•  4360
    Subjective Theories of Well-Being
    In Ben Eggleston & Dale Miller (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Utilitarianism, Cambridge University Press. pp. 199-219. 2014.
    Subjective theories of well-being claim that how well our lives go for us is a matter of our attitudes towards what we get in life rather than the nature of the things themselves. This article explains in more detail the distinction between subjective and objective theories of well-being; describes, for each approach, some reasons for thinking it is true; outlines the main kinds of subjective theory; and explains their advantages and disadvantages.
  •  1485
    In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, Wiley. 2013.
    An encyclopedia entry on hedonistic theories of value and welfare -- the view, roughly, that pleasure is the good.
  •  805
    Desire satisfactionism and hedonism
    Philosophical Studies 128 (3): 539-563. 2006.
    Hedonism and the desire-satisfaction theory of welfare are typically seen as archrivals in the contest over identifying what makes one's life go best. It is surprising, then, that the most plausible form of hedonism just is the most plausible form of desire satisfactionism. How can a single theory of welfare be a version of both hedonism and desire satisfactionism? The answer lies in what pleasure is: pleasure is, in my view, the subjective satisfaction of desire. This thesis about pleasure is c…Read more
  •  585
    Could Morality Have a Source?
    Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 6 (2): 1-19. 2012.
    It is a common idea that morality, or moral truths, if there are any, must have some sort of source, or grounding. It has also been claimed that constructivist theories in metaethics have an advantage over realist theories in that the former but not the latter can provide such a grounding. This paper has two goals. First, it attempts to show that constructivism does not in fact provide a complete grounding for morality, and so is on a par with realism in this respect. Second, it explains why…Read more
  •  528
    Reductionism in Ethics
    In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, Wiley. 2013.
    An encyclopedia entry on the issue of whether morality is reducible -- that is, whether moral facts are identical to facts that can be expressed in non-moral terms.
  •  408
    Desire-Based Theories of Reasons, Pleasure and Welfare
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics 6 79-106. 2011.
    One of the most important disputes in the foundations of ethics concerns the source of practical reasons. On the desire-based view, only one’s desires provide one with reasons to act. On the value-based view, reasons are instead provided by the objective evaluative facts, and never by our desires. Similarly, there are desire-based and non-desired-based theories about two other phenomena: pleasure and welfare. It has been argued, and is natural to think, that holding a desire-based theory about e…Read more
  •  384
    This paper responds to a new objection, due to Ben Bramble, against attitudinal theories of sensory pleasure and pain: the objection from unconscious pleasures and pains. According to the objection, attitudinal theories are unable to accommodate the fact that sometimes we experience pleasures and pains of which we are, at the time, unaware. In response, I distinguish two kinds of unawareness and argue that the subjects in the examples that support the objection are unaware of their sensations in…Read more
  •  371
    The relevance of Kant's objection to Anselm's ontological argument
    Religious Studies 47 (3): 345-357. 2011.
    The most famous objection to the ontological argument is given in Kant's dictum that existence is not a real predicate. But it is not obvious how this slogan is supposed to relate to the ontological argument. Some, most notably Alvin Plantinga, have even judged Kant's dictum to be totally irrelevant to Anselm's version of the ontological argument. In this paper I argue, against Plantinga and others, that Kant's claim is indeed relevant to Anselm's argument, in the straightforward sense that if t…Read more
  •  343
    Non-presentist A-theories of time (such as the growing block theory and the moving spotlight theory) seem unacceptable because they invite skepticism about whether one exists in the present. To avoid this absurd implication, Peter Forrest appeals to the "Past is Dead hypothesis," according to which only beings in the objective present are conscious. We know we're present because we know we're conscious, and only present beings can be conscious. I argue that the dead past hypothesis undercuts …Read more
  •  336
    The reduction of sensory pleasure to desire
    Philosophical Studies 133 (1): 23-44. 2007.
