Sinan Dogramaci (needed some help building this webpage)

Hellooooo.

I’m an Associate Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin.

My email address is my first and last names, separated by a period, followed by “@gmail.com” (or, if you are my student, please use “@utexas.edu” instead).

My name is Turkish. I grew up half there, half in the US. Most people, when speaking English, pronounce my first name using the two English words “sin” and “on”: “sin-on”. The last name sounds like “dor-uh-mudge-uh”.

This page contains all my published papers, organized roughly by project. Click the arrows on the left to display abstracts.

 

Papers on the Practical Function of Epistemic Evaluation:

    ¡NEW! What Is the Function of Reasoning? On Mercier & Sperber’s Argumentative and Justificatory Theories, (forthcoming, Episteme, Special Issue edited by David Henderson)

    This paper aims to accessibly present, and then critique, Hugo Mercier and Dan Sperber’s recent proposals for the evolutionary function of human reasoning. I take a critical look at the main source of experimental evidence that they claim as support for their view, namely the confirmation or “myside” bias in reasoning. I object that Mercier and Sperber did not adequately argue for a claim that their case rests on, namely that it is evolutionarily advantageous for you to get other people to believe whatever you antecedently believe. And I give my own argument that this claim is false. I also critically look at their suggestion that reasoning has a justificatory function, functioning as a kind of reputation management tool. I argue this suggestion does not amount to a plausible evolutionary function.

    The Ordinary Language Argument for Skepticism—Pragmatized, (2019, Philosophical Studies, Special Issue of the Pacific APA)

    I develop a new version of the ordinary language response to skepticism. My version is based on premises about the practical functions served by our epistemic words. I end by exploring how my argument against skepticism is interestingly non-circular and philosophically valuable.

    Why Is a Valid Inference a Good Inference?, (2016, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research)

    True beliefs and truth-preserving inferences are, in some sense, good beliefs and good inferences. When an inference is valid though, it is not merely truth-preserving, but truth-preserving in all cases. This motivates my question: I consider a Modus Ponens inference, and I ask what its validity in particular contributes to the explanation of why the inference is, in any sense, a good inference. I consider the question under three different definitions of ‘case’, and hence of ‘validity’: the orthodox definition given in terms of interpretations or models, a metaphysical definition given in terms of possible worlds, and a substitutional definition defended by Quine. I argue that the orthodox notion is poorly suited to explain what’s good about a Modus Ponens inference. I argue that there is something good that is explained by a certain kind of truth across possible worlds, but the explanation is not provided by metaphysical validity in particular; nothing of value is explained by truth across all possible worlds. Finally, I argue that the substitutional notion of validity allows us to correctly explain what is good about a valid inference.

    An Argument for Uniqueness about Evidential Support, co-authored with Sophie Horowitz (2016, Philosophical Issues)

    White, Christensen, and Feldman have recently endorsed uniqueness, the thesis that given the same total evidence, two rational subjects cannot hold different views. Kelly, Schoenfield, and Meacham argue that White and others have at best only supported the weaker, merely intrapersonal view that, given the total evidence, there are no two views which a single rational agent could take. Here, we give a new argument for uniqueness, an argument with deliberate focus on the interpersonal element of the thesis. Our argument is that the best explanation of the value of promoting rationality is an explanation that entails uniqueness.

    Forget and Forgive, (2016, Ergo)

    We can make new progress on stalled debates in epistemology if we adopt a new practical approach, an approach concerned with the function served by epistemic evaluations. This paper illustrates how. I apply the practical approach to an important, unsolved problem: the problem of forgotten evidence. Section 1 describes the problem and why it is so challenging. Section 2 outlines and defends a general view about the function of epistemic evaluations. Section 3 then applies that view to solve the problem of forgotten evidence.

    Communist Conventions for Deductive Reasoning, (2015, Noûs)

    In section 1, I develop epistemic communism, my view of the function of epistemically evaluative terms such as ‘rational’. The function is to support the coordination of our belief-forming rules, which in turn supports the reliable acquisition of beliefs through testimony. This view is motivated by the existence of valid inferences that we hesitate to call rational. I defend the view against the worry that it fails to account for a function of evaluations within first-personal deliberation. In the rest of the paper, I then argue, on the basis of epistemic communism, for a view about rationality itself. I set up the argument in section 2 by saying what a theory of rational deduction is supposed to do. I claim that such a theory would provide a necessary, sufficient, and explanatorily unifying condition for being a rational rule for inferring deductive consequences. I argue in section 3 that, given epistemic communism and the conventionality that it entails, there is no such theory. Nothing explains why certain rules for deductive reasoning are rational.

