• Deontic Modality (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2016.
    An extraordinary amount of recent work by philosophers of language, meta-ethicists, and semanticists has focused on the meaning and function of language expressing concepts having to do with what is allowed, forbidden, required, or obligatory, in view of the requirements of morality, the law, one's preferences or goals, or what an authority has commanded: in short, deontic modality. This volume presents new work on the much-discussed topic of deontic modality by leading figures in the philosophy…Read more
  •  53
    (How) Is Ethical Neo-Expressivism a Hybrid View?
    In Guy Fletcher & Michael Ridge (eds.), Having It Both Ways: Hybrid Theories and Modern Metaethics, Oxford University Press. pp. 223-247. 2014.
    According to ethical neo-expressivism, all declarative sentences, including those used to make ethical claims, have propositions as their semantic contents, and acts of making an ethical claim are properly said to express mental states, which (if motivational internalism is correct) are intimately connected to motivation. This raises two important questions: (i) The traditional reason for denying that ethical sentences express propositions is that these were thought to determine ways the world c…Read more
  •  18
    Performance normativity and here-and-now doxastic agency
    Synthese 197 (12): 5137-5145. 2020.
    Sosa famously argues that epistemic normativity is a species of “performance normativity,” comparing beliefs to archery shots. However, philosophers have traditionally conceived of beliefs as states, which means that they are not dynamic or telic like performances. A natural response to this tension is to argue that belief formation rather than belief itself is the proper target of epistemic normativity. This response is rejected here on grounds of the way it obscures the “here and now” exercise…Read more
  •  1
    The Aim of Belief and the Goal of Truth: Reflections on Rosenberg
    In Martin Grajner & Pedro Schmechtig (eds.), Epistemic Reasons, Norms and Goals, De Gruyter. pp. 357-382. 2016.
  •  443
    Expressivism, Inferentialism, and Saving the Debate
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 77 (2): 334-358. 2008.
    This paper addresses the “creeping minimalism” challenge to quasi-realist forms of expressivism by arguing that the solution suggested by Dreier doesn’t work and proposing an alternative solution based on the different inferential roles of ethical and descriptive judgments.
  •  1
    In the attempt to understand the norms governing believers, epistemologists have tended to focus on individual belief as the primary object of epistemic evaluation. However, norm governance is often assumed to concern, at base, things we can do as a free exercise or manifestation of our agency. Yet believing is not plausibly conceived as something we freely do but rather as a state we are in, usually as the mostly automatic or involuntary result of cognitively processes shaped by nature, bias, a…Read more
  •  340
    Protest and Speech Act Theory
    In Rachel Katharine Sterken & Justin Khoo (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Social and Political Philosophy of Language, Routledge. pp. 179-192. 2021.
    This paper attempts to explain what a protest is by using the resources of speech-act theory. First, we distinguish the object, redress, and means of a protest. This provided a way to think of atomic acts of protest as having dual communicative aspects, viz., a negative evaluation of the object and a connected prescription of redress. Second, we use Austin’s notion of a felicity condition to further characterize the dual communicative aspects of protest. This allows us to distinguish protest fro…Read more
  • Ethical Neo-Expressivism
    with Dorit Bar-On
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics 4 133-166. 2009.
  •  2
    On the Meaning of “Ought” 1
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics 7. 2012.
    Discussions about the meaning of the word “ought” are pulled in two apparently competing directions. First, in ethical theory this word is used in the paradigmatic statement of ethical principles and conclusions about what some agent is obligated to do. This leads some ethical theorists to claim that the word “ought” describes a real relation, roughly, of being obligated to or expresses some non-cognitive attitude toward agents acting in certain ways. Second, in theoretical linguistics this word…Read more
  •  193
    I imagine that people will complain that the account of normative concepts defended in Gibbard’s new book makes the metaethical waters even muddier because it blurs the line between cognitivism and noncognitivism and between realism and antirealism. However, these labels are philosophic tools, and in the wake of Gibbard’s new book, one might rightly conclude that there are new and better philosophical tools emerging on the metaethical scene. The uptake of views about practical reasoning—as exhib…Read more
  •  47
    Review of William P. Alston's Beyond Justification (review)
    International Journal of Philosophical Studies 15 (2). 2007.
  •  46
    Book reviews (review)
    with Brian Treanor, Mette Lebech, G. L. Huxley, and Ciaran McGlynn
    International Journal of Philosophical Studies 15 (2). 2007.
    This Article does not have an abstract
  •  1
    Philosophy for Everyone
    with Duncan Pritchard, Jane Suilin Lavelle, Michela Massimi, Alasdair Richmond, and Dave Ward
    Routledge. 2013.
