•  524
    Praise, Blame and the Whole Self
    Philosophical Studies 93 (2): 161-188. 1999.
    What is that makes an act subject to either praise or blame? The question has often been taken to depend entirely on the free will debate for an answer, since it is widely agreed that an agent’s act is subject to praise or blame only if it was freely willed, but moral theory, action theory, and moral psychology are at least equally relevant to it. In the last quarter-century, following the lead of Harry Frankfurt’s (1971) seminal article “Freedom of the Will and the Concept of a Person,” the in…Read more
  •  377
    Deliberation and Acting for Reasons
    with N. Arpaly
    Philosophical Review 121 (2): 209-239. 2012.
    Theoretical and practical deliberation are voluntary activities, and like all voluntary activities, they are performed for reasons. To hold that all voluntary activities are performed for reasons in virtue of their relations to past, present, or even merely possible acts of deliberation thus leads to infinite regresses and related problems. As a consequence, there must be processes that are nondeliberative and nonvoluntary but that nonetheless allow us to think and act for reasons, and these pro…Read more
  •  270
    Propositional attitudes
    Philosophy Compass 1 (1): 65-73. 2006.
    The propositional attitudes are attitudes such as believing and desiring, taken toward propositions such as the proposition that snow flurries are expected, or that the Prime Minister likes poutine. Collectively, our views about the propositional attitudes make up much of folk psychology, our everyday theory of how the mind works.
  •  203
    Moral Motivation
    with Adina L. Roskies and Shaun Nichols
    In John Doris (ed.), Moral Psychology Handbook, Oxford University Press. 2010.
    In this chapter, we begin with a discussion of motivation itself, and use that discussion to sketch four possible theories of distinctively moral motivation: caricature versions of familiar instrumentalist, cognitivist, sentimentalist, and personalist theories about morally worthy motivation. To test these theories, we turn to a wealth of scientific, particularly neuroscientific, evidence. Our conclusions are that (1) although the scientific evidence does not at present mandate a unique philosop…Read more
  •  200
    Desire
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 1 (6): 631-639. 2009.
    To desire is to be in a particular state of mind. It is a state of mind familiar to everyone who has ever wanted to drink water or desired to know what has happened to an old friend, but its familiarity does not make it easy to give a theory of desire. Controversy immediately breaks out when asking whether wanting water and desiring knowledge are, at bottom, the same state of mind as others that seem somewhat similar: wishing never to have been born, preferring mangoes to peaches, craving gin, h…Read more
  •  151
    Three Faces of Desire
    Oxford University Press. 2004.
    To desire something is a condition familiar to everyone. It is uncontroversial that desiring has something to do with motivation, something to do with pleasure, and something to do with reward. Call these "the three faces of desire." The standard philosophical theory at present holds that the motivational face of desire presents its unique essence--to desire a state of affairs is to be disposed to act so as to bring it about. A familiar but less standard account holds the hedonic face of desire …Read more
  •  149
    In Praise of Desire
    Oxford University Press. 2013.
    Joining the debate over the roles of reason and appetite in the moral mind, In Praise of Desire takes the side of appetite. Acting for moral reasons, acting in a praiseworthy manner, and acting out of virtue are simply acting out of intrinsic desires for the right or the good
  •  148
    Desire
    Philosophy Compass 1 (6). 2006.
    Desires move us to action, give us urges, incline us to joy at their satisfaction, and incline us to sorrow at their frustration. Naturalistic work on desire has focused on distinguishing which of these phenomena are part of the nature of desire, and which are merely normal consequences of desiring. Three main answers have been proposed. The first holds that the central necessary fact about desires is that they lead to action. The second makes pleasure the essence of desire. And the third holds …Read more
  •  131
    Donald Davidson's theory of mind is non-normative
    Philosophers' Imprint 3 1-14. 2003.
