• Aristotle on Flight: Air as an External Resting Point
    Rhizomata 9 (1): 123-138. 2021.
    I reconstruct Aristotle’s explanation for why and how birds are capable of natural flight. For Aristotle, air is a markedly different external resting point in comparison with water and earth, and nature has designed birds so as to take advantage of the unique way in which air affects the inequality between the pushing downward, that is, the downward force and the resistance. My discussion sheds some light on Aristotle’s anticipation of some aspects of modern fluid dynamics and aerodynamics.
  •  23
    Anger and Absurdity
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 24 (3): 717-732. 2021.
    I argue that there is an interesting and underexplored sense in which some negative reactive attitudes such as anger are often absurd. I explore implications of this absurdity, especially for our understanding of forgiveness.
  •  14
    On the Practicality of Virtue Ethics
    Journal of Value Inquiry 1-24. forthcoming.
    Using research in social psychology, philosophers such as Gilbert Harman and John Doris argue that human beings do not have – and cannot acquire – character traits such as virtues. Along with defenders of virtue ethics such as Julia Annas and Rachana Kamtekar, they assume that this constitutes a dangerous attack on virtue ethics. I argue that even if virtues and vices did not exist and everyone accepted that truth, (1) we would continue to make attributions of character traits in our ordinary pr…Read more
  •  14
    I show that some well known arguments against moral responsibility — most notably, Galen Strawson’s Basic Argument and Susan Wolf’s Troubling Train of Thought — reason in the following, unnatural way: if a clearly has some property that results in our saying that a is F, and if b less clearly has that property, then it is the case that b is F. I argue that this unnatural reasoning is not present in reasons-responsiveness theories of responsibility. I do so by applying George Boolos’s elegant tec…Read more
  •  17
    In this paper, we motivate, propose and defend the following two conditions as individually sufficient and disjunctively necessary for moral responsibility: PODMA —originally proposed by Coren, Acta Analytica, 33, 145–159,, now cast as sufficient rather than necessary—and the TWC*, which amends versions presented by Young, 961–969, 2016; Philosophia, 45, 1365–1380, 2017). We explain why there is a need for new necessary and sufficient conditions, how these build on and improve existing ideas, pa…Read more
  •  22
    Is moral responsibility compatible with determinism? Peter Strawson’s first answer is: I do not know what the thesis of determinism is. His second answer seems to be: Yes, it is, and we can see this by looking to relevant pockets of our ordinary practices and attitudes, especially our responses (resentment, anger, love, forgiveness) to quality of will. His second answer has shaped subsequent discussions of moral responsibility. But what exactly is Strawson’s compatibilism? And is it a plausible …Read more
  •  26
    In a brief and deeply interesting 2017 Acta Analytica paper, Peter Baumann argues that there are cases of necessarily incompatible but mutually consistent desires, that this is a common problem, and that there is no solution in sight. I’ll argue that Baumann fails to note certain non-trivial assumptions that must be made for the possibility of consistent incompatible desires; if consistent incompatible desires do exist then they’re sometimes beneficial; and if they are sometimes involved with pr…Read more
  •  16
    Aristotle on Motion in Incomplete Animals
    Apeiron 53 (3): 285-314. 2020.
    I explain what Aristotle means when, after puzzling about the matter of motion in incomplete animals, he suggests in De Anima III 11.433b31–434a5 that just as incomplete animals are moved indeterminately, desire and phantasia are present in those animals, but present indeterminately. I argue that self-motion and its directing faculties in incomplete animals differ in degree but not in kind from those of complete animals. I examine how an object of desire differs for an incomplete animal. Using a…Read more
  •  31
    Neither pardon nor blame: Reacting in the wrong way
    Analytic Philosophy 62 (2): 165-183. 2021.
    Why does someone, S, deserve blame or reproach for an action or event? One part of a standard answer since Aristotle: the event was caused, at least in part, by S’s bad will. But recently there’s been some insightful discussion of cases where the event’s causes do not include any bad will from S and yet it seems that S is not off the hook for the event. Cheshire Calhoun, Miranda Fricker, Elinor Mason, David Enoch, Randolph Clarke, and others include in this category some cases of glitches, forge…Read more
  •  24
    Non-Symmetric Awe: Why it Matters Even if We Don’t
    Philosophia 49 (1): 217-233. 2021.
