University of Reading
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 2003
Groningen, Groningen, Netherlands
Areas of Specialization
Meta-Ethics
Normative Ethics
Areas of Interest
Meta-Ethics
  •  51
    Why formal objections to the error theory fail
    Analysis 81 (2): 254-262. 2021.
    Many philosophers argue that the error theory should be rejected because it is incompatible with standard deontic logic and semantics. We argue that such formal objections to the theory fail. Our discussion has two upshots. First, it increases the dialectical weight that must be borne by objections to the error theory that target its content rather than its form. Second, it shows that standard deontic logic and semantics should be revised.
  •  204
    A brief overview of metaethics, written for students.
  •  14
    Précis of Unbelievable Errors
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 16 (6): 687-696. 2019.
    In Unbelievable Errors, I defend an error theory about all normative judgments, I argue that we cannot believe this theory, and I argue that our inability to believe this theory makes the theory more likely to be true. This précis gives a brief overview of my arguments for the error theory.
  •  17
    Response to Hattiangadi, Evers, and Tiefensee
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 16 (6): 743-754. 2019.
    I argue that Hattiangadi’s, Evers’ and Tiefensee’s objections to my arguments for the error theory in Unbelievable Errors fail.
  •  25
    Response to Jackson, Stratton-Lake, and Schroeder
    International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 8 (4): 322-341. 2018.
  •  17
    Précis of Unbelievable Errors
    International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 8 (4): 257-269. 2018.
  •  47
    I Ought to Reply, So I Can
    Philosophia 47 (5): 1547-1554. 2019.
    I have elsewhere given three arguments for the claim that there can be a reason for a person to perform an action only if this person can perform this action. Henne, Semler, Chituc, De Brigard, and Sinnott-Armstrong make several objections to my arguments. I here respond to their objections.
  •  84
    Why We Really Cannot Believe the Error Theory
    In Diego E. Machuca (ed.), Moral Skepticism: New Essays, Routledge. forthcoming.
    According to the error theory, normative judgments are beliefs that ascribe normative properties, but these properties do not exist. I have argued elsewhere (in "Can We Believe the Error Theory?") that we cannot believe this theory. Several philosophers have replied to this argument. In this chapter, I respond to their replies.
  •  97
    Unbelievable Errors defends an error theory about all normative judgements: not just moral judgements, but also judgements about reasons for action, judgements about reasons for belief, and instrumental normative judgements. This theory states that normative judgements are beliefs that ascribe normative properties, but that normative properties do not exist. It therefore entails that all normative judgements are false. Bart Streumer also argues, however, that we cannot believe this error theory.…Read more
  •  66
    Review of David Sobel and Steven Wall, Reasons for Action (review)
    Analysis 71 (1): 200-202. 2011.
  •  136
    Inferential and non-inferential reasoning
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1): 1-29. 2007.
    It is sometimes suggested that there are two kinds of reasoning: inferential reasoning and non-inferential reasoning. However, it is not entirely clear what the difference between these two kinds of reasoning is. In this paper, I try to answer the question what this difference is. I first discuss three answers to this question that I argue are unsatisfactory. I then give a different answer to this question, and I argue that this answer is satisfactory. I end by showing that this answer can help …Read more
  •  207
    Are the Moral Fixed Points Conceptual Truths?
    with Daan Evers
    Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (1): 1-9. 2016.
    Terence Cuneo and Russ Shafer-Landau have recently proposed a new version of moral nonnaturalism, according to which there are nonnatural moral concepts and truths but no nonnatural moral facts. This view entails that moral error theorists are conceptually deficient. We explain why moral error theorists are not conceptually deficient. We then argue that this explanation reveals what is wrong with Cuneo and Shafer-Landau’s view.
  •  178
    Why There Really Are No Irreducibly Normative Properties
    In David Bakhurst, Brad Hooker & Margaret Olivia Little (eds.), Thinking about Reasons: Themes from the Philosophy of Jonathan Dancy, Oxford University Press. pp. 310-336. 2013.
    Jonathan Dancy thinks that there are irreducibly normative properties. Frank Jackson has given a well-known argument against this view, and I have elsewhere defended this argument against many objections, including one made by Dancy. But Dancy remains unconvinced. In this chapter, I hope to convince him.
  •  155
    Practical Reasoning
    In Timothy O'Connor & Constantine Sandis (eds.), Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Action, Wiley-blackwell. pp. 244-251. 2010.
    To be able to say what practical reasoning is, we first need to say what reasoning is and what the conclusion of a process of reasoning is. I shall do this in sections 1 and 2. We can then make a distinction between practical and theoretical reasoning. There are three main ways to do this, which I shall survey in sections 3 to 5. I shall end by suggesting that there are different kinds of practical reasoning
  •  496
    Can We Believe the Error Theory?
    Journal of Philosophy 110 (4): 194-212. 2013.
