• Hobbes on Submission to God
    In Marcus P. Adams (ed.), A Companion to Hobbes. pp. 287-302. 2021.
    In Leviathan chapter 31 Hobbes refers to atheists and deists as "God's enemies." The contrast class is God's subjects in what he calls the Kingdom of God by Nature. This chapter offers an account of how one submits to God to become God's natural subject. The explanation reinforces the distinction between a primary and secondary state of nature. Submission to God obligates natural subjects to obey the laws of nature because the precepts of those laws acquire thereby the normative force of law. T…Read more
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    Heir to Augustine’s and Anselm’s encounters with the Psalmist’s fool, Hobbes s confronts his own foolish interlocutor in Leviathan. This Foole says in his heart: there is no justice. Hobbes rebuts the unjust Foole’s objection by defending the reasonableness of justice. Readers’ ideas about the adequacy of Hobbes’s response to the Foole vary according to their views about what reason, justice, and covenant-keeping require. A confounding and little-remarked feature of this passage in Leviathan is …Read more
  •  1
    Evolutionary Ethics and Biologically Supportable Morality
    The Paideia Archive: Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy 44 23-28. 1998.
    Consider the paradox of altruism: the existence of truly altruistic behaviors is difficult to reconcile with evolutionary theory if natural selection operates only on individuals, since in that case individuals should be unwilling to sacrifice their own fitness for the sake of others. Evolutionists have frequently turned to the hypothesis of group selection to explain the existence of altruism; but group selection cannot explain the evolution of morality, since morality is a one-group phenomenon…Read more
  •  11
    The International Hobbes Association
    with Bernard Baumrin and Rosamond Rhodes
    Hobbes Studies 31 (2): 213-216. 2018.
  •  104
    Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason (edited book)
    Cambridge University Press. 2004.
    How do we think about what we plan to do? One dominant answer is that we select the best possible option available. However, a growing number of philosophers would offer a different answer: since we are not equipped to maximize we often choose the next best alternative, one that is no more than satisfactory. This strategy choice is called satisficing. This collection of essays explores both these accounts of practical reason, examining the consequences for adopting one or the other for moral the…Read more
  •  46
    Floridi’s Fourth Revolution and the Demise of Ethics
    Knowledge, Technology & Policy 23 (1-2): 135-147. 2010.
    Luciano Floridi has proposed that we are on the cusp of a fourth revolution in human self-understanding. The information revolution with its prospect of digitally enhancing human beings opens the door to engineering human nature. Floridi has emphasized the importance of making this transition as ethically smooth as possible. He is quite right to worry about ethics after the fourth revolution. The coming revolution, if it unfolds as he envisions, spells the demise of traditional ethical theorizin…Read more
  •  10
    Research Ethics
    Prentice-Hall. 2001.
    Original chapters complement anthologized readings on topics in research ethics such as informed consent, the use of humans and animals in research, research misconduct, and conflicts of interest.
  •  101
    The 1995 film, Dead Man Walking, concerns the life and execution of a convicted murderer in Louisiana. It is based on the experiences of Sister Helen Prejean, a Catholic nun who found herself caught up in the case. The film is not really an anti-death penalty piece: the convict’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding, no mistaken identity or extenuating circumstances relieve the prisoner of responsibility. The viewer is told that the convict committed the brutal double rape and murder fo…Read more
  •  91
    Morality and Evolution by Group Selection
    Http://Www.Bu.Edu/Wcp/Papers/TEth/TEthByro.Htm. 1999.
    Consider the paradox of altruism: the existence of truly altruistic behaviors is difficult to reconcile with an evolutionary theory which holds that natural selection operates only on individuals, since in that case individuals should be unwilling to sacrifice their own fitness for the sake of others. Evolutionists have frequently turned to the hypothesis of group selection to explain the existence of altruism; but, even setting aside difficulties about understanding the relationship between altruis…Read more
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    In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes famously characterizes the state of nature as a predicament in which life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” The only means of escape from that dire condition is to found the commonwealth, with its notorious sovereign. Hobbes invests the sovereign with virtually absolute power over the poor subjects of the commonwealth, and that vast and unlimited sovereign has drawn the reader’s eye for 350 years. -/- Yet Hobbes has a great deal to say about subjects in …Read more
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    Fifty years ago, Herbert Simon complained that the available models of rational choice were not feasible decision procedures for agents like us. These models involved variants on the theme of maximizing expected utility: the rational action for an agent is the one that is most likely to bring about outcomes that the agent prefers. Simon ’s complaints about these models included the now-familiar notions that human beings do not manage probabilities well, that we have at best radically incomplete …Read more
  •  20
    Evidentiary Fallacies and Empirical Data
    American Philosophical Quarterly 49 (2): 175. 2012.
    The Prosecutor's Fallacy is a well-known hazard in the assessment of probabilistic evidence that can lead to faulty inferences. It is perhaps best known via its role in the assessment of DNA match evidence in courts of law. A prosecutor, call him Burger, presents DNA evidence in court that links a defendant, Crumb, to a crime. The conditional probability of a DNA match given that Crumb is not guilty, or p(M | ~G), is very low: according to Burger, one chance in tens of millions. Burger goes on t…Read more
  •  33
    Whose Power? Which Rationality?