    Donald Davidson's theory of mind is widely regarded as a normative theory. This is a something of a confusion. Once a distinction has been made between the categorisation scheme of a norm and the norm's force-maker, it becomes clear that a Davidsonian theory of mind is not a normative theory after all. Making clear the distinction, applying it to Davidson's theory of mind, and showing its significance are the main purposes of this paper. In the concluding paragraphs, a sketch is given of how a t…Read more
  •  127
    Précis of In Praise of Desire
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (2): 490-495. 2014.
  •  124
    Alienation and externality
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 29 (3): 371-387. 1999.
    Harry Frankfurt introduces the concept of externality. Externality is supposed to be a fact about the structure of an agent's will. We argue that the pre-theorethical basis of externality has a lot more to do with feelings of alienation than it does with the will. Once we realize that intuitions about externality are guided by intuitions about feelings of alienation surprising conclusions follow regarding the structure of our will.
  •  109
    On the content of experience
    with Ben Caplan
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 75 (3). 2007.
    The intentionalist about consciousness holds that the qualitative character of experience
  •  105
    A recipe for concept similarity
    Mind and Language 22 (1): 68-91. 2007.
    Sometimes your concept and mine have exactly the same content. When this is so, it is comparatively easy for me to understand what you say when you deploy your concept, for us to disagree, agree, and so on. But what if your concept and mine do not have exactly the same content? This question has occupied a number of philosophers, including Paul Churchland, Jerry Fodor, and Ernie Lepore. This paper develops a novel and rigorous measure of concept similarity, Proportion, such that concepts with di…Read more
  •  95
    Practical rationality is a problem in the philosophy of mind
    Philosophical Issues 20 (1): 394-409. 2010.
    The philosophy of mind encompasses a familiar set of topics: consciousness, intentionality, mental causation, emotion, whatever topics in psychology happen to capture our interest (concepts, mindreading . . .), and so on. There is a topic deserving of addition to this list, a topic that should be receiving regular attention from philosophers of mind but is not: practical rationality. The philosophy of mind bears directly upon what can be called the ‘meta-theory’ of practical rationality, and met…Read more
  •  91
    Unexpected pleasure
    In Luc Faucher & Christine Tappolet (eds.), The Modularity of Emotions, University of Calgary Press. pp. 255-272. 2007.
    As topics in the philosophy of emotion, pleasure and displeasure get less than their fair share of attention. On the one hand, there is the fact that pleasure and displeasure are given no role at all in many theories of the emotions, and secondary roles in many others.1 On the other, there is the centrality of pleasure and displeasure to being emotional. A woman who tears up because of a blustery wind, while an ill-advised burrito weighs heavily upon her digestive tract, feels an impressive numb…Read more
  •  76
    The Impossibility of Conscious Desire
    with Donovan Hulse and Cynthia Read
    American Philosophical Quarterly 41 (1). 2004.
    We argue for the conclusion that intrinsic desires, at least, and every other propositional attitude having the world-to-mind direction of fit exclusively, are never found within consciousness. All desire-like states found in consciousness are experiences or exercises of imaginative capacities pertaining either to the desire or the content of the desire, but never the desire itself.
  •  76
  •  69
    An Ontology of Ideas
    Journal of the American Philosophical Association 1 (4): 757-775. 2015.
    Philosophers often talk about and engage with ideas. Scientists, artists, and historians do, too. But what is an idea? In this paper, we first motivate the desire for an ontology of ideas before discussing what conditions a candidate ontology would have to satisfy to be minimally adequate. We then offer our own account of the ontology of ideas, and consider various strategies for specifying the underlying metaphysics of the account. We conclude with a discussion of potential future work to be do…Read more
  •  69
    Desire and pleasure in John Pollock’s Thinking about Acting (review)
    Philosophical Studies 148 (3). 2010.
