding to the Right Reasons. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 2021. [doi.org/10.1007/s10677-021-10212-5]
AbstractDe Re Significance accounts of moral appraisal consider an agent’s responsiveness to a particular kind of reason, normative moral reasons de re, to be of central significance for moral appraisal. Here, I argue that such accounts find it difficult to accommodate some neuroatypical agents. I offer an alternative account of how an agent’s responsiveness to normative moral reasons affects moral appraisal – the Reasonable Expectations Account. According to this account, what is significant for appraisal is not the content of the reasons an agent is responsive to (de re or de dicto), but rather whether she is responsive to the reasons it is reasonable to expect her to be responsive to, irrespective of their content. I argue that this account does a better job of dealing with neuroatypical agents, while agreeing with the De Re Significance accounts on more ordinary cases.
Anti-Exceptionalism About Requirements of Epistemic Rationality. Acta Analytica, 2020. [doi.org/10.1007/s12136-020-00450-0]
AbstractI argue for the unexceptionality of evidence about what rationality requires. Specifically, I argue that, as for other topics, one’s total evidence can sometimes support false beliefs about this. Despite being prima facie innocuous, a number of philosophers have recently denied this. Some have argued that the facts about what rationality requires are highly dependent on the agent’s situation, and change depending on what that situation is like (Bradley, 2019). Others have argued that a particular subset of normative truths, those concerning what epistemic rationality requires, have the special property of being ‘fixed points’ – it is impossible to have total evidence that supports false belief about them (Smithies, 2012; Titelbaum, 2015). Each of these kinds of exceptionality permit a solution to downstream theoretical problems that arise from the possibility of evidence supporting false belief about requirements of rationality. However, as I argue here, they incur heavy explanatory burdens that we should avoid.
- Is normative uncertainty like factual uncertainty? Should it have the same effects on our actions? Some have thought not. Those who defend an asymmetry between normative and factual uncertainty typically do so as part of the claim that our moral beliefs in general are irrelevant to both the moral value and the moral worth of our actions. Here I use the consideration of Jackson cases to challenge this view, arguing that we can explain away the apparent asymmetries between normative and factual uncertainty by considering the particular features of the cases in greater detail. Such consideration shows that, in fact, normative and factual uncertainty are equally relevant to moral assessment.
- Can we make mistakes about what rationality requires? A natural answer is that we can, since it is a platitude that rational belief does not require truth; it is possible for a belief to be rational and mistaken, and this holds for any subject matter at all. However, the platitude causes trouble when applied to rationality itself. The possibility of rational mistakes about what rationality requires generates a puzzle. When combined with two further plausible claims – the enkratic principle, and the claim that rational requirements apply universally – we get the result that rationality generates inconsistent requirements. One popular and attractive solution to the puzzle denies that it is possible to make rational mistakes about what rationality requires. I show why (contra Titelbaum (2015b), and Littlejohn (2015) this solution is doomed to fail. Consequently, we are left with the surprising result that solving the puzzle will require pursuing one of three highly unintuitive solutions that have so far not proved popular – we must accept that rationality sometimes generates dilemmas, reject the enkratic principle, or defend a conception of rationality for which the requirements of rationality do not apply universally.
October 2022 “Recklessness and Risk Aversion”. VoR Risk Aversion Workshop.
July 2022 “Recklessness and Rationality”. Law, Knowledge, and the Mind Workshop, UCL.
July 2022 “Epistemic Squandering“. Scottish Early Career Epistemology Workshop, Edinburgh.
July 2022 “Aesthetic Recklessness”. Aesthetics and Social Epistemology Conference, St Andrews.
June 2022 “Neurodiversity and Epistemic Appraisal”. Narrow Ridge Epistemology Workshop.
May 2022 “Defending Incoherentism”. Southampton Normativity Group.
April 2022 “Being Wrong About Logic”. Arche Logical Disagreement Workshop, St Andrews.
December 2021 “Risk, Rationality, and Recklessness”. Cogito Epistemology Conference, Glasgow.
Feel free to email me at claire.a.field [at] gmail [dot] com for drafts of works in progress.