•  203
    Past and Future Non-Existence
    The Journal of Ethics 17 (1-2): 51-64. 2013.
    According to the “deprivation approach,” a person’s death is bad for her to the extent that it deprives her of goods. This approach faces the Lucretian problem that prenatal non-existence deprives us of goods just as much as death does, but does not seem bad at all. The two most prominent responses to this challenge—one of which is provided by Frederik Kaufman (inspired by Thomas Nagel) and the other by Anthony Brueckner and John Martin Fischer—claim that prenatal non-existence is relevantly dif…Read more
  •  198
    Parfit on fission
    Philosophical Studies 150 (1). 2010.
    Derek Parfit famously defends a number of surprising views about "fission." One is that, in such a scenario, it is indeterminate whether I have survived or not. Another is that the fission case shows that it does not matter, in itself, whether I survive or not. Most critics of the first view contend that fission makes me cease to exist. Most opponents of the second view contend that fission does not preserve everything that matters in ordinary survival. In this paper I shall provide a critique t…Read more
  •  175
    Am I a Series?
    Theoria 75 (3): 196-205. 2009.
    Scott Campbell has recently defended the psychological approach to personal identity over time by arguing that a person is literally a series of mental events. Rejecting four-dimensionalism about the persistence of physical objects, Campbell regards constitutionalism as the main rival version of the psychological approach. He argues that his "series view" has two clear advantages over constitutionalism: it avoids the "two thinkers" objection and it allows a person to change bodies. In addition, …Read more
  •  174
    Being and betterness
    Utilitas 22 (3): 285-302. 2010.
    In this article I discuss the question of whether a person’s existence can be better (or worse) for him than his non-existence. Recently, Nils Holtug and Melinda A. Roberts have defended an affirmative answer. These defenses, I shall argue, do not succeed. In different ways, Holtug and Roberts have got the metaphysics and axiology wrong. However, I also argue that a person’s existence can after all be better (or worse) for him than his non-existence, though for reasons other than those provided …Read more
  •  110
    Constituted simples?
    Philosophia 37 (1): 87-89. 2009.
    Many philosophers maintain that artworks, such as statues, are constituted by other material objects, such as lumps of marble. I give an argument against this view, an argument which appeals to mereological simples
  •  109
    The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Death (edited book)
    with Ben Bradley and Fred Feldman
    Oxford University Press USA. 2012.
    Death has long been a pre-occupation of philosophers, and this is especially so today. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Death collects 21 newly commissioned essays that cover current philosophical thinking of death-related topics across the entire range of the discipline. These include metaphysical topics--such as the nature of death, the possibility of an afterlife, the nature of persons, and how our thinking about time affects what we think about death--as well as axiological topics, such …Read more
  •  108
    Non-reductionism and special concern
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 85 (4). 2007.
    The so-called 'Extreme Claim' asserts that reductionism about personal identity leaves each of us with no reason to be specially concerned about his or her own future. Both advocates and opponents of the Extreme Claim, whether of a reductionist or non-reductionist stripe, accept that similar problems do not arise for non-reductionism. In this paper I challenge this widely held assumption.
  •  103
    The preemption problem
    Philosophical Studies 176 (2): 351-365. 2019.
    According to the standard version of the counterfactual comparative account of harm, an event is overall harmful for an individual if and only if she would have been on balance better off if it had not occurred. This view faces the “preemption problem.” In the recent literature, there are various ingenious attempts to deal with this problem, some of which involve slight additions to, or modifications of, the counterfactual comparative account. We argue, however, that none of these attempts work,…Read more
  •  89
    Kaufman's response to Lucretius
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 89 (4): 470-485. 2008.
