Research

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Photo credit: Filippo Ferrari

"See the ingenuity of Truth, who when she gets a free and willing 
hand, opens herself faster then the pace of method and discours can
overtake her." (Milton, Areopagitica)

Research Programme

I work primarily on topics in metaphysics, the philosophy of language, and experimental philosophy. I’m particularly interested in topics that have a clear applied dimension, which could involve interdisciplinary connections, social or political benefits, or other sorts of public-facing outputs and activities. So far, the main topics of my research have been pluralist theories of truth, deflationary theories of truth, primitivist theories of truth, cross-linguistic theories of truth, taste, and disagreement. My recent and upcoming projects include journal articles, chapters, books, public articles, and an entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy that cover all of these topics.

Publications

Books, edited volumes, and special issues/topical collections

Truth, with Joe Ulatowski. Manuscript in progress.

Truth without Borders, topical collection for the Asian Journal of Philosophy, co-edited with Joe Ulatowski and Masaharu Mizumoto. 2022/3.

Perspectives on Taste: Aesthetics, Language, Metaphysics, and Experimental Philosophy, co-edited with Julia Zakkou and Dan Zeman.  Routledge, 2022.

The Nature of Truth: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives, 2nd edition, co-edited with Michael P. Lynch, Junyeol Kim, and Nathan Kellen.  MIT Press, 2021.

Truth: Concept Meets Property, special issue of Synthese on the concept and nature of truth, 2021.

Pluralisms in Truth and Logic, co-edited with Nikolaj Pedersen and Nathan Kellen.  Palgrave Macmillan, 2018.

Articles and book chapters

Primitivist theories of truth. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. In preparation. To be completed in 2023.

Taste predicates and retraction data: an improved framework. (with Joe Ulatowski). In D. Zeman & M. Hîncu (Eds.). Retraction Matters: New developments in the philosophy of language. Springer. To appear in 2023.

Abstract: Predicates of personal taste (PPT), which include words like ‘tasty,’ ‘fun,’ and ‘cool,’ have been at the centre of a set of lively, interdisciplinary debates spanning the past 20 years. Over this period, philosophers and linguists have developed five major accounts of what PPT mean and the sort of truth (if any) for which assertions involving PPT are apt.  In this chapter, we explore one of the main empirical diagnostics that should be used in evaluating the ‘big five’ analyses of PPT, which involves considerations about retraction.  After setting out the ‘big five’ analyses, we review the most influential account of why retraction data matter in the PPT debates, which comes from John MacFarlane.  We take MacFarlane’s account to suffer from two significant problems. After identifying them, we develop an improved framework for thinking about retraction data and PPT.  To close, we draw on this improved framework in reframing the significance of our current empirical data, which come from Markus Kneer.

From infants to great apes: false belief attribution and primitivism about truth. (with Joe Ulatowski). In D. Bordonaba Plou (Ed.), Experimental Philosophy of Language: Perspectives, methods, and prospects. Springer. To appear in 2022/3.

Abstract: There is a growing body of empirical evidence which shows that infants and non-human primates have the ability to represent the mental states of other agents, i.e. that they possess a Theory of Mind. We will argue that this evidence also suggests that infants and non-human primates possess the concept of truth, which, as we will explain, is good news for primitivists about truth. First, we will offer a brief overview of alethic primitivism, focusing on Jamin Asay’s conceptual version of the view. Next, we will survey relevant work on Theory of Mind which indicates that children younger than two and non-human primates are able to attribute false beliefs. Then, we will bring these false-belief data to bear on Asay’s form of primitivism, arguing that the data support two of the four distinctive theses of this view and offering some remarks about the empirical evaluability of the two remaining theses. We hope that our discussion will help to bridge the gap between psychological and philosophical inquiry and that it will encourage further empirical research on the cognitive significance of the concept of truth for humans and other thinking creatures.

