•  219
    Between internalism and externalism in ethics
    Philosophical Quarterly 49 (195): 201-214. 1999.
    If internalism in ethics is correct, then moral beliefs necessarily motivate. Externalism rejects this thesis, holding that the relationship between beliefs and motives is only contingent. The position I develop is that both views are false. By defining a logical relationship between moral beliefs and motives that is weaker than logical necessitation, it is possible to maintain (contrary to internalism) that beliefs may occur without motives, but (contrary to externalism) that they cannot always…Read more
  •  60
    The right to life after death
    Dialogue 46 (3): 531-551. 2007.
    Imagining a future world in which people no longer die provides a helplul tool for understanding our present ethical views. It becomes evident that the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, and courage are options for reasonable people rather than rational requirements. On the assumption that the medical means to immortality are not universally available, even justice becomes detached from theories that tie the supposed virtue to the protection of human rights. Several stratagems are availab…Read more
  •  59
    Prudence and Anti-Prudence
    American Philosophical Quarterly 35 (1). 1998.
    This article identifies both prudence and antiprudence as options for rational people. Building upon Wiggins's "sensible subjectivism," the account offers an analysis of prudential emotions which are not rationally required but whose reasonableness need not be doubted. One result is that skepticism about prudence is avoidable. Another, as shown through examination of some of Parfit's worries about replication, is that prudence is autonomous from metaphysical theories of persons. It is also auton…Read more
  •  53
    Reasonable Trust
    European Journal of Philosophy 21 (3): 402-423. 2013.
    Establishing trust among individual agents has defined a central issue of practical reasoning since the dawning of liberal individualism. Hobbes was convinced that foolish self-interest always threatens to defeat uncompelled cooperation when one can gain by abandoning a joint effort. Against this philosophical background, scientific studies of human beings display a surprisingly cooperative species. It would seem to follow that biologically inherited characteristics impair our reason. The respon…Read more
  •  37
    The subjects of justice
    Ethics 90 (4): 490-501. 1980.
    Competing political theories variously identify communities, individuals, institutions, and classes as the basic subjects of justice. Liberal theories fail to map an important part of the domain of right action by ignoring class conflict and thereby neglect the possibility that justice may require social direction of economic systems. A conceptually more adequate account strongly suggests the virtues of a market socialism.
  •  36
    Equality and Merit: A Merit-Based Argument for Equity Policies in Higher Education
    with Karen Wendling
    Educational Theory 55 (4): 385-398. 2005.
    We assume, for the sake of argument, that the sole purpose of colleges and universities is the advancement of knowledge through teaching and research, and that academic merit, as defined by each discipline, ought to be the only relevant criterion in admissions and hiring decisions. Even on this restrictive set of assumptions, we argue that hiring and admitting women and people of color is sometimes the best way for colleges and universities to advance knowledge. We then address two objections to…Read more
  •  35
    Objective Reason and Respect for Persons
    The Monist 62 (4): 457-469. 1979.
    Objectivity in evaluation can be understood either in terms of satisfaction of certain formal criteria or in terms of correspondence to facts of a certain kind. Morality includes metaphysical claims which distinguish arbitrary wants from rational ends, but the weakness of the interpretation of such claims within formalist liberal views results in the collapse of that distinction and in mistaking moral ignorance for moral freedom. Only by showing that respect for persons is justified by the meta…Read more
  •  33
    Mention and Designation
    Analysis 29 (1). 1968.
    Some characteristics of two species of singular reference are described and a complexity of mention vis-a-vis designation illustrated by means of special quotation devices. It is pointed out that the use/mention distinction is more complex and less absolute than sometimes realized.
  •  31
    Practical Reasonableness: Some Epistemic Issues
    Journal of Value Inquiry 47 (1-2): 135-145. 2013.
    This essay promotes the superiority of cognitivist expressivism over noncognitivism and normative realism. Cognitivist expressivism regards normative judgments as emotionally reasonable but non-truth-apt. It stresses a distinction between normative differences and disagreements and rejects several contrasting views: communicative rationalism, discursive nonnaturalism, and moral universalism. It also explains why moral thinking often appears to display a progressive direction but questions the pr…Read more
  •  31
    Outline of the Argument REASON IS NOT passion's slave. In his famous statement to the contrary Hume supposed that reason labours only to satisfy our wants, ...
  •  25
    Socialist justice
    Ethics 87 (1): 1-17. 1976.
    John Rawls observes that "a theory of justice is . . . a theory of the moral sentiments." His analysis of moral attitudes as defined by rationally chosen principles is controversial, however, and distinguishes his liberal conception of justice from one which understands such attitudes as constituted by verifiable beliefs about social realities. The socialist conception suggested by the latter analysis is at least as plausible as individualist alternatives.
  •  23
    Principles and customs in moral philosophy
    Metaphilosophy 24 (1-2): 14-32. 1993.
    This discussion explores skepticism about moral principles, the diminishing authority of principles in much recent moral philosophy, transformations of rationalism that result, and the possibility of morality within the bounds of custom alone.
  •  22
    Responsibilities for Hateful Speech
    Legal Theory 12 (2): 157-177. 2006.
    This essay consolidates some fragments of the contemporary theory of expressive freedoms, bringing together scattered conceptual distinctions (e.g., hurting and harming, tolerating and legitimating) and moves (e.g., the need to rectify hateful speech and to constrain harmful actions legally) into an account that is sensitive to the needs of abused groups but faithful to the libertarian tradition associated with Mill's harm principle. Accepting this principle as the fundamental condition warranti…Read more
  •  21
    Practical Reasonableness: Some Metaethical Issues
    Journal of Value Inquiry 47 (4): 425-437. 2013.
