Cornell University
Department of Philosophy
PhD, 1994
Los Angeles, California, United States of America
Areas of Specialization
  •  7
    The Value of Rationality
    Zeitschrift für Philosophische Forschung 73 (1): 153-157. 2019.
  •  18
    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
  •  25
    This is a review of Clare Chambers's book, Against Marriage: An Egalitarian Defense of the Marriage-Free State.
  •  84
    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".
  •  26
    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
  •  478
    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
  •  52
    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
  •  8
    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
  •  41
    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
  •  22
    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
  •  31
    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
  •  11
    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.
  •  158
    Scanlon on Double Effect (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (2): 464-472. 2011.
    In this new book Moral Dimensions, T. M. Scanlon (2008) explores the ethical significance of the intentions and motives with which people act. According to Scanlon, these intentions and motives do not have any direct bearing on the permissibility of the act. Thus, Scanlon claims that the traditional Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) is mistaken. However, the way in which someone is motivated to act has a direct bearing on what Scanlon calls the act's "meaning". One particularly important kind of "…Read more
  •  373
    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
  •  212
    The Coherence of Thrasymachus
    Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 53 33-63. 2017.
    In Book I of the Republic, or so I shall argue, Plato gives us a glimpse of sheer horror. In the character, beliefs, and desires of Thrasymachus, Plato aims to personify some of the most diabolical dangers that lurk in human nature. In this way, the role that Thrasymachus plays for Plato is akin to the role that for Hobbes is played by the bellum omnium contra omnes, the war of all against all, which would allegedly be the inevitable result of a "state of nature", where human beings have no gove…Read more
  •  129
    The Right Thing to Believe
    In Timothy Chan (ed.), The Aim of Belief, Oxford University Press. pp. 123-139. 2013.
    Many philosophers have claimed that “belief aims at the truth”. But is there any interpretation of this claim on which it counts as true? According to some philosophers, the best interpretation of the claim takes it as the normative thesis that belief is subject to a truth-norm. The goal of this essay is to clarify this normative interpretation of the claim. First, the claim can be developed so that it applies to partial beliefs as well as to flat-out full beliefs. Secondly, an answer is given t…Read more
  •  226
    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
  •  244
    The normativity of the intentional
    In Ansgar Beckermann & Brian P. McLaughlin (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Mind, Oxford University Press. 2009.
    Many philosophers have claimed that the intentional is normative. (This claim is the analogue, within the philosophy of mind, of the claim that is often made within the philosophy of language, that meaning is normative.) But what exactly does this claim mean? And what reason is there for believing it? In this paper, I shall first try to clarify the content of the claim that the intentional is normative. Then I shall examine a number of the arguments that philosophers have advanced for this claim…Read more
  •  207
    Normativism defended
    In Brian P. McLaughlin & Jonathan D. Cohen (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind, Blackwell. pp. 85--102. 2007.
    The aim of this chapter is to defend the claim that “the intentional is normative” against a number of objections, including those that Georges Rey has presented in his contribution to this volume. First, I give a quick sketch of the principal argument that I have used to support this claim, and briefly comment on Rey’s criticisms of this argument. Next, I try to answer the main objections that have been raised against this claim. First, it may seem that the claim that “the intentional is normat…Read more
  •  108
    The internal and external components of cognition
    In Robert J. Stainton (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science, Blackwell. pp. 307-325. 2006.
    Timothy Williamson has presented several arguments that seek to cast doubt on the idea that cognition can be factorized into internal and external components. In the first section of this paper, I attempt to evaluate these arguments. My conclusion will be that these arguments establish several highly important points, but in the end these arguments fail to cast any doubt either on the idea that cognitive science should be largely concerned with internal mental processes, or on the idea that cogn…Read more
  •  174
    This paper gives a new interpretation of the central section of Plato's Symposium (199d-212a). According to this interpretation, the term "καλóν", as used by Plato here, stands for what many contemporary philosophers call "intrinsic value"; and "love" (ἔρως) is in effect rational motivation , which for Plato consists in the desire to "possess" intrinsically valuable things - that is, according to Plato, to be happy - for as long as possible. An explanation is given of why Plato believes that "po…Read more
  •  97
    The a priori rules of rationality
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (1): 113-131. 1999.
    Both these ideas are intuitively plausible: rationality has an external aim, such as forming a true belief or good decision; and the rationality of a belief or decision is determined purely by facts about the thinker’s internal mental states. Unlike earlier conceptions, the conception of rationality presented here explains why these ideas are both true. Rational beliefs and decisions, it is argued, are those that are formed through the thinker’s following ‘rules of rationality’. Some rules count…Read more
  •  54
    British Society for Ethical Theory 1998 Conference
    with Garrett Cullity, Alex Miller, Duncan McFarland, James Griffin, R. Jay Wallace, Iain Law, Maggie Little, Nick Zangwill, and Elinor Mason
    The Journal of Ethics 2 (189): 189-189. 1998.
  •  40
    Review of Jacobs and Potter, hate crimes: Criminal law and identity politics (review)
    Journal of Homosexuality 45 (1): 152-159. 2003.
    This is a review of Hate Crimes: Criminal Law and Identity Politics, by James B. Jacobs and Kimberly Potter; it is argued that the arguments of that book completely fail to establish the book's principal conclusions.
  •  126
    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.
  •  73
    The Price of Non‐Reductive Physicalism
    Noûs 34 (3): 400-421. 2000.
    Nonreductive physicalism faces a serious objection: physicalism entails the existence of an enormous number of modal facts--specifically, facts about exactly which physical properties necessitate each mental property; and, it seems, if mental properties are irreducible, these modal facts cannot all be satisfactorily explained. The only answer to this objection is to claim that the explanations of these modal facts are themselves contingent. This claim requires rejecting "S5" as the appropriate l…Read more
  •  125
    Practical reason and desire
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 80 (3). 2002.
    Many philosophres have attempted to argue from the "Humean Theory of Motivation" (HTM) and the "Internalism Requirement" (IR) to the "Humean Theory of Practical Reason" (HTPR). This argument is familiar, but it has rarely been stated with sufficient precision. In this paper, I shall give a precise statement of this argument. I shall then rely on this statement to show two things. First, the HTPR is false: it is incompatible with some extremely plausible assumptions about weakness of will or akra…Read more
  •  75
    Review of David Enoch, "Taking Morality Seriously: A Defense of Robust Realism" (review)
    Philosophical Quarterly 63 (251): 389-393. 2013.
    This is a review of David Enoch's book "Taking Morality Seriously: A Defense of Robust Realism".