    Reverse Engineering Epistemic Evaluations, (2012, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, co-winner Rutgers Young Epistemologist Prize)

    I raise a puzzle about what function our use of the word ‘rational’ could serve. How does our use of ‘rational’ help us pursue true beliefs if ‘rational’ doesn’t mean ‘reliable’? Why do we use ‘[ir]rational’ to criticize some reliable people (Norman the unwitting clairvoyant) and praise some unreliable people (the brain in a vat)? To solve the puzzle, I introduce a view that I call epistemic communism: we use epistemic evaluations to promote coordination among our basic belief-forming rules, and the function of this is to make the acquisition of true beliefs by testimony safe and efficient. Coordinated believers don’t need to waste resources vetting each other for reliability.

    Much of the project in the above papers is to motivate, develop, and apply a view of the practical function of epistemic evaluation which I called epistemic communism. The view is introduced in Reverse Engineering (see its abstract on this page for a sketch of the view and its motivation), and the view is further developed and defended in section 1 of Communist Conventions, and section 2 of Forget and Forgive. Applications of this practical approach can shed light on the problems of skepticism, forgotten evidence, the uniqueness/permissivism debate, and the epistemic significance of validity. I also use epistemic communism to argue (see Communist Conventions) that there is no general explanatory theory of rational belief: there is only a laundry list, an un-unifiable hodgepodge, of rules for rational belief formation.

Papers on the Epistemology of Logic, Reasoning, and Credence

    Rational Credence Through Reasoning, (2018, Philosophers’ Imprint)

    Whereas Bayesians have proposed norms such as probabilism, which requires immediate and permanent certainty in all logical truths, I propose a framework on which credences, including credences in logical truths, are rational because they are based on reasoning that follows plausible rules for the adoption of credences. I argue that my proposed framework has many virtues. In particular, it resolves the problem of logical omniscience.

    Solving the Problem of Logical Omniscience, (2018, Philosophical Issues)

    This paper looks at three ways of addressing probabilism’s implausible requirement of logical omniscience. The first and most common strategy says it’s okay to require an ideally rational person to be logically omniscient. I argue that this view is indefensible on any interpretation of ‘ideally rational’. The second strategy says probabilism should be formulated not in terms of logically possible worlds but in terms of doxastically possible worlds, ways you think the world might be. I argue that, on the interpretation of this approach that lifts the requirement of certainty in all logical truths, the view becomes vacuous, issuing no requirements on rational believers at all. Finally, I develop and endorse a new solution to the problem. This view proposes dynamic norms for reasoning with credences. The solution is based on an old proposal of Ian Hacking’s that says you’re required to be sensitive to logical facts only when you know they are logical facts.

    Why Is a Valid Inference a Good Inference?, (2016, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research) [Also posted in the Practical Function category above]

    True beliefs and truth-preserving inferences are, in some sense, good beliefs and good inferences. When an inference is valid though, it is not merely truth-preserving, but truth-preserving in all cases. This motivates my question: I consider a Modus Ponens inference, and I ask what its validity in particular contributes to the explanation of why the inference is, in any sense, a good inference. I consider the question under three different definitions of ‘case’, and hence of ‘validity’: the orthodox definition given in terms of interpretations or models, a metaphysical definition given in terms of possible worlds, and a substitutional definition defended by Quine. I argue that the orthodox notion is poorly suited to explain what’s good about a Modus Ponens inference. I argue that there is something good that is explained by a certain kind of truth across possible worlds, but the explanation is not provided by metaphysical validity in particular; nothing of value is explained by truth across all possible worlds. Finally, I argue that the substitutional notion of validity allows us to correctly explain what is good about a valid inference.

    Reasoning without Blinders: A Reply to Valaris, (2016, Mind)

    I object to Markos Valaris’s thesis that reasoning requires a belief that your conclusion follows from your premisses. My counter-examples highlight the important but neglected role of suppositional reasoning in the basis of so much of what we know.

    Intuitions for Inferences, (2013, Philosophical Studies)

    In this paper, I explore a question about deductive reasoning: why am I in a position to immediately infer some deductive consequences of what I know, but not others? I show why the question cannot be answered in the most natural ways of answering it, in particular in Descartes’s way of answering it. I then go on to introduce a new approach to answering the question, an approach inspired by Hume’s view of inductive reasoning.

