Unpublished

“Ought: Between Subjective and Objective,” co-authored with John MacFarlane ABSTRACT

Reflecting on the use of "ought" in deliberation has led many philosophers to assign it a "subjective" sense (ought, given the deliberator's evidence). Reflecting on its use in advice has led others to assign it an "objective" sense (ought, given the facts). We argue that both sides have part of the truth. Attempts to resolve the conflict by "taking sides" one way or the other, or by taking "ought" to be ambiguous or indexical, cannot succeed. Only by recognizing that "ought" is assessment-sensitive, we argue, can we account for its dual role in deliberation and advice. HIDE

“Ought: Between Justification and Truth,” based on joint work with John MacFarlane ABSTRACT

What ought one to believe? Not, we claim, what is true, or what one is justified in believing. Instead, one ought to believe is what is likely, where the claims that something is likely, and that one ought to believe it, are understood to be "assessment-sensitive": that is, their truth depends on what is available to the person assessing them. In the light of this proposal, we explain the appeal of more familiar candidate norms of belief, and we explore what reasons for belief might be. HIDE

LSE Lectures on Reasons and Rationality” (updated 1/29/11) ABSTRACT

An overview of my work on reasons and rational requirements, which reflects my current thinking about those topics. HIDE

“Justifying the State” ABSTRACT

No abstract yet. HIDE

“What Makes Threats Wrong?” ABSTRACT

No abstract yet. HIDE

“Being Under the Power of Others” ABSTRACT

No abstract yet. HIDE

Comment on R. Jay Wallace, The View From Here ABSTRACT

No abstract yet. HIDE

Edited Books

Death and the Afterlife, by Samuel Scheffler, with commentary by Harry Frankfurt, Susan Wolf, Seana Shiffrin, and Niko Kolodny (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013)

The Possibility of Philosophical Understanding: Essays for Barry Stroud, Co-edited with Jason Bridges and Wai-hung Wong (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011)

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

Rule Over None II: Social Equality and the Justification of DemocracyPhilosophy and Public Affairs 42:4 (2014): XX–XX. ABSTRACT

No abstract yet. HIDE

Rule Over None I: What Justifies Democracy?Philosophy and Public Affairs 42:3 (2014): XX–XX. ABSTRACT

No abstract yet. HIDE

Instrumental Reasons” in The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity, edited by Daniel Star. ABSTRACT

Often our reason for doing something is an "instrumental reason": that doing that is a means to doing something else that we have reason to do. What principles govern this "instrumental transmission" of reasons from ends to means? Negatively, I argue against principles often invoked in the literature, which focus on necessary or sufficient means. Positively, I propose a principle, "General Transmission," which answers to two intuitive desiderata: that reason transmits to means that are "probabilizing" and "nonsuperfluous" with respect to the relevant end. I then apply General Transmission to the debate over "detachment": whether "wide-scope" reason for a material conditional or disjunction implies "narrow-scope" reason for the consequent or disjuncts. HIDE

That I Should Die and Others Live,” in Death and the Afterlife, by Samuel Scheffler, edited by Niko Kolodny, with commentary by Harry Frankfurt, Susan Wolf, Seana Shiffrin, and Niko Kolodny (New York: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2013), pp. 159–73. ABSTRACT

This comment explores some striking implications of Scheffler’s apparent claim that we have reason to fear death, independently of its "depriving" us of the goods of future life, because it "extinguishes" us: brings it about that we no longer exist. It then probes Scheffler's arguments that if we never died, we would not live a value-laden life, or any life at all. Finally, it suggests that the survival of humanity may matter to us more than our own personal survival not only emotionally, as Scheffler claims, but also motivationally. HIDE

Raz's Nexus” in Jurisprudence 2:2 (2011): 333–352. This is the pre-peer reviewed version of the article, which has been published in final form here. ABSTRACT

A comment on Joseph Raz's From Normativity to Responsibility. HIDE

Scanlon's Investigation: The Relevance of Intent to Permissibility,” in Analytic Philosophy 52:2 (2011): 100–123. Subscription required. Please email me for an offprint, or download the submitted draft. ABSTRACT

In Moral Dimensions, T.M. Scanlon questions whether the reason for which an action is performed affects its permissibility. I examine Scanlon's line of inquiry and the general view of the relation between intent and permissibility that results. HIDE

Ifs and Oughts,” co-authored with John MacFarlane, in Journal of Philosophy 107:3 (2010): 115–143. ABSTRACT

