•  169
    Foregrounding Desire: A Defense of Kant’s Incorporation Thesis
    The Journal of Ethics 15 (3): 147-167. 2011.
    In this paper I defend Kant’s Incorporation Thesis, which holds that we must “incorporate” our incentives into our maxims if we are to act on them. I see this as a thesis about what is necessary for a human being to make the transition from ‘having a desire’ to ‘acting on it’. As such, I consider the widely held view that ‘having a desire’ involves being focused on the world, and not on ourselves or on the desire. I try to show how this view is connected with a denial of any deep distinction bet…Read more
  •  1
    Caring for Our Principles: Action Under Nonideal Conditions
    Dissertation, Harvard University. 1997.
    Kant's moral theory demands that we interact with others on the basis of reason rather than force. In deciding what to do, we are to reject any actions which depend for their efficacy upon bypassing the consent of others, whether through deception, coercion, or outright violence. In this sense, Kantianism puts forth a strongly anti-paternalistic, anti-manipulative ideal of human relations. And yet there are many situations in which we feel it can be permissible or even obligatory to act in pater…Read more
  •  267
    What are Theories of Desire Theories of?
    Analytic Philosophy 55 (2): 131-150. 2014.
    In this paper I try to undermine complacency with a predominant conception of desire, for the sake of refocusing attention on a philosophical problem. The predominant conception holds that to have a desire is to occupy an evaluative outlook, a perspective from which the agent 'sees' the world in practically salient terms. I argue that it is not clear what this theory is a theory of, because the concept of desire at its center is deeply ambiguous. Understood as a theory of desire in what I call t…Read more
  •  26
    Velleman on the Work of Human Agency
    Abstracta 8 (S7): 17-21. 2014.
  •  64
    “Let’s J!”: on the practical character of shared agency
    Philosophical Studies 172 (12): 3399-3407. 2015.
    Drawing on parallels in Hutcheson and Hume, I raise two worries about Bratman’s theory of shared agency. First, has Bratman captured the interpersonal character of shared agency? Second, has he captured its practical character? By “its practical character,” I mean the sense in which shared agency is something we can undertake under that description, and not just a condition we might happen to find ourselves in? I argue that Bratman’s theory falls short of answering this second worry. The source …Read more
  •  58
    Towards Justice and Virtue: A Constructive Account of Practical Reasoning
    with Onora O'Neill
    Philosophical Review 108 (1): 97. 1999.
    Towards Justice and Virtue is Onora O’Neill’s most developed account thus far of her distinctive approach to moral and political philosophy. Readers who are already familiar with O’Neill’s articles and her two previous books will appreciate the way it brings together in one sustained and rigorous argument the various themes which have occupied her attention over the years. Those who are new to O’Neill’s work will find in it a lucid, accessible, and provocative challenge to contemporary ethical t…Read more
  •  62
    Review of Talbot Brewer, The Retrieval of Ethics (review)
    Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (12). 2009.
  •  264
    The utilitarian conception, which I call “action as production,” holds that action is a way of making use of the world, conceived as a causal mechanism. According to the rational intuitionist conception, which I call “action as assertion,” action is a way of acknowledging the value in the world, conceived as a realm of status. On the Kantian constructivist conception, which I call “action as participation,” action is a way of making the world, qua causal mechanism, come to count as a realm of st…Read more
  •  121
    On the relation between wanting and willing
    Philosophical Issues 22 (1): 334-350. 2012.
    In this paper I develop an analogy between an interpersonal hierarchy and an intrapersonal hierarchy. The analogy is between the authority of adults over children, and the authority of our willing selves over our wanting selves. The analogy allows us to see how each hierarchy is rooted in an asymmetry that is natural and not merely conventional.
  •  334
    The nature of inclination
    Ethics 119 (2). 2009.
    There is a puzzle in the very notion of passive motivation ("passion" or "inclination"). To be motivated is not simply to be moved from the outside. Motivation is in some sense self-movement. But how can an agent be passive with respect to her own motivation? How is passive motivation possible? In this paper I defend the ancient view that inclination stems from a motivational source independent of reason, a motivational source that is both agential and nonrational.
  •  225
    A task of any moral theory is to account for both the rigidity and the flexibility of moral rules. Utilitarianism faces the problem of building rigidity into a framework that tends towards objectionable flexibility. Kantianism faces the problem of building flexibility into a framework that tends towards objectionable rigidity. I offer an argument on this front on behalf of Kantians. I show how Kantians can maintain that actions are right and wrong "in themselves," while still maintaining that su…Read more
  •  173
    Desires as demands: How the second-person standpoint might be internal to reflective agency (review)
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 81 (1): 229-236. 2010.
  •  61
    In these brief comments, I explore some ambiguities concerning John Deigh's notion of empathy in relation to morality and justice. First, does Deigh conceive of empathy as a morally neutral capacity that can be used for good or bad purposes or, rather, as a capacity that presupposes a moral orientation? I look to his previous work and find evidence supporting both readings. I suggest that the right way to understand empathy is as a moral notion. Empathy is the product of an activity—the activity…Read more