•  7
    Information and Virtue in the Anthropocene
    Ethics, Policy and Environment 24 (1): 1-15. 2021.
    To reliably choose morally sound policies, whether as a society or as an individual, will typically require a deep and wide-ranging base of relevant knowledge. In this paper I consider the epistemic demands for morally sound action and policy in the Anthropocene age. I argue that these demands are likely to be unsatisfied, leading to a potential downward spiral of ineffective action in the face of worsening conditions; this seems a strong possibility both for individual lives, and for societies …Read more
  •  61
    In response to prominent criticisms of virtue ethical accounts of right action, Daniel Russell has argued that these criticisms are misguided insofar as they rest on an incorrect understanding of what virtue ethicists mean by ‘right action’, drawing on Rosalind Hursthouse’s influential account of the term. Liezl van Zyl has explored, though not fully-endorsed, a similar approach. The response holds that virtue ethicists do not embrace a strong connection between (i) right action and (ii) what an…Read more
  •  67
    Environmental Diversity and the Value of the Unusual
    The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 22 21-26. 1998.
    It is commonplace to call for the protection of environmental diversity. I develop an often overlooked reason for preserving diversity: we should preserve diversity in order to preserve the unusual. I show that we do in fact value the unusual, and that we should value the unusual. Recognizing the value of the unusual provides a foundation for valuing species not otherwise considered valuable.
  •  69
    Testimony, epistemic egoism, and epistemic credit
    European Journal of Philosophy 28 (2): 463-477. 2020.
    It is generally acknowledged that testifiers can play a central role in the production of knowledge and other valuable epistemic states in others. But does such a role warrant any form of epistemic credit and is an agent more successful qua epistemic agent insofar as she is a successful testifier? I here propose an affirmative answer to both questions. The core of the current paper consists in a sustained defence of this proposal against a series of objections. I further argue that the proposal …Read more
  •  25
    Equitable Local Climate Action Planning: Sustainable & Affordable Housing
    with Andrew Pattison
    Ethics, Policy and Environment 21 (1): 17-20. 2018.
    Despite projected devastating impacts on human communities, the US still lacks comprehensive national policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This vacuum has provided the space for a surge of promising sustainability and climate action planning efforts at the state and local level. Meanwhile, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition’s (2015) Out of Reach Report, ‘there is no state in the US where a minimum wage worker working full time can afford a one-bedroom apartmen…Read more
  • Virtues, Ideal Observers, and the Foundations of Normativity
    Dissertation, Brown University. 2001.
    The central claim of this dissertation is that the most plausible form of virtue theory will incorporate a number of features from an ideal observer theory, and vice versa. Virtue theorists in ethics and epistemology often characterize the virtues as those traits required for a good human life, and right action in terms of the behaviour of virtuous persons. I argue that while such positions are mistaken , a related form of ideal observer theory can capture the virtue theorists' insights. The cor…Read more
  •  835
    Friendship and epistemic norms
    Philosophical Studies 165 (2): 349-370. 2013.
    Simon Keller and Sarah Stroud have both argued that the demands of being a good friend can conflict with the demands of standard epistemic norms. Intuitively, good friends will tend to seek favorable interpretations of their friends’ behaviors, interpretations that they would not apply to strangers; as such they seem prone to form unjustified beliefs. I argue that there is no such clash of norms. In particular, I argue that friendship does not require us to form beliefs about our friends in the …Read more
  •  80
    Thomas L. Carson, Value and the Good Life (review)
    Philosophy in Review 22 (4): 260-262. 2002.
  •  126
    Peter Heinegg, ed., Mortalism: Readings on the Meaning of Life (review)
    Philosophy in Review 24 (1): 22. 2004.
  •  612
    Moral response-dependent metaethical theories characterize moral properties in terms of the reactions of certain classes of individuals. Nick Zangwill has argued that such theories are flawed: they are unable to accommodate the motive of duty. That is, they are unable to provide a suitable reason for anyone to perform morally right actions simply because they are morally right. I argue that Zangwill ignores significant differences between various approvals, and various individuals, and that mora…Read more
  •  96
    Inner Diversity: An Alternative Ecological Virtue Ethics
    Philosophy in the Contemporary World 8 (2): 27-35. 2001.