    Normative judgments are typically subject to emotional reasons that cannot be justified by reference to facts alone. As a result, practical disputes sometimes go unsettled in ways that support James Lenman's view of moral inquiry as politics. An important consequence is that reasonableness is often preferable to truth as a criterion of good practical judgment. Although the role of emotions suggests metaethical expressivism as preferable to realism for analysing practical reasoning, reasonablenes…Read more
  •  20
    Patterns of Moral Complexity (review)
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 19 (2): 309-324. 1989.
  •  18
    Knowledge in the postmodern university
    Educational Theory 50 (2): 157-177. 2000.
    Critiques of realism, rationalism, foundationalism and structuralism deriving from Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard lead to a characterization of the postmodern university as one in which metaphysical, epistemological and political theories are not canonical. Identifying some of the excesses in these interrelated critiques promotes disengagement from theories of rational scholarly agreement typical of the modern university without giving up on the notion of universal knowledge as an educational ide…Read more
  •  16
    An Analysis of Certainty
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 6 (3). 1976.
    Ever since Moore revived the gospel of certainty, philosophers content with commonsense have tried to provide a perspicuous formulation of its merits. Neither Moore nor his ablest successors have completely fulfilled this task, and although few philosophers would take up Wittgenstein's challenge, “Just try ——in a real case ——to doubt someone else's fear or pain”, many would disagree that if one does he will “find these words becoming quite meaningless”. The psychological conviction that men have…Read more
  •  16
    The Priority of Needs over Wants
    Social Theory and Practice 8 (1): 95-112. 1982.
    Egalitarian assumptions are unsupported by standard liberal arguments, against which the libertarian critique of distributive principles seems persuasive. Liberal instincts can be defended, however, by ideas from the radical tradition. The priority of labor over capital is equivalent to adequate provision for human needs. By distinguishing needs (e.g., security) from their material conditions (e.g., medical care) it is shown that needs are not voracious but rational ends to which everyone has…Read more
  •  15
    Marxism and Moralism
    Dialogue 29 (4): 583-. 1990.
    Moral philosophers continue to divide on the conundrum of Marx and morality— how a ferocious moral critic of nineteenth-century capitalism could also denounce morality as an ideological snare and delusion. In Marxism and the Moral Point of View, Kai Nielsen brings together many years of thought on both terms of the question, rightly seeking a balance between Marx's moralism and Marx's anti-moralism.
  •  15
    For any group there is a point beyond which the accumulation of acts of violence, cruelty, or even rudeness, implies disintegration. By a series of small and plausible transitions this putative empirical generalization may be transformed into a statement about the normative attitudes of persons in stable groups. The generalization may in the first place be more strongly construed as a statement of law governing any society. The weakening of bonds between persons implied by the prevalence of beha…Read more
  •  15
    Rights Thinking
    Philosophy 72 (279). 1997.
    The practice of rights thinking is desirable in modern societies but its scope is restricted by concern for utility and the demands of personal relationships. The result is a hybrid practice no part of which is a foundation for the others. Differences between pure rights thinking, theories of rights and rights talk support a moral pragmatism for which the objects of moral thinking are not decided a priori. The argument draws upon the historical context provided by Bentham, Burke, Locke and Marx.…Read more
  •  14
    The leadership of service
    Journal of Academic Ethics 2 (3): 199-207. 2004.
    Using experiences at Memorial University of Newfoundland as a basis, this essay suggests that leadership should be an expectation of professional academics in all the categories of their work, namely teaching, research and service. The desirability of developing the leadership of service in particular is advanced as an appropriate expectation for faculty members career progress. Developing a general leadership ethos is both philosophically appropriate and practically advantageous in collegial or…Read more
  •  14
    Anti-Theory in Ethics and Moral Conservatism (edited book)
    with Stanley G. Clarke
    State University of New York Press. 1989.
    "This is a timely collection of important papers.
  •  13
    Modal Thinking (review)
    International Studies in Philosophy 9 173-175. 1977.
  •  10
    The faculty of the future
    Journal of Academic Ethics 1 (1): 49-58. 2003.
    This paper examines some implications of predicted demographic changes in Canadian universities that may make them unable to replace retiring faculty members in numbers permitting academic business as usual. If the predictions prove correct, it will be desirable to reinterpret received verities about the relationship between professor/student ratios and effective education, the dual roles of teaching and research, and democratic governance in communities of higher education. Possibilities for re…Read more
  •  10
    Emotions, Reasons, and Norms
    Journal of Philosophy of Emotion 1 (1): 72-97. 2020.
    A tension between acting morally and acting rationally is apparent in analyses of moral emotions that ascribe an inherent subjectivity to ethical thinking, leading thence to irresolvable differences between rational agents. This paper offers an account of emotional worthiness that shows how, even if moral reasons fall short of philosophical criteria of rationality, we can still accord reasonableness to them and recognize that the deliberative weight of social norms is sufficient to address the m…Read more
  •  10
    Aesthetic Appraisal
    Philosophy 50 (192). 1975.
    In the twenty-five years since philosophers began to bemoan ‘the dreariness of aesthetics’, students in Wittgenstein's wake have done a great deal to eliminate the grounds of the complaint. Unfruitful essentialist theories have been largely displaced by the vigorous, if somewhat uncontrolled, growth of an enterprise which attempts to characterize and explicate aesthetic phenomena outside the desert of definition. The resulting view portrays typically aesthetic concepts as being indivisibly chara…Read more