Eva Schmidt | Philosophy



My research focuses on reasons and especially epistemic reasons. I argue for a reasons-first view in epistemology and discuss how reasons relate to other epistemic phenomena. 

I investigate how philosophical views of acting for a reason and action explanation can be applied to the issue of explainability of the actions of AI systems, and in how so-called 'artificial experts' should be integrated into our epistemic practices.


Further, I am interested in how exactly to conceive of reasons for action and on how questions from the philosophy of action relate to research concerning folk psychology.

I am also still intersted in my dissertation topic - the nature of perception and its content, as well as its epistemic significance.





I defend nonconceptualism, the claim that perceptual experience is nonconceptual and has nonconceptual content and offer a sustained defense of what I call 'Modest Nonconceptualism'.


Published Articles (Selection)



  • How to Make Norms Clash. Australasian Philosophical Review (commissioned)

In this comment on Katherine Dormandy's paper «True Faith», I point out that the clash she describes between epistemic norms and faith-based norms of belief needs to be supplemented with a clear understanding of the pertinent norms of belief. I argue that conceiving of them as evaluative fails to explain the clash, and that understanding them as prescriptive is no better. I suggest an understanding of these norms along the lines of Ross’s (1930) prima facie duties, and show how this picture can make sense of the clash.


I defend a reasons-first view of epistemic justification, according to which the justification of our beliefs arises entirely in virtue of the epistemic reasons we possess. I remove three obstacles for this view, which result from its presupposition that epistemic reasons have to be possessed by the subject: (1) the problem that reasons-first accounts of justification are necessarily circular; (2) the problem that they cannot give special epistemic significance to perceptual experience; (3) the problem that they have to say that implicit biases provide epistemic.


I argue against Kearns and Star’s reasons-as-evidence view, which identifies normative reasons to ɸ with evidence that one ought to ɸ. I provide a new counterexample to their view, the student case, which involves an inference to the best explanation from means to end or, more generally, from a derivative to a more foundational “ought” proposition. It shows that evidence that one ought to act a certain way is not in all cases a reason so to act. 


I discuss the conceptualist claim that we cannot speak of perceptual content unless we assume it is objective content. The conceptualist argues that only conceptual content can meet the requirement of being objective, so that the view that perceptual experience has nonconceptual content is not tenable. I start out by presenting the argument from objectivity as it can be found in McDowell. I then present the following objections: First, perceptual objectivity cannot be due to the perceiver’s conception of objectivity; and second, even nonconceptual capacities of the individual cannot and need not be appealed to in order to account for objective perceptual content.


I present an argument for nonconceptualism based on animal and infant perception. I defend the argument against potential attacks from the conceptualist. I argue that there are indeed creatures which possess no concepts, but have perceptual experiences, and I attack McDowell’s view that we share perceptual sensitivity with animals and infants, but not genuine perceptual contents.


Book Chapters
  • The Explanatory Merits of Reasons-First Epistemology, in Christoph Demmerling and Dirk Schröder (eds.) Concepts in Thought, Action, and Emotion: New Essays. Routledge (forthcoming).

I  present an explanatory argument for the reasons-first view: It is superior to knowledge-first views in particular in that it can both explain the specific epistemic role of perception and account for the shape and extent of epistemic justification. 


  • Objectivism and Causalism About Reasons for Action, in Gunnar Schumann (ed.) Explanation in Action Theory and Historiography: Causal and Teleological Approaches. Routledge (with Hans-Johann Glock) (2019), 124-145.

We explore whether a version of causalism about reasons for action can be saved by giving up Davidsonian psychologism and endorsing objectivism, so that the reasons for which we act are the normative reasons that cause our corresponding actions. We address two problems for ‘objecto-causalism’, actions for merely apparent normative reasons and actions performed in response to future normative reasons. To resolve these problems, we move from objecto-causalism to ‘objecto-capacitism’, which appeals to agential competences manifested in acting for a reason. 


  • Die Eigenart religiöser Erfahrung, in Klaus Viertbauer and Georg Gasser (eds.) Handbuch Analytische Religionsphilosophie. Akteure – Diskurse – Perspektiven. Metzler (2019), 173-184.

A (German) overview article over the nature and epistemic significance of religious experience.


