•  220
    Expressivism and irrationality
    Philosophical Review 105 (3): 311-335. 1996.
    Geach's problem, the problem of accounting for the fact that judgements expressed using moral terms function logically like other judgements, stands in the way of most noncognitive analyses of moral judgements. The non-cognitivist must offer a plausible interpretation of such terms when they appear in conditionals that also explains their logical interaction with straightforward moral assertions. Blackburn and Gibbard have offered a series of accounts each of which interprets such conditionals a…Read more
  •  215
    Moral intuitionism, experiments and skeptical arguments
    In Anthony Booth & Darrell Rowbottom (eds.), Intuitions, Oxford University Press. forthcoming.
    Over the last decade there have been various attempts to use empirical data about people’s dispositions to choose to undermine various moral positions by arguing that our judgements about what to do are unreliable. Usually they are directed at non-consequentialists by consequentialists, but they have also been directed at all moral theories by skeptics about morality. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has been one of the leading proponents of such general skepticism. He has argued that empirical results …Read more
  •  169
    At the beginning of the twentieth century, G. E. Moore’s open question argument convinced many philosophers that moral statements were not equivalent to statements made using non- moral or descriptive terms. For any non- moral description of an object or object it seemed that competent speakers could without confusion doubt that the action or object was appropriately characterized using moral terms such as ‘good’ or ‘right’. The question of whether the action or object so described was good or r…Read more
  •  142
    Robust moral rationalism has long been regarded as incompatible with the Humean Theory of Motivation which requires desires to ground motives. Recently this orthodoxy has been challenged on the ground that rationality itself might require certain desires. This strategy does not remove the tension between rationalism and the Humean Theory. If rationalism is correct, new normative beliefs should engender new motives - motives not grounded in a means-ends fashion in rationally required existing des…Read more
  •  117
    Humean motivation and Humean rationality
    Philosophical Studies 79 (1): 37-57. 1995.
    Michael Smith's recent defence of the theory shows promise, in that it captures the most common reasons for accepting a Humean view. But, as I will argue, it falls short of vindicating the view. Smith's argument fails, because it ignores the role of rationality conditions on the ascription of motivating reason explanations. Because of these conditions, we must have a theory of rationality before we choose a theory of motivation. Thus, we cannot use Humean restrictions on motivation to argue for …Read more
  •  112
    Moral functionalism and moral reductionism
    Philosophical Quarterly 46 (182): 77-81. 1996.
    Jackson and Pettit propose a "functionalist" analysis of evaluative content in service of a naturalistic reduction of moral terms. Though a broadly functionalist account may be correct, it does not immediately lead to a naturalistic theory for two reasons. First, a naturalistic theory should make clear in what sense the properties in question are naturalistic. The paper raises some doubts that this can be done consistent with the functionalist reduction. Second, even if we can construct true Ram…Read more
  •  111
    A fork in the road for expressivism
    Ethics 120 (2): 357-381. 2010.
    This is a review essay discussing Mark Schroeder's book, Being For.
  •  105
    Motivational Internalism: a Somewhat Less Idealized Acount
    Philosophical Quarterly 50 (199): 233-241. 2000.
    Contemporary internalists typically idealize the conditions for motivation, claiming for example that motivation must be present in rational persons under certain conditions. Robert Johnson, in The Philosophical Quarterly, 49, convincingly argues that these versions of internalism overlook ways in which the conditions in the antecedent of the conditional expressing the analysis are incompatible with the claim under analysis. However, avoiding the fallacy decouples internalism from its use to exp…Read more
  •  85
    Reflective moral equilibrium and psychological theory
    Ethics 109 (4): 846-857. 1999.
    Tamara Horowitz criticizes the use of thought experiments by Warren Quinn and others to support a version of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing. She argues that because a competing empirical explanatory hypothesis for our common agreement on the correct outcome in those thought experiments is true we should conclude that our intuitions concerning those examples do not provide support for the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing. Other authors have reached similar conclusions. I argue that the argument…Read more
  •  74
    Moral Cognitivism vs. Non-Cognitivism
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2013 (1): 1-88. 2013.
    Non-cognitivism is a variety of irrealism about ethics with a number of influential variants. Non-cognitivists agree with error theorists that there are no moral properties or moral facts. But rather than thinking that this makes moral statements false, noncognitivists claim that moral statements are not in the business of predicating properties or making statements which could be true or false in any substantial sense. Roughly put, noncognitivists think that moral statements have no truth condi…Read more
  •  72
    Rationalist realism and constructivist accounts of morality
    Philosophical Studies 126 (2): 285-295. 2005.