We consider a paradox involving indicative conditionals and deontic modals ("oughts"). After considering and rejecting several standard options for resolving the paradox—including rejecting various premises, positing an ambiguity or hidden contextual sensitivity, and positing a non-obvious logical form—we offer a semantics for deontic modals and indicative conditionals that resolves the paradox. Our semantics resolves the paradox by making modus ponens invalid. We argue that this is a result to be welcomed on independent grounds, and we show that rejecting the general validity of modus ponens is compatible with vindicating most ordinary uses of modus ponens in reasoning. HIDE

Aims as Reasons,” in Reasons and Recognition: Essays on the Philosophy of T.M. Scanlon, edited by Samuel Freeman, Rahul Kumar, and R. Jay Wallace (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 43–78. ABSTRACT

Along with many other contemporary philosophers, T.M. Scanlon argues that our present attitudes (such as beliefs, desires, or intentions) do not give us reasons. At the core of this position, I suggest, is the denial that attitudes can provide reasons in some way different from the way in which things of value characteristically provide reasons. I then try to answer a challenge to this position, which Scanlon himself raises: that sometimes (especially when one's reasons underdetermine a choice among aims) having an aim seems to affect one's reasons without affecting one's value-provided reasons. If "having an aim" is understood as having an intention, I suggest, then having an aim usually will affect one's value-provided reasons. In large part, this is because of what Scanlon calls the "predictive significance" of intention: the fact that forming an intention changes what the future is likely to bring. If "having an aim" is understood instead as an aim's "mattering" or "being important" to one, then having an aim can also affect one's value-provided reasons, but in a different way: by constituting a special kind of value. HIDE

The Explanation of Amour-Propre,” Philosophical Review 119:2 (2010): 165–200. ABSTRACT

Rousseau's thought is marked by an optimism and a pessimism which each evoke, at least in the right mood, a feeling of recognition difficult to suppress. We have an innate capacity for virtue, and with it freedom and happiness. Yet our present social conditions instill in us a restless craving for superiority, which leads to vice, and with it bondage and misery. Call this the "thesis of possible goodness": that while human psychology is such that men become wicked under the conditions in which we now find them, nevertheless men would be, or have been, good under other conditions. It is surprisingly difficult, or at least surprisingly complicated, however, to articulate even a possible psychology that would explain the thesis of possible goodness. Interpretations of Rousseau, even several to which I am highly indebted, have not fully engaged, I think, with the complications. I try to reconstruct psychological principles that would explain the thesis and that are at least consistent with what he otherwise says on the subject. Much of the value of this exercise, however, lies not in the particulars of the resulting psychology, but rather in the depth of the tension between Rousseau's optimism and his pessimism that it reveals. HIDE

Which Relationships Justify Partiality? The Case of Parents and ChildrenPhilosophy and Public Affairs 38:1 (2010): 37–75. (This is an electronic version of an article published in Philosophy & Public Affairs. Complete citation information for the final version of the paper, as published in the print edition of Philosophy & Public Affairs, is available on the Blackwell Synergy online delivery service, accessible via the journal's website at www.blackwellpublishing.com/papa or www.blackwell-synergy.com.) ABSTRACT

Although we have countless interpersonal relationships, we have reason for partiality only in some. Why is this? Why is there reason for friendship and love of family, but not for racism or omertà? In this paper, and its companion, "Which Relationships Justify Partiality? General Considerations and Problem Cases," I try to make some progress toward a principled answer, by appealing to a neglected form of normative explanation, "resonance." In this paper, I distinguish various reasons for partiality between parents and children, I explore the possibility of taking seriously the deep and widespread view that genetic relationships matter.HIDE

Errata: On p. 44, the two occurrences of "child" should be "health."

Which Relationships Justify Partiality? General Considerations and Problem Cases,” in Brian Feltham and John Cottingham, eds, Partiality and Impartiality: Morality, Special Relationships and the Wider World (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 169–193. ABSTRACT

Although we have countless interpersonal relationships, we have reason for partiality only in some. Why is this? Why is there reason for friendship and love of family, but not for racism or omertà? In this paper and its companion, "Which Relationships Justify Partiality? The Case of Parents and Children," try to make some progress toward a principled answer, by appealing to a neglected phenomenon, "resonance." I suggest how resonance might explain why some relationships support partiality, while other relationships do not, paying special attention to the case of racism. I end with some reflections on the implications of this account for other relationships, such as co-citizenship; for the defense of partiality in general; and for the difficult relations between partiality and other norms, most notably those of impartial morality. HIDE

Errata: On p. 181, "natural" should be "nonreactive," and "moral" should be "reactive."

