Personal profile

Research

About my work:

I’m part of the project Knowledgeable Democracy: A Social-Epistemological Inquiry (PI: Prof Jeroen de Ridder). 

Liberal democracies seem to be good at producing knowledge and other epistemic goods. However, phenomena such as deep disagreement and various social-cognitive shortcomings, such as confirmation bias, denialism, and groupthink, among many others, look like obstacles to the ideal that democracies are good at producing knowledge and other epistemic goods. 

I’m researching the nature and extent to which these phenomena impede the knowledge-producing potential of liberal democracies. 

About my research:

I do research in epistemology and the philosophy of mind. However, I have research interests in metaphysics, meta-ethics, philosophy of language, and political philosophy. I especially enjoy researching topics at the intersection of some of these areas.

Right now, I’m researching two interrelated topics in social epistemology. First, the metaphysics and epistemology of deep disagreement, and, secondly, the epistemology of various cognitive shortcomings. 

Cognitive shortcomings and the epistemic ideals of liberal democracy:

As polarised-group’s understanding of climate-science increases, their concern for global climate-change surprisingly does not increase. Instead, groups which disagree become even more polarized (see Kahan et al. 2012). Empirical research is showing us that people’s perceptions of risk are a function of their values rather than of rational deliberative-processes (e.g., an individualist will tend to underestimate the riskiness of climate-change over a collectivist). If these empirical results are on the right track, they pose a prima facie challenge to liberal democracy. For in a democratic society, policy choice should be, at least in a part, of function of the rational deliberative choices of citizens. But if citizens are collectively irrational and subject to arational forces, it’s not clear that policy choice ought to be a function of citizen’s choices, since they can’t authentically engage in the rational deliberative process. 

Deep disagreement and the epistemic ideals of democracy:

In many contemporary liberal democracies, there seem to be deep disagreements: disagreements which, arguably, commit the participants to disagreeing over many issues. With such systematic disagreement in play, it’s hard to see how such disagreements could be rationally resolvable. And this poses a prima facie challenge to the epistemic ideals of liberal democracy. For we think that policy choice should be, at least in part, a function of citizen’s views after rational deliberation. But it seems like, for many issues—climate-change, gun-control, vaccination, abortion, and economic welfare, among others—rational deliberation cannot settle the dispute. This raises serious questions about whether policy-choice in these areas could be a function of citizen’s rational deliberation if they couldn’t, even in principle, resolve their disagreements.

Ancillary activities

No ancillary activities

Last update Ancillary Activities: Amsterdam (2018-01-21)

Education / Academic qualification

Philosophy, PhD, University of Edinburgh

Philosophy, Bachelor, Virginia Commonwealth University