•  1124
    The standard form of act-consequentialism requires us to perform the action with the best consequences; it allows choice between moral options only on those rare occasions when several actions produce equally good results. This paper argues for moral options and thus against act-consequentialism. The argument turns on the insight that some valuable things cannot exist unless our moral system allows options. One such thing is the opportunity for individuals to enact plans for their life from a…Read more
  •  1068
    A Liberal Approach to the Obesity Epidemic
    Public Affairs Quarterly 22 (3): 269-288. 2008.
    At least half of American adults are overweight or obese, and the number may be as high as two-thirds. These facts have spurred anti-obesity campaigns, and those campaigns have provoked difficult questions in public health and population ethics. Should the government merely inform people about the risks of unhealthy food? May it try to change behavior by taxing unhealthy food? May it ban some foods outright? This paper proposes that we should answer these questions using familiar liberal pr…Read more
  •  806
    The Moral Theory Behind Moral Dilemmas
    American Philosophical Quarterly 39 (4): 373-383. 2002.
    In the last forty years there has been a resurgence of interest in moral dilemmas—situations in which through no fault of a person’s own, he or she is morally required to do one thing, required to do another, but cannot do both. Some prominent figures have argued that such things could be. Opponents have marshaled several anti-dilemma arguments in response. For the most part, this debate has centered on issues in metaethics. Those metaethical questions are interesting, and resolving them coul…Read more
  •  653
    A Populist Argument for Same-Sex Marriage
    The Monist 91 (3-4): 475-505. 2008.
    The paper argues that same-sex marriage ought to be legalized. The argument is ecumenical and appeals only to basic principles of liberal government. Specifically, the paper argues that if the government is offering an opportunity to one group, then it may not withhold the opportunity from another on the ground that the people receiving it are immoral or that their receipt of the opportunity would spread immoral messages. The only acceptable ground is that the group’s receipt would cause wron…Read more
  •  307
    Integrity and Ordinary Morality
    American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (1): 15-27. 2007.
    Consequentialism is enticing, and yet it also seems overly demanding. As a result, many non-consequentialists try to explain why we aren’t required to maximize the good. One explanation is the Integrity Explanation: we aren’t required to maximize the good because morality must make room for us to pursue the projects we value most deeply. Some people hope that the Integrity Explanation will not just explain why consequentialism is false, but simultaneously vindicate the common-sense permission…Read more
  •  235
    On the Incoherence Objection to Rule-Utilitarianism
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (4): 857-876. 2016.
    For a long time many philosophers felt the incoherence objection was a decisive objection to rule-consequentialism, but that position has recently become less secure, because Brad Hooker has offered a clever new way for rule-consequentialists to avoid the incoherence objection. Hooker’s response defeats traditional forms of the incoherence objection, but this paper argues that another version of the problem remains. Several possible solutions fail. One other does not, but it introduces other pro…Read more
  •  199
    Abortion, competing entitlements, and parental responsibility
    Journal of Applied Philosophy 26 (4): 379-395. 2009.
    Don Marquis offered the most famous philosophical argument against abortion. His argument contained a novel defence of the idea that foetuses have the same moral status as ordinary adults. The first half of this paper contends that even if Marquis has shown that foetuses have this status, he has not proven that abortion is therefore wrong. Instead his argument falls victim to problems similar to those raised by Judith Thomson, problems that have plagued most anti-abortion arguments since. Once M…Read more
  •  195
    Consequentialism, integrity, and ordinary morality
    Utilitas 21 (3): 377-392. 2009.
    According to the moral standards most of us accept and live by, morality generally permits us to refrain from promoting the good of others and instead engage in non-harmful projects of our own choice. This aspect of so-called ‘ordinary morality’ has turned out to be very difficult to justify. Recently, though, various authors, including Bernard Williams and Samuel Scheffler, have proposed “Integrity Theories” that would vindicate this aspect of ordinary morality, at least in part. They are ge…Read more
  •  175
    What is the Conservative Point of View about Distributive Justice?
    Public Affairs Quarterly 28 (4): 341-373. 2014.
    This paper examines the conservative point of view about distributive justice. The first section explains the methodology used to develop this point of view. The second section describes one conservative point of view and briefly provides empirical evidence that it reflects the viewpoint of many ordinary conservatives. The third section explains how this conservative view can ground objections to social safety net programs, using as examples the recent health reform legislation and more exten…Read more
  •  148
    Making Risk-Benefit Assessments of Medical Research Protocols
    Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 32 (2): 338-348. 2004.
    An axiom of medical research ethics is that a protocol is moral only if it has a “favorable risk-benefit ratio”. This axiom is usually interpreted in the following way: a medical research protocol is moral only if it has a positive expected value -- that is, if it is likely to do more good (to both subjects and society) than harm. I argue that, thus interpreted, the axiom has two problems. First, it is unusable, because it requires us to know more about the potential outcomes of research than…Read more
  •  139
    Duties to the Global Poor and Minimalism about Global Justice
    International Journal of Applied Philosophy 30 (1): 65-89. 2016.
