Research

Here I am on PhilPapers.


Publications

Assertion, Belief, and Context (penultimate version with un-"corrected" bibliography.)

Online first (2017): Synthese. (open access)

This paper argues for a treatment of belief as essentially sensitive to certain features of context. The first part gives an argument that we must take belief to be context-sensitive in the same way that assertion is, if we are to preserve appealing principles tying belief to sincere assertion. In particular, whether an agent counts as believing that p in a context depends on on the space of alternative possibilities the agent is considering in that context. One and the same doxastic state may amount to belief that p in one context but not another. The second part of the paper gives a formal treatment of doxastic states, according to which belief is context-sensitive along just these lines. The model is applied to characterize (but not to refute) skeptical arguments.


Preface Writers Are Consistent (penultimate version)

2017: Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 98(3): 363-81.

I argue for a solution to the preface paradox according to which the preface writer does not have inconsistent beliefs, and that this solution is superior, in particular, to the popular probabilistic solution of the paradox for two reasons. First, my solution does not rely on any controversial view about the relationship between degrees of belief and outright belief. Second, the probabilistic solution explains the rationality of the preface writer's beliefs by claiming that they are only inconsistent in a rationally permissible way. This makes poor sense of the preface situation; it makes better sense to say that the preface writer has consistent beliefs.


Contextualism about Belief Ascriptions (penultimate version)

2017: In The Routledge Handbook of Epistemic Contextualism (Jonathan Jenkins Ichikawa, ed.).


On the Ontological Quality and Logical Quality of Conceptual-Modeling Grammars: The Need for a Dual Perspective

2016: Information Systems Research 27(2): 365-82. Co-authored with Andrew Burton-Jones and Ron Weber.

(This is an interdisciplinary paper, applying logical tools to problems in the design of models for management information systems.)

A core activity in information systems development involves building a conceptual model of the domain that an information system is intended to support. Such models are created using a conceptual-modeling (CM) grammar. Just as high-quality conceptual models facilitate high-quality systems development, high-quality CM grammars facilitate high-quality CM. This paper provides a new perspective on ways to improve the quality of the semantics of CM grammars. For many years, the leading approach to this topic has relied on ontological theory. We show, however, that the ontological approach captures only half the story; it needs to be coupled with a logical approach. We explain how the ontological and logical qualities of CM grammars interrelate. Furthermore, we outline three contributions of a logical approach to evaluating the quality of CM grammars: a means of seeing some familiar CM problems in simpler ways, illumination of new problems, and proving the benefit of modifying existing CM grammars in particular ways. We demonstrate these benefits in the context of the Entity-Relationship grammar. More generally, our paper opens a new area of research with many opportunities for future research and practice.


Belief Is Credence One (In Context)

2013: Philosophers' Imprint 13(11): 1-18. (open access)

This paper argues for two theses: (a) that degrees of belief are context sensitive; (b) that outright belief is belief to degree 1. The latter thesis is rejected quickly in most discussions of the relationship between credence and belief, but the former thesis undermines the usual reasons for doing so. Furthermore, identifying belief with credence 1 allows nice solutions to a number of problems for the most widely-held view of the relationship between credence and belief, the threshold view. I provide a sketch of a formal framework on which both theses are true. This is a modified Bayesian framework; I argue that despite making credences context-sensitive, the framework lets Bayesians hold on to their signature explanatory successes. The sort of context-sensitivity claimed for credences here mirrors the sort of context-sensitivity I have elsewhere claimed for outright belief: one's credences depend, in part, on the space of alternative possibilities one takes seriously in a context.


How to Manipulate an Incompatibilistically Free Agent (penultimate version)

2012: American Philosophical Quarterly 49(2): 139-49.

Manipulation cases are usually seen as a problem for compatibilists, and a strength for incompatibilist theories. I present a new case of indirect manipulation, which I claim does not interfere with the manipulated agent's freedom under libertarian criteria. I argue that the only promising libertarian response to my case would undermine Widerker's response to Frankfurt cases, which I take to be the best libertarian strategy for dealing with Frankfurt-type manipulation. I outline a satisfactory compatibilist explanation of my case.


"The Ravens Paradox" Is a Misnomer (penultimate version)

2010: Synthese 175(3): 427-40.

The ravens paradox is about confirmation, not ravens. Yet the standard Bayesian solution to the ravens paradox relies on background information particular to ravens, specifically that there are many more non-black things than there are ravens. I show that there are instances of the ravens paradox where this assumption does not hold, where the standard Bayesian solution fails to explain the paradox. I go on to defend a solution whereby hypotheses are to be formalized differently in different contexts of inquiry; in the context of the ravens paradox, I argue that the hypothesis that all ravens are black should be formalized as "For all x, x is black," with the quantifier restricted to ravens.


In Preparation

Contrastive Belief, Full and Partial (slides)

Martijn Blaauw has recently advanced the provocative thesis that belief is essentially contrastive (Blaauw 2013). This thesis has been criticized by Baumann (2008, 2013) and Gerken and Beebe (forthcoming). I provide an alternative version of doxastic contrastivism, which better resists these criticisms. My contrastivism relies on the account of full and partial belief in Clarke (2013). That article claims, crucially to motivating doxastic contrastivism, that full and partial belief are both essentially sensitive to the space of alternative possibilities taken seriously by the believer in a given context; this space of alternatives provides the contrast in contrastive belief.

Context-Sensitive Pyrrhonism (slides and a very preliminary draft--I think I'll be rewriting a lot of this from scratch, but this draft has some fun parts that are unlikely to survive, so I'll put it here anyway. That's a long way of saying: comments welcome!)

I use a sensitivist account of belief to give an explication of Sextus Empiricus's Pyrrhonian scepticism which, I claim, resolves some longstanding difficulties for understanding Sextus's philosophy. The scepticism emerging as a result is less clearly radical and disastrous than scepticism is typically taken to be. In fact, the sensitivist version of Sextus set out here suggests viable options for sensitivist epistemology.


Last updated 8 September 2017.


Roger Clarke

roger dot clarke at qub dot ac dot uk