•  520
    What is a Reason to Act?
    Philosophical Studies 167 (2): 221-235. 2014.
    Argues for a conception of reasons as premises of practical reasoning. This conception is applied to questions about ignorance, advice, enabling conditions, "ought," and evidence.
  •  513
    Explaining action
    Philosophical Review 112 (3): 339-393. 2003.
    Argues that, in acting for a reason, one takes that reason to explain one's action, not to justify it: reasons for acting need not be seen "under the guise of the good". The argument turns on the need to explain the place of "practical knowledge" - knowing what one is doing - in intentional action. A revised and expanded version of this material appears in Part One of "Reasons without Rationalism" (Princeton, 2007).
  •  493
    The Midlife Crisis
    Philosophers' Imprint 14. 2014.
    Argues that philosophy can solve the midlife crisis, at least in one of its forms. This crisis turns on the exhaustibility of our ends. The solution is to value ends that are ‘atelic,’ so inexhaustible. Topics include: John Stuart Mill's nervous breakdown; Aristotle on the finality of the highest good; and Schopenhauer on the futility of desire.
  •  388
    Practical knowledge
    Ethics 118 (3): 388-409. 2008.
    Argues that we know without observation or inference at least some of what we are doing intentionally and that this possibility must be explained in terms of knowledge-how. It is a consequence of the argument that knowing how to do something cannot be identified with knowledge of a proposition.
  •  361
    Knowledge of intention
    In Anton Ford, Jennifer Hornsby & Frederick Stoutland (eds.), Essays on Anscombe's Intention, Harvard University Press. pp. 170--197. 2011.
    Argues that it is not by inference from intention that I know what I am doing intentionally. Instead, the reverse is true: groundless knowledge of intention rests on the will as a capacity for non-perceptual, non-inferential knowledge of action. The argument adapts and clarifies considerations of "transparency" more familiar in connection with belief.
  •  327
    Love and the Value of a Life
    Philosophical Review 123 (3): 251-280. 2014.
    Argues that there is no one it is irrational to love, that it is rational to act with partiality to those we love, and that the rationality of doing so is not conditional on love. It follows that Anscombe and Taurek are right: you are not required to save three instead of one, even when those you could save are perfect strangers
  •  298
    Must Consequentialists Kill?
    Journal of Philosophy 115 (2): 92-105. 2018.
    Argues that the ethics of killing and saving lives is best described by agent-neutral consequentialism, not by appeal to agent-centred restrictions. It does not follow that killings are worse than accidental deaths or that you should kill one to prevent more killings. The upshot is a puzzle about killing and letting die.
  •  278
    Does Moral Theory Corrupt Youth?
    Philosophical Topics 38 (1): 205-222. 2010.
    Argues that the answer is yes. The epistemic assumptions of moral theory deprive us of resources needed to resist the challenge of moral disagreement, which its practice at the same time makes vivid. The paper ends by sketching a kind of epistemology that can respond to disagreement without skepticism: one in which the fundamental standards of justification for moral belief are biased toward the truth
  •  276
    Reasons and Causes
    European Journal of Philosophy 19 (1): 129-157. 2011.
    Argues for a causal-psychological account of acting for reasons. This view is distinguished from a more ambitious causal theory of action, clarified as far as possible, and motivated—against non-reductive, teleological, and behaviourist alternatives—on broadly metaphysical grounds
  •  273
    Causality in Action
    Analysis 73 (3): 501-512. 2013.
  •  272
    Cognitivism about Instrumental Reason
    Ethics 117 (4): 649-673. 2007.
    Argues for a "cognitivist" account of the instrumental principle, on which it is the application of theoretical reason to the beliefs that figure in our intentions. This doctrine is put to work in solving a puzzle about instrumental reason that plagues alternative views.
  •  271
    Epistemic agency: Some doubts
    Philosophical Issues 23 (1): 179-198. 2013.
    Argues for a deflationary account of epistemic agency. We believe things for reasons and our beliefs change over time, but there is no further sense in which we are active in judgement, inference, or belief.
  •  271
    Internal Reasons
    In Kieran Setiya & Hille Paakkunainen (eds.), Internal Reasons: Contemporary Readings, Mit Press. 2012.
    Argues that "internalism about reasons" owes its appeal to a function argument from the nature of agency. Internalism is thus revealed as a species of ethical rationalism. (This paper introduces a volume of recent work on internal and external reasons.)
  •  261
    Sympathy for the devil
    In Sergio Tenenbaum (ed.), Desire, Practical Reason, and the Good, Oxford University Press. pp. 82--110. 2010.
    Argues that, while human beings may act "under the guise of the good," this is not true of rational agents, as such. Themes discussed along the way – extending the argument of "Reasons without Rationalism" (Princeton, 2007) – include: desires as appearances of the good, the intelligibility of vice, and the kind of essentialist claim that permits exceptions.
