•  1410
    Expressivism and the Value of Truth
    Philosophia 40 (4): 877-883. 2012.
    This paper is a reply to Michael Lynch's "Truth, Value and Epistemic Expressivism" in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research for 2009. It argues that Lynch's argument against expressivism fails because of an ambiguity in the employed notion of an 'epistemically disengaged standpoint'.
  •  1043
    Moral realism, face-values and presumptions
    Analytic Philosophy 53 (2): 158-179. 2012.
    Many philosophers argue that the face-value of moral practice provides presumptive support to moral realism. This paper analyses such arguments into three steps. (1) Moral practice has a certain face-value, (2) only realism can vindicate this face value, and (3) the face-value needs vindicating. Two potential problems with such arguments are discussed. The first is taking the relevant face-value to involve explicitly realist commitments; the second is underestimating the power of non-realist str…Read more
  •  966
    Promotionalism, Motivationalism and Reasons to Perform Physically Impossible Actions
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15 (5): 647-659. 2012.
    In this paper I grant the Humean premise that some reasons for action are grounded in the desires of the agents whose reasons they are. I then consider the question of the relation between the reasons and the desires that ground them. According to promotionalism , a desire that p grounds a reason to φ insofar as A’s φing helps promote p . According to motivationalism a desire that p grounds a reason to φ insofar as it explains why, in certain circumstances, A would be motivated to φ. I then give…Read more
  •  934
    Metaethics, teleosemantics and the function of moral judgements
    Biology and Philosophy 27 (5): 639-662. 2012.
    This paper applies the theory of teleosemantics to the issue of moral content. Two versions of teleosemantics are distinguished: input-based and output-based. It is argued that applying either to the case of moral judgements generates the conclusion that such judgements have both descriptive (belief-like) and directive (desire-like) content, intimately entwined. This conclusion directly validates neither descriptivism nor expressivism, but the application of teleosemantics to moral content does …Read more
  •  716
    Moral expressivism and sentential negation
    Philosophical Studies 152 (3): 385-411. 2011.
    This paper advances three necessary conditions on a successful account of sentential negation. First, the ability to explain the constancy of sentential meaning across negated and unnegated contexts (the Fregean Condition). Second, the ability to explain why sentences and their negations are inconsistent, and inconsistent in virtue of the meaning of negation (the Semantic Condition). Third, the ability of the account to generalize regardless of the topic of the negated sentence (the Generality C…Read more
  •  657
    Recent work in expressivism
    Analysis 69 (1): 136-147. 2009.
    This paper is a concise survey of recent expressivist theories of discourse, focusing on the ethical case. For each topic discussed recent trends are summarised and suggestions for further reading provided. Issues covered include: the nature of the moral attitude; ‘hybrid’ views according to which moral judgements express both beliefs and attitudes; the quasi-realist programmes of Simon Blackburn and Allan Gibbard; the problem of creeping minimalism; the nature of the ‘expression’ relation; the …Read more
  •  600
    Propositional clothing and belief
    Philosophical Quarterly 57 (228): 342-362. 2007.
    Moral discourse is propositionally clothed, that is, it exhibits those features – such as the ability of its sentences to intelligibly embed in conditionals and other unasserted contexts – that have been taken by some philosophers to be constitutive of discourses that express propositions. If there is nothing more to a mental state being a belief than it being characteristically expressed by sentences that are propositionally clothed then the version of expressivism which accepts that moral disc…Read more
  •  588
    Two kinds of naturalism in ethics
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (4). 2006.
    What are the conditions on a successful naturalistic account of moral properties? In this paper I discuss one such condition: the possibility of moral concepts playing a role in good empirical theories on a par with those of the natural and social sciences. I argue that Peter Railton’s influential account of moral rightness fails to meet this condition, and thus is only viable in the hands of a naturalist who doesn’t insist on it. This conclusion generalises to all versions of naturalism that gi…Read more
  •  575
    Free Thinking for Expressivists
    Philosophical Papers 37 (2): 263-287. 2008.
