•  477
    What Accuracy Could Not Be
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 70 (2): 551-580. 2019.
    Two different programmes are in the business of explicating accuracy—the truthlikeness programme and the epistemic utility programme. Both assume that truth is the goal of inquiry, and that among inquiries that fall short of realizing the goal some get closer to it than others. Truthlikeness theorists have been searching for an account of the accuracy of propositions. Epistemic utility theorists have been searching for an account of the accuracy of credal states. Both assume we can make cognitiv…Read more
  •  338
    The Fictionalist’s Attitude Problem
    with Daniel Demetriou
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 10 (5): 485-498. 2007.
    According to John Mackie, moral talk is representational but its metaphysical presuppositions are wildly implausible. This is the basis of Mackie's now famous error theory: that moral judgments are cognitively meaningful but systematically false. Of course, Mackie went on to recommend various substantive moral judgments, and, in the light of his error theory, that has seemed odd to a lot of folk. Richard Joyce has argued that Mackie's approach can be vindicated by a fictionalist account of moral…Read more
  •  311
    Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: Partiality, Preferences and Perspective
    Les ateliers de l'éthique/The Ethics Forum 9 (2): 57-81. 2014.
    A rather promising value theory for environmental philosophers combines the well-known fitting attitude (FA) account of value with the rather less well-known account of value as richness. If the value of an entity is proportional to its degree of richness (which has been cashed out in terms of unified complexity and organic unity), then since natural entities, such as species or ecosystems, exhibit varying degrees of richness quite independently of what we happen to feel about them, they also po…Read more
  •  307
    What Do we See in Museums?
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 79 217-240. 2016.
    I address two related questions. First: what value is there in visiting a museum and becoming acquainted with the objects on display? For art museums the answer seems obvious: we go to experience valuable works of art, and experiencing valuable works of art is itself valuable. In this paper I focus on non-art museums, and while these may house aesthetically valuable objects, that is not their primary purpose, and at least some of the objects they house might not be particularly aesthetically val…Read more
  •  276
    The poverty of the Popperian program for truthlikeness
    Philosophy of Science 53 (2): 163-178. 1986.
    The importance for realism of the concept of truthlikeness was first stressed by Popper. Popper himself not only mapped out a program for defining truthlikeness (in terms of falsity content and truth content) but produced the first definitions within this program. These were shown to be inadequate. But the program lingered on, and the most recent attempt to revive it is that of Newton-Smith. His attempt is a failure, not because of some minor defect or technical flaw in his particular account bu…Read more
  •  270
    Moral uncertainty and human embryo experimentation
    In K. W. M. Fulford, Grant Gillett & Janet Martin Soskice (eds.), Medicine and Moral Reasoning, Cambridge University Press. pp. 3--144. 1994.
    Moral dilemmas can arise from uncertainty, including uncertainty of the real values involved. One interesting example of this is that of experimentation on human embryos and foetuses, If these have a moral stauts similar to that of human persons then there will be server constraitns on what may be done to them. If embryous have a moral status similar to that of other small clusters of cells, then constraints will be motivated largely by consideration for the persons into whom the embryos may dev…Read more
  •  234
    A refutation of Peircean idealism
    In Cheyne C. (ed.), Rationality and Reality, Kluwer Academic Publishers. pp. 155-66. 2006.
  •  203
    Conditionalization, cogency, and cognitive value
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (4): 533-541. 1997.
    Why should a Bayesian bother performing an experiment, one the result of which might well upset his own favored credence function? The Ramsey-Good theorem provides a decision theoretic answer. Provided you base your decision on expected utility, and the the experiment is cost-free, performing the experiment and then choosing has at least as much expected utility as choosing without further ado. Furthermore, doing the experiment is strictly preferable just in case at least one possible outcome …Read more
  •  190
    Fitting attitudes, finkish goods, and value appearances
    In Russ Shafer Landau & Russ Shafer-Landau (eds.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics (Volume 11), Oxford University Press. pp. 74-101. 2016.
    According to Fitting Attitude theorists, for something to possess a certain value it is necessary and sufficient that it be fitting (appropriate, or good, or obligatory, or something) to take a certain attitude to the bearer of that value. The idea seems obvious for thick evaluative attributes, but less obvious for the thin evaluative attributes—like goodness, betterness, and degrees of value. This paper is an extended argument for the thesis that the fitting response to the thin evaluative at…Read more
  •  185
    It was something of a dogma for much of the twentieth century that one cannot validly derive an ought from an is. More generally, it was held that non-normative propositions do not entail normative propositions. Call this thesis about the relation between the natural and the normative Natural-Normative Autonomy. The denial of Autonomy involves the entanglement of the natural with the normative. Naturalism entails entanglement—in fact it entails the most extreme form of entanglement—but entanglem…Read more
  •  184
    Act and value: Expectation and the representability of moral theories
    with Peter Milne
    Theoria 57 (1-2): 42-76. 1991.
    According to the axiologist the value concepts are basic and the deontic concepts are derivative. This paper addresses two fundamental problems that arise for the axiologist. Firstly, what ought the axiologist o understand by the value of an act? Second, what are the prospects in principle for an axiological representation of moral theories. Can the deontic concepts of any coherent moral theory be represented by an agent-netural axiology: (1) whatever structure those concepts have and (2) whatev…Read more
  •  176
    Moral Fictionalism (review)
    with Daniel Demetriou
    Mind 116 (462): 439-446. 2007.