    Philosophy for Everyone begins by explaining what philosophy is before exploring the questions and issues at the foundation of this important subject. Key topics and their areas of focus include: Epistemology - what our knowledge of the world and ourselves consists in, and how we come to have it; Philosophy of Science - foundational conceptual issues in scientific research and practice; Philosophy of Mind - what it means for something to have a mind, and how minds should be understood and explai…Read more
  •  244
    From Epistemic Contextualism to Epistemic Expressivism
    Philosophical Studies 135 (2): 225-254. 2007.
    In this paper, I exploit the parallel between epistemic contextualism and metaethical speaker-relativism to argue that a promising way out of two of the primary problems facing contextualism is one already explored in some detail in the ethical case – viz. expressivism. The upshot is an argument for a form of epistemic expressivism modeled on a familiar form of ethical expressivism. This provides a new nondescriptivist option for understanding the meaning of knowledge attributions, which arguabl…Read more
  •  21
    What Is a Theory of Normative Concepts For?
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 86 63-85. 2019.
    This paper compares and contrasts two recent approaches to the theory of normative concepts with each other and with more traditional theories in metaethics, in order to highlight several different projects one could be engaged in when developing a theory of normative concepts. The two accounts derive from Millgram, The Great Endarkenment and Chrisman The Meaning of ‘Ought’. These accounts share in rejecting traditional attempts to explain what ‘ought’ is about or expresses. Instead these accoun…Read more
  •  32
    Sosa famously argues that epistemic normativity is a species of “performance normativity,” comparing beliefs to archery shots. However, philosophers have traditionally conceived of beliefs as states, which means that they are not dynamic or telic like performances. A natural response to this tension is to argue that belief formation rather than belief itself is the proper target of epistemic normativity. This response is rejected here on grounds of the way it obscures the “here and now” exercise…Read more
  •  39
    Philosophy for Everyone: second edition
    with Duncan Pritchard, Guy Fletcher, Elinor Mason, Jane Suilin Lavelle, Michela Massimi, Alasdair Richmond, and Dave Ward
    Routledge. 2016.
    Philosophy for Everyone begins by explaining what philosophy is before exploring the questions and issues at the foundation of this important subject. Key topics in this new edition and their areas of focus include: Moral philosophy – the nature of our moral judgments and reactions, whether they aim at some objective moral truth, or are mere personal or cultural preferences; and the possibility of moral responsibility given the sorts of things that cause behavior; Political philosophy – fundamen…Read more
  •  35
    Speaking and Listening to Acts of Political Dissent
    In Casey Johnson (ed.), Voicing Dissent, . pp. 164-81. 2018.
    In the past few years, the United States has seen violent street protests in response to police killing unarmed people of color, angry protests by university students concerned about the racist legacy of their institutions, and verbally disruptive protests inside rallies of the (then) Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump. Some of these acts of protest have been clearly legal, protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution; others, by contrast, have not, but may neve…Read more
  •  135
    Two nondescriptivist views of normative and evaluative statements
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 48 (3-4): 405-424. 2018.
    The dominant route to nondescriptivist views of normative and evaluative language is through the expressivist idea that normative terms have distinctive expressive roles in conveying our attitudes. This paper explores an alternative route based on two ideas. First, a core normative term ‘ought’ is a modal operator; and second, modal operators play a distinctive nonrepresentational role in generating meanings for the statements in which they figure. I argue that this provides for an attractive al…Read more
  •  48
    Deontic Modals
    Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2015.
    Encyclopedia article on deontic modals
  •  231
    Metanormative Theory and the Meaning of Deontic Modals
    In Nate Charlow & Matthew Chrisman (eds.), Deontic Modality, Oxford University Press. pp. 395-424. 2016.
    Philosophical debate about the meaning of normative terms has long been pulled in two directions by the apparently competing ideas: (i) ‘ought’s do not describe what is actually the case but rather prescribe possible action, thought, or feeling, (ii) all declarative sentences deserve the same general semantic treatment, e.g. in terms of compositionally specified truth conditions. In this paper, I pursue resolution of this tension by rehearsing the case for a relatively standard truth-conditional…Read more
  •  233
    Conceptual Role Accounts of Meaning in Metaethics
    In Tristram McPherson & David Plunkett (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics, Routledge. pp. 260-274. 2017.
