•  222
    Instrumental rationality
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics 6 280-309. 2011.
    Is there any distinctive aspect of rationality that deserves the label of “instrumental rationality”? Recently, Joseph Raz (2005) has argued that instrumental rationality is a “myth”. In this essay, I shall give some qualified support to Raz’s position: as I shall argue, many philosophers have indeed been seduced by certain myths about instrumental rationality. Nonetheless, Raz’s conclusion is too strong. Instrumental rationality is not itself a myth: there really is a distinctive aspect of rati…Read more
  •  114
    This is a review of "The nature and value of knowlege: Three investigations", by Duncan Pritchard, Alan Millar, and Adrian Haddock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2011).
  •  116
    Doxastic Correctness
    Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 87 (1): 217-234. 2013.
    If beliefs are subject to a basic norm of correctness—roughly, to the principle that a belief is correct only if the proposition believed is true—how can this norm guide believers in forming their beliefs? Answer: this norm guides believers indirectly: believers are directly guided by requirements of rationality—which are themselves explained by this norm of correctness. The fundamental connection between rationality and correctness is probabilistic. Incorrectness comes in degrees; for beliefs, …Read more
  •  232
    The "Good" and the "Right" Revisited
    Philosophical Perspectives 23 (1). 2009.
    Moral philosophy has long been preoccupied by a supposed dichotomy between the "good" and the "right". This dichotomy has been taken to define certain allegedly central issues for ethics. How are the good and the right related to each other? For example, is one of the two "prior" to the other? If so, is the good prior to the right, or is the right prior to the good?
  •  137
    The Weight of Moral Reasons
    Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics (Ed. Mark Timmons) 3 35-58. 2013.
    This paper starts by giving an interpretation of the notorious question "Why be moral?" Then, to answer that question, it develops an account of why some moral reasons -- specifically, the moral reasons that ground moral requirements -- are sufficiently weighty that they outweigh all countervailing reasons for action.
  •  267
    Sensing values?
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (1): 215-223. 2001.
    This is a reply to Mark Johnston's paper "The Authority of Affect", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2001).
  •  96
    An Inferentialist Conception of the A Priori
    Oxford Studies in Epistemology 5. 2015.
    This paper offers an account of the a priori. According to this account, the fundamental notion is not that of a priori knowledge, or even of a priori justified belief, but a notion of an a priori justified inferential disposition. The rationality or justification of such a priori justified inferential dispositions is explained purely by some of the basic cognitive capacities that the thinker possesses, independently of any further experiences or other conscious mental states that the thinker ha…Read more
  •  166
    Review: Kieran Setiya: Reasons without Rationalism (review)
    Mind 117 (468): 1130-1135. 2008.
    This is a review of Kieran Setiya's book, "Reasons without Rationalism" (Princeton University Press, 2007).
  •  23
    Value Judgement: Improving Our Ethical Beliefs (review)
    with James Griffin
    Philosophical Review 107 (3): 447. 1998.
    This is a review of James Griffin's book "Value-Judgement: Improving Our Ethical Beliefs".
  •  247
    Objective and Subjective 'Ought'
    In Nate Charlow & Matthew Chrisman (eds.), Deontic Modality, Oxford University Press. pp. 143-168. 2016.
    This essay offers an account of the truth conditions of sentences involving deontic modals like ‘ought’, designed to capture the difference between objective and subjective kinds of ‘ought’ This account resembles the classical semantics for deontic logic: according to this account, these truths conditions involve a function from the world of evaluation to a domain of worlds (equivalent to a so-called “modal base”), and an ordering of the worlds in such domains; this ordering of the worlds itself…Read more
  •  6
    Critical Notice of Jean Hampton, "The Authority of Reason" (review)
    Philosophical Books 40 (4): 218-226. 1999.
    This is a review of Jean Hampton's posthumously published book "The Authority of Reason" (Cambridge University Press, 1998).
  •  123
    The metaethicists' mistake
    Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1). 2004.
    According to normative judgment internalism (NJI), normative judgments -- that is, judgments of the form 'I ought to F' and the like -- are "essentially practical", in the sense that they are in some way essentially connected to practical reasoning, or to motivation for action. Many metaethicists believe that if NJI is true, then it would cast grave doubts on any robustly realist (RR) conception of normative judgments. These metaethicists are mistaken. This mistake about the relations between NJ…Read more
  •  133
    Butler on Virtue, Self Interest, and Human Nature
    In Paul Bloomfield (ed.), Morality and Self-Interest, Oxford University Press. 2007.
    This essay gives a new interpretation of some of the central ethical doctrines of Bishop Butler's Sermons -- in particular, of his claim that a review of the empirical facts of human nature shows that we have "an obligation to the practice of virtue", and of the precise claims that he makes about the relations between morality and self-interest.
  •  144
    The Essence of Response-Dependence
    European Review of Philosophy 3 31-54. 1997.
    Many philosophers have thought that colours or flavours or values are in some way less objective than shape or mass or motion. This paper explores the approach to capturing this thought that is based on the idea of ‘ response-dependence ’. First, it is argued that the conceptions of response-dependence developed by Mark Johnston, Philip Pettit and Crispin Wright fail to capture this thought adequately. Then, the rest of the paper proposes an alternative conception, based in part on Kit Fine's no…Read more
  •  73
    Moral Disagreement among Philosophers
    In Michael Bergmann & Patrick Kain (eds.), Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief: Disagreement and Evolution, Oxford University Press. pp. 23-39. 2014.