Comments on Munoz-Darde, ‘Liberty's Chains,’” This is an electronic version of a Paper published in Supplemental Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 83:1 (2009): 197–212. ABSTRACT

Munoz-Darde argues that a social contract theory must meet Rousseau's "liberty condition": that, after the social contract, each "nevertheless obeys only himself and remains as free as before." She claims that Rousseau's social contract does not meet this condition, for reasons that suggest that no other social contract theory could. She concludes that political philosophy should turn away from social contract theory's preoccupation with authority and obedience, and focus instead on what she calls the "legitimacy" of social arrangements. I raise questions about each of these claims. HIDE

Reply to Bridges,” Mind 118:470 (2009): 369–376. (There is an error in the printed abstract. The semi-colon should be a comma.) ABSTRACT

In "Rationality, Normativity, and Transparency," Jason Bridges argues that the "Transparency Account" (TA) of my "Why Be Rational?" has a hidden flaw. The TA does not, after all, account for the fact that (1) in our ordinary, engaged thought and talk about rationality, we believe that, when it would be irrational of one of us to refuse to A, he has, because of this, conclusive reason to A. My reply is that this was the point. For reasons given in "Why Be Rational?" (1) is false. The aim of the TA is to offer an interpretation of our engaged thought and talk that is compatible with the falsity of (1) and that helps to explain why, when reflecting on our thought and talk, we are so prone to misrepresent what it involves. After making these points, I consider alternative senses in which rationality might be, or be taken by us to be, "normative" and conclude that these alternatives have little bearing on the TA. HIDE

The Myth of Practical Consistency,” European Journal of Philosophy 16:3 (2008): 366–402. (Subscription required. Here is an almost final version.) ABSTRACT

Joseph Raz suggests that instrumental rationality—the idea that there is a special faculty or set of norms devoted to taking the apparent means to our ends—is a myth. There is only the structure of reasons and our responsiveness, insofar as we are rational, to that structure. I apply Raz's approach to practical consistency: to the idea that there is a special faculty or set of norms devoted to avoiding intentions that we believe that we cannot jointly fulfill. Here too, I suggest, there is only the structure of reasons and our responsiveness, insofar as we are rational, to that structure. HIDE

Why Be Disposed to Be Coherent?,” Ethics 118:3 (2008): 437–463. ABSTRACT

It has been suggested that requirements to make our attitudes formally coherent are somehow justified by the value of dispositions to make our attitudes formally coherent. These dispositions are valuable, it is said, because they are means to having the attitudes that reason requires, or because they are necessary for having those attitudes. This claim, I argue, is untenable. These dispositions are not means, or they are only inferior means, to having the attitudes that reason requires. And they are not necessary for having attitudes. HIDE

How Does Coherence Matter?,” Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 107:1 (2007): 229–263. (Subscription required. Here are uncorrected proofs). ABSTRACT

Recently, much attention has been paid to "rational requirements" and, especially, to what I call "rational requirements of formal coherence as such." These requirements are satisfied just when our attitudes are formally coherent: for example, when our beliefs do not contradict each other. Nevertheless, these requirements are puzzling. In particular, it is unclear why we should satisfy them. In light of this, I explore the conjecture that there are no requirements of formal coherence. I do so by trying to construct a theory of error for the idea that there are such requirements. HIDE

State or Process Requirements?,” Mind 116:462 (2007): 371–85. ABSTRACT

In his "Wide or Narrow Scope?", John Broome questions my contention in "Why Be Rational?" that certain rational requirements are narrow scope. The source of our disagreement, I suspect, is that Broome believes that the relevant rational requirements govern states, whereas I believe that they govern processes. If they govern states, then the debate over scope is sterile. The difference between narrow- and wide-scope state requirements is only as important as the difference between not violating a requirement and satisfying one. Broome's observations about conflicting narrow-scope state requirements only corroborate this. Why, then, have we thought that there was an important difference? Perhaps, I conjecture, because there is an important difference between narrow- and wide-scope process requirements, and we have implicitly taken process requirements as our topic. I clarify and try to defend my argument that some process requirements are narrow scope, so that if there were reasons to conform to rational requirements, there would be implausible bootstrapping. I then reformulate Broome's observations about conflicting narrow-scope state requirements as an argument against narrow-scope process requirements, and suggest a reply. HIDE

Why Be Rational?,” Mind 114:455 (2005): 509–63. ABSTRACT

Normativity involves two kinds of relation. On the one hand, there is the relation of being a reason for. This is a relation between a fact and an attitude. On the other hand, there are relations specified by requirements of rationality. These are relations among a person's attitudes, viewed in abstraction from the reasons for them. I ask how the normativity of rationality—the sense in which we "ought" to comply with requirements of rationality—is related to the normativity of reasons—the sense in which we "ought" to have the attitudes what we have conclusive reason to have. The normativity of rationality is not straightforwardly that of reasons, I argue; there are no reasons to comply with rational requirements in general. First, this would lead to "bootstrapping," because, contrary to the claims of John Broome, not all rational requirements have "wide scope." Second, it is unclear what such reasons to be rational might be. Finally, we typically do not, and in many cases could not, treat rational requirements as reasons. Instead, I suggest, rationality is only apparently normative, and the normativity that it appears to have is that of reasons. According to this "Transparency Account," rational requirements govern our responses to our beliefs about reasons. The normative "pressure" that we feel, when rational requirements apply to us, derives from these beliefs: from the reasons that, as it seems to us, we have. HIDE

