Houston, Texas, United States of America
Areas of Interest
Meta-Ethics
Normative Ethics
PhilPapers Editorships
Henry Sidgwick
  • W.D. Ross was the most important opponent of utilitarianism and consequentialism in British moral philosophy between 1861 and 1939. In Rossian Ethics, David Phillips offers the first monograph devoted exclusively to Ross's seminal contribution to moral philosophy. The book has two connected aims. The first is to interpret and evaluate Ross's moral theory. The second is to articulate a distinctive view intermediate between consequentialism and absolutist deontology, which Phillips calls "classica…Read more
  •  58
    Contractualism and moral status
    Social Theory and Practice 24 (2): 183-204. 1998.
    Contractualist moral theories are often criticized on the grounds that they have counterintuitive implications for moral status. In this paper I attempt to provide a comprehensive answer to the question: What forms of contractualism face this problem, and how serious is the problem? To do this I develop a classification of different kinds of contractualist theory, based on philosophical motivation.
  •  44
    Sidgwickian Ethics – An overview
    Revue D’Études Benthamiennes 12. 2013.
    My aim in Sidgwickian Ethics is to interpret and evaluate the central argument of The Methods of Ethics, in a way that brings out the important conceptual and historical connections between Sidgwick’s views and contemporary moral philosophy. Sidgwick defines a “method of ethics” as “any rational procedure by which we determine what individual human beings ‘ought’ – or what it is ‘right’ for them – to do, or to seek to realise by voluntary action” (ME 1). He finds just three such methods “impl..
  •  24
    Replies to Crisp, Shaver and Skelton
    Revue D’Études Benthamiennes 12. 2013.
    It is a great privilege to have one’s work critiqued by such a distinguished trio of philosophers and Sidgwick scholars. I owe further debts to Anthony and Rob, who were the OUP referees for my book. As will have been quite evident from the preceding discussion, they would not want to be held responsible for the book’s detailed contents, on which they gave me much excellent commentary. But, in thanking them here, I do want to say in particular that it seems to me the published version is much..
  •  74
    Butler and the nature of self-interest
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 60 (2): 421-438. 2000.
    Butler’s famous arguments in Sermon XI, designed to refute psychological egoism and to mitigate conflict between self-interest and benevolence, turn out to depend crucially on his own distinctive conception of self-interest. Butler does not notice the availability of several alternative conceptions of self-interest. Some such alternatives are available within the framework of Butler’s moral psychology; others can be developed outside that framework. There are a number of interesting reasons to p…Read more
  •  109
    Mackie on Practical Reason
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (5): 457-468. 2007.
    I argue that Mackie's approach to practical reasons is attractive and unjustly neglected. In particular I argue that it is much more plausible than the kind of instrumentalist approach famously articulated by Bernard Williams. This matters for Mackie's arguments for moral skepticism. Contra Richard Joyce, I argue that it is a serious mistake to invoke instrumentalism in arguing for moral skepticism.
  •  62
    Sympathy for the Error Theorist: Parfit and Mackie
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (3): 559-566. 2014.
    Derek Parfit claims that “Williams and Mackie…do not use the normative concepts that I and other Non-Naturalists use.” Whatever we think of Parfit’s interpretation of Williams, his interpretation of Mackie should be rejected. For understandable historical reasons, Mackie’s texts are ambiguous. But if we apply to the interpretation of Mackie the same principle of charity Parfit employs in interpreting Williams, we find decisive reason to interpret Mackie as using the same normative concepts as No…Read more
  •  35
    Commitment, value, and moral realism (review)
    Philosophical Review 110 (2): 278-280. 2001.
    In this interesting book, Marcel Lieberman develops a novel and sustained argument for moral realism. He focuses on the psychological phenomenon of commitment, and argues that commitments psychologically require realist beliefs: paradigmatically, one cannot be committed to, say, social equality, without believing that social equality is genuinely valuable. In so arguing, he disagrees with those, on both sides of the debate over moral realism, who have argued that moral realism makes little pract…Read more
  •  274
    Thomson and the Semantic Argument against Consequentialism
    Journal of Philosophy 100 (9): 475-486. 2003.
    I argue that Judith Jarvis Thomson's attack on consequentialism, premised on the semantic claim that all goodness is goodness-in-a-way, is less powerful and less precisely targeted than she supposes. For we can develop an argument against pure obligation or categorical imperatives that is largely parallel to Thomson's argument against pure goodness. The right response to both arguments is that the existence of pure goodness or pure obligation is neither semantically rule out nor semantically gua…Read more
  •  31
    Gert, Sidgwick, and hybrid theories of rationality
    Journal of Value Inquiry 35 (4): 439-448. 2001.
    Hybrid theories of rationality of the sort developed by Bernard Gert have significant attractions. I argue, though, that Gert's is not the only way to formulate a hybrid view, and not the best. An improved hybrid view would draw on Sidgwick as well as on Gert.
  •  54
    Sidgwick, Dualism and Indeterminacy in Practical Reason
    History of Philosophy Quarterly 15 (1). 1998.
    Sidgwick famously argued that there is an unresolvable conflict between two methods of ethics, utilitarianism and egoism: the dualism of practical reason. On the usual interpretation, the dualism undermines practical reason. I argue instead that Sidgwick's writing suggests an important truth about practical reason: though not incoherent, practical reason is, to a large and perhaps unfortunate degree, indeterminate.
  •  3
    Sidgwick on Promises
    In Hanoch Sheinman (ed.), Promises and Agreements: Philosophical Essays, Oxford University Press. 2011.
    Sidgwick believes that his own proto-utilitarian axioms satisfy criteria for self-evidence, while the principles of common sense morality, including the principle requiring fidelity to promises, do not. I articulate Sidgwick's argument for this claim, in Book III of the Methods, but suggest that it fails: its official version is vulnerable to a charge of unfairness, and its unofficial version cannot establish Sidgwick's view against Ross's.
  •  30
    The Middle Ground in Moral Semantics
    American Philosophical Quarterly 35 (2). 1998.
  •  50
    I argue for an interpretation of Hume on practical reason different both from the traditional instrumentalist interpretation and the more recent nihilist interpretation. Both involve reading Hume as making normative claims. On the nihilist interpretation, Hume denies that either passions or actions can violate authoritative norms of reason; on the instrumentalist interpretation, Hume denies that passions can violate authoritative norms of reason, but holds that instrumentally irrational actions …Read more
  •  47
    Sidgwickian Ethics
    Oxford University Press. 2011.
    Introduction -- Sidgwick's metaethics -- Sidgwick's moral epistemology -- Utilitarianism versus dogmatic intuitionism -- Utilitarianism versus egoism.