Harvard University
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 2000
Los Angeles, California, United States of America
  •  1851
    Responsibility for believing
    Synthese 161 (3): 357-373. 2008.
    Many assume that we can be responsible only what is voluntary. This leads to puzzlement about our responsibility for our beliefs, since beliefs seem not to be voluntary. I argue against the initial assumption, presenting an account of responsibility and of voluntariness according to which, not only is voluntariness not required for responsibility, but the feature which renders an attitude a fundamental object of responsibility (that the attitude embodies one’s take on the world and one’s place i…Read more
  •  1590
    The Wrong Kind of Reason
    Journal of Philosophy 102 (9). 2005.
    A good number of people currently thinking and writing about reasons identify a reason as a consideration that counts in favor of an action or attitude.1 I will argue that using this as our fundamental account of what a reason is generates a fairly deep and recalcitrant ambiguity; this account fails to distinguish between two quite different sets of considerations that count in favor of certain attitudes, only one of which are the “proper” or “appropriate” kind of reason for them. This ambiguity…Read more
  •  1316
    Controlling attitudes
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 87 (1): 45-74. 2006.
    I hope to show that, although belief is subject to two quite robust forms of agency, "believing at will" is impossible; one cannot believe in the way one ordinarily acts. Further, the same is true of intention: although intention is subject to two quite robust forms of agency, the features of belief that render believing less than voluntary are present for intention, as well. It turns out, perhaps surprisingly, that you can no more intend at will than believe at will.
  •  1251
    The force and fairness of blame
    Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1). 2004.
    In this paper I consider fairness of blaming a wrongdoer. In particular, I consider the claim that blaming a wrongdoer can be unfair because blame has a certain characteristic force, a force which is not fairly imposed upon the wrongdoer unless certain conditions are met--unless, e.g., the wrongdoer could have done otherwise, or unless she is someone capable of having done right, or unless she is able to control her behavior by the light of moral reasons. While agreeing that blame has a characte…Read more
  •  1020
    Reflection and Responsibility
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 42 (1): 3-41. 2014.
    A common line of thought claims that we are responsible for ourselves and our actions, while less sophisticated creatures are not, because we are, and they are not, self-aware. Our self-awareness is thought to provide us with a kind of control over ourselves that they lack: we can reflect upon ourselves, upon our thoughts and actions, and so ensure that they are as we would have them to be. Thus, our capacity for reflection provides us with the control over ourselves that grounds our responsib…Read more
  •  910
    Reasons for Action
    Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 111 (3pt3): 407-427. 2011.
    Donald Davidson opens ‘Actions, Reasons, and Causes’ by asking, ‘What is the relation between a reason and an action when the reason explains the action by giving the agent's reason for doing what he did?’ His answer has generated some confusion about reasons for action and made for some difficulty in understanding the place for the agent's own reasons for acting, in the explanation of an action. I offer here a different account of the explanation of action, one that, though minimal and formal, …Read more
  •  889
    The reasons of trust
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (2). 2008.
    I argue to a conclusion I find at once surprising and intuitive: although many considerations show trust useful, valuable, important, or required, these are not the reasons for which one trusts a particular person to do a particular thing. The reasons for which one trusts a particular person on a particular occasion concern, not the value, importance, or necessity of trust itself, but rather the trustworthiness of the person in question in the matter at hand. In fact, I will suggest that the deg…Read more
  •  841
    Of metaethics and motivation: The appeal of contractualism
    In R. Jay Wallace, Rahul Kumar & Samuel Richard Freeman (eds.), Reasons and Recognition: Essays on the Philosophy of T. M. Scanlon, Oxford University Press. 2011.
    In 1982, when T. M. Scanlon published “Contractualism and Utilitarianism,” he noted that, despite the widespread attention to Rawls’ A Theory of Justice, the appeal of contractualism as a moral theory had been under appreciated. In particular, the appeal of contractualism’s account of what he then called “moral motivation” had been under appreciated.1 It seems to me that, in the intervening quarter century, despite the widespread discussion of Scanlon’s work, the appeal of contractualism, in pre…Read more
  •  527
    Here I defend my solution to the wrong-kind-of-reason problem against Mark Schroeder’s criticisms. In doing so, I highlight an important difference between other accounts of reasons and my own. While others understand reasons as considerations that count in favor of attitudes, I understand reasons as considerations that bear (or are taken to bear) on questions. Thus, to relate reasons to attitudes, on my account, we must consider the relation between attitudes and questions. By considering that …Read more
  •  467
    The will as reason
    Philosophical Perspectives 23 (1): 201-220. 2009.
    I here defend an account of the will as practical reason —or, using Kant's phrase, as " reason in its practical employment"—as against a view of the will as a capacity for choice, in addition to reason, by which we execute practical judgments in action. Certain commonplaces show distance between judgment and action and thus seem to reveal the need for a capacity, in addition to reason, by which we execute judgment in action. However, another ordinary fact pushes in the other direction: the activ…Read more
  •  445
    Rational capacity as a condition on blame
    Philosophical Books 48 (2). 2007.
    In "Rational Capacities" Michael Smith outlines the sense of capacity he believes to be required before blame is appropriate. I question whether this sense of capacity is required. In so doing, I consider different ways in which blame might be conditioned.