Love as Valuing a Relationship,” Philosophical Review 112:2 (2003): 135–89. ABSTRACT

I argue that love is a response to reasons. Resistance to this idea, I suggest, stems from the natural, but mistaken assumption that any reason for loving a person would have to be a nonrelational feature that she has. I argue against this assumption, contending that one's reason for loving a person is instead one's relationship to her: the ongoing history that one shares with her. I then try to answer two objections to this view: that it gives love the wrong object and that it makes love a reason for itself. HIDE

Promises and Practices Revisited,” co-authored with R. Jay Wallace, Philosophy and Public Affairs 31:2 (2003): 119–54. ABSTRACT

In "Promises and Practices," T.M. Scanlon argued that the "value of assurance" alone explains why it is wrong to break a promise; no appeal to social practices is necessary. We agree that the value of assurance must be part of an explanation, but argue that it cannot be the whole of one. Unless an account of the wrongness of promise-breaking also appeals to practices, we contend, it cannot explain how promises succeed in generating assurance. The upshot is a hybrid view, according to which breaking a promise involves both the wrong of violating assurance and the wrong of exploiting a practice. HIDE

Do Associative Duties Matter?,” Journal of Political Philosophy 10:3 (2002): 250–66. (Subscription required.) ABSTRACT

It is often assumed that associative duties, which are owed specially to our friends, family, and countrymen, stand in the way of our achieving desirable distributive aims, such as equality and maximal welfare. This paper argues that this and related assumptions are false in a central range of cases. HIDE

The Ethics of Cryptonormativism: A Defense of Foucault’s Evasions,” Philosophy and Social Criticism 22:5 (1996): 63–84. (Subscription required.) ABSTRACT

In his later work, Foucault was more skeptical of theory than he was of norms. His apparent evasion of normative theory was not meant to suggest, as some interpreters have thought, that normative theory is useless or oppressive, but rather that it is fragile and uncertain, that it depends for its practical effect on something essentially untheorizable: character, or what Foucault alternately called "ethos" and "philosophical life." This conception of ethos suggests a way to make sense of Foucault's "cryptonormativism" — his apparent tendency to rely tacitly on norms that he publicly rejected — and sheds light on his views on authorship and the purpose of genealogy. HIDE

Introductions, Forewords, Prefaces

Introduction,” in Death and the Afterlife, by Samuel Scheffler, edited by Niko Kolodny, with commentary by Harry Frankfurt, Susan Wolf, Seana Shiffrin, and Niko Kolodny (New York: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2013), pp. 3–11. ABSTRACT

A discussion of the main themes of Samuel Scheffler's Death and the Afterlife. HIDE

Foreword” in Harvest Moon: The Berkeley Undergraduate Philosophy Journal, 2011 New Crop Prize Edition (2012): vii–viii. ABSTRACT

An account of the New Crop Prize Competition, with summaries of the five final papers from 2011, by Charles Goldhaber, Mi-Hwa Saunders, Daniel Sharp, Nader Shoabi, and Alex Setzepfandt. HIDE

The Quest to Understand Philosophy,” co-authored with Jason Bridges, in The Possibility of Philosophical Understanding: Essays for Barry Stroud, edited by Jason Bridges, Niko Kolodny, and Wai-hung Wong (New York: Oxford Univeristy Press, 2011), pp. 3–12. ABSTRACT

This essay interprets and elaborates upon some of the central themes of Barry Stroud’s philosophical work. Particular focus is placed upon Stroud’s concern with the distinctive nature of the understanding sought in philosophy and upon his views about the prospects for achieving that understanding. HIDE

Encyclopedia Entries

Instrumental Rationality,” co-authored with John Brunero, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Objectivity in Ethics,” in Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Second Edition, ed. Donald Borchert (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006).

Addendum to “Love,” in Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Second Edition, ed. Donald Borchert (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2006).

Reviews

Harry G. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2004) in Journal of Philosophy 103:1 (2006): 43–50. (Subscription required. Here is an uncorrected draft.)

R. Jay Wallace, Philip Pettit, Samuel Scheffler, and Michael Smith, Reason and Value: Themes from the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2004) in Mind 115:458 (2006): 498–502. (Subscription required. Here is an uncorrected draft.)