Below are links to my publications. To go back to my home page, click here.
- Unbelievable Errors: An Error Theory About All Normative Judgements. Oxford University Press, 2017.
In Unbelievable Errors, I defend an error theory about all normative judgements: not just moral judgements, but also judgements about reasons for action, judgements about reasons for belief, and instrumental normative judgements. This theory says that normative judgements are beliefs that ascribe normative properties, but that normative properties do not exist. It therefore entails that all normative judgements are false. I also argue, however, that we cannot believe this error theory. This may seem to be a problem for the theory, but I argue that it is not. Instead, I argue, our inability to believe this error theory makes the theory more likely to be true, since it undermines objections to the theory, it makes it harder to reject the arguments for the theory, and it undermines revisionary alternatives to the theory. I then sketch how certain other philosophical views can be defended in a similar way, and how philosophers should modify their method if there can be true theories that we cannot believe. I conclude that to make philosophical progress, we should sharply distinguish the truth of a theory from our ability to believe it.
- Why We Really Cannot Believe the Error Theory. In Diego Machuca (ed.), Moral Skepticism: New Essays. Routledge, forthcoming.
According to the error theory, normative judgments are beliefs that ascribe normative properties, but these properties do not exist. I have argued elsewhere (in Can We Believe the Error Theory?) that we cannot believe this theory. Several philosophers have replied to this argument. In this chapter, I respond to their replies.
- The Unbelievable Truth about Morality. In Lenny Clapp (ed.), Philosophy For Us. Cognella, forthcoming.
This is an introductory chapter about the error theory, aimed at undergraduate students. It discusses arguments for the error theory and objections to the error theory, and suggests that defenders of the theory can answer these objections by arguing that we cannot believe the error theory.
- Reasons and Ability. In Daniel Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
I argue that there can only be a reason for a person to perform an action if this person can perform this action. I begin by giving three arguments for this claim. I then reject several alternatives to it, argue that four counterexamples to it fail, and argue that a similar claim is true of reasons for belief. I end by showing that these claims can help us to distinguish deontic from evaluative judgements.
- No, We Cannot. International Journal of Philosophical Studies 24 (2016): 537-546 (published version available here).
Marianna Bergamaschi Ganapini argues that we can believe the error theory. I explain why I still think we cannot.
- Why Jonas Olson Cannot Believe the Error Theory Either (part of a symposium on Jonas Olson's Moral Error Theory). Journal of Moral Philosophy 13 (2016): 419-436 (published version available here).
Jonas Olson writes that "a plausible moral error theory must be an error theory about all irreducible normativity". I agree. But unlike Olson, I think we cannot believe this error theory. I first argue that Olson should say that reasons for belief are irreducibly normative. I then argue that if reasons for belief are irreducibly normative, we cannot believe an error theory about all irreducible normativity. I then explain why I think Olson's objections to this argument fail. I end by showing that Olson cannot defend his view as a partly revisionary alternative to an error theory about all irreducible normativity.
- Are the Moral Fixed Points Conceptual Truths? (with Daan Evers). Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, March 2016.
Terence Cuneo and Russ Shafer-Landau have recently proposed a new version of moral non-naturalism, according to which there are non-natural moral concepts and truths but no non-natural moral facts. This view entails that moral error theorists are conceptually deficient. We argue that moral error theorists are not conceptually deficient, and that this reveals what is wrong with Cuneo and Shafer-Landau's view.
- Can We Believe the Error Theory? Journal of Philosophy 110 (2013): 194-212 (published version available here).
According to the error theory, normative judgements are beliefs that ascribe normative properties, even though such properties do not exist. I argue that we cannot believe the error theory, and that this means that there is no reason for us to believe this theory. It may be thought that this is a problem for the error theory, but I argue that it is not. Instead, I argue, our inability to believe the error theory undermines many objections that have been made to this theory.
- Do Normative Judgements Aim to Represent the World? Ratio 26 (2013): 450-470 (published version available here). Also in Bart Streumer (ed.), Irrealism in Ethics. Wiley-Blackwell, 2014.
Many philosophers think that normative judgements do not aim to represent the world. I argue that this view is incompatible with the thought that when two people make conflicting normative judgements, at most one of these judgements is correct. I argue that this shows that normative judgements do aim to represent the world.
- Why There Really Are No Irreducibly Normative Properties. In David Bakhurst, Brad Hooker and Margaret Olivia Little (eds.), Thinking about Reasons: Themes from the Philosophy of Jonathan Dancy. Oxford University Press, 2013 (published version available here).
Jonathan Dancy thinks that there are irreducibly normative properties. Frank Jackson has given a well-known argument against this view, and I have elsewhere defended this argument against many objections, including one made by Dancy. But Dancy remains unconvinced. In this chapter, I hope to convince him.