    In Thomas R. Hensley (ed.), The Boundaries of Freedom of Expression and Order in American Democracy, Kent State University Press. pp. 68-71. 2001.
    In “Deliberation Down and Dirty,” David Estlund seeks a deeper understanding of that most American of political paradoxes: regulated free speech. To that end, he sketches a normative basis for an intuitively appealing idea. The idea is: the boundaries of civility in political expression are proportional to power’s interference with reason. That is, the more that power undermines the conditions of free and orderly political expression, the wider the scope of what should count as “civil” expressio…Read more
  •  78
    Rationality is not fair
    Analysis 55 (4): 252-260. 1995.
    Gauthier argues in Morals by Agreement that morality is derivable from rationality. A crucial premise is that rational bargaining is procedurally fair. Gauthier defends this claim by trying to show that his principle of rational bargaining determines a fair distribution of the overall return from cooperation, including the cooperative surplus. He supports this point in part by the argument from agreement: since (1) procedurally fair principles proportion return to contribution, and since (2) eve…Read more
  •  44
    Computer-Based Introduction to Formal Logic: A Review of Logic Textbooks and Software (review)
    Teaching Philosophy 24 (3): 255-278. 2001.
    Computer-based Introduction to Formal Logic
  •  43
    Teaching with Tiki
    Teaching Philosophy 28 (2): 105-113. 2005.
    Many philosophy instructors came up in departments that taught in a traditional style. Our professors lectured to us while we took notes, they encouraged us to ask questions when we sought clarity on a particular point or passage, and required us to write a term paper. The model worked for graduate school, too. Some instructors encouraged more discussion in class than others. Work outside class meant reading the assigned text, talking about it with a friend, and writing the term paper on your ow…Read more
  •  13
    Review of Robert Goodin, On Settling
  •  155
    Recent literature defends consequentialism against the charge that consequentialists cannot be friends. This paper argues in rebuttal that consequentialists value friends for the wrong reasons. Even if they are motivated by love and affection, consequentialists must act as if they valued their friends as merely instrumental goods, a mode of valuing I call. I conclude by suggesting the root cause of the problem of intrinsic value for consequentialism
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    Right-Making, Reference, and Reduction
    Disputatio 6 (38): 139-145. 2014.
    The causal theory of reference (CTR) provides a well-articulated and widely-accepted account of the reference relation. On CTR the reference of a term is fixed by whatever property causally regulates the competent use of that term. CTR poses a metaethical challenge to realists by demanding an account of the properties that regulate the competent use of normative predicates. CTR might pose a challenge to ethical theorists as well. Long argues that CTR entails the falsity of any normative ethical …Read more
  • Chapter Sixteen Teaching with Tiki
    In Soraj Hongladarom (ed.), Computing and Philosophy in Asia, Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 231. 2007.
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    Virtue and the Reductivist Challenge
    Contemporary Philosophy 22 34-41. 2000.
    In a recent paper, Philip Kitcher boldly challenges the very idea of objectivism in ethics.1 The structure of his argument is disarmingly simple: objectivist moral theories must take a certain explanatory form. If they take that form, then they fail on their own terms. Hence objectivism cannot be a satisfactory theory. Proving impossibility is a dicey matter, and Kitcher qualifies his premises and conclusions in ways that my summary misses. His arguments are nuanced, and he never states his conc…Read more
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    Human Rights: A Modest Proposal
    Etica E Politica 11 (1): 470-494. 2009.
    Human rights have become an enormously useful tool in our time, and this for a variety of reasons. Useful, yes: but are rights real? I propose first to examine the most significant philosophical attempts to justify human rights. A universally justified conception of rights I call ‘robust,’ since a successful rational justification would fully underwrite the real existence of rights. Alas, we have no such justification; the second part of my remarks sketches devastating objections to each propose…Read more
  •  82
    Satisficing and optimality
    Ethics 109 (1): 67-93. 1998.
    It is common, though perhaps not correct, to think that practical rationality is strictly instrumental.1 The functions of instrumental reason include finding suitable means to our determinate ends, helping to determine our indeterminate ends, and implementing our principles in appropriate actions. One reason that might be given for adopting instrumentalism with respect to rationality might be that our best scientific evidence offers little support for the idea that our brains have powers to dete…Read more
  •  40
    Evolutionary ethics and biologically supportable morality
    Proceedings of Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, PAIDEIA: Philosophy Educating Humanity. 1999.
    Consider the paradox of altruism: the existence of truly altruistic behaviors is difficult to reconcile with evolutionary theory if natural selection operates only on individuals, since in that case individuals should be unwilling to sacrifice their own fitness for the sake of others. Evolutionists have frequently turned to the hypothesis of group selection to explain the existence of altruism; but group selection cannot explain the evolution of morality, since morality is a one-group phenomenon…Read more