Primitivist theories of truth: their history and prospects. Philosophy Compass 17: 6, 2022. (Open access)

Abstract: Primitivists about truth maintain that truth cannot be analysed in more fundamental terms. Defences of primitivism date back to the early years of analytic philosophy, being offered by G.E. Moore, Bertrand Russell, and Gottlob Frege.  In more recent years, a number of contemporary philosophers—including Donald Davidson, Ernest Sosa, Trenton Merricks, Douglas Patterson, and Jamin Asay—have followed suit, defending their own versions of primitivism. I’ll begin by offering a brief history of primitivism, situating each of these views within the landscape of primitivist truth theories and detailing some of their core motivations and apparent shortcomings. To close the discussion, I’ll offer a diagnosis of the prospects of primitivism, focusing on the mystery challenge, which has loomed large throughout the history of primitivist truth theories, and the methodology that should be used in evaluating primitivist (and other) truth theories going forward.

In defence of the villain: Edwards on deflationism and pluralism. Inquiry, 2022. Published version

Abstract: In The Metaphysics of Truth, Doug Edwards offers a sustained case against deflationism about truth and in favour of his preferred pluralist theory of truth.  Here, I take up three of the main components of that case.  The first is Edwards’ account of the distinctive metaphysical commitments of deflationism.  His views about this issue have changed over the past few years, and I detail these changes as well as a concern for the views that he develops in the book.  Second, I take up the argument that Edwards offers for thinking that deflationism is, in a certain sense, internally unstable.  I explain why this argument is inconclusive, outlining three responses to it on behalf of the deflationist.  Third, I consider Edwards’ novel argument for truth pluralism, which acts as an indirect argument against deflationism.  After sorting out some interpretive nuances related to the use of definite descriptions in this argument, I show how the deflationist can resist it.  Having responded to Edwards’ critique of deflationism, I close by briefly explaining why I take the methodology of deflationism to be especially promising, insofar as it underscores the significance of empirically-informed inquiry about truth.

How to Canberra-plan disagreement: platitudes, taste, preferences. In Perspectives on Taste.

Abstract: What is disagreement, and how can we come to know what disagreement is?  Philosophers from nearly every corner of the discipline have investigated disagreement, so answers to the first question aren’t in short supply.  Answers to the second question, though, are harder to come by.  In this chapter, I outline an approach to the study of disagreement that is modelled on the Canberra Plan.  The core idea behind this approach is to determine the nature of disagreement, we should (i) identify a collection of platitudes about disagreement; (ii) Ramsify over them; and then (iii) use available empirical evidence to determine which relations make the resultant Ramsey sentence true.  To demonstrate the fruitfulness of this approach, I show how it can be used to deliver a satisfying and empirically-informed account of the nature of taste disagreement. 

The nature of disagreement: matters of taste and environs. Synthese 199, 10739-10767. (Part of Topical Collection New Work on Disagreement, Dan Zeman and Mihai Hîncu, eds.). 2021. Published version

Abstract: Predicates of personal taste (PPT) have attracted a great deal of attention from philosophers of language and linguists.  In the intricate debates over PPT, arguably the most central consideration has been which analysis of PPT can best account for the possibility of faultless disagreement about matters of personal taste.  I argue that two models of such disagreement—the relativist and absolutist models—are empirically inadequate.  In their stead, I develop a model of faultless taste disagreement which represents it as involving a novel incompatibility relation between preferences that I call type-noncotenability.  This model is available to all parties in the ongoing debates about PPT, but it points up an advantage enjoyed by expressivist accounts of PPT.  In closing, I consider four objections against the model that, while failing to fully undermine it, open up promising avenues of inquiry about the nature of disagreement.

Editorial introduction to Truth: Concept Meets Property. Synthese 198: 2. 591-603. Published version

Introduction to deflationary theories of truth. In The Nature of Truth: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives, 2nd edition. 319-333.

Truth and insubstantiality: the metaphysics of deflationism.  In The Nature of Truth: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives, 2nd edition. 455-474.

