•  158
    When is it fitting for an agent to feel guilt over an outcome, and for others to be morally indignant with her over it? A popular answer requires that the outcome happened because of the agent, or that the agent was a cause of the outcome. This paper reviews some of what makes this causal-explanatory view attractive before turning to two kinds of problem cases: cases of collective harms and cases of fungible switching. These, it is argued, motivate a related but importantly different answer: Wha…Read more
  •  155
    Group Duties Without Decision-Making Procedures
    Journal of Social Ontology 6 (1): 127-139. 2020.
    Stephanie Collins’ Group Duties offers interesting new arguments and brings together numerous interconnected issues that have hitherto been treated separately. My critical commentary focuses on two particularly original and central claims of the book: (1) Only groups that are united under a group-level decision-making procedure can bear duties. (2) Attributions of duties to other groups should be understood as attributions of “coordination duties” to each member of the group, duties to take st…Read more
  •  76
    Quality of will and radical value reversals
    PEA Soup Symposium on Al Mele's Manipulated Agents: A Window to Moral Responsibility. 2020.
    Al Mele’s Manipulated Agents: A Window to Moral Responsibility (OUP 2019) is an extraordinarily careful and clear little book. A central recurring element is the use of examples of radical value reversals due to manipulation. In this commentary, I discuss the relevance of these examples to a simple quality of will account of blameworthiness without explicit historical conditions. Such an account, I suggest, can fairly straightforwardly explain how value reversals might mitigate blameworthiness. …Read more
  •  99
    Ways to be Blameworthy: Rightness, Wrongness, and Responsibility, by Elinor Mason. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019. Pp. viii + 227.
  •  337
    Determinism and attributions of consciousness
    Philosophical Psychology 33 (4): 549-568. 2020.
    The studies we report indicate that it is possible to manipulate explicit ascriptions of consciousness by manipulating whether an agent’s behavior is deterministically caused. In addition, we explore whether this impact of determinism on consciousness is direct, or mediated by notions linked to agency – notions like moral responsibility, free will, deliberate choice, and sensitivity to moral reasons. We provide evidence of mediation. This result extends work on attributions of consciousness and …Read more
  •  726
    Many philosophers think that moral objectivism is supported by stable features of moral discourse and thinking. When engaged in moral reasoning and discourse, people behave ‘as if’ objectivism were correct, and the seemingly most straightforward way of making sense of this is to assume that objectivism is correct; this is how we think that such behavior is explained in paradigmatically objectivist domains. By comparison, relativist, error-theoretic or non-cognitivist accounts of this behavior se…Read more
  •  276
    Experimental philosophy and moral responsibility
    In Dana Kay Nelkin & Derk Pereboom (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Responsibility, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    Can experimental philosophy help us answer central questions about the nature of moral responsibility, such as the question of whether moral responsibility is compatible with determinism? Specifically, can folk judgments in line with a particular answer to that question provide support for that answer. Based on reasoning familiar from Condorcet’s Jury Theorem, such support could be had if individual judges track the truth of the matter independently and with some modest reliability: such reliabi…Read more
  •  645
    Collective responsibility and collective obligations without collective moral agents
    In Saba Bazargan-Forward & Deborah Tollefsen (eds.), Handbook of Collective Responsibility, Routledge. forthcoming.
    It is commonplace to attribute obligations to φ or blameworthiness for φ-ing to groups even when no member has an obligation to φ or is individually blameworthy for not φ-ing. Such non-distributive attributions can seem problematic in cases where the group is not a moral agent in its own right. In response, it has been argued both that non-agential groups can have the capabilities requisite to have obligations of their own, and that group obligations can be understood in terms of moral demands o…Read more
  •  197
    A central idea in Ruth Millikan’s biosemantics is that a representation’s content is restricted to conditions required for the normal success of actions that it has as its function to guide. This paper raises and responds to a problem for this idea. The problem is that the success requirement seems to block us from saying that epistemic modal judgments represent our epistemic circumstances. For the normal success of actions guided by these judgments seems to depend on what is actually the case, …Read more
  •  363
    Free Will Skepticism and Bypassing
    In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (ed.), Moral Psychology, Vol. 4, Mit Press. 2014.
    Discusses Eddy Nahmias' “Is Free Will an Illusion?”
  •  471
    The Pragmatics of Insensitive Assessments: Understanding The Relativity of Assessments of Judgments of Personal Taste, Epistemic Modals, and More
    with Alexander Almér
    The Baltic International Yearbook of Cognition, Logic and Communication 6 (1): 1-45. 2010.
