•  1864
    Vague Projects and the Puzzle of the Self-Torturer
    with Diana Raffman
    Ethics 123 (1): 86-112. 2012.
    In this paper we advance a new solution to Quinn’s puzzle of the self-torturer. The solution falls directly out of an application of the principle of instrumental reasoning to what we call “vague projects”, i.e., projects whose completion does not occur at any particular or definite point or moment. The resulting treatment of the puzzle extends our understanding of instrumental rationality to projects and ends that cannot be accommodated by orthodox theories of rational choice.
  •  1018
    Knowing the Good and Knowing What One is Doing
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 39 (S1): 91-117. 2009.
  •  884
    Externalism, Motivation, and Moral Knowledge
    In Susana Nuccetelli & Gary Seay (eds.), Ethical Naturalism: Current Debates, Cambridge University Press. 2011.
    For non-analytic ethical naturalists, externalism about moral motivation is an attractive option: it allows naturalists to embrace a Humean theory of motivation while holding that moral properties are real, natural properties. However, Michael Smith has mounted an important objection to this view. Smith observes that virtuous agents must have non-derivative motivation to pursue specific ends that they believe to be morally right; he then argues that this externalist view ascribes to the virtuous…Read more
  •  842
    Deontological theories face difficulties in accounting for situations involving risk; the most natural ways of extending deontological principles to such situations have unpalatable consequences. In extending ethical principles to decision under risk, theorists often assume the risk must be incorporated into the theory by means of a function from the product of probability assignments to certain values. Deontologists should reject this assumption; essentially different actions are available to t…Read more
  •  770
    Moral Faith and Moral Reason
    In Sophie-Grace Chappell (ed.), Intuition, Theory, Anti-Theory in Ethics, . pp. 76-103. 2015.
    Robert Adams argues that often our moral commitment outstrips what we are epistemically entitled to believe; in these cases, the virtuous agent doxastic states are instances of “moral faith”. I argue against Adams’ views on the need for moral faith; at least in some cases, our moral “intuitions” provide us with certain moral knowledge. The appearance that there can be no certainty here is the result of dubious views about second-order or indirect doubts. Nonetheless, discussing the phenomena …Read more
  •  663
    The Idea of Freedom and Moral Cognition in Groundwork III
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 84 (3): 555-589. 2012.
    Kant’s views on the relation between freedom and moral law seem to undergo a major, unannounced shift. In the third section of the Groundwork, Kant seems to be using the fact that we must act under the idea of freedom as a foundation for the moral law. However, in the Critique of Practical Reason, Kant claims that our awareness of our freedom depends on our awareness of the moral law. I argue that the apparent conflict between the two texts depends on a reading of the opening paragraphs of Grou…Read more
  •  453
    Minimalism about Intention: A Modest Defense
    Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 57 (3): 384-411. 2014.
    Inquiry, Volume 57, Issue 3, Page 384-411, June 2014
  •  436
    It seems to be a humdrum fact of human agency that we act on intentions or decisions that we have made at an earlier time. At breakfast, you look at the Taco Hut menu online and decide that later today you’ll have one of their avocado burritos for lunch. You’re at your desk and you hear the church bells ring the noon hour. You get up, walk to Taco Hut, and order the burrito as planned. As mundane as this sort of scenario might seem to be, philosophers have raised a problem in understanding it.…Read more
  •  432
    The Vice of Procrastination
    In Chrisoula Andreou & Mark White (eds.), The Thief of Time, Oxford University Press. 2010.
    The aim of this chapter is to understand more precisely what kind of irrationality involved in procrastination. The chapter argues that in order to understand the irrationality of procrastination one needs to understand the possibility and the nature of what I call “top-down independent” policies and long-term actions. A policy or long-term action) is top-down independent if it is possible to act irrationally relative to the adoption of the policy without ever engaging in a momentary action that…Read more
  •  416
    Direction of Fit and Motivational Cognitivism
    In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Oxford University Press. pp. 235-64. 2006.
    The idea of direction of fit has been found appealing by many philosophers. Anscombe’s famous examples have persuaded many of us that there must be some deep difference between belief and desire that is captured by the metaphor of direction of fit. Most of the aim of the paper is to try to get clear on which intuitions Anscombe’s example taps into. My view is that there is more than one intuition in play here, and I will try to show that various distinctions and points are confused in the litera…Read more
  •  377
    The judgment of a weak will
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (4): 875-911. 1999.