    One of the leading approaches to the nature of sensory pleasure reduces it to desire: roughly, a sensation qualifies as a sensation of pleasure just in case its subject wants to be feeling it. This approach is, in my view, correct, but it has never been formulated quite right; and it needs to be defended against some compelling arguments. Thus the purpose of this paper is to discover the most defensible formulation of this rough idea, and to defend it against the most interesting objections.
  •  295
    The problem of defective desires
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 83 (4). 2005.
    The desire-satisfaction theory of welfare says, roughly, that one's life goes well to the extent that one's desires are satisfied. On standard 'actualist' versions of the theory, it doesn't matter what you desire. So long as you are getting what you actually want – whatever it is – things are going well for you. There is widespread agreement that these standard versions are incorrect, because we can desire things that are bad for us -– in other words, because there are 'defective desires'. The a…Read more
  •  293
    Which Desires Are Relevant to Well‐Being?
    Noûs 53 (3): 664-688. 2019.
    The desire-satisfaction theory of well-being says, in its simplest form, that a person’s level of welfare is determined by the extent to which their desires are satisfied. A question faced by anyone attracted to such a view is, *Which desires*? This paper proposes a new answer to this question by characterizing a distinction among desires that isn’t much discussed in the well-being literature. This is the distinction between what a person wants in a merely behavioral sense, in that the person is…Read more
  •  249
    Organic Unities
    In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, Wiley. 2013.
    A short encyclopedia entry on the issue of whether the value of a whole is equal to the sum of the values of its parts.
  •  236
    Fitting attitudes and welfare
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics 3 47-73. 2008.
    The purpose of this paper is to present a new argument against so-called fitting attitude analyses of intrinsic value, according to which, roughly, for something to be intrinsically good is for there to be reasons to want it for its own sake. The argument is indirect. First, I submit that advocates of a fitting-attitude analysis of value should, for the sake of theoretical unity, also endorse a fitting-attitude analysis of a closely related but distinct concept: the concept of intrinsic value fo…Read more
  •  224
    Desire-Fulfillment Theory
    In Guy Fletcher (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of the Philosophy of Well-Being, Routledge. pp. 135-147. 2016.
    Explains the desire-fulfillment theory of well-being, its history, its development, its varieties, its advantages, and its challenges
  •  208
    In John Skorupski (ed.), The Routledge Companion to Ethics, Routledge. pp. 645-655. 2010.
    An introduction to the philosophical debate over what makes a person's life go well. It attempts to clarify the question of welfare and to explore several of the most important answers, while displaying the main contours of the dialectic.
  •  197
    Moral and epistemic open-question arguments
    Philosophical Books 50 (2): 83-98. 2009.
    An important and widely-endorsed argument for moral realism is based on alleged parallels between that doctrine and epistemic realism -- roughly the view that there are genuine epistemic facts, facts such as that it is reasonable to believe that astrology is false. I argue for an important disanalogy between moral and epistemic facts. Epistemic facts, but not moral facts, are plausibly identifiable with mere descriptive facts about the world. This is because, whereas the much-discussed moral …Read more
  •  186
    Preferentism and Self‐Sacrifice
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 92 (1): 18-38. 2011.
    According to the argument from self-sacrifice, standard, unrestricted desire-based theories of welfare fail because they have the absurd implication that self-sacrifice is conceptually impossible. I attempt to show that, in fact, the simplest imaginable, completely unrestricted desire-based theory of well-being is perfectly compatible with the phenomenon of self-sacrifice – so long as the theory takes the right form. I go on to consider a new argument from self-sacrifice against this simple theo…Read more
  •  183
    The significance of personal identity to abortion
    Bioethics 25 (4): 230-232. 2011.
    In "The Insignificance of Personal Identity to Bioethics," David Shoemaker argues that, contrary to common opinion, considerations of personal identity have no relevance to certain important debates in bioethics. My aim is to show that Shoemaker is mistaken concerning the relevance of personal identity to the abortion debate -– in particular, to Don Marquis’ well-known anti-abortion argument.