    This paper is about the implications of a common view on global justice. The view can be called the Minimalist View, and it says that we have no positive duties to help the poor in foreign countries, or that if we do, they are very minimal. It might seem as if, by definition, the Minimalist View cannot require that we do very much about global poverty. However, in his book World Poverty and Human Rights, Thomas Pogge pointed out that this conclusion is at least up for debate. Although Minima…Read more
  •  103
    When can one requirement override another?
    Philosophical Studies 108 (3). 2002.
    I argue that any theory of moral obligation must be able to explain two things: why we cannot be thrust into a moral dilemma through no fault of our own, and why we can get into a moral dilemma through our own negligence. The most intuitive theory of moral obligation cannot do so. However, I offer a theory of moral obligation that satisfies both of these criteria, one that is founded on the principle that if you are required to do something, then you would be blameworthy for failing to do it. I …Read more
  •  103
    New York City has extensive public health regulations. Some regulations aim to reduce smoking, and they include high cigarette taxes and bans on smoking in public places such as bars, restaurants, public beaches, and public parks. Other regulations aim to combat obesity. They include regulations requiring display of calorie information on some restaurant menus and the elimination of transfats in much public cooking. One important issue is whether New York City officials -- including both publ…Read more
  •  80
    Liberalism and Public Health Ethics
    Bioethics 30 (2): 96-108. 2016.
    Many public health dilemmas involve a tension between the promotion of health and the rights of individuals. This article suggests that we should resolve the tension using our familiar liberal principles of government. The article considers the common objections that liberalism is incompatible with standard public health interventions such as anti-smoking measures or intervention in food markets; there are special reasons for hard paternalism in public health; and liberalism is incompatible with…Read more
  •  44
    President Bush and his Council of Economic Advisors have claimed that the U.S. shouldn’t adopt a national health program because doing so would slow innovation in health care. Some have attacked this argument by challenging its moral claim that innovativeness is a good ground for choosing between health care systems. This reply is misguided. If we want to refute the argument from innovation, we have to undercut the premise that seems least controversial -- the premise that our current system …Read more
  •  43
    One danger of biomedical enhancements
    Bioethics 22 (6). 2008.
    In the near future, our society may develop a vast array of medical enhancements. There is a large debate about enhancements, and that debate has identified many possible harms. This paper describes a harm that has so far been overlooked. Because of some particular features of enhancements, we could come to place more value on them than we actually should. This over-valuation would lead us to devote time, energy, and resources to enhancements that could be better spent somewhere else. That mista…Read more
  •  16
    Duties to the Global Poor and Minimalism about Global Justice in advance
    International Journal of Applied Philosophy. forthcoming.
    This paper is about the implications of a common view on global justice. The view can be called the Minimalist View, and it says that we have no positive duties to help the poor in foreign countries, or that if we do, they are very minimal. It might seem as if, by definition, the Minimalist View cannot require that we do very much about global poverty. However, in his book World Poverty and Human Rights, Thomas Pogge pointed out that this conclusion is at least up for debate. Although Minima…Read more
  •  12
    In 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its ruling on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA). Among other things, it found that states may refuse to expand Medicaid to all individuals earning less than 133% of the federal poverty line. In this article, I evaluate the strongest conservative objection to the Medicaid expansion, which runs as follows: "Defenders of the ACA promised that the Medicaid expansion (and all other parts of the ACA) would be paid for with compensating cuts. …Read more
  •  12
    Wait times and national health policy
    Journal of Medical Ethics 40 (9): 632-635. 2014.
    Many arguments against US healthcare reform appeal to facts about wait times, and wait times are also discussed in debates about national health policy in other industrialised countries. This paper points out that there are several different ways to measure wait times. We currently measure them in one way, and this paper describes an alternative. The most reasonable assessments of US and international health reforms need to rely on the alternative method, and so when critics of health reform rel…Read more
  •  8
    Why are there no expert teachers of virtue?
    Educational Theory 53 (4): 389-400. 2003.
    Early in the Protagoras, Socrates wonders why there are no expert teachers of virtue. 2500 years later, we find Gilbert Ryle arguing that the Socratic puzzle is still unsolved and offering his own solution to it. Ryle’s solution is that becoming virtuous doesn’t involve acquiring special information or skills, but in coming to have moral desires. And since experts cannot inculcate desire, there is no way for experts to teach virtue. Moreover, he says that even if there could be expert teache…Read more
  •  7
    Some ideas are at the heart of the world’s great ethical and religious traditions, yet they play little or no role within certain debates in modern philosophical ethics. One such idea is that most of us have unreliable moral intuitions and we must transform ourselves into better people before we can reliably judge how to behave. This paper explores that idea by focusing on a transformative experience that I will call the moral experience. In the paper’s initial sections, I describe the moral exp…Read more
  • Blame and the Scope of Moral Requirement
    Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles. 2000.
    I argue for a revival of the traditional theory that we can be morally required to do something only if we would be blameworthy for failing to do it. This theory opposes those in which wrongdoing is a matter of violating certain ethical rules, but blameworthiness depends on the motives and intentions of the agent. I begin my defense of the traditional view by arguing for a modified version of the principle that ought implies can, one that I call "ought-implies-possibility": if we are required to…Read more