  •  260
    Practical Knowledge Revisited
    Ethics 120 (1): 128-137. 2009.
    Argues that the view propounded in "Practical Knowledge" (Ethics 118: 388-409) survives objections made by Sarah Paul ("Intention, Belief, and Wishful Thinking," Ethics 119: 546-557). The response gives more explicit treatment to the nature and epistemology of knowing how.
  •  244
    Knowing How
    Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 112 (3pt3): 285-307. 2012.
    Argues from the possibility of basic intentional action to a non-propositional theory of knowing how. The argument supports a broadly Anscombean conception of the will as a capacity for practical knowledge.
  •  239
    Believing at Will
    Midwest Studies in Philosophy 32 (1): 36-52. 2008.
    Argues that we cannot form beliefs at will without failure of attention or logical confusion. The explanation builds on Williams' argument in "Deciding to Believe," attempting to resolve some well-known difficulties. The paper ends with tentative doubts about the idea of judgement as intentional action.
  •  207
    Argues that, for Anscombe, 'practical knowledge' is only sometimes 'the cause of what it understands.' It is the formal cause when its object is 'formally the description of an executed intention.' Nor is such knowledge confined to the present progressive: we have practical knowledge of the future and the past.
  •  195
    Knowing Right From Wrong
    Oxford University Press. 2012.
    Can we have objective knowledge of right and wrong, of how we should live and what there is reason to do? Can it be anything but luck when our moral beliefs are true? Kieran Setiya confronts these questions in their most compelling and articulate forms, and argues that if there is objective ethical knowledge, human nature is its source.
  •  194
    Intention
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2009.
    Philosophical perplexity about intention begins with its appearance in three guises: intention for the future, as when I intend to complete this entry by the end of the month; the intention with which someone acts, as I am typing with the further intention of writing an introductory sentence; and intentional action, as in the fact that I am typing these words intentionally. As Elizabeth Anscombe wrote in a similar context, ‘it is implausible to say that the word is equivocal as it occurs in thes…Read more
  •  188
    Against internalism
    Noûs 38 (2). 2004.
    Argues that practical irrationality is akin to moral culpability: it is defective practical thought which one could legitimately have been expected to avoid. It is thus a mistake to draw too tight a connection between failure to be moved by reasons and practical irrationality (as in a certain kind of "internalism"): one's failure may be genuine, but not culpable, and therefore not irrational.
  •  176
    Review of Derek Parfit, 'On What Matters' (review)
    Mind 120 (480): 1281-1288. 2011.
  •  167
    Reasons without Rationalism
    Analysis 69 (3): 509-510. 2009.
    Reasons without Rationalism has two related parts, devoted to action theory and ethics, respectively. In the second part, I argue for a close connection between reasons for action and virtues of character. This connection is mediated by the idea of good practical thought and the disposition to engage in it. The argument relies on the following principle, which is intended as common ground: " Reasons: The fact that p is a reason for A to ϕ just in case A has a collection of psychological states, …Read more
  •  162
    Murdoch on the Sovereignty of Good
    Philosophers' Imprint 13. 2013.
    Argues for an interpretation of Iris Murdoch on which her account of moral reasons has Platonic roots, and on which she gives an ontological proof of the reality of the Good. This reading explains the structure of Sovereignty, how Murdoch's claims differ from a focus on "thick moral concepts," and how to find coherent arguments in her book.
  •  140
    Humanism
    Journal of the American Philosophical Association 4 (4): 452-70. 2018.
    Argues for a form of humanism on which we have reason to care about human beings that we do not have to care about other animals and human beings have rights against us other animals lack. Humanism respects the equal worth of those born with severe congenital cognitive disabilities. I address the charge of 'speciesism' and explain how being human is an ethically relevant fact.
  •  139
    Argues that we do not act intentionally ‘under the guise of the good.’ This makes it hard to explain why akrasia is distinctively irrational; but this is no objection, since it is just as hard to explain on the opposing view. Ends with a problem of akrasia for ethical rationalists.
  •  138
    Selfish Reasons
    Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 2. 2015.
    Argues against the rationality of self-concern. Non-instrumental interest in my own well-being is not justified by the fact that it is mine. This follows from the metaphysics of first-person thought, as thought about the object of immediate knowledge. The argument leaves room for rational self-interest as a form of self-love that is justified, like love for others, by the fact of our shared humanity.
  •  136
    Intention, Plans, and Ethical Rationalism
    In Manuel Vargas & Gideon Yaffe (eds.), Rational and Social Agency: The Philosophy of Michael Bratman, Oxford University Press. pp. 56-82. 2014.
    Argues from the planning theory of intention – as an account of means-end coherence – to a comprehensive form of ethical rationalism. Having raised objections to this result, the paper ends by sketching a way out.
  •  130
    Hume on practical reason
    Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1). 2004.
    Argues that Hume was a sceptic about practical reason only on a rationalist account of what it would have to be. (This version differs substantially from the published paper.).