Most of my research focuses on beliefs. I am interested in what kind of beliefs individuals hold and why they hold them. On a theoretical level, my work explores the moral psychology of non-standard beliefs, that is, beliefs that are not sensitive to evidence (think self-deceptive beliefs, conspiratorial beliefs, anti-vaccine attitudes, and so on). On a psychological level, I am also interested in what steps individuals can take to counteract these non-standard beliefs and come to their (epistemic) senses.
In this respect, while most of the debate on irrational phenomena focuses on the question of how we ‘backslide’, my research explores the overlooked phenomenon where agents come to abandon their irrational, albeit oftentimes comforting, beliefs for the price of a cold truth. In this respect, I have developed an account of how individuals cease to be self-deceived.
I have currently two ongoing projects. One focuses on exploring the implications of my previous work on self-deception for phenomena that involve conspiracy theories and anti-vaccine attitudes. A second project instead focuses on developing a new, relational account of resilience which inspired by feminist research on relational autonomy.
Project on Conspiracy Theories - "Beliefs Locked and Loaded"
I advance a new argument for why conspiratorial beliefs are so tenaciously resistant to revision. In a nutshell, I argue that conspiratorial beliefs are not standard beliefs, but rather beliefs that in addition to having epistemic functions (e.g. navigating the environment) also possess the following non-epistemic functions: they allow those who hold them to be the main character of a self-serving narrative and speak to their identity in important ways, they provide purpose and meaning, they are emotionally charged, they bind people together, they modulate access to specific communities, and so on.
I suggest that what makes conspiratorial beliefs persist over time (and resist revision) is precisely their non-epistemic features which give back positive returns to individuals who hold those beliefs. This also explains why correcting conspiratorial beliefs through reiterating evidence is bound to fail: beliefs that have an affective component will not capitulate to evidence alone as this exclusively targets evidential considerations.
Project on Resilience - "Nobody Makes it Alone"
The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a striking increase in calls to be ‘resilient’ but it has also exposed the limits of resilience, especially when calls for it target women and minorities. In this respect, calls for resilience often place an emotional and cognitive burden on individuals to find ways to persist through difficult circumstances when what is most needed is instead government support and structural change.
I argue that calls for resilience are inadequate because we have an individualistic notion of resilience. The individualistic notion is flawed in two ways: a) it can generate psychological harm because it is experienced as cognitively burdensome, and b) it fails to attend to systemic injustices because it discounts how structural oppression can undercut women and minorities’ success in overcoming setbacks.
As such, I suggest we reconceptualize resilience as a relational notion that takes into account structural support as well as conditions of oppression and marginalization. According to this latter notion of resilience, certain preconditions are necessary for calls to be resilient to be appropriate. Oppression, lack of material conditions, or lack of structural support can all be external elements that impact the exercise of resilience. A relational notion of resilience then turns calls for resilience into something that fosters well-being and takes into consideration structural oppression.
Papers (drafts available on request)
Rethinking Resiliency After Covid-19: Towards a Relational View, in Pandemic Relations: [Re]Forging our Moral Bonds in the Time of Covid-19, Routledge (forthcoming)
Self-Control in Action and Belief (with Sarah Stroud), Philosophical Explorations, 2021.
Abstract: Self-control is normally, if only tacitly, viewed as an inherently practical capacity or achievement: as exercised only in the domain of action. Questioning this assumption, we wish to motivate the perhaps unexpected idea that self-control is in fact a transversal phenomenon which is applicable both to action and to belief. While there may be some differences in how self-control is manifested in the respective realms of action and belief, these differences do not undermine the basic takeaway: that agents can and do exercise self-control with respect to both actions and beliefs. These arguments target synchronic self-control, or the exercise of self-control on a discrete occasion; in the final section, we examine whether there is also a more holistic trait or stable state of a person which could aptly be considered a form of self-control.
[Paper on Self-Deception]
Abstract removed to facilitate anonymous review.
[Paper on Self-Deception], under review.
Abstract removed to facilitate anonymous review.
[Paper on Adaptive Preferences], final draft ready.
Abstract: I argue that the metaethical distinction about internal and external reasons can inform questions pertaining the autonomy of individuals with adaptive preferences. The paper examines whether individuals whose preferences are adaptive qualify as autonomous according to an account of autonomy that incorporates John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza’s conception of reasons-responsiveness, in particular when internal and external reasons are considered. I show that while externalism’s verdict is that adaptive preferences are nonautonomous, internalism is instead committed to conclude that they are autonomous.