•  1105
    Practical Necessity and the Constitution of Character
    In Alexandra Perry & Chris Herrera (eds.), The Moral Philosophy of Bernard Williams, Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 40-53. 2013.
    Deliberation issues in decision, and so might be taken as a paradigmatic volitional activity. Character, on the other hand, may appear pre-volitional: the dispositions that constitute it provide the background against which decisions are made. Bernard Williams offers an intriguing picture of how the two may be connected via the concept of practical necessities, which are at once constitutive of character and deliverances of deliberation. Necessities are thus the glue binding character and the wi…Read more
  •  885
    Immortality, Identity, and Desirability
    In Michael Cholbi (ed.), Immortality and the Philosophy of Death, Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 191-203. 2015.
    Williams’s famous argument against immortality rests on the idea that immortality cannot be desirable, at least for human beings, and his contention has spawned a cottage industry of responses. As I will intend to show, the arguments over his view rest on both a difference of temperament and a difference in the sense of desire being used. The former concerns a difference in whether one takes a forward-looking or a backward-looking perspective on personal identity; the latter a distinction betwee…Read more
  •  639
    Teleology, Narrative, and Death
    In John Lippitt & Patrick Stokes (eds.), Narrative, Identity and the Kierkegaardian Self, Edinburgh University Press. pp. 29-45. 2015.
    Heidegger, like Kierkegaard, has recently been claimed as a narrativist about selves. From this Heideggerian perspective, we can see how narrative expands upon the psychological view, adding a vital teleological dimension to the understanding of selfhood while denying the reductionism implicit in the psychological approach. Yet the narrative approach also inherits the neo-Lockean emphasis on the past as determining identity, whereas the self is fundamentally about the future. Death is crucial on…Read more
  •  546
    Bootstrapping the Afterlife
    Journal of Moral Philosophy 14 (2). 2017.
    Samuel Scheffler defends “The Afterlife Conjecture”: the view that the continued existence of humanity after our deaths—“the afterlife”—lies in the background of our valuing; were we to lose confidence in it, many of the projects we engage in would lose their meaning. The Afterlife Conjecture, in his view, also brings out the limits of our egoism, showing that we care more about yet unborn strangers than about personal survival. But why does the afterlife itself matter to us? Examination of Sche…Read more
  •  511
    The Value of Nonhuman Nature: A Constitutive View
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (3): 469-485. 2014.
    A central question of environmental ethics remains one of how best to account for the intuitions generated by the Last Man scenarios; that is, it is a question of how to explain our experience of value in nature and, more importantly, whether that experience is justified. Seeking an alternative to extrinsic views, according to which nonhuman entities possess normative features that obligate us, I turn to constitutive views, which make value or whatever other limits nonhuman nature places on acti…Read more
  •  477
    Free will, narrative, and retroactive self-constitution
    Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 14 (4): 867-883. 2015.
    John Fischer has recently argued that the value of acting freely is the value of self-expression. Drawing on David Velleman’s earlier work, Fischer holds that the value of a life is a narrative value and free will is valuable insofar as it allows us to shape the narrative structure of our lives. This account rests on Fischer’s distinction between regulative control and guidance control. While we lack the former kind of control, on Fischer’s view, the latter is all that is needed for self-express…Read more
  •  475
    Character, Will, and Agency
    In Jonathan Webber & Alberto Masala (eds.), From Personality to Virtue: Essays on the Philosophy of Character, Oxford University Press. pp. 62-80. 2016.
    Character and the will are rarely discussed together. At most, philosophers working on the one mention the other in an eliminativist vein—if character is represented as something chosen, for example, it can be chalked up to the work of the will; if the will consists merely of a certain arrangement of mental states, it can be seen as little more than a manifestation of character. This mutual neglect appears perfectly justified. If both character and will are determinants of action, to treat them …Read more
  •  185
    Eliminativists about free will and moral responsibility argue that no action can be free and responsible because in order to be actions, our movements must be caused by features of our character or will. However, either the will is constituted by states that are themselves produced by events outside our control, or it is constituted by our own choices, which must themselves stem from our will in order to be up to us. Thus, any attempt to account for freedom and responsibility seems to either ru…Read more
  •  158
    Narrative views of agency and identity arise in opposition to reductionism in both domains. While reductionists understand both identity and agency in terms of their components, narrativists respond that life and action are both constituted by narratives, and since the components of a narrative gain their meaning from the whole, life and action not only incorporate their constituent parts but also shape them. I first lay out the difficulties with treating narrative as constitutive of metaphysica…Read more
  •  142
    We find meaning and value in our lives by engaging in everyday projects. But, according to a recent argument by Samuel Scheffler, this value doesn’t depend merely on what the projects are about. In many cases, it depends also on the future generations that will replace us. By imagining the imminent extinction of humanity soon after our own deaths, we can recognize both that much of our current valuing depends on a background confidence in the ongoing survival of humanity and that the survival an…Read more
  •  121
    According to a particular view of political realism, political expediency must always override moral considerations. Perhaps the strongest defense of such a theory is offered by Carl Schmitt in The Concept of the Political. A close examination of Schmitt’s main presuppositions can therefore help to shed light on the tenuous relation between politics and morality. Schmitt’s theory rests on two keystones. First, the political is seen as independent of and prior to morality. Second, genuine politic…Read more
  •  63
    Time and the Philosophy of Action (edited book)
    with Michael J. Sigrist
    Routledge. 2016.
    Although scholarship in philosophy of action has grown in recent years, there has been little work explicitly dealing with the role of time in agency, a role with great significance for the study of action. As the articles in this collection demonstrate, virtually every fundamental issue in the philosophy of action involves considerations of time. The four sections of this volume address the metaphysics of action, diachronic practical rationality, the relation between deliberation and action, an…Read more
  •  34
    In Roman Altshuler & Michael J. Sigrist (eds.), Time and the Philosophy of Action, Routledge. pp. 1-18. 2016.
    We do things in time. Philosophy of action can capture this phenomenon in at least two ways. On one hand, it might focus on the way that temporal preferences and long-term temporal horizons affect the rationality of decisions in the present (see, e.g., Parfit 1984; Rawls 1971). Such work may focus on the way we discount the distant future, for example, or prioritize the future over the past. Approaches of this kind treat time as, in a sense, something external to agency; it sets various constrai…Read more
  •  13
    Meaning, Identity, and Ethnonationalism
    Philosophy and Public Issues - Filosofia E Questioni Pubbliche 10 (2): 113-152. 2020.
    Ethnonationalist movements have gained ground over the past decade in the U.S., Europe, India, and elsewhere. What is the appeal of ethnonationalism and where does it go wrong? On some views, the ethnonationalist’s mistake lies in ignorance: he takes identity to be established by some essential core, and the solution lies in education in history and racial genetics, allowing him to see that his essentialism rests on error. While this response is helpful to a point, I propose that the essentialis…Read more