•  9
    We often rely on others for guidance about what to do. But wouldn't it be better to rely instead on only your own solo judgment? Deferring to others about moral matters, after all, can seem to conflict what Enlightenment demands. In Guided by Voices, however, Eric Wiland argues that there is nothing especially bad about relying on others in forming your moral views. You may rely on others for forming your moral views, just as you can your views about anything else. You can accept moral testimon…Read more
  • The Ethics of Terror and Torture
    Review Journal of Political Philosophy 6 139-152. 2008.
  •  8
    Williams on Thick Ethical Concepts and Reasons for Action
    In Simon Kirchin (ed.), Thick Concepts, Oxford University Press. pp. 210-216. 2013.
    Bernard Williams argued that philosophers should pay more attention to the role thick ethical concepts play in our moral thinking, and, separately, that all reasons for action depend in the first place upon the agent's pre-exisitng motives. Here I argue that these two views are in tension. Much like the standard examples of thick ethical concepts, the concept REASONABLE is likewise thick, and the features of the world that guide its correct use have much less to do with the agent's pre-existing …Read more
  •  1
    Rossian Deontology and the Possibility of Moral Expertise
    In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, 4, Oxford University Press. pp. 159-178. 2015.
    It seems that we can know moral truths. We are also rather reluctant to defer to moral testimony. But it’s not obvious how moral cognitivism is compatible with pessimism about moral testimony. If moral truths are knowable, shouldn’t it be possible for others to know moral truths you don’t know, so that it is wise for you to defer to what they say? Or, alternatively, if it’s always reasonable to refuse to defer to the wisest among us, doesn’t this show that morality is not genuinely cognitive? Th…Read more
  • Here I consider the two most venerated arguments about the existence of God: the Ontological Argument and the Argument from Evil. The Ontological Argument purports to show that God’s nature guarantees that God exists. The Argument from Evil purports to show that God’s nature, combined with some plausible facts about the way the world is, guarantees (or is very compelling grounds for thinking) that God does not exist. Obviously, both arguments cannot be sound. But I argue here that they are b…Read more
  • Psychologism and Anti-psychologism about Motivating Reasons
    In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook on Reasons and Normativity, Oxford University Press. pp. 197-213. 2018.
    People do things for various reasons. Are these motivating reasons psychological? I argue here that such reasons are typically not purely psychological. Yet there is an important psychological element or aspect of these reasons. I proceed by first reviewing some arguments for and against psychologism about (motivating) reasons. Next, I do the same for the view that reasons are typically non-psychological facts. I then explore some additional alternatives: a) disjunctivist views, b) the appo…Read more
  •  95
    Moral Advice and Joint Agency
    In Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, 8, Oxford University Press. pp. 102-123. 2018.
    There are many alleged problems with trusting another person’s moral testimony, perhaps the most prominent of which is that it fails to deliver moral understanding. Without moral understanding, one cannot do the right thing for the right reason, and so acting on trusted moral testimony lacks moral worth. This chapter, however, argues that moral advice differs from moral testimony, differs from it in a way that enables a defender of moral advice to parry this worry about moral worth. The basic id…Read more
  •  13
    (En)joining Others
    In David Shoemaker (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility, Oxford University Press. pp. 64-84. 2019.
    This paper argues that under some conditions, when one person acts on the direction of another person, the two of them thereby act together, and that this explains why both the director and the directee can be responsible for what is done. In other words, a director and a directee can be a joint agent, one whose members are responsible for what they together do. This is most clearly so when the directive is a command. But it is also sometimes so when the directive is a bit of advice.
  •  20
    Should Children Have the Right to Vote?
    In David Boonin, Katrina L. Sifferd, Tyler K. Fagan, Valerie Gray Hardcastle, Michael Huemer, Daniel Wodak, Derk Pereboom, Stephen J. Morse, Sarah Tyson, Mark Zelcer, Garrett VanPelt, Devin Casey, Philip E. Devine, David K. Chan, Maarten Boudry, Christopher Freiman, Hrishikesh Joshi, Shelley Wilcox, Jason Brennan, Eric Wiland, Ryan Muldoon, Mark Alfano, Philip Robichaud, Kevin Timpe, David Livingstone Smith, Francis J. Beckwith, Dan Hooley, Russell Blackford, John Corvino, Corey McCall, Dan Demetriou, Ajume Wingo, Michael Shermer, Ole Martin Moen, Aksel Braanen Sterri, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Jeppe von Platz, John Thrasher, Mary Hawkesworth, William MacAskill, Daniel Halliday, Janine O’Flynn, Yoaav Isaacs, Jason Iuliano, Claire Pickard, Arvin M. Gouw, Tina Rulli, Justin Caouette, Allen Habib, Brian D. Earp & Andrew Vierra (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy, Springer Verlag. pp. 215-224. 2018.
    No citizen should be denied the right to vote due solely to her age. We can see this by showing that all objections to it fail. It might be objected that it is not unjust to so deprive children because children as a group are unintelligent or irrational, have their interests already represented by the parents, or are justly deprived of many other rights, among other reasons. But all these objections fail because there is no evidence to support it, even if true, this would not justify disenfranch…Read more
  •  25
    Moral Testimony: Going on the Offensive
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics 12. 2017.
    Is there anything peculiarly bad about accepting moral testimony? According to pessimists, trusting moral testimony is an inadequate substitute for working out your moral views on your own. Enlightenment requires thinking for oneself, at least where morality is concerned. Optimists, by contrast, aim to show that trusting moral testimony isn’t bad largely by arguing that it’s no worse than trusting testimony generally. Essentially, they play defense. However, this chapter goes on the offensive. I…Read more
  •  21
    Peer Disagreement: Special Cases
    Logos and Episteme 9 (2): 221-226. 2018.