Truth in English and elsewhere: an empircally-informed functionalism. In Wyatt, Pedersen, and Kellen, eds. Pluralisms in Truth and Logic. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. 169-196. Published version

Abstract: Functionalism about truth, or alethic functionalism, is one of our most promising approaches to the study of truth. In this chapter, I chart a course for functionalist inquiry that centrally involves the empirical study of ordinary thought about truth. In doing so, I review some existing empirical data on the ways in which we think about truth and offer suggestions for future work on this issue. I also argue that some of our data lend support to two kinds of pluralism regarding ordinary thought about truth. These pluralist views, as I show, can be straightforwardly integrated into the broader functionalist framework. The main result of this integration is that some unexplored metaphysical views about truth become visible. To close the chapter, I briefly respond to one of the most serious objections to functionalism, due to Cory Wright.

Absolutely tasty: an examination of predicates of personal taste and faultless disagreementInquiry 61: 3, 252-280. 2018. Published version

Abstract: Debates about the semantics and pragmatics of predicates of personal taste (PPT) have largely centered on contextualist and relativist proposals. I argue in favor of an alternative, absolutist analysis of PPT. Theorists such as Max Kölbel and Peter Lasersohn have argued that we should dismiss absolutism (also called realism or invariantism) due to its inability to accommodate the possibility of faultless disagreement involving PPT. My aim in the paper is to show how the absolutist can in fact accommodate this possibility by drawing on an account of faultless disagreement that improves upon a recent proposal due to Karl Schafer. In amending Schafer’s proposal, I put forward an empirically-informed view of our beliefs regarding matters of personal taste, as well as an account of our assertions concerning such matters. I also argue that absolutists should take disagreement about these matters to be conative, rather than doxastic, in nature. The anticipated result is an independently compelling account of faultless disagreement about matters of personal taste that fits naturally with absolutism.

The many (yet few) faces of deflationism. The Philosophical Quarterly 66: 263, 362-382. 2016. Published version

Abstract: It’s often said that according to deflationary theories of truth, truth is not a ‘substantial’ property. While this is a fine slogan, it is far from transparent what deflationists mean (or ought to mean) in saying that truth is ‘insubstantial.’ Focusing so intently upon the concept of truth and the word ‘true,’ I argue, deflationists and their critics have been insufficiently attentive to a host of metaphysical complexities that arise for deflationists in connection with the property of truth. My aim is to correct several misunderstandings as to what deflationists are after here—including some harbored by deflationists themselves—and to offer an account of the commitments about truth’s nature that they ought to undertake. In developing this account, I focus particularly upon the issue of what metaphysics of truth a Horwichian minimalist ought to adopt.

From one to many: recent work on truth. (with Michael P. Lynch). American Philosophical Quarterly 53: 4, 323-340. 2016. Published version

Abstract: We offer a brief, critical survey of contemporary work on truth. We begin by reflecting on the distinction between substantivist and deflationary truth theories. We then turn to three new kinds of truth theory—Kevin Scharp’s replacement theory, John MacFarlane’s relativism, and the alethic pluralism pioneered by Michael Lynch and Crispin Wright. We argue that despite their considerable differences, these theories exhibit a common ‘pluralizing tendency’ with respect to truth. In the final section, we look at the underinvestigated interface between metaphysical and formal truth theories, pointing to several promising questions that arise here.

Domains, plural truth, and mixed atomic propositions. Philosophical Studies 166: 255-236, 2013. Published version

Abstract: I discuss two concerns for pluralist truth theories: a concern about a key detail of these theories and a concern about their viability. The detailed-related concern is that pluralists have relied heavily upon the notion of a domain, but it is not transparent what they take domains to be. Since the notion of a domain has been present in philosophy for some time, it is important for many theorists, not only truth pluralists, to be clear on what domains are and what work they can do.

The viability-related concern is that it’s not clear how a pluralist truth theory could explain the truth-conditions of mixed atomic propositions. To address this concern, truth pluralists should recognize something to which they have not been sufficiently attentive: that some atomic propositions belong to more than one domain. But, recognizing this requires rethinking the relationships between the nature of propositions, their membership in domains, and their truth. I address these issues and propose an understanding of them that is preferable to the best existing account of them, that offered by Michael Lynch.

