James Fritz

Philosophy

Term Assistant Professor

Virginia Commonwealth University

You can call me Jamie.

About me

I am Term Assistant Professor in Virginia Commonwealth University's Department of Philosophy. I received my Ph.D. from the Ohio State University, and I received my BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Most of my research concerns metaethics and epistemology. One of my main research projects argues for the view that epistemic norms are sensitive to morality. (This commitment is sometimes called moral encroachment in epistemology.) I have also written on the epistemology of moral disagreement, and on the ethics of disapproval and disagreement. See more about my research below.

I am passionate about teaching philosophy, and I received the Ohio State Philosophy Department's Graduate Teaching Associate Award in 2018. Courses that I have taught as a lead instructor include Engineering Ethics, Introduction to Logic, and Asian Philosophies. I also helped to design, and have served as lead instructor for, Ohio State's Philosophy and Critical Thinking (P.A.C.T.) summer camp for high-schoolers. See more about my teaching below.

 

Papers

Publications and Works in Progress

Publications

 

"Moral Encroachment and Reasons of the Wrong Kind" (forthcoming)

Philosophical Studies

Abstract: According to the view that there is moral encroachment in epistemology, whether a person has knowledge of p sometimes depends on moral considerations, including moral considerations that do not bear on the truth or likelihood of p. Defenders of moral encroachment face a central challenge: they must explain why the moral considerations they cite, unlike moral bribes for belief, are reasons of the right kind for belief (or withheld belief). This paper distinguishes between a moderate and a radical version of moral encroachment. It shows that, while defenders of moderate moral encroachment are well-placed to meet the central challenge, defenders of radical moral encroachment are not. The problem for radical moral encroachment is that it cannot, without taking on unacceptable costs, forge the right sort of connection between the moral badness of a belief and that belief’s chance of being false.

"Moral Steadfastness and Metaethics" (2019), with Tristram McPherson

American Philosophical Quarterly vol. 56, issue 1, pp. 43-56

Abstract: Call the following claim Asymmetry: rationality often requires (or permits) a more steadfast response to pure moral disagreement than it does to otherwise analogous non-moral disagreement. This paper briefly motivates Asymmetry and explores its implications for meta-ethics. Some philosophers have thought that anti-realists are better-placed than realists to explain Asymmetry because, if anti-realism is true, disagreement cannot provide evidence against the reliability of one’s thinking about objective moral facts. This paper argues that this simple diagnosis fails to support otherwise plausible anti-realisms. It closes by discussing an alternative explanation for Asymmetry, which appeals to the moral importance of steadfastness.

"Conciliationism and Moral Spinelessness" (2018)

Episteme vol. 15, issue 1, pp. 101-118

Abstract: This paper presents a challenge to conciliationist views of disagreement. I argue that conciliationists cannot satisfactorily explain why we need not revise our beliefs in response to certain moral disagreements. Conciliationists can attempt to meet this challenge in one of two ways. First, they can individuate disputes narrowly. This allows them to argue that we have dispute-independent reason to distrust our opponents’ moral judgment. This approach threatens to license objectionable dogmatism. It also inappropriately gives deep epistemic significance to superficial questions about how to think about the subject matter of a dispute. Second, conciliationists can individuate disputes widely. This allows them to argue that we lack dispute-independent reason to trust our opponents’ moral judgment. But such arguments fail; our background of generally shared moral beliefs gives us good reason to trust the moral judgment of our opponents, even after we set quite a bit of our reasoning aside. On either approach, then, conciliationists should acknowledge that we have dispute-independent reason to trust the judgment of those who reject our moral beliefs. Given a conciliationist view of disagreement's epistemic role, this has the unattractive result that we are epistemically required to revise some of our most intuitively secure moral beliefs.

"What Pessimism about Moral Deference Means for Disagreement" (2018)

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice vol. 21, issue 1, pp. 121-136

Abstract: Many writers have recently argued that there is something distinctively problematic about sustaining moral beliefs on the basis of others’ moral views. Call this claim pessimism about moral deference. Pessimism about moral deference, if true, seems to provide an attractive way to argue for a bold conclusion about moral disagreement: moral disagreement generally does not require belief revision. Call this claim steadfastness about moral disagreement. Perhaps the most prominent recent discussion of the connection between moral deference and moral disagreement, due to Alison Hills, uses pessimism about the former to argue for steadfastness about the latter. This paper reveals that this line of thinking, and others like it, are unsuccessful. There is no way to argue from a compelling version of pessimism about moral deference to the conclusion of steadfastness about moral disagreement. The most plausible versions of pessimism about moral deference have only very limited implications for moral disagreement.