    I propose a modified virtue ethics, grounded in an analogy between ecosystems and human personalities. I suggest that we understand ourselves as possessing changing systems of inter-related sub personalities with different virtues, and view our characters as flexible and evolving
  •  73
    The Handbook of Virtue Ethics (edited book)
    with S. van Hooft, N. Athanassoulis, J. Oakley, and L. van Zyl
    Acumen Publishing. 2013.
    Virtue ethics has emerged as a distinct field within moral theory - whether as an alternative account of right action or as a conception of normativity which departs entirely from the obligatoriness of morality - and has proved itself invaluable to many aspects of contemporary applied ethics. Virtue ethics now flourishes in philosophy, sociology and theology and its applications extend to law, politics and bioethics. "The Handbook of Virtue Ethics" brings together leading international scholars …Read more
  •  483
    Self-regarding supererogatory actions
    Journal of Social Philosophy 34 (3). 2003.
    Many philosophers, in discussing supererogation, maintain that supererogatory actions must be done for the benefit of others. In this paper I argue that there can be instances of self-regarding supererogatory actions. That is, there are cases in which the primary (or sole) intended beneficiary of a supererogatory action is the agent herself, and she need not be acting out of a concern for morality or moral rules. In such cases the agent still acts suitably 'beyond the call of duty', and in a mor…Read more
  •  426
    On promising to supererogate: A response to Heyd
    Philosophia 34 (2): 153-156. 2006.
    In my “Promising and Supererogation” I argue that one cannot fulfill promises to perform supererogatory actions (such as “I hereby promise to perform one supererogatory action every month”). In a response to my paper, David Heyd argues that there is an alternative solution to the problem I raise. While I agree with much that Heyd says about the examples he discusses, his proposed solution involves a crucial alteration of the problem; his proposed solution does not solve the problem I present.
  •  124
    Meaningful Lives, Ideal Observers, and Views from Nowhere
    Journal of Philosophical Research 37 73-97. 2012.
    In recent discussions of whether our lives are or can be meaningful, appeals are often made to such things as “a view from nowhere,” or “the viewpoint of the universe.” In this paper I attempt to make sense of what it might mean for a being to possess such a perspective, and argue that common appeals to such perspectives are inadequately developed; crucially, they do not adequately account for the character of the beings taken to possess these viewpoints. In the second half of the paper I turn t…Read more
  •  422
    Future Harms and Current Offspring
    Ethics, Policy and Environment 14 (1): 23-26. 2011.
    By providing an explicit estimate of the harms caused by personal greenhouse gas emissions, John Nolt (in his “How Harmful are the Average American’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions?”) hopes to undermine tendencies to downplay these emissions and their impacts on global climate change. He estimates that an average American would be responsible for one two-billionth of the suffering or death of two billion people (over 1000 years). He treats this as equivalent to being responsible for the suffering or …Read more
  •  663
    Virtue theory and ideal observers
    Philosophical Studies 109 (3). 2002.
    Virtue theorists in ethics often embrace the following characterizationof right action: An action is right iff a virtuous agent would performthat action in like circumstances. Zagzebski offers a parallel virtue-basedaccount of epistemically justified belief. Such proposals are severely flawedbecause virtuous agents in adverse circumstances, or through lack ofknowledge can perform poorly. I propose an alternative virtue-based accountaccording to which an action is right (a belief is justified) fo…Read more
  •  198
    Qualified agent and agent-based virtue ethics and the problems of right action
    In Stan van Hooft & Nafsika Athanassoulis (eds.), The Handbook of Virtue Ethics, Acumen Publishing. 2014.
    An on-going question for virtue ethics is whether it stands as a truly distinctive approach to ethics. In particular, there has been much discussion of whether virtue ethics can provide a viable understanding of right action, one that is a genuine rival to familiar consequentialist and deontological accounts. In this chapter I examine two prominent approaches to virtue ethics, (i) qualified agent and (ii) agent-based virtue ethics, and consider whether either can provide an adequate account of r…Read more
  •  707
    On Behalf of Biocentric Individualism: A Response to Victoria Davion
    Environmental Ethics 30 (1): 69-88. 2008.