    When you discover that an epistemic peer disagrees with you about some matter, does rationality require you to alter your views? Concessivists answer in the affirmative, but their view faces a problem in special cases. As others have noted, if concessivism itself is what’s under dispute, then concessivism seems to undermine itself. But there are other unexplored special cases too. This article identifies three such special cases, and argues that concessivists in fact face no special problem.
  •  42
    A nagging problem for the consequentialist is the fact that a person who chooses the action-option that seems to her to maximize good consequences all toooften does not produce consequences as good as she would have produced had she thought about her decision in some other fashion. In response, indirect consequentialists typically recommend that one take advantage of whatever benefits the employment of a nonconsequentialist decision procedure may provide. But I argue here that the consequentiali…Read more
  •  1
    Advice, Life-Experience, and Moral Objectivity
    Dissertation, The University of Chicago. 1997.
    Deliberation, whether by design or by default, is often portrayed by philosophers as monological; the contemporary philosopher's agent operates in the same milieu as the Cartesian doubter. But here philosophy is out of step with practice: when a person is in a quandary about what to do, he often turns not inward but outward, consulting others for advice. Sometimes he can completely evaluate the soundness of that advice on his own, but often he trusts the advice proffered, this in part because he…Read more
  •  50
    A fallacy in Korsgaard's argument for moral obligation
    Journal of Value Inquiry 34 (1): 103-104. 2000.
  •  14
    Reasons
    Continuum. 2012.
    When we say we 'act for a reason', what do we mean? And what do reasons have to do with being good or bad? Introducing readers to a foundational topic in ethics, Eric Wiland considers the reasons for which we act. You do things for reasons, and reasons in some sense justify what you do. Further, your reasons belong to you, and you know the reasons for which you act in a distinctively first-personal way. Wiland lays out and critically reviews some of the most popular contemporary accounts of h…Read more
  • Nicholas Smith, Strong Hermeneutics (review)
    Philosophy in Review 19 66-68. 1999.
  •  12
    Good Advice and Rational Action
    Philosophical and Phenomenological Research 60 (3): 561-569. 2000.
    This paper launches a new criticism of Michael Smith's advice model of internalism. Whereas Robert Neal Johnson argues that Smith's advice model collapses into the example model of internalism, the author contends that taking advice seriously pushes us instead toward some version of externalism. The advice model of internalism misportrays the logic of accepting advice. Agents do not have epistemic access to what their fully rational selves would advise them to do, and so it is necessary for a mo…Read more
  •  70
    The Incoherence Objection in Moral Theory
    Acta Analytica 25 (3): 279-284. 2010.
    J.J.C. Smart famously complained that rule utilitarianism is incoherent, and that rule utilitarians are guilty of rule worship . Much has been said about whether Smart’s complaint is justified, but I will assume for the sake of argument that Smart was on to something. Instead, I have three other goals. First, I want to show that Smart’s complaint is a specific instance of a more general objection to a moral theory—what I will call the Incoherence Objection. Second, I want to illustrate how…Read more
  •  21
    Is there ethical knowledge?
    Southwest Philosophy Review 14 (1): 63-68. 1998.
  •  26
    Theories of Practical Reason
    Metaphilosophy 33 (4): 450-467. 2002.
    Leading theories of practical reason can be grouped into one of four families: psychologism, realism, compatibilism, and Aristotelianism. Although there are many differences among the theories within each family, I ignore these in order to ask which family is most likely to deliver a satisfactory philosophical account of reasons for action. I articulate three requirements we should expect any adequate theory of practical reason to meet: it should account for how reasons explain action, how reaso…Read more
  •  43
    On Indirectly Self-defeating Moral Theories
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 5 (3): 384-393. 2008.
    Derek Parfit has notably argued that while a moral theory should not be directly self-defeating, there is nothing necessarily wrong with a moral theory that is only indirectly self-defeating. Here I resist this line of argument. I argue instead that indirectly self-defeating moral theories are indeed problematic. Parfit tries to sidestep the oddities of indirectly self-defeating theories by focusing on the choice of dispositions rather than actions. But the very considerations that can make it i…Read more
  •  98
    How Indirect Can Indirect Utilitarianism Be?
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2): 275-301. 2007.
    Most act-utilitarians now reject the direct utilitarianism of Bentham. They do so because they are convinced of what I call the paradox of utilitarianism -- the thought that one cannot maximize happiness if one is trying to maximize happiness. Instead, they adopt some form of indirect utilitarianism (IU), arguing that the optimal decision procedure may differ markedly from the criterion of rightness for actions. Here I distinguish between six different versions of indirect utilitarianism, arguin…Read more
  •  10
    Personal Identity and Quasi-Responsibility
    In A. van den Beld (ed.), Moral Responsibility and Ontology, Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 77--87. 2000.
  •  67
    Unconscious violinists and the use of analogies in moral argument
    Journal of Medical Ethics 26 (6): 466-468. 2000.
    Analogies are the stuff out of which normative moral philosophy is made. Certainly one of the most famous analogies constructed by a philosopher in order to argue for a specific controversial moral conclusion is the one involving Judith Thomson's unconscious violinist. Reflection upon this analogy is meant to show us that abortion is generally not immoral even if the prenatal have the same moral status as the postnatal. This was and still is a controversial conclusion, and yet the analogy does s…Read more