    There is not only moral disagreement among ordinary people: there is also moral disagreement among philosophers. Since philosophers might seem to be in the best possible position to reach the truth about morality, such disagreement may suggest that either there is no single truth about morality, or at least if there is, it is unknowable. The goal of this paper is to rebut this argument: the best explanation of moral disagreement among philosophers is quite compatible with the thesis that many mo…Read more
  •  147
    Primitively rational belief-forming processes
    In Andrew Reisner & Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen (eds.), Reasons for Belief, Cambridge University Press. pp. 180--200. 2011.
    Intuitively, it seems that some belief-forming practices have the following three properties: 1. They are rational practices, and the beliefs that we form by means of these practices are themselves rational or justified beliefs. 2. Even if in most cases these practices reliably lead to correct beliefs (i.e., beliefs in true propositions), they are not infallible: it is possible for beliefs that are formed by means of these practices to be incorrect (i.e., to be beliefs in false propositions). 3.…Read more
  •  53
    Critical Notice of "The Realm of Reason" by Christopher Peacocke (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (3): 776-791. 2007.
    This is a critical notice of Christopher Peacocke's book, "The Realm of Reason" (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  •  313
    Justified Inference
    Synthese 189 (2): 273-295. 2012.
    What is the connection between justification and the kind of consequence relations that are studied by logic? In this essay, I shall try to provide an answer, by proposing a general conception of the kind of inference that counts as justified or rational.
  •  296
    The normative force of reasoning
    Noûs 40 (4). 2006.
    What exactly is reasoning? Like many other philosophers, I shall endorse a broadly causal conception of reasoning. Reasoning is a causal process, in which one mental event (say, one’s accepting the conclusion of a certain argument) is caused by an antecedent mental event (say, one’s considering the premises of the argument). Just like causal accounts of action and causal accounts of perception, causal accounts of reasoning have to confront a version of what has come to be known as the problem of…Read more
  •  188
    Defending double effect
    Ratio 24 (4): 384-401. 2011.
    This essay defends a version of the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) – the doctrine that there is normally a stronger reason against an act that has a bad state of affairs as one of its intended effects than against an otherwise similar act that has that bad state of affairs as an unintended effect. First, a precise account of this version of the DDE is given. Secondly, some suggestions are made about why we should believe the DDE, and about why it is true. Finally, a solution is developed to the…Read more
  •  49
    Two Grades of Non-consequentialism
    Criminal Law and Philosophy 10 (4): 795-814. 2016.
    In this paper, I explore how to accommodate non-consequentialist constraints with a broadly value-based conception of reasons for action. It turns out that there are two grades of non-consequentialist constraints. The first grade involves attaching ethical importance to such distinctions as the doing/allowing distinction, and the distinction between intended and unintended consequences that is central to the Doctrine of Double Effect. However, at least within the value-based framework, this firs…Read more
  •  221
    Must rational intentions maximize utility?
    Philosophical Explorations 20 (sup2): 73-92. 2017.
    Suppose that it is rational to choose or intend a course of action if and only if the course of action maximizes some sort of expectation of some sort of value. What sort of value should this definition appeal to? According to an influential neo-Humean view, the answer is “Utility”, where utility is defined as a measure of subjective preference. According to a rival neo-Aristotelian view, the answer is “Choiceworthiness”, where choiceworthiness is an irreducibly normative notion of a course of a…Read more
  •  493
    The aim of belief
    Philosophical Perspectives 36 (s16): 267-97. 2002.
    It is often said, metaphorically, that belief "aims" at the truth. This paper proposes a normative interpretation of this metaphor. First, the notion of "epistemic norms" is clarified, and reasons are given for the view that epistemic norms articulate essential features of the beliefs that are subject to them. Then it is argued that all epistemic norms--including those that specify when beliefs count as rational, and when they count as knowledge--are explained by a fundamental norm of correct be…Read more
  •  195
    A Priori Bootstrapping
    In Albert Casullo & Joshua Thurow (eds.), The A Priori In Philosophy, Oxford University Press. pp. 226-246. 2013.
    This paper explores the problems that are raised by a certain traditional sceptical paradox. The conclusion will be that the most challenging problem raised by this paradox does not primarily concern the justification of beliefs; it concerns the justification of belief-forming practices. This conclusion is supported by showing that if we can solve the sceptical problem for belief-forming practices, then it will be a relatively straightforward matter to solve the problem that concerns the justifi…Read more
  •  229
    Rational 'ought' implies 'can'
    Philosophical Issues 23 (1): 70-92. 2013.
    Every kind of ‘ought’ implies some kind of ‘can’ – but there are many kinds of ‘ought’ and even more kinds of ‘can’. In this essay, I shall focus on a particular kind of ‘ought’ – specifically, on what I shall call the “rational ‘ought’”. On every occasion of use, this kind of ‘ought’ is focused on the situation of a particular agent at a particular time; but this kind of ‘ought’ is concerned, not with how that agent acts at that time, but with what beliefs or intentions the agent has at the tim…Read more
  •  12
    White Queen Psychology and Other Essays for Alice (review)
    Philosophical Review 104 (1): 156. 1995.
  •  220
    Outright Belief
    Dialectica 66 (3). 2012.
    Sometimes, we think of belief as a phenomenon that comes in degrees – that is, in the many different levels of confidence that a thinker might have in various different propositions. Sometimes, we think of belief as a simple two-place relation that holds between a thinker and a proposition – that is, as what I shall here call "outright belief".
  •  85
    Theories of content and theories of motivation
    European Journal of Philosophy 3 (3): 273-288. 1995.
    According to the anti-Humean theory of motivation, it is possible to be motivated to act by reason alone. According to the Humean theory of motivation, this is impossible. The debate between these two theories remains as vigorous as ever (see for example Pettit 1987, Lewis 1988, Price 1989 and Smith 1994). In this paper I shall argue that the anti-Humean theory of motivation is incompatible with a number of prominent recent theories of content. I shall focus on causal or informational theories o…Read more