•  867
    P. F. Strawson on Predication
    Polish Journal of Philosophy 5 (1): 39-57. 2011.
    Strawson offers three accounts of singular predication: a grammatical, a category and a mediating account. I argue that the grammatical and mediating accounts are refuted by a host of counter-examples and that the latter is worse than useless. In later works Strawson defends only the category account. This account entails that singular terms cannot be predicates; it excludes non-denoting singular terms from being logical subjects, except by means of an ad hoc analogy; it depends upon a notion of…Read more
  •  849
    Popper and Free Will
    Studia Philosophica Estonica 3 (1): 21-38. 2010.
    Determinism seems incompatible with free will. However, even indeterminism seems incompatible with free will, since it seems to make free actions random. Popper contends that free agents are not bound by physical laws, even indeterministic ones, and that undetermined actions are not random if they are influenced by abstract entities. I argue that Popper could strengthen his account by drawing upon his theories of propensities and of limited rationality; but that even then his account would not f…Read more
  •  686
    To Follow the Argument Wherever It Leads
    The Reasoner 3 (11): 5-6. 2009.
    This paper rejects the claim that, rationally, we should follow the argument wherever it leads.
  •  624
    Moral Laws, Laws of Nature and Dispositions
    Prolegomena: Journal of Philosophy 13 (2): 303-14. 2014.
    It appears that light may be thrown on the nature of moral principles if they are construed as moral laws analogous to ceteris-paribus laws of nature. Luke Robinson objects that the analogy either cannot explain how moral principles are necessary or cannot explain how obligations can be pro-tanto; and that a dispositional account of moral obligation has explanatory superiority over one in terms of moral laws. I explain the analogy, construing laws of nature as necessary relationships after the f…Read more
  •  621
    Confusion about the Right to Life
    The Reasoner 5 (1): 4-5. 2011.
    I defend the consistency of affirming the right to life while rejecting universal healthcare and liveable income programmes. I also defend the rationality of accepting inconsistency.
  •  620
    Unmotivated Intentional Action
    Philosophical Frontiers 5 (1): 21-30. 2010.
    In opposition to the tenet of contemporary action theory that an intentional action must be done for a reason, I argue that some intentional actions are unmotivated. I provide examples of arbitrary and habitual actions that are done for no reason at all. I consider and rebut an objection to the examples of unmotivated habitual action. I explain how my contention differs from recent challenges to the tenet by Hursthouse, Stocker and Pollard.
  •  546
    Two Concepts Of Rationality
    Libertarian Papers 2 1-21. 2010.
    The dominant tradition in Western philosophy sees rationality as dictating. Thus rationality may require that we believe the best explanation and simple conceptual truths and that we infer in accordance with evident rules of inference. I argue that, given what we know about the growth of knowledge, this authoritarian concept of rationality leads to absurdities and should be abandoned. I then outline a libertarian concept of rationality, derived from Popper, which eschews the dictates and which s…Read more
  •  533
    A Competitive Market in Human Organs
    Libertarian Papers 2 1-21. 2010.
    I offer consequentialist and deontological arguments for a competitive market in human organs, from live as well as dead donors. I consider the objections that a market in organs will frustrate altruism, coerce the desperate, expose under-informed agents to unacceptable risks, exacerbate inequality, degrade those who participate in it, involve a kind of slavery, impose invidious costs, and impair third-party choice sets. I show that each of these objections is without merit and that, in conseque…Read more
  •  491
    Popper, Rationality and the Possibility of Social Science
    Theoria : An International Journal for Theory, History and Fundations of Science 28 (1): 61-75. 2013.
    Social science employs teleological explanations which depend upon the rationality principle, according to which people exhibit instrumental rationality. Popper points out that people also exhibit critical rationality, the tendency to stand back from, and to question or criticise, their views. I explain how our critical rationality impugns the explanatory value of the rationality principle and thereby threatens the very possibility of social science. I discuss the relationship between instrument…Read more
  •  415
    Deduction and Novelty
    The Reasoner 5 (4): 56-57. 2011.