- Are Normative Properties Descriptive Properties? Philosophical Studies 154 (2011): 325-348 (published version available here).
Some philosophers think that normative properties are identical to descriptive properties. I argue that this entails that it is possible to say which descriptive properties normative properties are identical to. I argue that Frank Jackson's argument to show that this is possible fails, and that the objections to this argument show that it is impossible to say which descriptive properties normative properties are identical to. I conclude that normative properties are not identical to descriptive properties. I then show that if we combine this conclusion with the conclusion of a different argument that Jackson has given to show that there are no irreducibly normative properties, it follows that there are no normative properties at all.
- Reasons, Impossibility and Efficient Steps: Reply to Heuer. Philosophical Studies 151 (2010): 79-86 (published version available here).
Ulrike Heuer claims that there can be a reason for a person to perform an action that this person cannot perform, as long as this person can take efficient steps towards performing this action. I argue that Heuer's examples fail to undermine my claim that there cannot be a reason for a person to perform an action if it is impossible that this person will perform this action. I then argue that, on a plausible interpretation of what 'efficient steps' are, Heuer's claim is consistent with my claim. I end by showing that Heuer fails to undermine the arguments I gave for my claim.
- Practical Reasoning. In Timothy O'Connor and Constantine Sandis (eds.), A Companion to the Philosophy of Action. Wiley-Blackwell, 2010 (published version available here).
This chapter surveys the three main views about the distinction between practical and theoretical reasoning, and ends by suggesting that these views instead describe different kinds of practical reasoning.
- Are There Irreducibly Normative Properties? Australasian Journal of Philosophy 86 (2008): 537-561 (published version available here).
Frank Jackson has argued that, given plausible claims about supervenience, descriptive predicates and property identity, there are no irreducibly normative properties. Philosophers who think that there are such properties have made several objections to this argument. I argue that all of these objections fail. I conclude that Jackson's argument shows that there are no irreducibly normative properties.
- Inferential and Non-Inferential Reasoning. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (2007): 1-29 (published version available here).
It is sometimes suggested that there are two kinds of reasoning: inferential reasoning and non-inferential reasoning. I try to answer the question what the difference between these two kinds of reasoning is. I first discuss three answers to this question that I argue are unsatisfactory. I then give a different answer to this question, and I argue that this answer is satisfactory. I end by showing that this answer can help to resolve some disagreements in which the difference between inferential and non-inferential reasoning plays a role.
- Reasons and Entailment. Erkenntnis 66 (2007): 353-374 (published version available here).
What is the relation between entailment and reasons for belief? I discuss several answers to this question, and I argue that these answers all face problems. I then propose a different answer. I argue that this answer avoids the problems that the other answers to this question face, and that it does not face any other problems either. I end by showing what the relation between deductive logic, reasons for belief and reasoning is if this answer is correct.
- Reasons and Impossibility. Philosophical Studies 136 (2007): 351-384 (published version available here).
Many philosophers claim that it cannot be the case that a person ought to perform an action if this person cannot perform this action, but most of these philosophers do not give arguments for the truth of this claim. I argue that it is plausible to interpret this claim in such a way that it is entailed by the claim that there cannot be a reason for a person to perform an action if it is impossible that this person will perform this action. I then give three arguments for the truth of the latter claim, which are also arguments for the truth of the former claim as I interpret it.
- Semi-Global Consequentialism and Blameless Wrongdoing: Reply to Brown. Utilitas 17 (2005): 226-30 (published version available here).
This paper is a rejoinder to Campbell Brown's reply to 'Can Consequentialism Cover Everything?'. I argue that though Brown is right that my argument against semi-global consequentialism relies on the principle of agglomeration, semi-global consequentialists cannot rescue their view simply by rejecting this principle.
- Procedural and Substantive Practical Rationality (with Brad Hooker). In Alfred Mele and Piers Rawling (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Rationality. Oxford University Press, 2004 (published version available here).
This chapter surveys the debate between philosophers who claim that all practical rationality is procedural and philosophers who claim that some practical rationality is substantive.
- Does 'Ought' Conversationally Implicate 'Can'? European Journal of Philosophy 11 (2003): 219-28 (published version available here).
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that 'ought' does not entail 'can', but instead conversationally implicates it. I argue that Sinnott-Armstrong is actually committed to a hybrid view about the relation between 'ought' and 'can'. I then give a tensed formulation of the view that 'ought' entails 'can' that deals with Sinnott-Armstrong's argument and that is more unified than Sinnott-Armstrong's view.
- Can Consequentialism Cover Everything? Utilitas 15 (2003): 237-47 (published version available here).
Derek Parfit, Philip Pettit and Michael Smith defend a version of consequentialism that covers everything. I argue that this version of consequentialism is false, since consequentialism can only cover things that belong to a combination of things that agents can bring about.