    The first third of John Pollock’s Thinking about Acting is on the topics of pleasure, desire, and preference, and these topics are the ones on which this paper focuses. I review Pollock’s position and argue that it has at least one substantial strength (it elegantly demonstrates that desires must be more fundamental than preferences, and embraces this conclusion wholeheartedly) and at least one substantial weakness (it holds to a form of psychological hedonism without convincingly answering the …Read more
  •  65
    On Romantic Love: Simple Truths about a Complex Emotion
    Philosophical Review Recent Issues 125 (2): 287-289. 2016.
  •  63
    Moral responsibility and tourette syndrome
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 71 (1). 2005.
    Philosophers generally assume that individuals with Tourette syndrome are not responsible for their Tourettic tics, and so not blameworthy for any harm their tics might cause. Yet this assumption is based largely on ignorance of the lived experience of Tourette syndrome. Individuals with Tourette syndrome often experience their tics as freely chosen and reason-responsive. Yet it still seems wrong to treat a Tourettic individual’s tic as on a moral par with others’ actions. In this paper, I exami…Read more
  •  63
    Unexpected pleasure
    In Luc Faucher & Christine Tappolet (eds.), The Modularity of Emotions, University of Calgary Press. pp. 255-272. 2008.
    As topics in the philosophy of emotion, pleasure and displeasure get less than their fair share of attention. On the one hand, there is the fact that pleasure and displeasure are given no role at all in many theories of the emotions, and secondary roles in many others.1 On the other, there is the centrality of pleasure and displeasure to being emotional. A woman who tears up because of a blustery wind, while an ill-advised burrito weighs heavily upon her digestive tract, feels an impressive numb…Read more
  •  62
    Reply to critics
    Dialogue 45 (1): 165-174. 2006.
  •  62
    Pleasure, displeasure, and representation
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 31 (4): 507-530. 2001.
    The object of the present work is to rectify the neglect that pleasure and displeasure have been suffering from in the philosophy of mind, and to give an account of pleasure and displeasure which reveals a striking degree of unity and theoretical tractabiliy underlying the diverse phenomena: a representationalist account.
  •  50
    Reasons, Causes, and the Extended Mind Hypothesis
    with Daniel Pearlberg
    Erkenntnis 81 (1): 41-57. 2016.
    In this paper we develop a novel argument against the extended mind hypothesis. Our argument constitutes an advance in the debate, insofar as we employ only premises that are acceptable to a coarse-grained functionalist, and we do not rely on functional disanalogies between putative examples of extended minds and ordinary human beings that are just a matter of fine detail or degree. Thus, we beg no questions against proponents of the extended mind hypothesis. Rather, our argument consists in mak…Read more
  •  49
    Functions From Regulation
    The Monist 87 (1): 115-135. 2004.
    Here is a rather mundane set of claims about the stapler on my desk: The function of my stapler is to staple sheets of paper together. If the stapler is loaded with staples, but for some reason will not staple papers, the stapler is malfunctioning. That is, it is not doing what it is supposed to do. It is defective, or misshapen, misaligned or inadequate to its task, or in some other way normatively defective: there is something wrong with it. The reason that my stapler has its function, and is …Read more
  •  43
    Replies to Critics
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 89 (2): 509-515. 2014.
  •  42
    On Clear and Confused Ideas: An Essay about Substance Concepts (review)
    Dialogue 42 (1): 148-149. 2003.
    Here is an apparently straightforward philosophical story about concepts. In the style of Jerry Fodor, a concept is a mental “word” ; it means what it does because of its causal dependencies, and it contributes this meaning to the meanings of the mental “sentences” it helps to form. The mental word OWL means owls because owls have a special causal relationship to OWLs, and when the mental word OWL is combined with other mental words, such as THERE, IS, AN and NEARBY, the meaning of the resulting…Read more
  •  41
    There is a doctrine in the theory of consciousness known as representationalism, or intentionalism. According to this doctrine, what it feels like to be in a particular state of consciousness — the qualitative character of that state — is identical to the content of some mental representation(s) For instance, the state of consciousness I am enjoying just now as I see a pattern of sunlight and shadow falling on my wall is, in part, a state of consciousness that presents to me a patch of light gre…Read more