Public philosophy

How to think about truth. (with Joe Ulatowski). To appear in Psyche in 2022.

What is truth? Humanities, Arts and Society (HAS) Magazine, Issue 3: Truth and Belief. 2021.

Abstract: In this short paper, I consider three responses to the question “What is truth?,” investigating their ramifications in philosophy and public life.

Papers in Progress

  • A paper on primitivist theories of truth
  • Several papers on truth-talk in various languages
  • Several papers on taste discourse in various languages
  • A paper on deflationism about truth, the nature of assertion, and alethic desires
  • An entry for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on primitivist theories of truth
  • A paper on Amie Thomasson’s easy approach to ontology
  • A paper on identity theories of truth
  • A paper on Russell’s paradox, parsimony, and pure vs. moderate deflationism
  • A paper on extant arguments for pure deflationism, why they’re problematic, and why a parsimony-based argument is more promising

Dissertation

Pluralism and the absence of truth, 2014. Available at UCONN Digital Commons

Talks: Past and Upcoming

Taste predicates and retraction data: an improved framework
Truth in Evaluation, University of Sassari; September 2022

Relativism, taste discourse, and retraction data: a reassessment
Programme seminar, Victoria University of Wellington; August 2022

Canberra-planning cross-linguistic disagreement: a few remarks
Panel on cross-linguistic disagreement at Cross-Linguistic Disagreement: An international conference on disagreement in the age of globalization; conference held simultaneously at Japan Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and online; July 2022

Two solutions for deflationism: Assertion, explanation, and alethic desires
2022 Meeting of the Australasian Association of Philosophy; Zoom workshop hosted by the University of Waikato; July 2022

Truth Without Borders: An overview
Panel on cross-cultural inquiry about truth at Perspectives about Truth; Zoom conference hosted by Politehnica University of Bucharest; June 2022

The prospects of primitivism
14th SIFA Conference, hosted online and in Noto, Italy by the Italian Society for Analytic Philosophy; September 2021

Primitivism about truth
2021 AAP Conference, hosted online by the University of Waikato; July 2021

Testing taste talk: retraction and beyond
Theoretical and Empirical Challenges to Retraction, hosted online by the University of Warsaw; June 2021

How to Canberra-plan disagreement
Philosophy Programme Seminar, University of Otago; April 2021

The prospects of primitivism
2020 NZAP, University of Canterbury; December 2020

Is TRUTH primitive?
New Zealand Online Philosophy Seminar Series; October 2020

The metaphysics of taste disagreement
Philosophy Programme Seminar, University of Waikato; August 2020

What is faultless disagreement about matters of personal taste?
Pacific APA, San Francisco; April 2020 [Cancelled due to COVID-19]

What is faultless disagreement about matters of personal taste?
Pre-Read Workshop, University of Kentucky; July 2019

Disagreement about matters of personal taste: beliefs vs. preferences
Workshop on Relativism in Epistemology and Semantics, Universität Wien; October 2018

What is disagreement about matters of personal taste?
4th Conference on Contemporary Philosophy in East Asia, National Chengchi University; August 2018

Truth in English and elsewhere: an empirically-informed functionalism
2nd Veritas Philosophy Conference, Yonsei University; April 2018

Belief and disagreement about matters of personal taste
Relativisms Workshop III, Seoul National University; March 2018

Truth in English and elsewhere: an empirically-informed functionalism
Departmental Colloquium, Texas Christian University; January 2018

Absolutely tasty: an examination of predicates of personal taste and faultless disagreement
UIC Faculty Colloquium, Yonsei University; November 2017

Truth predicates, absolutely: an examination of PPT and faultless disagreement
Relativisms Workshop I, Yonsei University; February 2017

Negotiating the desert landscape: deflationism, truth-talk, and parsimony
Workshop on Paul Horwich, Sungkyunkwan University; February 2017