    In trying to explain the possibility of akrasia , it seems plausible to deny that there is a conceptual connection between motivation and evaluation ; akrasia occurs when the agent is motivated to do something that she does not judge to be good . However, it is hard to see how such accounts could respect our intuition that the akratic agent acts freely, or that there is a difference between akrasia and compulsion. It is also hard to see how such accounts could be extended to the realm of theoret…Read more
  •  231
  •  133
    Appearing good: A reply to Schroeder
    Social Theory and Practice 34 (1): 131-138. 2008.
  •  113
    Reconsidering Intentions
    Noûs 443-472. 2016.
    This paper argues that the principles of instrumental rationality apply primarily to extended action through time. Most philosophers assume that rational requirements and principles govern in the first instance momentary mental states, as opposed to governing extended intentional actions directly. In the case of instrumental rationality, the relevant mental states or attitudes would typically be preferences, decisions, or intentions. In fact, even those who recognize the extended nature of our a…Read more
  •  112
    Brute Requirements: Critical Notice (review)
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 37 (1): 153-173. 2007.
  •  88
    Formalism and constitutivism in Kantian practical philosophy
    Philosophical Explorations 22 (2): 163-176. 2019.
    Constitutivists have tried to answer Enoch’s “schmagency” objection by arguing that Enoch fails to appreciate the inescapability of agency. Although these arguments are effective against some versions of the objection, I argue that they leave constitutivism vulnerable to an important worry; namely, that constitutivism leaves us alienated from the moral norms that it claims we must follow. In the first part of the paper, I try to make this vague concern more precise: in a nutshell, it seems that …Read more
  •  83
    Hegel’s Critique of Kant in the Philosophy of Right
    with Hans Lottenbach
    Kant-Studien 86 (2): 211-230. 1995.
    There is general agreement among commentators that in the "Philosophy of Right" Hegel misunderstands important aspects of Kant's practical philosophy. It is often claimed that Hegel entirely misses the point of Kant's universal law test and the mode of its application. We argue that these charges rest on misreadings of the "Philosophy of Right" in which Hegel's conception of the will is not taken into account. We show that Hegel's critique of Kant can be defended if it is interpreted as arising …Read more
  •  83
    Desire, Practical Reason, and the Good (edited book)
    Oxford University Press. 2010.
    Most philosophers working in moral psychology and practical reason think that either the notion of "good" or the notion of "desire" have central roles to play in our understanding of intentional explanations and practical reasoning. However, philosophers disagree sharply over how we are supposed to understand the notions of "desire" and "good", how these notions relate, and whether both play a significant and independent role in practical reason. In particular, the "Guise of the Good" thesis - …Read more
  •  77
    'We desire all and only those things we conceive to be good; we avoid what we conceive to be bad.' This slogan was once the standard view of the relationship between desire or motivation and rational evaluation. Many critics have rejected this scholastic formula as either trivial or wrong. It appears to be trivial if we just define the good as 'what we want', and wrong if we consider apparent conflicts between what we seem to want and what we seem to think is good. In Appearances of the Good, Se…Read more
  •  76
    In ‘The Status of Content,’ Paul Boghossian points out an embarrassment in which A.J. Ayer finds himself in his extensive irrealism. Ayer embraces both an emotivist theory of ethics and a deflationary theory of truth. According to an emotivist theory, sentences that look like perfectly good declarative sentences, such as ‘One ought not to kill,’ should be interpreted as non-declarative sentences. According to a deflationary theory of truth, ‘truth’ is not a predicate of sentences, and sentences …Read more
  •  74
    The Conclusion of Practical Reason
    Poznan Studies in the Philosophy of the Sciences and the Humanities 94 323-343. 2007.
  •  72
    Quasi-realism's problem of autonomous effects
    Philosophical Quarterly 53 (212). 2003.
    Simon Blackburn defends a 'quasi-realist' view intended to preserve much of what realists want to say about moral discourse. According to error theory, moral discourse is committed to indefensible metaphysical assumptions. Quasi-realism seems to preserve ontological frugality, attributing no mistaken commitments to our moral practices. In order to make good this claim, quasi-realism must show that (a) the seemingly realist features of the 'surface grammar' of moral discourse can be made compatib…Read more