    This paper elaborates and defends an expressivist account of the claims of mind-independence embedded in ordinary moral thought. In response to objections from Zangwill and Jenkins it is argued that the expressivist 'internal reading' of such claims is compatible with their conceptual status and that the only 'external reading' available doesn't commit expressivisists to any sort of subjectivism. In the process a 'commitment-theoretic' account of the semantics of conditionals and negations is de…Read more
  •  558
    The explanationist argument for moral realism
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 41 (1): 1-24. 2011.
    In this paper I argue that the explanationist argument in favour of moral realism fails. According to this argument, the ability of putative moral properties to feature in good explanations provides strong evidence for, or entails, the metaphysical claims of moral realism. Some have rejected this argument by denying that moral explanations are ever good explanations. My criticism is different. I argue that even if we accept that moral explanations are (sometimes) good explanations the metaphysic…Read more
  •  540
    The moral belief problem
    Ratio 19 (2). 2006.
    The moral belief problem is that of reconciling expressivism in ethics with both minimalism in the philosophy of language and the syntactic discipline of moral sentences. It is argued that the problem can be solved by distinguishing minimal and robust senses of belief, where a minimal belief is any state of mind expressed by sincere assertoric use of a syntactically disciplined sentence and a robust belief is a minimal belief with some additional property R. Two attempts to specify R are discuss…Read more
  •  460
    Expressivist Explanations
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (2): 147-177. 2012.
    In this paper I argue that the common practice of employing moral predicates as explaining phrases can be accommodated on an expressivist account of moral practice. This account does not treat moral explanations as in any way second-rate or derivative, since it subsumes moral explanations under the general theory of program explanations (as defended by Jackson and Pettit). It follows that the phenomenon of moral explanations cannot be used to adjudicate the debate between expressivism and its ri…Read more
  •  336
    Expressivism and the practicality of moral convictions
    Journal of Value Inquiry 41 (2-4): 201-220. 2007.
    Many expressivists have employed a claim about the practicality of morality in support of their view that moral convictions are not purely descriptive mental states. In this paper I argue that all extant arguments of this form fail. I distinguish several versions of such arguments and argue that in each case either the sense of practicality the argument employs is too weak, in which case there is no reason to think that descriptive states cannot be practical or the sense of practicality the argu…Read more
  •  314
    Reasons, inescapability and persuasion
    Philosophical Studies 173 (10): 2823-2844. 2016.
    This paper outlines a new metasemantic theory of moral reason statements, focused on explaining how the reasons thus stated can be inescapable. The motivation for the theory is in part that it can explain this and other phenomena concerning moral reasons. The account also suggests a general recipe for explanations of conceptual features of moral reason statements. (Published with Open Access.).
  •  306
    Evolution and the Missing Link (in Debunking Arguments)
    In Michael Ruse & Robert J. Richards (eds.), The Cambridge Handbook of Evolutionary Ethics, Cambridge University Press. 2017.
    What are the consequences, for human moral practice, of an evolutionary understanding of that practice? By ‘moral practice’ we mean the way in which human beings think, talk and debate in moral terms. We suggest that the proper upshot of such considerations is moderate support for anti-realism in ethics.
  •  262
    On the Connection between Normative Reasons and the Possibility of Acting for those Reasons
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (5): 1211-1223. 2016.
    According to Bernard Williams, if it is true that A has a normative reason to Φ then it must be possible that A should Φ for that reason. This claim is important both because it restricts the range of reasons which agents can have and because it has been used as a premise in an argument for so-called ‘internalist’ theories of reasons. In this paper I rebut an apparent counterexamples to Williams’ claim: Schroeder’s example of Nate. I argue that this counterexample fails since it underestimates t…Read more
  •  259
    Conceptual Role Semantics and the Reference of Moral Concepts
    European Journal of Philosophy 26 (1): 95-121. 2018.
    This paper examines the prospects for a conceptual or functional role theory of moral concepts. It is argued that such an account is well-placed to explain both the irreducibility and practicality of moral concepts. Several versions of conceptual role semantics for moral concepts are distinguished, depending on whether the concept-constitutive conceptual roles are wide or narrow normative or non-normative and purely doxastic or conative. It is argued that the most plausible version of conceptual…Read more
  •  251
    On standing one's ground
    Analysis 74 (3): 422-431. 2014.