"Pragmatic Encroachment and Moral Encroachment" (2017)

Pacific Philosophical Quarterly vol. 98, issue 51, pp. 643-661

 

Abstract: Subject-sensitive invariantism posits surprising connections between a person’s knowledge and features of her environment that are not paradigmatically epistemic features. But which features of a person’s environment have this distinctive connection to knowledge? Traditional defenses of subject-sensitive invariantism emphasize features that matter to the subject of the knowledge-attribution. Call this pragmatic encroachment. A more radical thesis usually goes ignored: knowledge is sensitive to moral facts, whether or not those moral facts matter to the subject. Call this moral encroachment. This paper argues that, insofar as there are good arguments for pragmatic encroachment, there are also good arguments for moral encroachment.

 

Research

Publications and Works in Progress

under review

To preserve the anonymity of the review process, I do not include names or abstracts for the papers below.

 

If you are interested in learning more about these projects, please feel free to contact me!

  • A paper concerning the connections between epistemically rational belief, uncertainty, and all-things-considered obligations. I argue that, when our epistemic possibilities are divided, our epistemic obligations depend in part on the extent to which credible possibilities imply that our choices are (in a certain sense) risky.

  • A paper articulating a challenge for impurist views of epistemology. I show that existing impurists fail to adequately explain why some norms on action, and not others, make a difference in epistemology. This challenge, I argue, shows us quite a bit about the best way to develop impurism.

  • A paper arguing for a tension in practices of communicating moral disapproval. I argue that, given certain facts about human psychology in the face of highly public disapproval, any shared practice of moral disapproval willfall short of at least one important moral goal.

  • A paper investigating the ethics of regarding others as epistemically hopeless: that is, regarding them as unable to see the truth through rational means.

Teaching

 

undergraduate Teaching

Courses taught as lead instructor:

Asian Philosophies

Critical Thinking about Moral Problems

Engineering Ethics

Introduction to Logic

Introduction to Philosophy

Social and Political Philosophy

Student testimonials, drawn from anonymous feedback: ​​

  • "It is great to look back on a class and reflect on what you have learned so much in, all because the instructor was passionate and wanted you as the class to truly learn by coming to class prepared and never making you feel 'small' for not knowing an answer."

  • "Mr. Fritz is an elite professor that possesses an uncanny ability to convey his key points effortlessly in a way that we all understand with absolute precision. His conduct and attention to detail is prodigious. He is a rising star, the best professor I have ever had, and I am not sure it is even close."

  • "Though I enrolled in engineering ethics because of the general education requirements of my major, I genuinely enjoyed the material and teaching style. Professor Fritz obviously has a passion for philosophy (and teaching) that inspires me to find a career that I am equally passionate about."

  • "Professor Fritz was one of the best educators I've ever met. Perfectly balanced on a knife's edge between lecturing and having the class engage in discussion."

  • "He was always well prepared for the discussions that we were having in class. The enthusiasm that he taught with made the class extremely enjoyable. In my 3 years of undergrad I haven't had a professor that is more personable and genuinely excited to teach than Jamie was every day. Even though the content discussed in class was challenging
    material, he communicated it very well to the entire class. Overall Jamie was a great instructor who created a welcoming learning environment that put his students in a great position to succeed."

Philosophy and Critical thinking (P.A.C.T.) Summer Camp for high schoolers

Over the past two years, I have taken a leadership role in designing, advertising, coordinating, and implementing Ohio State's first-ever summer camp for high school students. Camp has been a great success; we have welcomed sixty-two students over the past two years, several of whom have since enrolled in undergraduate programs with the intent to study philosophy.

Here is an example schedule for the camp.

Parent testimonials (drawn from anonymous surveys):

  • “My son had a great time at camp and he amazed me with what he gained from it. He ordered several books after camp that you recommended to him and is excited to spend some free time reading them this summer. It truly seems as if he has found a passion and has a plan for college and beyond that he feels strongly about. Thank you for your commitment and hard work to put this on.”

  • “I was impressed. It was a very enriching and fun program for my child. The end-of-week debate and presentations were quite well done. The facilitators were extremely helpful and encouraging. Please continue to offer this exercise on philosophy in action to our community's children.”

Student testimonials (drawn from anonymous surveys):

  • "I came to camp far more interested in politics than philosophy. I'm leaving completely changed--I can see a future in philosophy (maybe not professionally but at least as something to study). I love the way of thinking."

  • "The best choice I ever made!"

  • "I experienced major growth in my debate skills and my critical thinking skills. I feel that I am now more open to both sides of an argument than ever before."

  • "The best, most mind-blowing, epic thought adventure ever!"

Contact

jamie (dot) c (dot) fritz (at) gmail (dot) com

Starke Hall, Room 209

915 W Franklin St

Richmond, VA 23284

 
 

Curriculum Vitae

You can find a copy of my CV here.

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