•  14725
    A four-part series of dialogues between two philosophy students, M and V. The question: is it wrong to eat meat? M and V review the standard arguments plus a few new ones. Part 1 discusses the suffering caused by factory farming, and how one's intelligence affects the badness of suffering.
  •  10585
    In the practice of jury nullification, a jury votes to acquit a defendant in disregard of the factual evidence, on the grounds that a conviction would result in injustice, either because the law itself is unjust or because its application in the particular case would be unjust. The practice is widely condemned by courts, which strenuously attempt to prevent it. Nevertheless, the arguments against jury nullification are surprisingly weak. I argue that, pursuant to the general ethical duty to avoi…Read more
  •  7062
    I argue that taxation for redistributive purposes is a property rights violation, responding to arguments (due to Nagel, Murphy, Sunstein, and Holmes) claiming that individuals lack ownership of their pretax incomes.
  •  6259
    A four-part series of dialogues between two philosophy students, M and V. The question: is it wrong to eat meat? M and V review the standard arguments plus a few new ones. Part 2 discusses miscellaneous defenses of meat-eating. These include the claim that the consumer is not responsible for wrongs committed by farm workers, that a single individual cannot have any effect on the meat industry, that farm animals are better off living on factory farms than never existing at all, that we can’t be s…Read more
  •  6175
    A four-part series of dialogues between two philosophy students, M and V. The question: is it wrong to eat meat? M and V review the standard arguments plus a few new ones. Part 4 discusses what products one should renounce, the value of abstract theory, why people who accept the arguments often fail to change their behavior, and how vegans should react to non-vegans.
  •  5909
    A liberal realist answer to debunking skeptics: the empirical case for realism
    Philosophical Studies 173 (7): 1983-2010. 2016.
    Debunking skeptics claim that our moral beliefs are formed by processes unsuited to identifying objective facts, such as emotions inculcated by our genes and culture; therefore, they say, even if there are objective moral facts, we probably don’t know them. I argue that the debunking skeptics cannot explain the pervasive trend toward liberalization of values over human history, and that the best explanation is the realist’s: humanity is becoming increasingly liberal because liberalism is the obj…Read more
  •  5693
    An ontological proof of moral realism
    Social Philosophy and Policy 30 (1-2): 259-279. 2013.
    The essay argues that while there is no general agreement on whether moral realism is true, there is general agreement on at least some of the moral obligations that we have if moral realism is true. Given that moral realism might be true, and given that we know some of the things we ought to do if it is true, we have a reason to do those things. Furthermore, this reason is itself an objective moral reason. Thus, if moral realism might be true, then it is true
  •  4490
    A four-part series of dialogues between two philosophy students, M and V. The question: is it wrong to eat meat? M and V review the standard arguments plus a few new ones. Part 3 discusses the idea that creatures have different degrees of consciousness, the sense that certain animal welfare positions "sound crazy", and the role of empathy in moral judgment.
  •  4378
    I argue that it is morally wrong for a lawyer to pursue a legal outcome that he knows to be unjust, such as the acquittal of a guilty client or the triumph of the wrong side in a lawsuit.
  •  3578
    Time may be infinite in both directions. If it is, then, if persons could live at most once in all of time, the probability that you would be alive now would be zero. But if persons can live more than once, the probability that you would be alive now would be nonzero. Since you are alive now, with certainty, either the past is finite, or persons can live more than once.
  •  2753
    There Is No Pure Empirical Reasoning
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95 (3): 592-613. 2017.
    The justificatory force of empirical reasoning always depends upon the existence of some synthetic, a priori justification. The reasoner must begin with justified, substantive constraints on both the prior probability of the conclusion and certain conditional probabilities; otherwise, all possible degrees of belief in the conclusion are left open given the premises. Such constraints cannot in general be empirically justified, on pain of infinite regress. Nor does subjective Bayesianism offer a w…Read more
  •  2706
    Revisionary intuitionism
    Social Philosophy and Policy 25 (1): 368-392. 2008.
    I argue that, given evidence of the factors that tend to distort our intuitions, ethical intuitionists should disown a wide range of common moral intuitions, and that they should typically give preference to abstract, formal intuitions over more substantive ethical intuitions. In place of the common sense morality with which intuitionism has traditionally allied, the suggested approach may lead to a highly revisionary normative ethics.
  •  2637
    Compassionate phenomenal conservatism
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (1). 2007.
    I defend the principle of Phenomenal Conservatism, on which appearances of all kinds generate at least some justification for belief. I argue that there is no reason for privileging introspection or intuition over perceptual experience as a source of justified belief; that those who deny Phenomenal Conservatism are in a self-defeating position, in that their view cannot be both true and justified; and that thedemand for a metajustification for Phenomenal Conservatism either is an easily met dema…Read more
  •  1468
    In defence of repugnance
    Mind 117 (468): 899-933. 2008.
    I defend the 'Repugnant' Conclusion that for any possible population of happy people, a population containing a sufficient number of people with lives barely worth living would be better. Four lines of argument converge on this conclusion, and the conclusion has a simple, natural theoretical explanation. The opposition to the Repugnant Conclusion rests on a bare appeal to intuition. This intuition is open to charges of being influenced by multiple distorting factors. Several theories of populati…Read more
  •  1436
    Causation as simultaneous and continuous
    with Ben Kovitz
    Philosophical Quarterly 53 (213). 2003.