    In assessing the veridicality of utterances, we normally seem to assess the satisfaction of conditions that the speaker had been concerned to get right in making the utterance. However, the debate about assessor-relativism about epistemic modals, predicates of taste, gradable adjectives and conditionals has been largely driven by cases in which seemingly felicitous assessments of utterances are insensitive to aspects of the context of utterance that were highly relevant to the speaker’s choice o…Read more
  •  252
    'Must', 'Ought' and the Structure of Standards
    In Fabrizio Cariani, Davide Grossi, Joke Meheus & Xavier Parent (eds.), Deontic Logic and Normative Systems, Springer. 2014.
    This paper concerns the semantic difference between strong and weak neces-sity modals. First we identify a number of explananda: their well-known in-tuitive difference in strength between ‘must’ and ‘ought’ as well as differ-ences in connections to probabilistic considerations and acts of requiring and recommending. Here we argue that important extant analyses of the se-mantic differences, though tailored to account for some of these aspects, fail to account for all. We proceed to suggest that t…Read more
  •  124
    Review of Rik Peels' Responsible Belief: A Theory in Ethics and Epistemology (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 201710. 2017.
    In this book, Rik Peels provides a comprehensive original account of intellectual duties, doxastic blameworthiness, and responsible belief. The discussions, relating to work in epistemology as well as moral responsibility, are clear and often provide useful entries into the literature. Though I disagree with some of the main conclusions, the arguments are carefully laid out and typically merit a good amount of thought even where one remains unconvinced. After providing an overview of the content…Read more
  •  46
    Moral Internalism: An Essay in Moral Psychology
    Dissertation, Stockholm University. 1998.
    An ancient but central divide in moral philosophy concerns the nature of opinions about what is morally wrong or what our moralduties are. Some philosophers argue that moral motivation is internal to moral opinions: that moral opinions consist of motivationalstates such as desires or emotions. This has often been seen as athreat to the possibility of rational argument and justification inmorals. Other philosophers argue that moral motivation is external to moral opinion: moral opinions should b…Read more
  •  386
    Despite recent efforts to improve on counterfactual theories of causation, failures to explain how effects depend on their causes are still manifest in a variety of cases. In particular, theories that do a decent job explaining cases of causal preemption have problems accounting for cases of causal intransitivity. Moreover, the increasing complexity of the counterfactual accounts makes it difficult to see why the concept of causation would be such a central part of our cognition. In this paper, …Read more
  •  782
    A Unified Empirical Account of Responsibility Judgments
    with Karl Persson
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 87 (3): 611-639. 2013.
    Skeptical worries about moral responsibility seem to be widely appreciated and deeply felt. To address these worries—if nothing else to show that they are mistaken—theories of moral responsibility need to relate to whatever concept of responsibility underlies the worries. Unfortunately, the nature of that concept has proved hard to pin down. Not only do philosophers have conflicting intuitions; numerous recent empirical studies have suggested that both prosaic responsibility judgments and incomp…Read more
  •  790
    Metaethical Contextualism Defended
    Ethics 121 (1): 7-36. 2010.
    We defend a contextualist account of deontic judgments as relativized both to (i) information and to (ii) standards or ends, against recent objections that turn on practices of moral disagreement. Kolodny & MacFarlane argue that information-relative contextualism cannot accommodate the connection between deliberation and advice; we suggest in response that they misidentify the basic concerns of deliberating agents. For pragmatic reasons, semantic assessments of normative claims sometimes are eva…Read more
  •  430
    Normative Responsibilities: Structure and Sources
    In Kristien Hens, Dorothee Horstkötter & Daniela Cutas (eds.), Parental Responsibility in the Context of Neuroscience and Genetics, Springer. 2017.
    Attributions of what we shall call normative responsibilities play a central role in everyday moral thinking. It is commonly thought, for example, that parents are responsible for the wellbeing of their children, and that this has important normative consequences. Depending on context, it might mean that parents are morally required to bring their children to the doctor, feed them well, attend to their emotional needs, or to see to it that someone else does. Similarly, it is sometimes argued tha…Read more
  •  433
    The traditional metaethical distinction between cognitivist absolutism,on the one hand, and speaker relativism or noncognitivism, on the other,seemed both clear and important. On the former view, moral judgmentswould be true or false independently on whose judgments they were, andmoral disagreement might be settled by the facts. Not so on the latter views. But noncognitivists and relativists, following what Simon Blackburn has called a “quasi-realist” strategy, have come a long way inmaking sens…Read more
  •  465
    This paper introduces a new family of cases where agents are jointly morally responsible for outcomes over which they have no individual control, a family that resists standard ways of understanding outcome responsibility. First, the agents in these cases do not individually facilitate the outcomes and would not seem individually responsible for them if the other agents were replaced by non-agential causes. This undermines attempts to understand joint responsibility as overlapping individual res…Read more
  •  614
    Enoch’s Defense of Robust Meta-Ethical Realism
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (1). 2016.
