RESEARCH PROGRAM

I work in Metaethics, Ethics, and Epistemology. 

I have defended a novel meta-normative theory of the distinct origins of our different kinds of normative reasons- including moral reasons, reasons of self-interested practical rationality, and epistemic reasons. The view seeks to provide a unified account of these different kinds of normative reasons, according to which they are all fundamentally instrumental in nature, but are differentiated by their sources in the contingent aims of different sorts of agents. The view is intended to be responsive to the sorts of metaethical considerations that generally draw people to forms of antirealism (such as epistemological concerns), while also avoiding some of the least plausible implications of those views.


My dissertation first proposed a version of this view, focusing especially on the differences between moral vs. other practical reasons. The proposed theory draws upon ideas from the growing philosophical literature on group agency. I suggest that what we have moral reason to do is determined in large part by social goals (unlike self-interested practical reasons, which arise in connection with our individual attitudes). I consider the view to be a form of relativism. 

Some of my most recent work builds upon the views I first explored in the dissertation by further developing the idea of a collective source of epistemic reasons.

I also have an ongoing interest in the epistemology of moral beliefs.

My Research Statement and a two-page dissertation summary are available on the final page: CV & Contact.

 

PAPERS BY TOPIC

Arguments for Normative Antirealism:

- "Bad bootstrapping: the problem with third-factor replies to the Darwinian Dilemma for moral realism"

(Philosophical Studies, 177, pp. 2115-2128, 2020)

I defend Street’s (2006) 'Darwinian Dilemma' for value realism against the third-factor replies popularized by Enoch (2010, 2011), Skarsaune (2011) and Wielenberg (2010, 2014). I argue that these replies are question-begging. I do so by drawing upon the epistemic literature on bootstrapping, which is an intuitively illegitimate form of reasoning.

- Ethical Intuitionism/Exact Title TBA

I am currently at work on a paper in which I argue that we may grant the intuitionist that moral intuitions provide prima facie justification for moral beliefs and yet this does little to vindicate metaethical moral realism over a variety of rival antirealist and relativist views.

My Own Meta-Normative View (a form of relativism):

- “Group Agency Meets Metaethics: How to Craft a More Compelling Form of Normative Relativism

(Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 15, Ed. Russ Shafer-Landau, 2020, Oxford University Press)

I show how we can draw upon the claim that societies are agents in their own right in order to formulate a novel version of relativism about moral reasons and reasons of practical rationality. The view avoids key problems faced by well-known version of relativism while still answering to the same metaethical motivations (such as epistemological arguments) that typically attract philosophers to those views.

- "Could Our Epistemic Reasons Be Collective Practical Reasons?" 

(Forthcoming in Noûs)

I argue that by drawing upon the idea of epistemic communities with investigative goals, we can account for epistemic reasons in an instrumental manner. The resulting view is immune to the main objections to epistemic instrumentalism emphasized by Thomas Kelly (2003), as well as to epistemic analogues of familiar metaethical objections to moral realism.

- Relativism/Exact Title TBA (forthcoming, in progress)

I'll be contributing a piece for David Copp and Connie Rosati (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Meta-Ethics, under contract with Oxford University Press.

On Agency, Responsibility & Responding to Reasons

- "Ought Implies Can and the Analogy Between Epistemic and Moral Reasons"

In this new work in progress, I investigate whether epistemologists' typical attitudes regarding whether 'ought implies can' in the epistemic case of what we ought to believe in order to be rational can teach ethicists potentially useful lessons about the kind of freedom or control over one's behavior that is (or is not) required for moral responsibility.