    The universe is enormous, perhaps unimaginably so. In comparison, we are very small. Does this suggest that humanity has little if any cosmic significance? And if we don’t matter, should that matter to us? Blaise Pascal, Frank Ramsey, Bertrand Russell, Susan Wolf, Harry Frankfurt, Stephen Hawking, and others have offered insightful answers to those questions. For example, Pascal and Ramsey emphasize that whereas the stars cannot think, human beings can. Through an exploration of some features of…Read more
  • Non-symmetric awe: why it matters even if we don't
    Philosophia: Philosophical Quarterly of Israel. forthcoming.
    The universe is enormous, perhaps unimaginably so. In comparison, we are very small. Does this suggest that humanity has little if any cosmic significance? And if we don’t matter, should that matter to us? Blaise Pascal, Frank Ramsey, Bertrand Russell, Susan Wolf, Harry Frankfurt, Stephen Hawking, and others have offered insightful answers to those questions. For example, Pascal and Ramsey emphasize that whereas the stars (in all their enormity) cannot think, human beings can. Through an explora…Read more
  • Aristotle on Motion in Incomplete Animals
    Apeiron: A Journal for Ancient Philosophy and Science. forthcoming.
    I explain what Aristotle means when, after puzzling about the matter of motion in incomplete animals (those without sight, smell, hearing), he suggests in De Anima III 11.433b31-434a5 that just as incomplete animals are moved indeterminately, desire and phantasia are present in those animals, but present indeterminately. I argue that self-motion and its directing faculties in incomplete animals differ in degree but not in kind from those of complete animals. I examine how an object of desire dif…Read more
  •  13
  •  49
    Testing for intrinsic value, for us as we are
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1-26. forthcoming.
    Philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Brentano, Moore, and Chisholm suggest marks of intrinsic value. Contemporary philosophers such as Christine Korsgaard have insightful discussions of intrinsic value. But how do we verify that some specific thing really is intrinsically valuable? I propose a natural way to test for intrinsic value: first, strip the candidate bare of all considerations of good consequences; and, second, see if what remains is still a good thing. I argue that we, as ordi…Read more
  •  33
    Aristotle on Self-Change in Plants
    Rhizomata 7 (1): 33-62. 2019.
    A lot of scholarly attention has been given to Aristotle’s account of how and why animals are capable of moving themselves. But no one has focused on the question, whether self-change is possible in plants on Aristotle’s account. I first give some context and explain why this topic is worth exploring. I then turn to Aristotle’s conditions for self-change given in Physics VIII.4, where he argues that the natural motion of the elements does not count as self-motion. I apply those conditions to nat…Read more
  •  61
    Epistemic Conservatism and Bare Beliefs
    Synthese 1-14. forthcoming.
    My subject is the kind of Epistemic Conservatism (EC) that says that an agent is in some measure justified in maintaining a belief simply in virtue of the fact that the agent has that belief. Quine’s alternative to positivist foundationalism, Chisholmian particularism, Rawls’s reflective equilibrium, and Bayesianism all seem to rely on EC. I argue that, in order to evaluate EC, we must consider an agent holding a bare belief, that is, a belief stripped of all personal memory and epistemic contex…Read more
  •  46
    Evaluating epistemic virtues
    Synthese 198 (2): 1569-1578. 2019.
    Epistemic conservatism says that an agent is in some measure justified in maintaining a belief simply in virtue of the fact that the agent has that belief. In his new book On Evidence in Philosophy, William Lycan argues that there is no special objection to EC that does not also impugn the other epistemic virtues. In a forthcoming Synthese piece, Daniel Coren argues that, for us as we are, EC cannot be evaluated. Coren does not discuss Lycan, and vice versa. Here I connect these two discussions …Read more
  •  61
    Freedom, Gratitude, and Resentment: Olivi and Strawson
    Res Philosophica 96 (3): 1-21. 2019.