    Abstract:  The symmetry argument is an objection to the 'deprivation approach'– the account of badness favored by nearly all philosophers who take death to be bad for the one who dies. Frederik Kaufman's recent response to the symmetry argument is a development of Thomas Nagel's suggestion that we could not have come into existence substantially earlier than we in fact did. In this paper, I aim to show that Kaufman's suggestion fails. I also consider several possible modifications of his theory,…Read more
  •  85
    In his recent book, Death and the Afterlife, Samuel Scheffler argues that it matters greatly to us that there be other human beings long after our own deaths. In support of this “Afterlife Thesis,” as I call it, he provides a thought experiment—the “doomsday scenario”—in which we learn that, although we ourselves will live a normal life span, 30 days after our death the earth will be completely destroyed. In this paper I question this “doomsday scenario” support for Scheffler’s Afterlife Thesis.…Read more
  •  79
    Fitting Attitudes, Welfare, and Time
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 12 (3): 247-256. 2009.
    Chris Heathwood has recently put forward a novel and ingenious argument against the view that intrinsic value is analyzable in terms of fitting attitudes. According to Heathwood, this view holds water only if the related but distinct concept of welfare—intrinsic value for a person —can be analyzed in terms of fitting attitudes too. Moreover, he argues against such an analysis of welfare by appealing to the rationality of our bias towards the future. In this paper, I argue that so long as we keep…Read more
  •  69
    The Time of Death's Badness
    Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 37 (5): 464-479. 2012.
    Those who endorse the view that death is in some cases bad for the deceased—a view that, as I shall explain, has considerable bearing on many bioethical issues—need to address the following, Epicurean question: When is death bad for the one who dies? The two most popular answers are "before death" (priorism) and "after death" (subsequentism). Part of the support for these two views consists in the idea that a third answer, "at no time" (atemporalism), makes death unsatisfyingly different from ot…Read more
  •  69
    Francescotti on fission
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 90 (4): 476-481. 2009.
    Most versions of the psychological-continuity approach to personal identity (PCA) contain a 'non-branching' requirement. Recently, Robert Francescotti has argued that while such versions of PCA handle Parfit's standard fission case well, they deliver the wrong result in the case of an intact human brain. To solve this problem, he says, PCA-adherents need to add a clause that runs contrary to the spirit of their theory. In this response, I argue that Francescotti's counterexample fails. As a resu…Read more
  •  65
    According to the “deprivation approach,” a person’s death is bad for her to the extent that it deprives her of goods. This approach faces the Lucretian problem that prenatal non-existence deprives us of goods just as much as death does, but does not seem bad at all. The two most prominent responses to this challenge—one of which is provided by Frederik Kaufman and the other by Anthony Brueckner and John Martin Fischer—claim that prenatal non-existence is relevantly different from death. This pap…Read more
  •  56
    Roache’s Argument against the Cohabitation View
    Philosophia 39 (2): 309-310. 2011.
    Rebecca Roache’s recent critique of David Lewis’s cohabitation view assumes that a person cannot be properly concerned about something that rules out that she ever exists. In this brief response, I argue against this assumption
  •  51
    Actual and Counterfactual Attitudes: Reply to Brueckner and Fischer
    The Journal of Ethics 18 (1): 11-18. 2014.
    In a recent article, I criticized Anthony L. Brueckner and John Martin Fischer’s influential argument—appealing to the rationality of our asymmetric attitudes towards past and future pleasures—against the Lucretian claim that death and prenatal non-existence are relevantly similar. Brueckner and Fischer have replied, however, that my critique involves an unjustified shift in temporal perspectives. In this paper, I respond to this charge and also argue that even if it were correct, it would fail …Read more
  •  49
    ‘Pure Time Preference’: Reply to Lowry and Peterson
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 97 (3): 435-441. 2016.
    A pure time preference is a preference for something to occur at one point in time rather than another, merely because of when it occurs in time. Such preferences are widely regarded as paradigm examples of irrational preferences. However, Rosemary Lowry and Martin Peterson have recently argued that, for instance, a pure time preference to go to the opera tonight rather than next month may be rationally permissible, even if the amounts of intrinsic value realized in both cases are identical. In …Read more
  •  47
    The Problem of Justified Harm: a Reply to Gardner
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 21 (3): 735-742. 2018.