    According to the error theory, normative judgements are beliefs that ascribe normative properties, even though such properties do not exist. In this paper, I argue that we cannot believe the error theory, and that this means that there is no reason for us to believe this theory. It may be thought that this is a problem for the error theory, but I argue that it is not. Instead, I argue, our inability to believe the error theory undermines many objections that have been made to this theory.
  •  123
    Reasons, impossibility and efficient steps: reply to Heuer
    Philosophical Studies 151 (1). 2010.
    Ulrike Heuer argues that there can be a reason for a person to perform an action that this person cannot perform, as long as this person can take efficient steps towards performing this action. In this reply, I first argue that Heuer's examples fail to undermine my claim that there cannot be a reason for a person to perform an action if it is impossible that this person will perform this action. I then argue that, on a plausible interpretation of what 'efficient steps' are, Heuer's claim is cons…Read more
  •  1
    Irrealism in Ethics (edited book)
    Wiley-Blackwell. 2014.
    Irrealism in Ethics is a collection of six original essays by prominent moral philosophers. The essays discuss various forms of ethical irrealism and present arguments for and against the two major versions of ethical irrealism: expressivism and the error theory.
  •  184
    Are normative properties descriptive properties?
    Philosophical Studies 154 (3). 2011.
    Some philosophers think that normative properties are identical to descriptive properties. In this paper, I argue that this entails that it is possible to say which descriptive properties normative properties are identical to. I argue that Frank Jackson's argument to show that this is possible fails, and that the objections to this argument show that it is impossible to say which descriptive properties normative properties are identical to. I conclude that normative properties are not identical …Read more
  •  94
    Reasons and Entailment
    Erkenntnis 66 (3): 353-374. 2007.
    What is the relation between entailment and reasons for belief? In this paper, I discuss several answers to this question, and I argue that these answers all face problems. I then propose the following answer: for all propositions p1,...,pn and q, if the conjunction of p1,..., and pn entails q, then there is a reason against a person's both believing that p1,..., and that pn and believing the negation of q. I argue that this answer avoids the problems that the other answers to this question face…Read more
  •  146
    Do Normative Judgements Aim to Represent the World?
    Ratio 26 (4): 450-470. 2013.
    Many philosophers think that normative judgements do not aim to represent the world. In this paper, I argue that this view is incompatible with the thought that when two people make conflicting normative judgements, at most one of these judgements is correct. I argue that this shows that normative judgements do aim to represent the world
  •  249
    Are There Irreducibly Normative Properties?
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (4): 537-561. 2008.
    Frank Jackson has argued that, given plausible claims about supervenience, descriptive predicates and property identity, there are no irreducibly normative properties. Philosophers who think that there are such properties have made several objections to this argument. In this paper, I argue that all of these objections fail. I conclude that Jackson's argument shows that there are no irreducibly normative properties
  •  210
    Reasons and Impossibility
    Philosophical Studies 136 (3): 351-384. 2007.
    Many philosophers claim that it cannot be the case that a person ought to perform an action if this person cannot perform this action. However, most of these philosophers do not give arguments for the truth of this claim. In this paper, I argue that it is plausible to interpret this claim in such a way that it is entailed by the claim that there cannot be a reason for a person to perform an action if it is impossible that this person will perform this action. I then give three arguments for the …Read more
  •  180
    Does 'ought' conversationally implicate 'can'?
    European Journal of Philosophy 11 (2). 2003.
    Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that 'ought' does not entail 'can', but instead conversationally implicates it. I argue that Sinnott-Armstrong is actually committed to a hybrid view about the relation between 'ought' and 'can'. I then give a tensed formulation of the view that 'ought' entails 'can' that deals with Sinnott-Armstrong's argument and that is more unified than Sinnott-Armstrong's view.
  •  145
    Why Jonas Olson Cannot Believe the Error Theory Either
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (4): 419-436. 2016.
    Jonas Olson writes that "a plausible moral error theory must be an error theory about all irreducible normativity". I agree. But unlike Olson, I think we cannot believe this error theory. I first argue that Olson should say that reasons for belief are irreducibly normative. I then argue that if reasons for belief are irreducibly normative, we cannot believe an error theory about all irreducible normativity. I then explain why I think Olson's objections to this argument fail. I end by showing tha…Read more
  •  174
    Campbell Brown is right that my argument against semi-global consequentialism relies on the principle of agglomeration. However, semi-global consequentialists cannot rescue their view simply by rejecting this principle.
  •  57
    No, We Cannot
    International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24 (4): 537-546. 2016.
    Marianna Bergamaschi Ganapini argues that we can believe the error theory. In this reply, I explain why I still think we cannot.
  •  205
    Can consequentialism cover everything?
    Utilitas 15 (2): 237-47. 2003.
    Derek Parfit, Philip Pettit and Michael Smith defend a version of consequentialism that covers everything. I argue that this version of consequentialism is false. Consequentialism, I argue, can only cover things that belong to a combination of things that agents can bring about.