  •  403
    Believing at Will
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy, Supplementary Volume 35 (sup1): 149-187. 2009.
    It has seemed to many philosophers—perhaps to most—that believing is not voluntary, that we cannot believe at will. It has seemed to many of these that this inability is not a merely contingent psychological limitation but rather is a deep fact about belief, perhaps a conceptual limitation. But it has been very difficult to say exactly why we cannot believe at will. I earlier offered an account of why we cannot believe at will. I argued that nothing could qualify both as having been done “at wil…Read more
  •  290
    Articulating an uncompromising forgiveness
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 62 (3): 529-555. 2001.
    I first pose a challenge which, it seems to me, any philosophical account of forgiveness must meet: the account must be articulate and it must allow for forgiveness that is uncompromising. I then examine an account of forgiveness which appears to meet this challenge. Upon closer examination we discover that this account actually fails to meet the challenge—but it fails in very instructive ways. The account takes two missteps which seem to be taken by almost everyone discussing forgiveness. At th…Read more
  •  289
    There seems to be widespread agreement that to be responsible for something is to be deserving of certain consequences on account of that thing. Call this the “merited-consequences” conception of responsibility. I think there is something off, or askew, in this conception, though I find it hard to articulate just what it is. The phenomena the merited-consequences conception is trying to capture could be better captured, I think, by noting the characteristic way in which certain minds can righ…Read more
  •  262
    Making a Difference
    Social Theory and Practice 37 (1): 81-94. 2011.
    I suggest that Fischer concedes too much to the consequence argument when he grants that we may not make a difference. I provide a broad sketch of (my take on) the dispute between compatibilists and incompatibilists, while suggesting that some of the discussion may have confused the freedom required for moral responsibility with a very different notion of autonomy. I introduce that less usual notion of autonomy and suggest that those who are autonomous, in this sense, do make a difference
  •  238
    Two kinds of agency
    In Lucy O'Brien & Matthew Soteriou (eds.), Mental Action, Oxford University Press. 2009.
    I will argue that making a certain assumption allows us to conceptualize more clearly our agency over our minds. The assumption is this: certain attitudes (most uncontroversially, belief and intention) embody their subject’s answer to some question or set of questions. I will first explain the assumption and then show that, given the assumption, we should expect to exercise agency over this class of attitudes in (at least) two distinct ways: by answering for ourselves the question they embody an…Read more
  •  231
    I here press an often overlooked question: Why does the fairness of a sanction require an adequate opportunity to avoid it? By pressing this question, I believe I have come to better understand something that has long puzzled me, namely, what philosophers (and others) might have in mind when they talk about “true moral responsibility,” or the “condemnatory force” of moral blame, or perhaps even “basic desert.” In presenting this understanding of “condemnation” or of “basic desert,” I am presen…Read more
  •  189
    I first sketch the different things we might have in mind, when thinking about responsibility. I then relate each of those to possible investigations of human agency. The most interesting such relation, in my opinion, is that between agency and what I call “responsibility as mattering.” I offer some hypotheses about that relation.
  •  106
    Reasoning First
    In Ruth Chang & Kurt Sylvan (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Practical Reasoning, . forthcoming.
    Many think of reasons as facts, propositions, or considerations that stand in some relation (or relations) to attitudes, actions, states of affairs. The relation may be an explanatory one or a “normative” one—though some are uncomfortable with irreducibly “normative” relations. I will suggest that we should, instead, see reasons as items in pieces of reasoning. They relate, in the first instance, not to psychological states or events or states of affairs, but to questions. That relation is n…Read more
  •  97
    Sher’s defense of blame (review)
    Philosophical Studies 137 (1): 19-30. 2008.
    In his In Praise of Blame, George Sher aims to provide an analysis and defense of blame. In fact, he aims to provide an analysis that will itself yield a defense by allowing him to argue that morality and blame "stand or fall together." He thus opposes anyone who recommends jettisoning blame while preserving (the rest of) morality. In this comment, I examine Sher's defense of blame. Though I am much in sympathy with Sher's strategy of defending blame by providing an analysis that shows its conne…Read more
  •  92
    Freedom, Resentment, and the Metaphysics of Morals
    Princeton University Press. 2020.
    Nearly sixty years after its publication, P. F. Strawson’s “Freedom and Resentment” continues to inspire important work. Its main legacy has been the notion of “reactive attitudes.” Surprisingly, Strawson’s central argument—an argument to the conclusion that no general thesis (such as the thesis of determinism) could provide us reason to abandon these attitudes—has received little attention. When the argument is considered, it is often interpreted as relying on a claim about our psychological ca…Read more
  •  1
    Virtue and its Imitation
    Dissertation, Harvard University. 2000.
    You can't just believe whatever you want to. You can only believe what you think is true. Why? Because if you don't think something is true, you don't believe it. You only act as if you do. ;You can't be kind, or just, or courageous for just any reason. Why not? Because an action is kind, or just, or courageous only if it's done for certain reasons. Done for other reasons, it won't be a kind, just, or courageous action. It will be an imitation of virtue. ;I hope to defend the truth in these two …Read more