  • Quellen des Wissens: Wahrnehmung, in Martin Grajner and Guido Melchior (eds.) Handbuch Erkenntnistheorie. Metzler (2019), 122-128.

A (German) overview article over the nature of perceptual experience and its content, as well as different views on how it can be a source of knowledge and justification.


This chapter connects the traditional epistemological issue of justification with the what one might call the ‘new reasons paradigm’ coming from the philosophy of action and metaethics. I show that Conee and Feldman’s mentalism, a version of internalism about justification, can profitably be spelled out in terms of subjective normative reasons. On the way to achieving this aim, I  argue that it is important to ask not just the oft-discussed ontological question about epistemic reasons – what kind of entities are they? – but also: Reasons in which sense are fundamental to justification? 


I argue that epistemological disjunctivism, as defended by Pritchard or McDowell, faces a dilemma. To avoid collapsing into the “highest common factor view”, it has to combined with a metaphysical brand of disjunctivism. This is so because the epistemological disjunctivist’s contention, that veridical perception provides the perceiver with reflectively accessible epistemic reasons that are superior to those provided by hallucination, is tenable only if underwritten by the naïve realist claim that perception is partly constituted by the perceived fact. As I argue, this claim inexorably leads to metaphysical disjunctivism. So, epistemological disjunctivism cannot be advertised as a view that shares some of the advantages of metaphysical disjunctivism, but is less extreme and therefore more widely acceptable. 


We argue that, to be trustworthy, Computational Intelligence (CI) has to do what it is entrusted to do for permissible reasons and to be able to give rationalizing explanations of its behavior which are accurate and graspable. We support this claim by drawing parallels with trustworthy human persons, and we show what difference this makes in a hypothetical CI hiring system. Finally, we point out two challenges for trustworthy CI and sketch a mechanism which could be used to generate sufficiently accurate as well as graspable rationalizing explanations for CI behavior.


This (German) paper connects the thesis that knowledge and knowers are embodied with recent research on implicit bias and stereotypes.


Work in Progress

I'm happy to share my drafts via e-mail: eva2.schmidt [at] tu-dortmund.de. Comments welcome!


  • Pragmatic Encroachment with Reasons

I propose the Attenuators View (AV), according to which pragmatic encroachment on epistemic justification functions via pragmatic encroachment on epistemic reasons, which works by pragmatic considerations that attenuate epistemic reasons. (AV) is compatible with additional pragmatic encroachment from reasons to suspend. I show that this proposal is better than Schroeder’s (2012a, 2012b, 2015, 2017) way of spelling out pragmatic encroachment in terms of reasons against believing – what I call the ‘Reasons View’ (RV). For (AV) does a better job distinguishing practical and epistemic reasons bearing on belief. First, it doesn’t appeal to the costs of believing falsely as reasons against believing; second, because of this, it doesn’t run the risk of tearing down the wall between practical and epistemic reasons bearing on belief. (AV) therefore also isn't threatened by related worries raised by Worsnip (forthcoming) for proponents of pragmatic encroachment.


  • [A paper about the attractions of a pluralist picture of the nature of practical reasons (with Hans-Johann Glock; under review)]

We answer the question of whether and to what extent pluralism about reasons for action is compatible with non-psychologism/objectivism by claiming that objectivism about practical reasons can and should be combined with open-minded monism and even pluralism.  We argue for an ‘expanding circle of practical reasons’. It starts out from an austere objectivist monism that reduces all such reasons to facts. Next, because of ‘error cases’ these reasons should be conceived not just as actual facts but as states of affairs, i.e. possible facts that may or may not obtain—we call this ‘open-minded monism’. Thirdly, in addition to such ‘that-ish’ reasons, goals and purposes are also bona fide practical reasons. This makes for a genuine pluralism about practical reasons. Fourthly, the facts or possible states of affairs that function as motivating reasons are not exclusively natural or ‘descriptive’, but include normative facts. That normative facts can be motivating reasons justifies a pluralism about reason explanations. 