    I provide a positive expressivist account of the permissibility of ‘standing one’s ground’ in some cases of moral conflict, based in part on an illustrative analogy with political disputes. This account suffices to undermine Enoch’s recent argument against expressivism
  •  172
    Are the circumstances in which moral testimony serves as evidence that our judgement-forming processes are unreliable the same circumstances in which mundane testimony serves as evidence that our mundane judgement-forming processes are unreliable? In answering this question, we distinguish two possible roles for testimony: (i) providing a legitimate basis for a judgement, (ii) providing (‘higher-order’) evidence that a judgement-forming process is unreliable. We explore the possibilities for a v…Read more
  •  170
    Reasons Internalism and the Function of Normative Reasons
    Dialectica 71 (2): 209-229. 2017.
    What is the connection between reasons and motives? According to Reasons Internalism there is a non-trivial conceptual connection between normative reasons and the possibility of rationally accessing relevant motivation. Reasons Internalism is attractive insofar as it captures the thought that reasons are for reasoning with and repulsive insofar as it fails to generate sufficient critical distance between reasons and motives. Rather than directly adjudicate this dispute, I extract from it two ge…Read more
  •  154
    Moral Explanations
    In Hugh LaFollette (ed.), International Encyclopedia of Ethics, Blackwell. 2013.
    "The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice." (Martin Luther King) A moral explanation is an explanation of a particular or type of event (or fact or state of affairs) that features moral terms in the explaining phrase. Here are some examples. First, one way of the above quote is as the claim that, in the broad sweep of history, societies tend toward more just institutions, and that they do so precisely because these institutions are just. This is a moral explanation …Read more
  •  138
    Explanation in Ethics and Mathematics: Debunking and Dispensability (edited book)
    Oxford University Press UK. 2016.
    How far should our realism extend? For many years philosophers of mathematics and philosophers of ethics have worked independently to address the question of how best to understand the entities apparently referred to by mathematical and ethical talk. But the similarities between their endeavours are not often emphasised. This book provides that emphasis. In particular, it focuses on two types of argumentative strategies that have been deployed in both areas. The first—debunking arguments—aims to…Read more
  •  114
    This chapter -- the first in the edited collection "The Naturalistic Fallacy" (Cambridge University Press 2019) -- locates the naturalistic fallacy within the context of the other claims Moore defends in Principia Ethica. I explore the notions of “definition” and “analysis” as Moore understood them and set out in detail the multiple interpretations of the fallacy and open question argument. I then take a broad view of the influence of the fallacy on the Century of metaethics that came after Moor…Read more
  •  114
    I argue that evolutionary debunking arguments are dialectically ineffective against a range of plausible positions regarding moral truth. I first distinguish debunking arguments which target the truth of moral judgements from those which target their justification. I take the latter to rest on the premise that such judgements can be given evolutionary explanations which do not invoke their truth. The challenge for the debunker is to bridge the gap between this premise and the conclusion that mor…Read more
  •  94
    Comments on Gibbard’s Thinking How to Live (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 72 (3). 2006.
    University of Cambridge.
  •  62
    Ethical Issues in Designing Interventions for Behavioural Change
    with Gyunchan Thomas Jun and Fernando Carvalho
    Proceedings of Design Research Society 2018, Volume 1. 2018.
    This paper reflects on fundamental ethical issues concerning designing for behavioural change, in order to raise questions about the factors that should be considered by design practitioners when developing interventions. It draws on existing literature on philosophical ethics, moral psychology and design. It proposes a list of ethical questions and considerations to be made throughout the design process. A case study addressing behavioural changes in antibiotics prescriptions (for Urinary Tract…Read more
  •  52
    Speech and Morality (review)
    Analysis 77 (3): 643-648. 2017.
    Nicholas Sturgeon memorably asked: ‘What difference does it make whether moral realism is true?’ His question was prompted by the rise of the metaethical upstart quasi-realism, which urges that an expressivist account of moral discourse is compatible with most, if not all, of its important contours. In his invigorating new book, Cuneo offers a startling new answer to Sturgeon’s question.1 If moral realism were not true, Cuneo argues, we would not be able to speak. But since we evidently can spea…Read more