    Taking Morality Seriously is David Enoch’s book-length defense of meta-ethical and meta-normative non-naturalist realism. After describing Enoch’s position and outlining the argumentative strategy of the book, we engage in a critical discussion of what we take to be particularly problematic central passages. We focus on Enoch’s two original positive arguments for non-naturalist realism, one argument building on first order moral implications of different meta-ethical positions, the other attendi…Read more
  •  27
    A Naturalist's Approach to Modal Intuitions
    In Erik Weber Tim De Mey (ed.), Modal Epistemology, . 2004.
    Modal inquiry is plagued by methodological problems. The best-developed views on modal semantics and modal ontology take modalstatements to be true in virtue of relations between possible worlds. Unfortunately, such views turn modal epistemology into a mystery, and this paper is about ways to avoid that problem. It looks at different remedies suggested by Quine, Blackburn and Peacocke and finds them all wanting. But although Peacocke’s version of the popular conceptualist approach fails to give …Read more
  •  114
    Why emotivists love inconsistency
    Philosophical Studies 104 (1). 2001.
    Emotivists hold that moral opinions are wishes and desires, and that the function of moral language is to “express” such states. But if moral opinions were but wishes or desires, why would we see certain opinions as inconsistent with, or following from other opinions? And why should our reasoning include complex opinions such as the opinion that a person ought to be blamed only if he has done something wrong? Indeed, why would we think that anything is conditional on his doing something wrong un…Read more
  •  454
    Recently, a number of authors have suggested that the epistemic condition on moral responsibility makes blameworthiness much less common than we ordinarily suppose, and much harder to identify. This paper argues that such epistemically based responsibility skepticism is mistaken. Section 2 sketches a general account of moral responsibility, building on the Strawsonian idea that blame and credit relates to the agent’s quality of will. Section 3 explains how this account deals with central cases t…Read more
  •  90
    Motivational Internalism: Contemporary Debates
    with Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder, John Eriksson, and Fredrik Björklund
    In Gunnar Björnsson, Caj Strandberg, Ragnar Francén Olinder, John Eriksson & Fredrik Björklund (eds.), Motivational Internalism, Oxford University Press. 2015.
    Motivational internalism—the idea that moral judgments are intrinsically or necessarily connected to motivation—has played a central role in metaethical debates. In conjunction with a Humean picture of motivation, internalism has provided a challenge for theories that take moral judgments to concern objective aspects of reality, and versions of internalism have been seen as having implications for moral absolutism, realism, and rationalism. But internalism is a controversial thesis, and the appa…Read more
  •  456
    Incompatibilism and "Bypassed" Agency
    In Alfred R. Mele (ed.), Surrounding Free Will, Oxford University Press. 2014.
    Eddy Nahmias and Dylan Murray have recently argued that when people take agents to lack responsibility in deterministic scenarios, they do so because they take agents’ beliefs, desires and decisions to be bypassed, having no effect on their actions. This might seem like an improbable mistake, but the Bypass Hypothesis is bolstered by intriguing experimental data. Moreover, if the hypothesis is correct, it provides a straightforward error theory for incompatibilist intuitions. This chapter argues…Read more
  •  712
    Contextualism in Ethics
    In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), The International Encyclopedia of Ethics, Wiley-blackwell. forthcoming.
    There are various ways in which context matters in ethics. Most clearly, the context in which an action is performed might determine whether the action is morally right: though it is often wrong not to keep a promise, it might be permissible in certain contexts. More radically, proponents of moral particularism (see particularism) have argued that a reason for an action in one context is not guaranteed to be a reason in a different context: whether it is a reason against an act that it breaks a …Read more
  •  783
    On individual and shared obligations: in defense of the activist’s perspective
    In Mark Budolfson, Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), Philosophy and Climate Change, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    We naturally attribute obligations to groups, and take such obligations to have consequences for the obligations of group members. The threat posed by anthropogenic climate change provides an urgent case. It seems that we, together, have an obligation to prevent climate catastrophe, and that we, as individuals, have an obligation to contribute. However, understood strictly, attributions of obligations to groups might seem illegitimate. On the one hand, the groups in question—the people alive tod…Read more