    It is often claimed that the conclusion of a deductively valid argument is contained in its premises. Popper refuted this claim when he showed that an empirical theory can be expected always to have logical consequences that transcend the current understanding of the theory. This implies that no formalisation of an empirical theory will enable the derivation of all its logical consequences. I call this result ‘Popper-incompleteness.’ This result appears to be consistent with the view of deductiv…Read more
  •  375
    The Unsatisfactoriness of Unsaturatedness
    In Piotr Stalmaszczyk (ed.), Philosophy and Logic of Predication, Peter Lang. 2017.
    Frege proposed his doctrine of unsaturatedness as a solution to the problems of the unity of the proposition and the unity of the sentence. I show that Frege’s theory is mystical, ad hoc, ineffective, paradoxical and entails that singular terms cannot be predicates. I explain the traditional solution to the problem of the unity of the sentence, as expounded by Mill, which invokes a syncategorematic sign of predication and the connotation and denotation of terms. I streamline this solution, bring…Read more
  •  364
    Deduction and Novelty Again
    The Reasoner 8 (5): 51-52. 2014.
    It is commonly claimed that the conclusion of a valid deductive argument is contained in its premises and says nothing new. In 'Deduction and Novelty,' in The Reasoner 5 (4), pp. 56-57, I refuted that claim. In The Reasoner, 8 (3), pp. 24-25, David McBride criticised my refutation. I show that McBride’s arguments are unsound.
  •  303
    Scarcity and Saving Lives
    The Reasoner 5 (6): 89-90. 2011.
    I argue that, because of scarcity, the right to life cannot imply an obligation on others to save the life of the right-holder, and that collectivising resources for health care not only ensures that resources are used inefficiently and inappropriately but also removes from people the authority to make decisions for themselves about matters of health, life and death.
  •  280
    A Critique of Lester's Account of Liberty
    Libertarian Papers 5 45-66. 2013.
    In Escape from Leviathan, Jan Lester sets out a conception of liberty as absence of imposed cost which, he says, advances no moral claim and does not premise an assignm..
  •  274
    A puzzle about natural laws and the existence of God
    International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 73 (3): 269-283. 2013.
    The existence of natural laws, whether deterministic or indeterministic, and whether exceptionless or ceteris paribus, seems puzzling because it implies that mindless bits of matter behave in a consistent and co-ordinated way. I explain this puzzle by showing that a number of attempted solutions fail. The puzzle could be resolved if it were assumed that natural laws are a manifestation of God’s activity. This argument from natural law to God’s existence differs from its traditional counterparts …Read more
  •  268
    In Chapter 2 of Escape from Leviathan, Jan Lester defends two hypotheses: that instrumental rationality requires agents to maximise the satisfaction of their wants and that all agents actually meet this requirement. In addition, he argues that all agents are self-interested (though not necessarily egoistic) and he offers an account of categorical moral desires which entails that no agent ever does what he genuinely feels to be morally wrong. I show that Lester’s two hypotheses are false because …Read more
  •  261
    One-page summary of the case for why it is not wrong to eat meat.
  •  248
    Pornography and Freedom
    Kritike 5 (2): 84-95. 2011.
    I defend pornography as an important aspect of freedom of expression, which is essential for autonomy, self-development, the growth of knowledge and human flourishing. I rebut the allegations that pornography depraves and corrupts, degrades women, is harmful to children, exposes third parties to risk of offence or assault, and violates women ’s civil rights and liberties. I contend that suppressing pornography would have a range of unintended evil consequences, including loss of beneficial techn…Read more
  •  193
    How could a state have the moral authority to promulgate and enforce laws that citizens are thereby obliged to obey? That is the problem of political authority. The Consequentialist Explanation of Political Authority contends that great social benefits depend upon there being a state with political authority. In his book, The Problem of Political Authority, Michael Huemer considers different types of explanation of political authority and he rejects them all. I show that the objections he raises…Read more
  •  190
    Doxastic Voluntarism: A Sceptical Defence
    International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 3 (1): 24-44. 2013.
    Doxastic voluntarism maintains that we have voluntary control over our beliefs. It is generally denied by contemporary philosophers. I argue that doxastic voluntarism is true: normally, and insofar as we are rational, we are able to suspend belief and, provided we have a natural inclination to believe, we are able to rescind that suspension, and thus to choose to believe. I show that the arguments that have been offered against doxastic voluntarism fail; and that, if the denial of doxastic volun…Read more
  •  186
    Pro-tanto Obligations and Ceteris-paribus Rules
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 12 (3): 255-266. 2015.
