• Instrumental Rationality
    In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 6, Oxford University Press. 2011.
  •  12
    The Value of Rationality
    Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 73 (1): 153-157. 2019.
  •  24
    Moral Disagreement and Inexcusable Irrationality
    American Philosophical Quarterly 56 (1): 97. 2019.
    This essay explores the following position: Ultimate moral principles are a priori truths; hence, it is irrational to assign a non-zero credence to any proposition that is incompatible with these ultimate moral principles ; and this sort of irrationality, if it could have been avoided, is in a sense inexcusable. So—at least if moral relativism is false—in any disagreement about ultimate moral principles, at least one party to the disagreement is inexcusably irrational. This position may seem ext…Read more
  •  34
    This is a review of Clare Chambers's book, Against Marriage: An Egalitarian Defense of the Marriage-Free State.
  •  89
    The Nature of Normativity: Reply to Holton, Railton, and Lenman
    Philosophical Studies 151 (3): 479-491. 2010.
    In this article, I reply to the comments that Richard Holton, Peter Railton, and James Lenman have made on my 2007 book "The Nature of Normativity".
  •  33
    The Unity of Normativity
    In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity, Oxford University Press. pp. 23-45. 2018.
    What is normativity? It is argued here that normativity is best understood as a property of certain concepts: normative thoughts are those involving these normative concepts; normative statements are statements that express normative thoughts; and normative facts are the facts (if such there be) that make such normative thoughts true. Many philosophers propose that there is a single basic normative concept—perhaps the concept of a reason for an action or attitude—in terms of which all other norm…Read more
  •  891
    Plato's Theory of Knowledge
    In David Brink, Susan Sauvé Meyer & Christopher Shields (eds.), Virtue, Happiness, Knowledge: Themes from the Work of Gail Fine and Terence Irwin, Oxford University Press. pp. 33-56. 2018.
    An account of Plato’s theory of knowledge is offered. Plato is in a sense a contextualist: at least, he recognizes that his own use of the word for “knowledge” varies – in some contexts, it stands for the fullest possible level of understanding of a truth, while in other contexts, it is broader and includes less complete levels of understanding as well. But for Plato, all knowledge, properly speaking, is a priori knowledge of necessary truths – based on recollection of aspects of the Forms – an…Read more
  •  62
    Epistemic Teleology: Synchronic and Diachronic
    In Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij & Jeff Dunn (eds.), Epistemic Consequentialism, Oxford University Press. pp. 85-112. 2018.
    According to a widely held view of the matter, whenever we assess beliefs as ‘rational’ or ‘justified’, we are making normative judgements about those beliefs. In this discussion, I shall simply assume, for the sake of argument, that this view is correct. My goal here is to explore a particular approach to understanding the basic principles that explain which of these normative judgements are true. Specifically, this approach is based on the assumption that all such normative principles are grou…Read more
  •  11
    The Predicament of Choice
    In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 12, Oxford University Press. pp. 294-313. 2017.
    Normal agents in the actual world are limited: they cannot think about all the options that are available to them—or even about all options that are available to them according to their evidence. Moreover, agents cannot choose an option unless they have thought about that option. Such agents can be irrational in two ways: either by making their choice too quickly, without canvassing enough options, or by wasting time canvassing ever more options when they have already thought of enough options. …Read more
  •  47
    A probabilistic epistemology of perceptual belief
    Philosophical Issues 28 (1): 1-25. 2018.
    There are three well-known models of how to account for perceptual belief within a probabilistic framework: (a) a Cartesian model; (b) a model advocated by Timothy Williamson; and (c) a model advocated by Richard Jeffrey. Each of these models faces a problem—in effect, the problem of accounting for the defeasibility of perceptual justification and perceptual knowledge. It is argued here that the best way of responding to this the best way of responding to this problem effectively vindicates the …Read more
  •  24
    Fifteen Sermons and Other Writings on Ethics by Joseph Butler (review)
    Journal of the History of Philosophy 56 (3): 563-564. 2018.
