I am currently a postdoctoral research fellow at The University of Warwick on the AHRC-DFG funded project Moral Obligation & Epistemology: The Case of Vaccine Hesitancy. The project considers philosophical issues related to the rationality of vaccine opposition and hesitancy, and the question of how science communication should address vaccine hesitancy, especially in the face of campaigns of misinformation.
My wider research focuses on the philosophy of trust and trustworthiness. What does it mean to trust someone, and how does trusting change in different kinds of relationships? What does it mean to be trustworthy? And how can one build trust and trustworthiness?
I am primarily interested in two kinds of trust. Epistemic trust and political trust. Epistemic trust concerns our dependence on others' testimony to gain knowledge. A paradigm case of this is a layperson trusting an expert. Political trust concerns the dependence on citizens on governments to represent and serve the public interest.
I am interested both in the nature of epistemic and political trust, the conditions for epistemic and political trustworthiness, and finally, in determining the conditions which build both trust and trustworthiness.
In addition to research, I also offer private philosophy tuition in the following areas:
The History of Philosophy
If you require private tuition, please contact me by email.
Trust, Audit and Public Engagement
Public auditors such as Audit Scotland aim to provide independent assurance to the public that money is spent effectively, efficiently and that it, and the activities of public organisations, provide public value.
This project has two objectives. Firstly, to develop conceptual models of public audit that support public organisations' trustworthiness as organisations that provide public value. Secondly, to develop conceptual models of public engagement that auditors (and public organisations generally) can use to build public trust in their organisations.
The project has three parts. Part 1 provides the project's philosophical foundations, defining the core concepts of trust, trustworthiness, distrust, and untrustworthiness that I employ in the thesis. Then I apply those concepts to trust relations between the public and public organisations. You can read a summative report of my findings here.
In part 2, I examine the relationship between audit and the trustworthiness of government. I will defend audit against audit sceptics, who argue that audit undermines public organisations' trustworthiness and public trust in those organisations. I will do this by arguing that whether audit faces these objections is dependent on the model of audit practice that we adopt, and I propose models of audit that avoid the audit sceptics’ objections. You can read a summative report of my findings here.
In part 3, I develop conceptual models of trust-conducive public engagement, and I examine the role that auditors can play in enhancing public trust in public organisations. Firstly, I determine whether the obligation to build trust in public organisations is compatible with audit function. Secondly, I determine what public organisations' communicative obligations are; for instance, do they require public organisations always to be open, honest, and transparent? Finally, I argue that public engagement models that empower the voices of those engaged with are more likely to induce trust between the organisation which empowers and those empowered through such public engagement. You can read a summative report of my findings here.
The Rationality of COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy
Some vaccine-hesitant people lack epistemic trust in the COVID-19 vaccine recommendation that because vaccines have been shown to be medically safe and effective, one ought to get vaccinated. Citing what I call exception information, they claim that whatever the general safety and efficacy of vaccines, the vaccines may not be safe and effective for them. Examples include parents citing information about their children's health, pregnant women's concerns about the potential adverse effects of treatment on pregnant women, young people citing their relative invulnerability to extreme COVID-19 symptoms, or members of vulnerable racial groups citing epistemic injustice, such as a lack of representation in COVID-19 vaccine trials. This paper examines the extent to which a lack of epistemic trust in vaccine recommendations, based on such exemption information, is rational.
‘TRUSTING-TO’ AND ‘TRUSTING-AS’: A QUALITATIVE ACCOUNT OF TRUSTWORTHINESS
Philosophical accounts of trustworthiness typically define trustworthiness as an agent being reliable in virtue of a specific motivation such as goodwill. The underlying thought motivating this view is that to be trustworthy is to be more than merely reliable. If motivational accounts are correct, this is a problem for non-motivational accounts of trustworthiness, as motivations are not required for trustworthiness. In this paper, I defend the non-motivational approach to trustworthiness and show that the motivational approach is inadequate. I do this by making a novel distinction between trusting-to and trusting-as relations. A trusting-to relation is a relation in which a trustor ‘X’ trusts the trustee ‘Y’ to do something. Trusting-as relations are an overlooked relation implicit in all trusting-to relations. They describe the social relationship that holds between X and Y. I will argue that trusting-as relations determine whether any specific motivations are required for trustworthiness trusting-to relations. Thus, I show that acknowledging trusting-as relations enables us to provide a satisfactory explanation of the motivation intuition without making specific motivations constitutive features of trust.