Work in progress
The World is Not Enough (with Nathan Robert Howard)
[down for revisions]
Abstract Throughout much of his career, Derek Parfit suggests that anyone who possesses normative concepts is in a position to know, on the basis of their competence with such concepts alone, that reductive realism in ethics is not even possible. The small amount of attention that this ambitious claim has received has been exclusively critical. We argue that, while Parfit comes up short of establishing it, Parfit's claim does provide the raw materials for advancing a new and interesting challenge to reductivists, one that clarifies what's at stake in the debate between them and non-reductivists. On our reading of Parfit, reductivists can make sense of a class of analytic claims without collapsing into a form of non-reductivism only if reductivism is packaged with either a radical brand of particularism or contingentism.
Gender Epistemology as Moral Epistemology
[down for revisions]
Abstract Some philosophers build moral considerations into the possession and competence conditions for gender concepts. But this seems to make non-testimonial knowledge of one's own gender both overly intellectual and depend on a surprising form of moral expertise. To avoid the overly intellectual problem, I look to discussions on the nature of so-called “high-level” content in aesthetics and the theory of perceptual content more generally to provide a more down-to-earth story of how our attitudes come to be about men and women. I then argue that it's not a problem that knowing one's own gender requires moral expertise, so long as we import the right view of moral expertise.
Contextualism about 'Woman' (and 'Man') in Name Only
[draft available upon request]
Abstract Are words like ‘woman’ or ‘man’ sex terms that we use to talk about biological features of individuals? Are they gender terms that we use to talk about non-biological features e.g. social roles? Contextualists answer both questions affirmatively, arguing that these terms concern biological or non-biological features depending on context. I argue that a recently influential version of contextualism doesn't exhibit the right kind of flexibility to capture our theoretical or moral intuitions concerning our uses of these words. While these criticisms point toward the view that words like 'woman' and 'man' might be polysemous, instead, I also raise some high-level doubts about whether polysemy is a genuine alternative. Dropping commitment to the idea that the semantic facts about words like 'woman' or 'man' line up currently with the moral facts allows us to make better sense of criticisms concerning mainstream sex and gender ideology.
Resisting Reductive Realism
Oxford Studies in Metaethics (Forthcoming, pending final review)
[draft available upon request]
Abstract Reductive realism in ethics can be understood as a family of views organized around the claim that while at least some non-conceptual normative entities (e.g. properties, events, states of affairs, etc.) figure in a metaphysical account of everything, none of them do so at the most fundamental level. Ethicists appear to resist this family of views in a way that is bound up with the difficulty they exhibit in conceiving supervenience failures. I argue that explaining the distinctive way in which ethicists resist reductivism provides a new path to a kind of hybridism about normative concept use.
Reductivism, Nonreductivism, and Incredulity about Streumer's Error Theory
Analysis Reviews (Forthcoming)
Very Short Abstract I argue that reductivists and nonreductivists have compelling responses to Streumer's objections. I then argue that this offers a more compelling explanation of why we tend to resist believing the error theory than Streumer's explanation that we cannot believe it.
Very Short Abstract I develop a new Hybrid account of the nature of normative concepts and use it to explain why we are able to make certain natural-to-normative inferences and vice versa. I also use it to begin explaining away the Reductivist-unfriendly "just too different" intuition.
Moral Realism, Speech Act Diversity, and Expressivism
The Philosophical Quarterly (Forthcoming)
[published draft to be posted] [penultimate draft]
Very Short Abstract I explore Cuneo's transcendental argument for moral realism from the fact that we perform speech acts, arguing along the way, among other things, that his argument isn't neutral between reductive and non-reductive realism and that the book contains resources for offering a new challenge to expressivists.
Very Short Abstract After explaining why we cannot know the true "first-order" ethical theory, I show, among other things, how Reductive Realists can appeal to this fact to defend their view from an influential objection.
Double Review (i.e. "Critical Notice") of On What Matters Volume Three by Derek Parfit and Does Anything Really Matter? Essays on Parfit on Objectivity edited by Peter Singer
[published draft] [penultimate draft]
Very Short Abstract Over the course of summarizing Volume Three and Does Anything Really Matter?, I argue that Parfit does not give us strong reason to think that Naturalists, Expressivists, and Non-Realist Cognitivists agree.
Very Short Abstract We critically survey, for a general philosophical audience, various positions on the nature, use, possession, and analysis of normative concepts, while highlighting some underappreciated problems for such positions along the way.
Non-Analytical Naturalism and the Nature of Normative Thought: A Reply to Parfit
Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (2015)
Very Short Abstract I show that Derek Parfit's (2011) argument for the claim that Synthetic Reductive Realism is either false or incoherent fails.
Very Short Abstract I argue that there are several unacknowledged premises that Stephen Finlay (2014) needs to derive Reductivism about the metaphysics of goodness from his semantics for 'good'.