    Knowledge of Validity, (2010, Noûs)

    What accounts for how we know that certain rules of reasoning, such as reasoning by Modus Ponens, are valid? If our knowledge of validity must be based on some reasoning, then we seem to be committed to the legitimacy of rule-circular arguments for validity. This paper raises a new difficulty for the rule-circular account of our knowledge of validity. The source of the problem is that, contrary to traditional wisdom, a universal generalization cannot be inferred just on the basis of reasoning about an arbitrary object. I argue in favor of a more sophisticated constraint on reasoning by universal generalization, one which undermines a rule-circular account of our knowledge of validity

Papers on Skepticism

    ¡NEW! Does My Total Evidence Support that I’m a Boltzmann Brain?, (forthcoming, Philosophical Studies)

    A Boltzmann Brain, haphazardly formed through the unlikely but still possible random assembly of physical particles, is a conscious brain having experiences just like an ordinary person. The skeptical possibility of being a Boltzmann Brain is an especially gripping one: scientific evidence suggests our actual universe’s full history may ultimately contain countless short-lived Boltzmann Brains with experiences just like yours or mine. I propose a solution to the skeptical challenge posed by these countless actual Boltzmann Brains. My key idea is roughly this: the skeptical argument that you’re one of the Boltzmann Brains requires you to make a statistical inference, but the Principle of Total Evidence blocks us from making the inference. I discuss how my solution contrasts with a recent suggestion, made by Sean Carroll and David Chalmers, for how to address the skeptical challenge posed by Boltzmann Brains. And I discuss how my solution handles certain relevant concerns about what to do when we have higher-order evidence indicating that our first-order evidence is misleading.

    The Ordinary Language Argument for Skepticism—Pragmatized, (2019, Philosophical Studies, Special Issue of the Pacific APA) [Also posted in the Practical Function category above]

    I develop a new version of the ordinary language response to skepticism. My version is based on premises about the practical functions served by our epistemic words. I end by exploring how my argument against skepticism is interestingly non-circular and philosophically valuable.

    A Problem for Rationalist Responses to Skepticism, (2014, Philosophical Studies)

    Rationalism, my target, says that in order to have perceptual knowledge, such as that your hand is making a fist, you must “antecedently” (or “independently”) know that skeptical scenarios don’t obtain, such as the skeptical scenario that you are in the Matrix. I motivate the specific form of Rationalism shared by, among others, Roger White and Crispin Wright, which credits us with warrant to believe (or “accept”, in Wright’s terms) that our senses are reliably veridical, where that warrant is one we enjoy by default, that is, without relying on any evidence or engaging in any positive argument. The problem with this form of Rationalism is that, even if you have default knowledge that your senses are reliable, this is not adequate to rule out every kind of skeptical scenario. The problem is created by one-off skeptical scenarios, scenarios that involve a highly reliable perceiver who, by a pure fluke, has a one-off, non-veridical experience. I claim you cannot infer that your present perceptual experience is veridical just on the basis of knowledge of your general reliability. More generally, if you infer that the present F is G, just on the basis of your knowledge that most Fs are Gs, this is what I call statistical inference, and, as I argue, statistical inference by itself does not generate knowledge. I defend this view of statistical inference against objections, including the objection that radical skepticism about our ordinary inductive knowledge will follow unless statistical inference generates knowledge.

Papers on the Epistemology of Morality

    Explaining Our Moral Reliability, (2017, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly)

    I critically examine an evolutionary debunking argument against moral realism. The key premise of the argument is that there is no adequate explanation of our moral reliability. I search for the strongest version of the argument; this involves exploring how ‘adequate explanation’ could be understood such that the key premise comes out true. Finally, I give a reductio: in the sense in which there is no adequate explanation of our moral reliability, there is equally no adequate explanation of our inductive reliability. Thus, the argument that would debunk our moral views would also, absurdly, debunk all inductive reasoning.

    More papers on this topic coming soon! Email me for drafts.

Papers on the Epistemology of Mind

    Why Can’t Armchair Philosophers Naturalize the Mind, (forthcoming, a volume on the Apriori edited by Dodd and Zardini)

    My topic is aposteriori naturalism, roughly the view that mental facts are determined by non-mental facts but philosophers cannot discover the details of the determination from the armchair. Section 1 gives aposteriori naturalism a more precise definition and some motivation. Section 2 turns to critical examination, raising a challenge for the view. In section 3, I show that aposteriori naturalists can answer the challenge I raise, but it requires allying their view with certain other substantive positions concerning the epistemology of mental states, positions specifically concerning the nature of self-knowledge and knowledge of other minds. These other positions are controversial, but they are independently defended and accepted by many. My aim is not to offer a novel defense of these other views, but rather to make it clear that aposteriori naturalism must be held in combination with other substantive epistemological views.

    Knowing Our Degrees of Belief, (2016, Episteme)

    The main question of this paper is: how do we manage to know what our own degrees of belief are? Section 1 briefly reviews and criticizes the traditional functionalist view, a view notably associated with David Lewis and sometimes called the theory-theory. I use this criticism to motivate the approach I want to promote. Section 2, the bulk of the paper, examines and begins to develop the view that we have a special kind of introspective access to our degrees of belief. I give an initial assessment of the view by examining its compatibility with leading theories of introspection. And I identify a challenge for the view, and explain why I’m optimistic that the view can overcome it.

Reviews