Cornell University
Sage School of Philosophy
PhD, 1977
Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America
Areas of Interest
History of Western Philosophy
  •  600
    Ideal and nonideal theory
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 38 (1): 5-36. 2010.
    No Abstract
  •  441
    Justification and legitimacy
    Ethics 109 (4): 739-771. 1999.
    In this essay I will discuss the relationship between two of the most basic ideas in political and legal philosophy: the justification of the state and state legitimacy. I plainly cannot aspire here to a complete account of these matters; but I hope to be able to say enough to motivate a way of thinking about the relation between these notions that is, I believe, superior to the approach which seems to be dominant in contemporary political philosophy. Today showing that a state is justified and …Read more
  •  363
    Philosophical anarchism
    In Social Science Research Network, Cambridge University Press. 2001.
    Anarchist political philosophers normally include in their theories (or implicitly rely upon) a vision of a social life very different than the life experienced by most persons today. Theirs is a vision of autonomous, noncoercive, productive interaction among equals, liberated from and without need for distinctively political institutions, such as formal legal systems or governments or the state. This "positive" part of anarchist theories, this vision of the good social life, will be discussed o…Read more
  •  363
    Tacit consent and political obligation
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 5 (3): 274-291. 1976.
  •  274
    Moral Principles and Political Obligations
    Princeton University Press. 1979.
    Every political theorist will need this book . . . . It is more 'important' than 90% of the work published in philosophy."--Joel Feinberg, University of Arizona.
  •  221
    On the Territorial Rights of States
    Noûs 35 (s1): 300-326. 2001.
    When officials of some political society portray their state as legitimate - and when do they not! - they intend to be laying claim to a large body of rights, the rights in which their state's legitimacy allegedly consists. The rights claimed are minimally those that states must exercise if they are to retain effective control over their territories and populations in a world composed of numerous autonomous states. Often the rights states are trying to claim in asserting their legitimacy go far …Read more
  •  198
    The principle of fair play
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 8 (4): 307-337. 1979.
  •  184
    An essay on the modern state
    Philosophical Review 109 (2): 271-273. 2000.
    This important book is the first serious philosophical examination of the modern state. It inquires into the justification of this particular form of political society. It asks whether all states are "nation-states," what are the alternative ways of organizing society, and which conditions make a state legitimate. The author concludes that, while states can be legitimate, they typically fail to have the powers (e.g., sovereignty) they claim. Many books analyze government and its functions, but n…Read more
  •  158
    Is There a Duty to Obey the Law?
    with Christopher Wellman
    Cambridge University Press. 2005.
    The central question in political philosophy is whether political states have the right to coerce their constituents and whether citizens have a moral duty to obey the commands of their state. In this 2005 book, Christopher Heath Wellman and A. John Simmons defend opposing answers to this question. Wellman bases his argument on samaritan obligations to perform easy rescues, arguing that each of us has a moral duty to obey the law as his or her fair share of the communal samaritan chore of rescui…Read more
  •  139
    The anarchist position: A reply to Klosko and Senor
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 16 (3): 269-279. 1987.
  •  133
    Associative political obligations
    Ethics 106 (2): 247-273. 1996.
    It is claimed by philosophers as diverse as Burke, Walzer, Dworkin, and MacIntyre that our political obligations are best understood as "associative" or "communal" obligations--that is, as obligations that require neither voluntary undertaking nor justification by "external" moral principles, but rather as "local" moral responsibilities whose normative weight derives entirely from their assignment by social practice. This paper identifies three primary lines of argument that appear to support su…Read more
  •  128
    Locke on the Death Penalty
    Philosophy 69 (270): 471-. 1994.
    Brian Calvert has offered us a clear and careful analysis of Locke's views on punishment and capital punishment. The primary goal of his paper - that of correcting the misperception of Locke as a wholehearted proponent of capital punishment for a wide range of offenses - must be allowed to be both laudable and largely achieved in his discussion. But Calvert's analysis also encourages, I think, a number of serious misunderstandings of Locke's true position
  •  125
    Consent theory for libertarians
    Social Philosophy and Policy 22 (1): 330-356. 2005.