    This paper explains three ways to develop a conceptual role view of meaning in metaethics. First, it suggests that there’s a way to combine inspiration from noncognitivism with a particular form of the conceptual role view to form a noncognitivist view with distinctive advantages over other noncognitivist views. Second, it suggests that there’s also a way to combine a strong commitment to cognitivism with a different form of the conceptual role view to form a version of cognitivism with distinct…Read more
  •  147
    The Aim of Belief and the Goal of Truth: Reflections on Rosenberg
    In Pedro Schmechtig & Martin Grajner (eds.), Epistemic Reasons, Norms, and Goals, De Gruyter. pp. 357-382. 2016.
    This paper considers an argument from Rosenberg (Thinking about Knowing, 2002) that truth is not and cannot be the aim of belief. Here, I reconstruct what I take to be the most well worked out version of this idea tracing back to Rorty and Davidson. In response, I also distinguish two things the truth-aim could be: a goal regulating our executable epistemic conduct and an end which determines the types of evaluation, susceptibility to which is partially constitutive of what a belief is.
  •  178
    Epistemic Normativity and Cognitive Agency
    Noûs 52 (3): 508-529. 2018.
    On the assumption that genuinely normative demands concern things connected in some way to our agency, i.e. what we exercise in doing things with or for reasons, epistemologists face an important question: are there genuine epistemic norms governing belief, and if so where in the vicinity of belief are we to find the requisite cognitive agency? Extant accounts of cognitive agency tend to focus on belief itself or the event of belief-formation to answer this question, to the exclusion of the acti…Read more
  •  806
    Is epistemic expressivism incompatible with inquiry?
    with J. Adam Carter
    Philosophical Studies 159 (3): 323-339. 2012.
    Expressivist views of an area of discourse encourage us to ask not about the nature of the relevant kinds of values but rather about the nature of the relevant kind of evaluations. Their answer to the latter question typically claims some interesting disanalogy between those kinds of evaluations and descriptions of the world. It does so in hope of providing traction against naturalism-inspired ontological and epistemological worries threatening more ‘realist’ positions. This is a familiar positi…Read more
  •  87
    Using big words to explain little words
    Think 10 (29): 23-36. 2011.
    Sometimes, when I go to dinner parties organized by my partner, people ask me what I do, and I say that I'm a philosopher. But when I fumble at their questions about ‘my philosophy’, my partner will describe what I do by saying, ‘He uses big words to explain little words.’ Although this is meant tongue in cheek, it's basically right. My philosophical research is mainly in metaethics and the philosophy of language with a focus on the semantics of moral words. This means, for better or worse, that…Read more
  •  475
    Ought to Believe
    Journal of Philosophy 105 (7): 346-370. 2008.
    My primary purpose in this paper is to sketch a theory of doxastic oughts that achieves a satisfying middle ground between the extremes of rejecting epistemic deontology because one thinks beliefs are not within our direct voluntary control and rejecting doxastic involuntarism because one thinks that some doxastic oughts must be true. The key will be appreciating the obvious fact that not all true oughts require direct voluntary control. I will construct my account as an attempt to surpass other…Read more
  •  294
    Epistemic Expressivism
    Philosophy Compass 7 (2): 118-126. 2012.
    Epistemic expressivism is the application of a nexus of ideas, which is prominent in ethical theory (more specifically, metaethics), to parallel issues in epistemological theory (more specifically, metaepistemology). Here, in order to help those new to the debate come to grips with epistemic expressivism and recent discussions of it, I first briefly present this nexus of ideas as it occurs in ethical expressivism. Then, I explain why and how some philosophers have sought to extend it to a vers…Read more
  •  270
    Attitudinal Expressivism and Logical Pragmatism
    In Graham Hubbs & Douglas Lind (eds.), Pragmatism, Law, and Language, . pp. 117-135. 2014.
    Contemporary discussions of expressivism in metaethics tend to run together two quite different antidescriptivist views, and only one of them is subject to the objection about compositional semantics pressed most recently by Schroeder (following Dreier, Unwinn, Hale, Geach and others). Here I distinguish the two versions of expressivism and then go on to suggest that those sympathetic to the second sort of expressivism might improve their account of normative vocabulary and the way it figures in…Read more
  •  214
    The Aim of Belief and the Goal of Truth
    In James O.’Shea Eric Rubenstein (ed.), elf, Language, and World: Problems from Kant, Sellars, and Rosenberg, Ridgeview Publishing Co.. 2010.
    Davidson, Rorty, and Rosenberg each reject, for similar reasons, the idea that truth is the aim of belief and the goal of inquiry. Rosenberg provides the most explicit and compelling argument for this provocative view. Here, with a focus on this argument, I suggest that this view is a mistake, but not for the reasons some might think. In my view, we can view truth as a constitutive aim of belief even if not a regulative goal of inquiry, if we adopt a Sellarsian view of the ought-to-be’s of be…Read more