  • [A paper about how reasons and evidence relate (under review)]

I argue that evidence and epistemic reasons are not identical, and that evidence is not generally constitutive of epistemic reasons. I put forth three arguments that initially seem to lend support to identity over constitution. The main focus of this paper is on the third argument, which I attack with three types of counterexamples. Counterexamples of type A turn on facts about a subject’s evidence. I argue that these counterexamples are inconclusive. Counterexamples of type B, which appeal to the fact believed itself, threaten both identity and constitution. However, one might counter them by presupposing a probability-raising conception of evidence. So I finally turn to counterexamples of type C, which involve incoherent doxastic attitudes, and argue that they indeed show that epistemic reasons are neither constituted by nor identical with evidence. 


  • [A paper about how reasons and reasoning relate (under review)]

Proponents of the ‘reasoning view’ both analyze reasons as premises of good reasoning and explain the normativity of reasons by appeal to their role in good reasoning. The aim of this paper is to cast doubt on the reasoning view, not by addressing the latter, explanatory claim directly, but by providing counterexamples to such an analysis of reasons, counterexamples in which premises of good reasoning towards φ-ing are not reasons to φ. 

Epistemic Conditions on Autonomy and the Value of Knowledge

In this paper, I argue, in support of the claim that knowledge is robustly valuable in virtue of being a component of a good life, that any piece of knowledge that is at all practically relevant has a robust eudaimonic value over and above the value of the corresponding true belief, stemming from its contribution to the agent's autonomy. Autonomous agency requires the agent to be epistemically connected to her environment, i.e. to know, and not just to believe truly, what her worldly situation is. My argument at the same time supports an externalist understanding of autonomy, on which autonomous agency is partly determined by extra-mental features.


  • Against Schellenberg’s Capacitism About Perceptual Evidence

Here I criticize Susanna Schellenberg’s (2018) capacitism, particularly her attempt to fully explain what perceptual evidence is by appeal to perceptual capacities to single out and discriminate particulars in the environment, which the subject employs in perceptual experience. Among other things, I argue that this proposal cannot distinguish between practical and epistemic reasons.

  • Can We Do Without Content Pragmatism?

Neander (2015) argues that pragmatism about mental content is unstable and needs to be abandoned. I claim that, to the contrary, the debate between conceptualism and nonconceptualism shows that pragmatism is needed to determine the ontological nature of perceptual and doxastic content. I defend an interpretivist version of content pragmatism by arguing that the nature of perceptual and doxastic content is determinate only with respect to conceptualists' and nonconceptualists' shared explanatory concerns. Other philosophers, involved in other debates, have other explanatory purposes. Relative to these, perceptual and doxastic content may be of a different ontological kind.


  • Abandon Moral Harmony, Finally and Forever (with Kevin Baum)

We present a new problem with Moral Harmony for Consequentialism. Consequentialism entails Supervenience, the claim that same decision situation, same moral status of one’s available options. In so-called ‘inverted cases’, the involved agents are (a) in identical decision situations, but (b) the best outcome is achieved when they act differently. So, Supervenience together with Compositionalism tells us that the same options must be right for the involved agents. However, according to Moral Harmony, different actions are right for them. We show that the conflict cannot be avoided by merely re-describing the agents’ options. We use this new problem to make the case that the solution even to the original collective action problem has to be to abandon Moral Harmony.


  • Artificial Intelligent Systems: Reasonable Trust Requires Rationalizing Explanations

I argue that autonomous AI systems need to be explainable by appeal to rationalizing explanations: Agents ought to use such systems only if they can trust them for good reasons, but they can only do so if it is epistemically accessible to them that the systems are trustworthy, or that trust in them is appropriate. After discussing different levels of appropriate trust, I argue that the right level of trust to extend to autonomous AI systems is goal-relative trust, which requires that the trustor be able to recognize that the trustee’s goal harmonizes with the trustor’s goals as well as that the trustee competently pursues the goal. Users, then, need to be able to recognize the goals of such systems and the information they have to go on in pursuit of these goals – they need rationalizing explanations of the systems’ behavior.


  • [A paper about statistical evidence and connections with intelligent systems used in the court room (under review)]

Legal epistemologists hold that bare statistical evidence cannot meet the standard of proof for conviction in criminal cases. Algorithms used in criminal cases can do no more than determine probabilities, i.e. provide bare statistical evidence. But then the evidence that algorithms can provide cannot meet the standard of proof for criminal conviction. This arguably severely limits the use of algorithms in the criminal justice system. We discuss the issue by focusing on two use cases, one involving algorithms determining recidivism probabilities and the other algorithms used to analyze DNA traces.

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