    As a young Anglican clergyman, Joseph Butler published the first edition of his Fifteen Sermons Preached at the Rolls Chapel in 1721; a revised edition appeared in 1729. Almost immediately, it was widely understood that these sermons present a strikingly subtle and careful form of a relatively traditional conception of ethics, in contrast to the more radical views of other philosophers such as Thomas Hobbes. Only a few years later, David Hume was much concerned to assimilate Butler's insights, w…Read more
  • Principle and Sentiment: An Essay in Moral Epistemology
    Dissertation, Cornell University. 1994.
    This essay examines the epistemology of evaluative, and especially moral, thinking, and attempts an analysis of value-concepts. It proposes an account according to which sentiment plays a central role in all rational evaluative thinking. But this account diverges sharply from traditional emotivism: it insists that rational evaluative thinking must be principled; it defends the pursuit of systematic moral theory through seeking reflective equilibrium; and, though committed to holding that value-j…Read more
  •  38
    Here is a definition of knowledge: for you to know a proposition p is for you to have an outright belief in p that is correct precisely because it manifests the virtue of rationality. This definition resembles Ernest Sosa’s “virtue theory”, except that on this definition, the only virtue that must be manifested in all instances of knowledge is rationality, and no reductive account of rationality is attempted—rationality is assumed to be an irreducibly normative notion. This definition is compati…Read more
  •  16
    The Value of Rationality
    Oxford University Press. 2017.
    Ralph Wedgwood gives a general account of what it is for states of mind and processes of thought to count as rational. Whether you are thinking rationally depends purely on what is going on in your mind, but rational thinking is a means to the goal of getting things right in your thinking, by believing the truth or making good choices.
  •  152
    Schroeder on expressivism: For – or against? (review)
    Analysis 70 (1): 117-129. 2010.
    This is a critical discussion of Mark Schroeder's book, "Being For: Evaluating the Semantic Program of Expressivism" (Oxford University Press, 2008).
  •  416
    The Pitfalls of ‘Reasons’
    Philosophical Issues 25 (1): 123-143. 2015.
    Many philosophers working on the branches of philosophy that deal with the normative questions have adopted a " Reasons First" program. This paper criticizes the foundational assumptions of this program. In fact, there are many different concepts that can be expressed by the term 'reason' in English, none of which are any more fundamental than any others. Indeed, most of these concepts are not particularly fundamental in any interesting sense
  •  161
    Choosing Rationally and Choosing Correctly
    In Sarah Stroud & Christine Tappolet (eds.), Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality, Oxford University Press. pp. 201--229. 2003.
    Let us take an example that Bernard Williams (1981: 102) made famous. Suppose that you want a gin and tonic, and you believe that the stuff in front of you is gin. In fact, however, the stuff is not gin but petrol. So if you drink the stuff (even mixed with tonic), it will be decidedly unpleasant, to say the least. Should you choose to drink the stuff or not?
  •  254
    Akrasia and Uncertainty
    Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 20 (4). 2013.
    According to John Broome, akrasia consists in a failure to intend to do something that one believes one ought to do, and such akrasia is necessarily irrational. In fact, however, failing to intend something that one believes one ought to do is only guaranteed to be irrational if one is certain of a maximally detailed proposition about what one ought to do; if one is uncertain about any part of the full story about what one ought to do, it could be perfectly rational not to intend to do something…Read more
  •  121
    Rationality as a Virtue
    Analytic Philosophy 55 (4): 319-338. 2014.
    A concept that can be expressed by the term ‘rationality’ plays a central role in both epistemology and ethics -- and especially in formal epistemology and decision theory. It is argued here that when the term is used in this way, the concept of “rationality” is the concept of a kind of virtue, with all the central features that are ascribed to the virtues by Plato and Aristotle, among others. Interpreting rationality as a kind of virtue helps to solve several problems, such as the relations bet…Read more
  •  347
    The Nature of Normativity
    Oxford University Press. 2007.
