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A major theme of my research is defending and extending internalist evidentialism about justification. My research has two main threads; one in epistemology, where I focus on justification, responsible evidence gathering, and more social and applied issues like epistemic injustice and extreme belief, including belief in misinformation and conspiracy theories. The second is in biomedical ethics, where I focus on feminist biomedical ethics and the philosophy of medicine.

Understanding Conspiracy Beliefs Internally

Despite a recent surge of discussions about the epistemic features of belief in conspiracy theories, it remains tempting to dismiss beliefs in conspiracy theories as irrational or unjustified. In this paper, I argue that an internalist lens on justification can help us understand the details of beliefs in conspiracy theories, and make the case that justified beliefs in conspiracy theories are rare, but possible. Specifically, I apply an evidentialist theory of justification—where justification is a matter of fit between one's internally-accessible evidence and one's doxastic attitude—and show that such a theory not only gets intuitive results on justification in specific cases of conspiracy beliefs, but also, perhaps surprisingly, does not rule that most or even many conspiracy believers are on-balance justified, despite its highly internalist character. I also argue that applying an evidentialist theory also helps to reveal the crucial role of actual isolation from the mainstream epistemic community in allowing for the possibility of justified beliefs in even the most implausible conspiracy theories. Overall, an evidentialist view helps us see that though justified beliefs in widely-dismissed conspiracy theories are possible, they are rare without thorough isolation from the mainstream epistemic community, and that conspiracy theorists cannot manufacture justification by concertedly gathering evidence that seems to support their preferred theory.

Support Per (and for) Evidentialism

In this paper, I argue that some objections to Conee and Feldman-style evidentialism can be dissolved by clarifying that even thoroughly internalist evidentialists can hold that there are facts about whether some total body of evidence E supports belief in a proposition p that are unaffected by S's belief about whether E supports p. Relatedly, this means that the support relation need not be at all subjective, despite the theory's internalist character. This move is made possible at least partially because justification strongly supervenes on a total body of evidence (eg. Feldman and Conee 2004). I argue that this clarification does not require taking a position in the uniqueness/permissivism debate, or a specific view on the relationship between first- and higher-order evidence. Finally, I discuss how this allows evidentialism to get good results in cases that may seem problematic for the theory, such as individuals who take themselves to be justified in morally abhorrent propositions, or other propositions widely considered to be false.

Against Responsibilist Evidentialism

Because evidentialism is a synchronic theory of justification that assesses the fit between one's evidence and one's doxastic attitude at a time, it cannot rule that incomplete or irresponsible evidence gathering itself can ruin one's justification. Objectors worry that this means that incomplete or irresponsible evidence gathering can lead to justification, on an evidentialist theory. One way of responding to this objection is to add a responsibility and/or responsible evidence gathering condition to evidentialism—this is a strategy pursued, by example, by Cloos (2015) and Baehr (2009). In this paper I argue that though the responsibilist objection is an important one worth addressing, combining assessments of epistemic justification and epistemic responsibility leads to poor results in terms of both justification and responsibility.

Pathology and the Difficult Case of Mild Menstrual Side Effects

I argue that extant definitions of health and pathology cannot provide a satisfactory account of mild menstrual side effects (MMSEs). Such side effects are often the consequence of “normal” biological functioning, and so cannot be pathological on popular accounts of pathology. I argue that it is a bad result to rule that there is nothing going biologically wrong when individuals experience MMSEs. Despite the primarily social nature of the harm of MMSEs, that harm is importantly grounded in biological function. On this basis, I make the case for a new kind of pathology, pathologies that arise from social, rather than biological, dysfunction. I also address how this account is different from the social model of disability, and does not problematically conflict with or cheapen the important insights of the social model of disability.

Connecting Testimonial Injustice and Justified Beliefs in Health-Related Conspiracy Theories

Published in Ethics, Medicine, and Public Health (2020)

In this paper, I argue that women's experiences of testimonial and other epistemic injustices in the healthcare system can justify women in mistrusting individual healthcare providers, and when the injustices are widespread or repeated, can justify them in mistrusting the healthcare system itself. Once patients rationally mistrust the healthcare system, they are more vulnerable to rational belief in health-related conspiracy theories, especially when they are exposed to health-related misinformation on the internet and specifically on social media. Expanding beyond this paper, I am interested in the ways that testimonial injustices in the healthcare system leads to negative outcomes for patients who belong to marginalized groups in the United States, and how attention to epistemic injustices and the implicit biases involved in epistemic injustices can be used to reform the way healthcare providers interact with especially patients in marginalized social groups.

Pathological Social Dysfunction: An Ameliorative Account of Pathology

I argue that definitions of health and pathology that include biological dysfunction as a necessary condition for pathology face a counterexample: mild menstrual side effects. Mild menstrual side effects (MMSEs) negatively affect menstruators, but they are not the result of a biological dysfunction. So, traditional accounts of pathology will not rule MMSEs pathological; I argue that this is a problem for two main reasons. First, if we use pathology as part of a comprehensive system of what kinds of healthcare we owe each other (for example as found in Norman Daniels' Just Health), it turns out that we do not owe menstruators access to treatment for mild menstrual side effects, because they are not the result of biological dysfunction. Second, failing to account for the necessity of access to treatment not only seems unintuitive because MMSEs are harmful, but also for equality reasons; these side effects affect only menstruators, and menstruators face extra burdens because of these side effects. In this paper, I survey extant popular definitions of health, and show why they cannot account for this counterexample, and propose a new account, where both biological dysfunctions and what I call social dysfunctions are both pathological. On my account, social dysfunctions are dysfunctions grounded in good biological functioning, but the side effects of this good biological functioning impede individuals' essential social functions. Ultimately, I argue that this account reflects the nature of the most impactful harm of MMSEs, which is social.