Some Recent Publications

  • Gertler B. Agency and Self-Knowledge. In: Ferrero L, editor. Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Agency. Routledge; 2022.
  • Gertler B. Smithies on Self-Knowledge of Beliefs. Analysis. 2022.

    In The Epistemic Role of Consciousness, Declan Smithies develops a systematic, cohesive account of beliefs, phenomenal consciousness, epistemic justification, and rationality. The arguments for the various elements of the account are extremely rigorous, and the account is impressively broad in scope. This commentary will focus on Smithies’ views about self-knowledge. Specifically, I will examine his case for the striking thesis that rational thinkers will know all their beliefs. I call this the ubiquity of self-knowledge thesis. Smithies’ case for this thesis is an important pillar of his larger project, as it bears on the nature of justification and our ability to fulfill the requirements of rationality.

  • Gertler B. Rational Agency and the Struggle to Believe What Your Reasons Dictate. In: The Fragmented Mind. Oxford University Press; 2021. pp. pp. 325–349.

    According to an influential view that I call agentialism, our capacity to believe and intend directly on the basis of reasons—our rational agency—has a normative significance that distinguishes it from other kinds of agency (Bilgrami 2006, Boyle 2011, Burge 1996, Korsgaard 1996, Moran 2001). Agentialists maintain that insofar as we exercise rational agency, we bear a special kind of responsibility for our beliefs and intentions; and it is only those attitudes that represent the exercise of rational agency that are truly our own. In this paper I challenge these agentialist claims. My argument centers on a case in which a thinker struggles to align her belief to her reasons, and succeeds only by resorting to non-rational methods. Because she relies on non-rational methods, this revision of her belief does not express her rational agency, in the agentialist sense. I argue that this process nevertheless expresses her capacities for rationality and agency; that she is responsible for the belief shaped through this process; and that the revised belief is truly her own. So rational agency is not distinctive in the ways that agentialists contend.

  • Gertler B. Dualism: How Epistemic Issues Drive Debates About the Ontology of Consciousness. The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Consciousness. 2020.

    A primary goal of this chapter is to correct a widespread misunderstanding about how epistemic issues shape the debate between dualists and physicalists. According to a familiar picture, dualism is motivated by armchair reflection, and dualists accord special significance to our ways of conceptualizing consciousness and the physical. In contrast, physicalists favor empirical data over armchair reflection, and physicalism is a relatively straightforward extension of scientific theorizing. This familiar picture is inaccurate. Both dualist and physicalist arguments employ a combination of empirical data and armchair reflection; both rely on considerations stemming from how we conceptualize certain phenomena; and both aim to establish views that are compatible with scientific results but go well beyond the deliverances of empirical science. My discussion highlights these neglected epistemic parallels between dualism and physicalism, and reveals the fine-grained epistemic commitments that motivate dualism and physicalism, respectively.