    Victoria Davion in “Itch Scratching, Patio Building, and Pesky Flies: Biocentric Individualism Revisited” takes biocentric individualism to task, focusing in particular on my paper, “Reverence for Life as a Viable Environmental Virtue.” Davion levels a wide-range of criticisms, and concludes that we humans would be better off putting biocentric individualism aside to focus on more important issues and positions. Worries raised by Davion can be defended by elaborating on the position laid out in …Read more
  •  1577
    In Defense of the Primacy of the Virtues
    Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 3 (2): 1-21. 2009.
    In this paper I respond to a set of basic objections often raised against those virtue theories in ethics which maintain that moral properties such rightness and goodness (and their corresponding concepts) are to be explained and understood in terms of the virtues or the virtuous. The objections all rest on a strongly-held intuition that the virtues (and the virtuous) simply must be derivative in some way from either right actions or good states of affairs. My goal is to articulate several dis…Read more
  •  79
    Christopher Bennett, What is This Thing Called Ethics? (review)
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (4): 589-592. 2012.
    A short book review of "What is this Thing Called Ethics?".
  •  326
    The epistemic demands of environmental virtue
    Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23 (1-2): 109-28. 2009.
    To lead an environmentally virtuous life requires information—about morality, environmental issues, the impacts of our actions and commitments, our options for alternatives, and so on. On the other hand, we are finite beings with limited time and resources. We cannot feasibly investigate all of our options, and all environmental issues (let alone moral issues, more broadly). In this paper I attempt to provide initial steps towards addressing the epistemic demands of environmental virtue. In the …Read more
  •  852
    On the Moral Epistemology of Ideal Observer Theories
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (3): 359-374. 2006.
    : In this paper I attempt to defuse a set of epistemic worries commonly raised against ideal observer theories. The worries arise because of the omniscience often attributed to ideal observers – how can we, as finite humans, ever have access to the moral judgements or reactions of omniscient beings? I argue that many of the same concerns arise with respect to other moral theories (and that these concerns do not in fact reveal genuine flaws in any of these theories), and further, that we can a…Read more
  •  101
    Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism (review)
    Review of Metaphysics 59 (1): 204-205. 2005.
    A short review of Russ Shafer-Landau's Moral Realism: A Defence.
  •  525
    Grounded knowledge, place and epistemic virtue
    Ethics, Place and Environment 8 (3). 2005.
    A response to Christopher Preston's book "Grounding Knowledge" (2003). I first argue that Preston’s work strongly suggests that epistemologists would do well to re-examine and pay greater attention to ‘knowledge how’. Second, I briefly consider several of Preston’s proposals (concerning the importance of place to our cognitive lives) through the lens of contemporary virtue epistemology and suggest how Preston’s work might inform and shape theorizing in this area. Finally, I turn to a set of pot…Read more
  •  251
    Rethinking Greed
    In Allen Thompson Jeremy Bendik-Keymer (ed.), Human Adaptation to Climate Change: Human Virtues of the Future, The Mit Press. pp. 223-39. 2012.
    In this paper I attempt to clarify the nature of the vice of greed, focusing on what can be called “modest greed”. Agents who are modestly greedy do not long for material goods or wealth with intense desires. Rather, they have quite modest desires, but ones whose satisfaction they pursue excessively relative to other goods. Greed - including modest greed - emerges as a particularly troubling and problematic vice.
  •  1331
    Virtue theory, ideal observers, and the supererogatory
    Philosophical Studies 146 (2): 179-96. 2008.
    I argue that recent virtue theories (including those of Hursthouse, Slote, and Swanton) face important initial difficulties in accommodating the supererogatory. In particular, I consider several potential characterizations of the supererogatory modeled upon these familiar virtue theories (and their accounts of rightness) and argue that they fail to provide an adequate account of supererogation. In the second half of the paper I sketch an alternative virtue-based characterization of supererogatio…Read more
  •  1599
    Reverence for life as a viable environmental virtue
    Environmental Ethics 25 (4): 339-358. 2003.
    There have been several recent defenses of biocentric individualism, the position that all living beings have at least some moral standing, simply insofar as they are alive. I develop a virtue-based version of biocentric individualism, focusing on a virtue of reverence for life. In so doing, I attempt to show that such a virtuebased approach allows us to avoid common objections to biocentric individualism, based on its supposed impracticability (or, on the other hand, its emptiness).