    We propose that all actual causes are simultaneous with their direct effects, as illustrated by both everyday examples and the laws of physics. We contrast this view with the sequential conception of causation, according to which causes must occur prior to their effects. The key difference between the two views of causation lies in differing assumptions about the mathematical structure of time
  •  1381
    Skeptical hypotheses such as the brain-in-a-vat hypothesis provide extremely poor explanations for our sensory experiences. Because these scenarios accommodate virtually any possible set of evidence, the probability of any given set of evidence on the skeptical scenario is near zero; hence, on Bayesian grounds, the scenario is not well supported by the evidence. By contrast, serious theories make reasonably specific predictions about the evidence and are then well supported when these prediction…Read more
  •  1262
    When is parsimony a virtue
    Philosophical Quarterly 59 (235): 216-236. 2009.
    Parsimony is a virtue of empirical theories. Is it also a virtue of philosophical theories? I review four contemporary accounts of the virtue of parsimony in empirical theorizing, and consider how each might apply to two prominent appeals to parsimony in the philosophical literature, those made on behalf of physicalism and on behalf of nominalism. None of the accounts of the virtue of parsimony extends naturally to either of these philosophical cases. This suggests that in typical philosophical …Read more
  •  1127
    Abstract: In earlier work, I argued that individuals have a right to own firearms for personal defense, and that as a result, gun prohibition would be unjustified unless it at least produced benefits many times greater than its costs. Here, I defend that argument against objections posed by Nicholas Dixon and Jeff McMahan to the effect that the right of citizens to be free from gun violence counterbalances the right of self-defense, and that gun prohibition does not violate the right of self-def…Read more
  •  1122
    A paradox for weak deontology
    Utilitas 21 (4): 464-477. 2009.
    Deontological ethicists generally agree that there is a way of harming others such that it is wrong to harm others in that way for the sake of producing a comparable but greater benefit for others. Given plausible assumptions about this type of harm, this principle yields the paradoxical result that it may be wrong to do A, wrong to do B, but permissible to do (A and B).
  •  932
    Phenomenal Conservatism and the Internalist Intuition
    American Philosophical Quarterly 43 (2): 147-158. 2006.
    Externalist theories of justification create the possibility of cases in which everything appears to one relevantly similar with respect to two propositions, yet one proposition is justified while the other is not. Internalists find this difficult to accept, because it seems irrational in such a case to affirm one proposition and not the other. The underlying internalist intuition supports a specific internalist theory, Phenomenal Conservatism, on which epistemic justification is conferred by ap…Read more
  •  648
    Is There a Right to Immigrate?
    Social Theory and Practice 36 (3): 429-461. 2010.
    Immigration restrictions violate the prima facie right of potential immigrants not to be subject to harmful coercion. This prima facie right is not neutralized or outweighed by the economic, fiscal, or cultural effects of immigration, nor by the state’s special duties to its own citizens, or to its poorest citizens. Nor does the state have a right to control citizenship conditions in the same way that private clubs may control their membership conditions
  •  422
    Is There a Right to Own a Gun?
    Social Theory and Practice 29 (2): 297-324. 2003.
    Individuals have a prima facie right to own firearms. This right is significant in view both of the role that such ownership plays in the lives of firearms enthusiasts and of the self-defense value of firearms. Nor is this right overridden by the social harms of private gun ownership. These harms have been greatly exaggerated and are probably considerably smaller than the benefits of private gun ownership. And I argue that the harms would have to be at least several times greater than the benefi…Read more
  •  412
    Skepticism and the Veil of Perception
    Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield. 2001.
    This book develops and defends a version of direct realism: the thesis that perception gives us direct awareness, and non-inferential knowledge, of the external..
  •  386
    Ethical Intuitionism
    Palgrave Macmillan. 2005.
    This book defends a form of ethical intuitionism, according to which (i) there are objective moral truths; (ii) we know some of these truths through a kind of immediate, intellectual awareness, or "intuition"; and (iii) our knowledge of moral truths gives us reasons for action independent of our desires. The author rebuts all the major objections to this theory and shows that the alternative theories about the nature of ethics all face grave difficulties.
  •  353
    Direct realism and the brain-in-a-vat argument
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 61 (2): 397-413. 2000.
    The brain-in-a-vat argument for skepticism is best formulated, not using the closure principle, but using the “Preference Principle,” which states that in order to be justified in believing H on the basis of E, one must have grounds for preferring H over each alternative explanation of E. When the argument is formulated this way, Dretske’s and Klein’s responses to it fail. However, the strengthened argument can be refuted using a direct realist account of perception. For the direct realist, refu…Read more
  •  325
    Does probability theory refute coherentism
    Journal of Philosophy 108 (1): 35-54. 2011.
    Recent results in probability theory have cast doubt on the coherence theory of justification, allegedly showing that coherence cannot produce justification for beliefs in the absence of foundational justification, and that there can be no measure of coherence on which coherence is generally truth-conducive. I argue that the coherentist can reject some of the assumptions on which these theorems depend. Coherence can then be held to produce justification on its own, and truth-conducive measures o…Read more
  •  311
    Epistemic Possibility
    Synthese 156 (1): 119-142. 2007.
    Seven proposed accounts of epistemic possibility are criticized, and a new account is proposed, making use of the notion of having justification for dismissing a proposition. The new account explains intuitions about otherwise puzzling cases, upholds plausible general principles about epistemic possibility, and explains the practical import of epistemic modality judgements. It is suggested that judgements about epistemic possibility function to assess which propositions are worthy of further inq…Read more
  •  304
    Van Inwagen’s Consequence Argument
    Philosophical Review 109 (4): 525-544. 2000.
    Peter van Inwagen ’s argument for incompatibilism uses a sentential operator, “N”, which can be read as “No one has any choice about the fact that....” I show that, given van Inwagen ’s understanding of the notion of having a choice, the argument is invalid. However, a different interpretation of “N” can be given, such that the argument is clearly valid, the premises remain highly plausible, and the conclusion implies that free will is incompatible with determinism