  •  160
    Monism and Pluralism about Value
    In Iwao Hirose & Jonas Olson (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Value Theory, Oxford University Press. pp. 136-157. 2015.
    This essay discusses monism and pluralism about two related evaluative notions: welfare, or what makes people better off, and value simpliciter, or what makes the world better. These are stipulatively referred to as 'axiological value'. Axiological value property monists hold that one of these notions is reducible to the other (or else eliminable), while axiological value property pluralists deny this. Substantive monists about axiological value hold that there is just one basic kind of thing th…Read more
  •  159
    Faring Well and Getting What You Want
    In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), The Ethical Life: Fundamental Readings in Ethics and Moral Problems, Oxford University Press. pp. 31-42. 2014.
    An introductory-level article defending a desire-satisfaction theory of welfare. About 5,000 words; no footnotes, citations, credits, etc.
  •  154
    Derek Parfit's monumental 1984 book Reasons and Persons contains a little appendix called "What Makes Someone's Life Go Best," a mini-essay on well-being that has taken on a life of its own apart from the body to which it is attached. This paper serves as a critical guide to that appendix. Topics include: the nature of pleasure and pain and its relation to theories of well-being; the unrestricted desire-fulfillment theory and the problem of remote desires; whether a person's actual preferences…Read more
  •  133
    Irreducibly Normative Properties
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics 10. 2015.
    Metaethical non-naturalists maintain that normative or evaluative properties cannot be reduced to, or otherwise explained in terms of, natural properties. They thus have difficulty explaining what these irreducibly normative properties are supposed to be, other than by saying what they are not. I offer a partial, positive characterization of irreducible normativity in naturalistic terms. At a first pass, it is this: that to attribute a normative property to something is necessarily to commend or…Read more
  •  118
    Happiness and Desire Satisfaction
    Noûs. forthcoming.
    This paper develops and defends a novel version of a relatively neglected category of theory of the nature of happiness: the desire-satisfaction theory. My account is similar in its fundamentals to Wayne Davis’s theory of happiness-as-subjective-desire-satisfaction. After arguing that this is the best general way to proceed for the desire-based approach, I develop an improved version of subjective desire satisfactionism in light of recent arguments in the happiness literature.
  •  82
    On What Will Be: Reply to Westphal
    Erkenntnis 67 (1): 137-142. 2007.
    Jonathan Westphal's recent paper attempts to reconcile the view that propositions about the future can be true or false now with the idea that the future cannot now be real. I attempt to show that Westphal's proposal is either unoriginal or unsatisfying. It is unoriginal if it is just the well-known eternalist solution. It is unsatisfying if it is instead making use of a peculiar, tensed truthmaking principle.
  •  62
    Epistemic Reductionism and the Moral-Epistemic Disparity
    In Christos Kyriacou & Robin McKenna (eds.), Metaepistemology: Realism & Antirealism, Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 45-70. 2018.
    In previous work, I defend the following disparity between moral and epistemic facts: whereas moral facts are irreducibly normative, epistemic facts – facts such as that some subject is epistemically justified in believing something – are reducible to facts from some other domain (such as facts about probabilities).  This moral-epistemic disparity is significant because it undercuts an important kind of argument for robust moral realism.  My defense of epistemic reductionism and of the moral-epi…Read more
  •  37
    Desire-Satisfaction Theories of Welfare
    Dissertation, University of Massachusetts Amherst. 2005.
    Theories of welfare answer the ancient question, What makes a person's life go well? Prominent among these are desire-satisfaction or preferentist theories, according to which welfare has to do ultimately with desire. This dissertation aims to criticize some recent popular arguments against standard desire-satisfaction theories of welfare, to develop and defend a novel version of the desire-satisfaction theory capable of answering the better objections, to defend the thesis that pleasure is redu…Read more