    This is a review essay about Russ Shafer-Landau's Moral Realism. In Moral Realism, Russ Shafer-Landau divides cognitivist moral theories between realist and constructivist versions, where constructivists characterize morality as necessarily connected to the responses of agents under some conditions. This division is misleading; some constructivist or response-invoking characterizations of ethics are fully realist. We need not deny that reasons must be able to motivate rational agents in order …Read more
  •  67
    Expressivist analyses of evaluative discourse characterize unembedded moral claims as functioning primarily to express noncognitive attitudes. The most thorny problem for this project has been explaining the logical relations between such evaluative judgements and other judgements expressed using evaluative terms in unasserted contexts, such as when moral judgements are embedded in conditionals. One strategy for solving the problem derives logical relations among moral judgements from relations …Read more
  •  66
    One popular criticism of affirmative action is that it discriminates against those who would otherwise have been offered jobs without it. This objection must rely on the non- consequentialist distinction between what we do and what we merely allow to claim that doing nothing merely allows people to be harmed by the discrimination of others, while preferential programs actively harm those left out. It fails since the present effects of past discrimination result from social arrangements which res…Read more
  •  61
    Three Methods of Ethics (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62 (3): 721-723. 2001.
    This book is a good idea, well-executed. The setup of the book mirrors one way of dividing up normative ethics. We divide theorists into Kantians, consequentialists and virtue theorists on the assumption that these are distinct and incompatible approaches to ethics. Each position is represented by one of the co-authors with Baron representing Kantians, Pettit consequentialists and Slote virtue theorists. What emerges is that each approach has virtues, but also that the division is neither neat n…Read more
  •  49
  •  47
    T. M. Scanlon suggests that the binding nature of promises itself plays a role in allowing a promisee rationally to expect follow through even while that binding nature itself depends on the promisee’s rational expectation of follow through. Kolodny and Wallace object that this makes the account viciously circular. The chapter defends Scanlon’s theory from this objection. It argues that the basic complaint is a form of wrong kinds of reason objection. The thought is that the promisee’s reason …Read more
  •  27
    Second Thoughts about "Wishful Thinking"
    Res Philosophica 96 (2): 269-288. 2019.
    Cian Dorr has argued that non-cognitivists must think of reasoning from moral premises to empirical conclusions as akin to wishful thinking. Defenders of non-cognitivism have responded that an adequate solution to the Frege-Geach problem would explain relations of entailment and implication between moral and nonmoral claims and thereby also handle Dorr’s objection. This paper offers a new, more specific, interpretation of Dorr’s objection and one that makes it distinct from worries about Frege-G…Read more
  •  24
    Review of John Rawls's The Law of Peoples (review)
    Journal of Value Inquiry 36 (4): 555-562. 2002.
  •  23
    This paper presents a non-consequentialist defense of Rawls’s general conception of justice requiring that primary social goods be distributed so that the least share is as great as possible. It suggests that a defense of this idea can be offered within a Rossian framework of prima facie duties. The prima facie duty not to harm constrains people from supporting social institutions which do not leave their fellows with goods and resources above a certain threshold. The paper argues that societies…Read more
  •  16
    Review of Dancy's Moral Reasons (review)
    Philosophical Quarterly 45 (178): 118-120. 1995.
  •  16
    Moral Reasons
    Philosophical Quarterly 45 (178): 118-120. 1995.
  •  14
    Metaethics: A Contemporary Introduction provides a solid foundation in metaethics for advanced undergraduates by introducing a series of puzzles that most metaethical theories address. These puzzles involve moral disagreement, reference, moral epistemology, metaphysics, and moral psychology. From there, author Mark van Roojen discusses the many positions in metaethics that people will take in reaction to these puzzles. Van Roojen asks several essential questions of his readers, namely: What is m…Read more
  •  9
    Morality Without Foundations: A Defense of Ethical Contextualism (review)
    Philosophical Review 110 (2): 283-286. 2001.
    Over the course of the twentieth century, the logical space available to metaethics has been rather thoroughly mapped out. We now have a pretty good idea of the inhabitable terrain, and each bit of that terrain appears to be occupied by able defenders. So it comes as a surprise when Mark Timmons stakes out previously undiscovered and unclaimed territory. He defends a view that he labels “ethical contextualism,” a position that is at once naturalistic, nonreductive, nonrelativist, irrealist, nond…Read more
  •  9
    (Book review of) Moral Perception and Particularity (review)
    Philosophical Quarterly 45 (181): 543. 1995.
    Most contemporary moral philosophy is concerned with issues of rationality, universality, impartiality, and principle. By contrast Laurence Blum is concerned with the psychology of moral agency. The essays in this collection examine the moral import of emotion, motivation, judgment, perception, and group identifications, and explore how all these psychic capacities contribute to a morally good life. Blum takes up the challenge of Iris Murdoch to articulate a vision of moral excellence that provi…Read more
  •  1
    Some moral debunkers such as Sharon Street argue that evolutionary debunking arguments favor a response-dependent or subjectivist metaethics over more realist metaethical accounts. I argue that this thought conflates meta-semantics with semantics by running together mind-dependent content determination relations with mind-dependent content. Insofar as reference is broadly an epistemic relation, evolutionary debunking arguments would cause trouble for mind-independent theories of reference and c…Read more
  •  1
    Satisficing without thereby maximizing is rational provided that non-consequentialism is rational and provided that the preferred characterization of non-consequentialism is not one in which right action is justified in virtue of maximizing agent-relative value. Rather, the non-consequentialism which can serve to defend satisficing should be one in which the best characterization of certain reasons to act does not involve maximization of value of any sort, whether agent-relative or agent neutral…Read more