    In this paper, we critically examine Molly Gardner’s favored solution to what she calls “the problem of justified harm.” We argue that Gardner’s view is false and that her arguments in support of it are unconvincing. Finally, we briefly suggest an alternative solution to the problem which avoids the difficulties that beset Gardner’s proposal.
  •  46
    Well-Being Counterfactualist Accounts of Harm and Benefit
    Tandf: Australasian Journal of Philosophy 1-11. 2021.
    Suppose that, for every possible event and person who would exist whether or not the event were to occur, there is a well-being level that the person would occupy if the event were to occur, and a well-being level that the person would occupy if the event were not to occur. Do facts about such connections between events and wellbeing levels always suffice to determine whether an event would harm or benefit a person? Many seemingly attractive accounts of harm and benefit entail an affirmative ans…Read more
  •  43
    Well-Being without Being? A Reply to Feit
    with Erik Carlson
    Utilitas 30 (2): 198-208. 2018.
    In a recent Utilitas article, Neil Feit argues that every person occupies a well-being level of zero at all times and possible worlds at which she fails to exist. Views like his face the problem of the subject': how can someone have a well-being level in a scenario where she lacks intrinsic properties? Feit argues that this problem can be solved by noting, among other things, that a proposition about a person can be true at a possible world in which neither she nor the proposition exists. In thi…Read more
  •  41
    Harming and Failing to Benefit: A Reply to Purves
    Philosophical Studies 177 (6): 1539-1548. 2020.
    A prominent objection to the counterfactual comparative account of harm is that it classifies as harmful some events that are, intuitively, mere failures to benefit. In an attempt to solve this problem, Duncan Purves has recently proposed a novel version of the counterfactual comparative account, which relies on a distinction between making upshots happen and allowing upshots to happen. In this response, we argue that Purves’s account is unsuccessful. It fails in cases where an action makes the …Read more
  •  38
    More on the Mirror: Reply to Fischer and Brueckner
    The Journal of Ethics 18 (4): 341-351. 2014.
    John Martin Fischer and Anthony L. Brueckner have argued that a person’s death is, in many cases, bad for him, whereas a person’s prenatal non-existence is not bad for him. Their suggestion relies on the idea that death deprives the person of pleasant experiences that it is rational for him to care about, whereas prenatal non-existence only deprives him of pleasant experiences that it is not rational for him to care about. In two recent articles in The Journal of Ethics, I have objected that it …Read more
  •  33
    The Subject of Harm in Non-Identity Cases
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 22 (4): 1-15. 2018.
    In a typical non-identity case, the agent performs an action that causes someone to exist at a low but positive level of well-being, although an alternative was to create another, much happier person instead. There seem to be strong moral reasons against what the agent does, but it is difficult to explain how this can be so. In particular, it seems that on a simple counterfactual account of harm, the action does not harm anyone, as it does not make anyone worse off than he or she would have been…Read more
  •  24
    The Lucretian Puzzle and the Nature of Time
    The Journal of Ethics 21 (3): 239-250. 2017.
    If a person’s death is bad for him for the reason that he would have otherwise been intrinsically better off, as the Deprivation Approach says, does it not follow that his prenatal nonexistence is bad for him as well? Recently, it has been suggested that the “A-theory” of time can be used to support a negative answer to this question. In this paper, I raise some problems for this approach.
  •  22
    Asymmetry and Incoherence: A Reply to Cyr
    The Journal of Ethics 21 (2): 215-221. 2017.
    In defense of the Deprivation Approach to the badness of death against the Lucretian objection that death is relevantly similar to prenatal nonexistence, John Martin Fischer and Anthony L. Brueckner have suggested that whereas death deprives us of things that it is rational for us to care about, prenatal nonexistence does not. I have argued that this suggestion, even if correct, does not make for a successful defense of the Deprivation Approach against the Lucretian objection. My criticism invol…Read more
  •  20
    Review of LR Baker, The Metaphysics of Everyday Life (review)
    Philosophical Quarterly. forthcoming.