    I argue that by attending to a distinction among perspectives on the root causes of our reactive attitudes, we can better understand the bases and limitations of long-standing debates about free will and moral responsibility. I characterize this distinction as “objectivism vs. subjectivism.” I bring out this distinction by, first, scrutinizing an especially sharp divergence between Peter Strawson and Peter John Olivi: for Olivi, our ordinary human attitudes make it obvious that we have free will…Read more
  •  57
    Always Choose to Live or Choose to Always Live?
    Southwest Philosophy Review 34 (2): 89-104. 2018.
    Bernard Williams (1973) famously argued that if given the choice to relinquish our mortality we should refuse. We should not choose to always live. His piece provoked an entire literature on the desirability of immortality. Intending to contradict Williams, Thomas Nagel claimed that if given the choice between living for a week and dying in five minutes he would always choose to live. I argue that (1) Nagel’s iterating scenario is closer to the original Makropulos case (Čapek’s) that inspired Wi…Read more
  •  2
    It is well known that Aristotle tries to make room for self-motion – an idea he inherits to some extent from Plato – within his other commitments to causal determinism while at the same time modifying the idea. However, one argument in Physics VII 1 seems to pose a problem for the bare possibility of self-motion; in it he seems to argue that everything that moves must be moved by something else. The text in which this argument appears is itself vexed on a number of fronts, because it is not clea…Read more
  •  35
    Making Sense of the Sentence
    Journal of Philosophical Research 43 205-222. 2018.
    Early on in his Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle argues that there must be a single end or good desired for its own sake, for the sake of which all of our other ends are desired. The argument includes the following conditional: “If we chose everything for the sake of something else so that the process went on forever, then our desire would be empty and futile.” This paper addresses that conditional. First, I explain why the conditional appears to be false. Second, I resolve some ambiguity in it. Th…Read more
  •  30
    Aristotle on Political Community
    Ancient Philosophy 38 (1): 222-225. 2018.
  •  98
    In his Metaphysics Γ.4, Aristotle defends the principle of non-contradiction (PNC). The PNC says that all contradictions are false. So if some contradictions are true, then PNC is false. Even if PNC’s contrary is false, PNC’s contradictory might still be true. But it’s been noted in the literature for over a century that Aristotle seems to be exclusively interested in attacking PNC’s contrary (‘All contradictions are true’) rather than PNC’s contradictory (‘Some contradictions are true’). So his…Read more
  •  72
    Alternate Possibilities and Moral Asymmetry
    Acta Analytica 33 (2): 145-159. 2018.
    Harry Frankfurt Journal of Philosophy, 66, 829–39 famously attacked what he called the principle of alternate possibilities. PAP states that being able to do otherwise is necessary for moral responsibility. He gave counterexamples to PAP known since then as “Frankfurt cases.” This paper sidesteps the enormous literature on Frankfurt cases while preserving some of our salient pretheoretical intuitions about the relation between alternate possibilities and moral responsibility. In particular, I in…Read more
  •  79
    Anthropocentric Biocentrism in a Hybrid
    Ethics and the Environment 20 (2): 48-60. 2015.
    Anthropocentric biocentrism says that human beings ought to promote the survival of our own species above the survival of other species. But those who attack AB sometimes take it to say something much stronger: we ought to promote our species’ various desires, interests, and goals. I call the latter view AB+. I argue that AB and anti-AB+ are not only mutually compatible but in some respects mutually complementary, such that there are good prospects for combining them into a hybrid-view. After al…Read more
  •  50
    Harry Frankfurt (1969) famously gave cases in which an agent lacks alternate possibilities and yet seems morally responsible. Such cases purportedly falsify the Principle of Alternate Possibilities, which states that the ability to do otherwise is necessary for moral responsibility. There is an enormous body of literature debating whether or not Frankfurt cases and their variants do in fact falsify PAP. In order to sidestep Frankfurt cases altogether, Garry Young (2016) argues for a different ve…Read more