•  418
    Moral Principles Are Not Moral Laws
    Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 2 (3): 1-22. 2007.
    What are moral principles? The assumption underlying much of the generalism–particularism debate in ethics is that they are (or would be) moral laws: generalizations or some special class thereof, such as explanatory or counterfactual-supporting generalizations. I argue that this law conception of moral principles is mistaken. For moral principles do at least three things that moral laws cannot do, at least not in their own right: explain certain phenomena, provide particular kinds of support fo…Read more
  •  189
    A Dispositional Account of Conflicts of Obligation
    Noûs 47 (2): 203-228. 2013.
    I address a question in moral metaphysics: How are conflicts between moral obligations possible? I begin by explaining why we cannot give a satisfactory answer to this question simply by positing that such conflicts are conflicts between rules, principles, or reasons. I then develop and defend the “Dispositional Account,” which posits that conflicts between moral obligations are conflicts between the manifestations of obligating dispositions (obligating powers, capacities, etc.), just as conflic…Read more
  •  144
    Moral Principles As Moral Dispositions
    Philosophical Studies 156 (2): 289-309. 2011.
    What are moral principles? In particular, what are moral principles of the sort that (if they exist) ground moral obligations or—at the very least—particular moral truths? I argue that we can fruitfully conceive of such principles as real, irreducibly dispositional properties of individual persons (agents and patients) that are responsible for and thereby explain the moral properties of (e.g.) agents and actions. Such moral dispositions (or moral powers) are apt to be the metaphysical grounds of…Read more
  •  128
    Moral principles play important roles in diverse areas of moral thought, practice, and theory. Many who think of themselves as ‘moral generalists’ believe that moral principles can play these roles—that they are capable of doing so. Moral generalism maintains that moral principles can and do play these roles because true moral principles are statements of general moral fact (i.e. statements of facts about the moral attributes of kinds of actions, kinds of states of affairs, etc.) and because gen…Read more
  •  105
    Obligating Reasons, Moral Laws, and Moral Dispositions
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 11 (1): 1-34. 2014.
    Moral obligations rest on circumstances. But what are these obligating reasons and in virtue of what are they such reasons? Nomological conceptions define such reasons in terms of moral laws. I argue that one such conception cannot be correct and that others do not support the familiar and plausible view that obligating reasons are pro tanto reasons, either because they entail that this view is false or else because they cannot explain—or even help to explain—how it could be true. I also argue t…Read more
  •  52
    The simple model maintains that morally relevant factors combine in a simple, additive way, like weights on a scale. Although intuitive and familiar, this model entails that certain plausible views about particular cases and how morally relevant factors combine and interact therein are false. Shelly Kagan suggests that we could accommodate the relevant views and interactions by rejecting either of two assumptions the simple model makes: that the moral status of an act is determined by the sum of…Read more
  •  32
    Moral Absolutes
    In Hugh LaFollette, John Deigh & Sarah Stroud (eds.), International Encyclopedia of Ethics, Wiley-blackwell. 2013.
    The term “moral absolute” refers to many different ideas. In contemporary moral philosophy, it most commonly refers to the idea of a moral prohibition or rule that holds without exception. Less commonly, it refers to the idea of a moral rule or standard that applies to all moral agents, rather than only to members of a particular society or culture or only to particular individuals (e.g., those who accept it). The present topic is moral absolutes in the first of these two senses (hereinafter, “m…Read more