    This is a book about normativity -- where the central normative terms are words like 'ought' and 'should' and their equivalents in other languages. It has three parts: The first part is about the semantics of normative discourse: what it means to talk about what ought to be the case. The second part is about the metaphysics of normative properties and relations: what is the nature of those properties and relations whose pattern of instantiation makes propositions about what ought to be the case …Read more
  •  85
    Non-cognitivism, truth and logic
    Philosophical Studies 86 (1): 73-91. 1997.
    This paper provides a new argument for a position of Crispin Wright's: given that ethical statements can be embedded within all sorts of sentential operators and are subject to definite standards of warrantedness, they must have truth conditions. Allan Gibbard's normative logic' is the only noncognitivist logic that stands a chance of avoiding Geach's Fregean objection. But what, according to Gibbard, is the point of avoiding inconsistency in one's ethical statements? He must say that it is to e…Read more
  •  287
    The moral evil demons
    In Richard Feldman & Ted A. Warfield (eds.), Disagreement, Oxford University Press. 2010.
    Moral disagreement has long been thought to create serious problems for certain views in metaethics. More specifically, moral disagreement has been thought to pose problems for any metaethical view that rejects relativism—that is, for any view that implies that whenever two thinkers disagree about a moral question, at least one of those thinkers’ beliefs about the question is not correct. In this essay, I shall outline a solution to one of these problems. As I shall argue, it turns out in the en…Read more
  •  439
    Internalism Explained
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (2): 349-369. 2002.
    According to epistemological internalism, the rationality of a belief supervenes purely on "internal facts" about the thinker's mind. But what are "internal facts"? Why does the rationality of a belief supervene on them? The standard answers are unacceptable. This paper proposes new answers. "Internal facts" are facts about the thinker's nonfactive mental states. The rationality of a belief supervenes on such internal facts because we need rules of belief revision that we can follow directly, no…Read more
  •  13
    Review of "The Common Mind: An Essay on Psychology, Society, and Politics" by Philip Pettit (review)
    European Journal of Philosophy 4 (1): 111-115. 1996.
    This is a review of Philip Pettit's book "The Common Mind: An Essay on Psychology, Society, and Politics"
  •  208
    Gandalf's solution to the Newcomb problem
    Synthese 190 (14). 2013.
    This article proposes a new theory of rational decision, distinct from both causal decision theory (CDT) and evidential decision theory (EDT). First, some intuitive counterexamples to CDT and EDT are presented. Then the motivation for the new theory is given: the correct theory of rational decision will resemble CDT in that it will not be sensitive to any comparisons of absolute levels of value across different states of nature, but only to comparisons of the differences in value between the ava…Read more
  •  74
    Railton on normativity (review)
    Philosophical Studies 126 (3): 463-479. 2005.
    This is a critical discussion of Part III of Peter Railton's recent book Facts, Values, and Norms: Essays Toward a Morality of Consequence (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
  •  169
    Is Civil Marriage Illiberal?
    In Elizabeth Brake (ed.), Beyond Marriage: Rethinking Marital Relationships, Oxford University Press. 2016.
    This paper defends the institution of civil marriage against the objection that it is inconsistent with political liberalism, and so should be either totally abolished or else transformed virtually beyond recognition.
  •  115
    The price of non-reductive moral realism
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2 (3): 199-215. 1999.
    Non-reductive moral realism is the view that there are moral properties which cannot be reduced to natural properties. If moral properties exist, it is plausible that they strongly supervene on non-moral properties- more specifically, on mental, social, and biological properties. There may also be good reasons for thinking that moral properties are irreducible. However, strong supervenience and irreducibility seem incompatible. Strong supervenience entails that there is an enormous number of mod…Read more