    I summarize a conception of morality as containing a set of rules which hold ceteris paribus and which impose pro-tanto obligations. I explain two ways in which moral rules are ceteris-paribus, according to whether an exception is duty-voiding or duty-overriding. I defend the claim that moral rules are ceteris-paribus against two qualms suggested by Luke Robinson’s discussion of moral rules and against the worry that such rules are uninformative. I show that Robinson’s argument that moral rules …Read more
  •  176
    Free will and probability
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (1): 60-77. 2013.
    The chance objection to incompatibilist accounts of free action maintains that undetermined actions are not under the agent's control. Some attempts to circumvent this objection locate chance in events posterior to the action. Indeterministic-causation theories locate chance in events prior to the action. However, neither type of response gives an account of free action which avoids the chance objection. Chance must be located at the act of will if actions are to be both undetermined and under t…Read more
  •  163
    Ethical Intuitionism: A Structural Critique
    Journal of Value Inquiry 50 (3): 631-47. 2016.
    Ethical intuitionists regard moral knowledge as deriving from moral intuition, moral observation, moral emotion and inference. However, moral intuitions, observations and emotions are cultural artefacts which often differ starkly between cultures. Intuitionists attribute uncongenial moral intuitions, observations or emotions to bias or to intellectual or moral failings; but that leads to sectarian ad hominen attacks. Intuitionists try to avoid that by restricting epistemically genuine intuitions…Read more
  •  144
    Contemporary orthodoxy affirms that singular terms cannot be predicates and that, therefore, ‘is’ is ambiguous as between predication and identity. Recent attempts to treat names as predicates do not challenge this orthodoxy. The orthodoxy was built into the structure of modern formal logic by Frege. It is defended by arguments which I show to be unsound. I provide a semantical account of atomic sentences which draws upon Mill's account of predication, connotation and denotation. I show that sin…Read more
  •  139
    Pro‐Tanto versus Absolute Rights
    Philosophical Forum 45 (4): 375-394. 2014.
    Judith Jarvis Thomson and others contend that rights are pro-tanto rather than absolute, that is, that rights may permissibly be infringed in some circumstances. Alan Gewirth maintains that there are some rights that are absolute because infringing them would amount to unspeakable evil. However, there seem to be possible circumstances in which it would be permissible to infringe even those rights. Specificationists, such as Gerald Gaus, Russ Shafer-Landau, Hillel Steiner and Kit Wellman, argue t…Read more
  •  133
    If the task of theoretical reason is to discover truth, or reasons for belief, then theoretical reason is impossible. Attempts to circumvent that by appeal to probabilities are self-defeating. If the task of practical reason is to discover what we ought to do or what actions are desirable or valuable, then practical reason is impossible. Appeals to the subjective ought or to subjective probabilities are self-defeating. Adapting Karl Popper, I argue that the task of theoretical reason is to obtai…Read more
  •  131
    Social Contract Theory Should Be Abandoned
    Rationality, Markets and Morals 4 178-89. 2013.
    I argue that social-contract theory cannot succeed because reasonable people may always disagree, and that social-contract theory is irrelevant to the problem of the legitimacy of a form of government or of a system of moral rules. I note the weakness of the appeal to implicit agreement, the conflation of legitimacy with stability, the undesirability of “public justification” and the apparent blindness to the evolutionary critical-rationalist approach of Hayek and Popper. I employ that approach …Read more
  •  116
    Why universal welfare rights are impossible and what it means
    Politics, Philosophy and Economics 9 (4): 428-445. 2010.
    Cranston argued that scarcity makes universal welfare rights impossible. After showing that this argument cannot be avoided by denying scarcity, I consider four challenges to the argument which accept the possibility of conflicts between the duties implied by rights. The first denies the agglomeration principle; the second embraces conflicts of duties; the third affirms the violability of all rights-based duties; and the fourth denies that duties to compensate are overriding. I argue that all fo…Read more
  •  115
    In ‘The Open Society and its Enemies,’ Karl Popper contrasts closed and open societies. He evaluates irrationalism and the different kinds of rationalism and he argues that critical rationalism is superior. Living in an open society bestows great benefits but involves a strain that may in some people engender a longing to return to a closed society of tribal submission and an attraction for irrationalism. Attempts to recreate a closed society lead to totalitarianism. In the light of Popper’s arg…Read more