    This paper argues that libertarian political philosophers, including Robert Nozick, have erred in neglecting the problem of political obligation and that they ought to embrace an actual consent theory of political obligation and state legitimacy. It argues as well that if they followed this recommendation, their position on the subject would be correct. I identify the tension in libertarian (and especially Nozick's) thought between its minimalist and its consensualist strains and argue that, on …Read more
  •  120
    “Denisons” and “Aliens”: Locke's Problem of Political Consent
    Social Theory and Practice 24 (2): 161-182. 1998.
    Locke appears to be committed to the peculiar views that native-born residents and visiting aliens have the same political status (since both are tacit consenters) and that real political societies have very few "members" with full rights and duties (since only express consenters seem to be counted as "members"). Locke, however, also subscribes to a principle governing our understanding of the content of vague or inexplicit consent: such consent is consent to all and only that which is necessary…Read more
  •  118
    Democratic Authority and the Boundary Problem
    Ratio Juris 26 (3): 326-357. 2013.
    Theories of political authority divide naturally into those that locate the source of states' authority in the history of states' interactions with their subjects and those that locate it in structural (or functional) features of states (such as the justice of their basic institutions). This paper argues that purely structuralist theories of political authority (such as those defended by Kant, Rawls, and contemporary “democratic Kantians”) must fail because of their inability to solve the bounda…Read more
  •  80
    External justifications and institutional roles
    Journal of Philosophy 93 (1): 28-36. 1996.
    In his paper "Role Obligations," Michael Hardimon defends an account of the nature and justification of institutional obligations that he takes to be clearly superior to the "standard" voluntarist view. Hardimon argues that this standard view presents a "misleading and distorted" picture of role obligations (and of morality generally); and in its best form he claims this view still "leaves out" of its understanding of even contractual role obligations an "absolutely vital factor". I argue agains…Read more
  •  79
    Makers' rights
    The Journal of Ethics 2 (3): 197-218. 1998.
    This paper examines the thesis that human labor creates property rights in or from previously unowned objects by virtue of labor's power to make new things. This thesis is considered for two possible roles: first, as a thesis to which John Locke might have been committed in his writings on property; and second, as a thesis of independent plausibility that could serve as part of a defensible contemporary theory of property rights. Understanding Locke as committed to the thesis of makers' rights h…Read more
  •  68
    Original-Acquisition Justifications of Private Property
    Social Philosophy and Policy 11 (2): 63-84. 1994.
    My aim in this essay is to explore the nature and force of “original-acquisition” justifications of private property. By “original-acquisition” justifications, I mean those arguments which purport to establish or importantly contribute to the moral defense of private property by: offering a moral/historical account of how legitimate private property rights for persons first arose ; offering a hypothetical or conjectural account of how justified private property could arise from a propertyless co…Read more
  •  63
    Inalienable rights and Locke's treatises
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 12 (3): 175-204. 1983.
  •  63
    Historical rights and fair shares
    Law and Philosophy 14 (2). 1995.
    My aim of this paper is to clarify, and in a certain very limited way to defend, historical theories of property rights (and their associated theories of social or distributive justice). It is important, I think, to better understand historical rights for several reasons: first, because of the extent to which historical theories capture commonsense, unphilosophical views about property and justice; then, because historical theories have fallen out of philosophical fashion, and are consequently n…Read more
  •  45
    The Limits of Lockean Rights in Property
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 58 (4): 997-999. 1998.
  •  39
    Reasonable expectations and obligations: A reply to Postow
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 19 (1): 123-127. 1981.
  •  27
    On the Territorial Rights of States
    Philosophical Issues 11 (1): 300-326. 2001.
  •  26
    Moral Principles and Political Obligations
    Philosophical Review 90 (3): 472. 1981.
  •  25
  •  25
    Democracy’s Discontent: America in Search of a Public Philosophy
    Philosophical Review 107 (1): 133-135. 1998.
    As its subtitle indicates, Democracy’s Discontent is a study of the political philosophies that have guided America’s public life. The “search” Michael Sandel describes has, in his view, temporarily come to a disappointing resolution in America’s acceptance of a liberal “public philosophy” that “cannot secure the liberty it promises” and has left Americans “discontented” with their “loss of self-government and the erosion of community”. This theme is unlikely to surprise readers familiar with Sa…Read more
  •  24
    Moral Principles and Political Obligations
    Ethics 91 (2): 309-312. 1980.