A case for pure deflationism
3rd Bologna Pluralism Workshop, Cogito Research Centre, Università di Bologna; December 2016

Deflationism and truth as a property
Truth: Deflationism and Beyond, University of Sassari; September 2016

Logical pluralism’s conceptions of truth
3rd Conference on Contemporary Philosophy in East Asia, Seoul National University; August 2016

Plato’s alethic pluralism
Symposium on Blake Hestir’s ‘Plato on the Metaphysical Foundations of Meaning and Truth,’ Yonsei University; June 2016

The concepts and natures of truth
Pluralisms Week, Yonsei University; June 2016

Reconceiving faultless disagreement: a defense of absolutism about ‘tasty’
Pacific APA, San Francisco; March 2016

The concepts and natures of truth
Departmental Colloquium, Hong Kong University; February 2016

Reconceiving faultless disagreement: a defense of absolutism about ‘tasty’
Departmental Colloquium, Lingnan University; February 2016

Reconceiving faultless disagreement: a defense of absolutism about ‘tasty’
Departmental Colloquium, Texas Christian University; January 2016

The concepts and natures of truth
Pluralisms Workshop II, Cogito Research Centre, Università di Bologna; October 2015

Reconceiving faultless disagreement: a defense of absolutism about ‘tasty’
Cogito Research Seminar, Università di Bologna; October 2015

Reconceiving faultless disagreement: a defense of absolutism about ‘tasty’
Pluralism, Language, and Logic Workshop, Yonsei University; September 2015

The puzzle of truth-aptness and the meaning of ‘true’
LOGOS Research Group, Universitat de Barcelona; July 2015

Absolutely tasty: an alternative to taste predicate relativism
Cogito Research Seminar, Università di Bologna; June 2015

The puzzle of truth-aptness and the meaning of ‘true’
Pluralisms Workshop I, Cogito Research Centre, Università di Bologna; June 2015

Commentary: Hongwoo Kwon, Indexicality in action
Korean Society for Analytic Philosophy Spring Meeting, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies; May 2015

Absolutely tasty: a case for taste predicate absolutism
UIC Philosophy Research Seminar, Yonsei University; April 2015

Considerations on Beall-Restall logical pluralism (with Ben Burgis, Colin Caret, and Nikolaj Pedersen)
Pluralisms Global Research Network Workshop V, Yonsei University; March 2015

The puzzle of truth-aptness and the meaning of ‘true’
2nd Conference on Contemporary Philosophy in East Asia, Kyoto University; August 2014

Platitudes and method in truth theory
Language & Epistemology Workshop, Yonsei University; July 2014

Commentary: Colin Caret, Mission impossible: a dialetheic solution to Curry’s Paradox
Korean Society for Logic Summer Meeting, Dongduk Women’s University; July 2014

What truth cannot be
1st Veritas Philosophy Conference, Yonsei University; June 2014

Commentary: Nikolaj Pedersen, Mixed compounds: a strongly pluralist account
Pacific APA; April 2014

The paradox of truth-aptness and the meaning of ‘true’
Pacific APA; April 2014

Alethic pluralism and the bearers of truth (with Cory D. Wright)
Pluralisms Global Research Network Workshop I; Yonsei University; January 2014

Platitudes, truth-bearers, and the stability of moderate alethic pluralism
Graduate Research Workshop, Yonsei University; July 2013

Strong pluralism, moderate pluralism, and pluralistic nihilism
Northern Institute of Philosophy; June 2013

Commentary: Mark Makin, Ontological dependence grounds grounding
Yale/UConn Graduate Philosophy Conference; May 2013

Deflationism deflated
Pacific APA; March 2013

Deflationism deflated
XVII Shapiro Graduate Philosophy Conference; Brown University; November 2012

Grounded, deflationary pluralism
Northern Institute of Philosophy; May 2012

Domains, plural truth, and mixed atomic propositions
1st Seoul Graduate Philosophy Conference, Yonsei University; April 2012