  •  148
    Truthlikeness
    Stanford Encyclopedia. 2014.
    Truth is the aim of inquiry. Nevertheless, some falsehoods seem to realize this aim better than others. Some truths better realize the aim than other truths. And perhaps even some falsehoods realize the aim better than some truths do. The dichotomy of the class of propositions into truths and falsehoods should thus be supplemented with a more fine-grained ordering — one which classifies propositions according to their closeness to the truth, their degree of truthlikeness or verisimilitude. The l…Read more
  •  135
  •  134
    Theories of verisimilitude have routinely been classified into two rival camps—the content approach and the likeness approach—and these appear to be motivated by very different sets of data and principles. The question thus naturally arises as to whether these approaches can be fruitfully combined. Recently Zwart and Franssen (Synthese 158(1):75–92, 2007) have offered precise analyses of the content and likeness approaches, and shown that given these analyses any attempt to meld content and like…Read more
  •  127
    Can a present or future event bring about a past event? An answer to this question is demanded by many other interesting questions. Can anybody, even a god, do anything about what has already occurred? Should we plan for the past, as well as for the future? Can anybody precognise the future in a way quite different from normal prediction? Do the causal laws and the past jointly preclude free action? Does current physical theory entail a consistent version of backwards causation? Recent articles …Read more
  •  115
    Verisimilitude by power relations
    British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 41 (1): 129-135. 1990.
    A number of different theories of truthlikeness have been proposed, but most can be classified into one of two different main programmes: the probability-content programme and the likeness programme.1 In Brink and Heidema [1987] we are offered a further proposal, with the attraction of some novelty. I argue that while the heuristic path taken by the authors is rather remote from what they call ‘the well-worn paths’,2 in fact their point of arrival is rather closer to existing proposals within th…Read more
  •  115
    An objectivist's guide to subjective value
    Ethics 102 (3): 512-533. 1992.
  •  107
    Harmony, purity, truth
    Mind 103 (412): 451-472. 1994.
    David Lewis has argued against the thesis he calls "Desire as Belief", claiming it is incompatible with the fundamentals of evidential decision theory. I show that the argument is unsound, and demonstrate that a version of desire as belief is compatible with a version of causal decision theory.
  •  93
    Value, Reality, and Desire
    Clarendon Press. 2005.
    Value, Reality, and Desire is an extended argument for a robust realism about value. The robust realist affirms the following distinctive theses. There are genuine claims about value which are true or false--there are facts about value. These value-facts are mind-independent - they are not reducible to desires or other mental states, or indeed to any non-mental facts of a non-evaluative kind. And these genuine, mind-independent, irreducible value-facts are causally efficacious. Values, quite lit…Read more
  •  76
    Axiological atomism
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (3). 2001.
    Value is either additive or else it is subject to organic unity. In general we have organic unity where a complex whole is not simply the sum of its parts. Value exhibits organic unity if the value of a complex, whether a complex state or complex quality, is greater or less than the sum of the values of its components or parts. Whether or not value is additive might be thought to be of purely metaphysical interest, but it is also connected with important aspects of evaluative reasoning. Additivi…Read more
  •  73
    Addiction and the value of freedom
    Bioethics 7 (5): 373-401. 1993.
  •  67
    Hume, the BAD Paradox, and Value Realism
    Philo 4 (2): 109-122. 2001.
    A recent slew of arguments, if sound, would demonstrate that realism about value involves a kind of paradox-I call it the BAD paradox.More precisely, they show that if there are genuine propositions about the good, then one could maintain harmony between one’s desires and one’s beliefs about the good only on pain of violating fundamental principles of decision theory. I show. however, the BAD paradox turns out to be a version of Newcomb’s problem, and that the cognitivist about value can avoid t…Read more
  •  63
    The aesthetic adequacy of copies
    with David Ward
    British Journal of Aesthetics 29 (3): 258-260. 1989.
  •  63
    The logic of freedom and responsibility
    Studia Logica 41 (n/a): 227. 1982.
    The aim of this paper is to offer a rigorous explication of statements ascribing ability to agents and to develop the logic of such statements. A world is said to be feasible iff it is compatible with the actual past-and-present. W is a P-world iff W is feasible and P is true in W (where P is a proposition). P is a sufficient condition for Q iff every P world is a Q world. P is a necessary condition for Q iff Q is a sufficient condition forP. Each individual property S is shown to generate a rul…Read more
  •  59
    Supervenience, goodness, and higher-order universals
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 69 (1). 1991.
    Supervenience theses promise ontological economy without reducibility. The problem is that they face a dilemma: either the relation of supervenience entails reducibility or it is mysterious. Recently higher-order universals have been invoked to avoid the dilemma. This article develops a higher-order framework in which this claim can be assessed. It is shown that reducibility can be avoided, but only at the cost of a rather radical metaphysical proposal.
  •  50
    Recombinant values
    Philosophical Studies 106 (3). 2001.
    An attractive admirer of George Bernard Shaw once wrote to him with a not-so modest proposal: ``You have the greatest brain in the world, and I have the most beautiful body; so we ought to produce the most perfect child.'' Shaw replied: ``What if the child inherits my body and your brains?''What if, indeed? Shaw's retort is interesting not because it revealsa grasp of elementary genetics, but rather because it suggests his grasp of an interesting and important principle of axiology. Since the br…Read more