I work primarily in metaethics, metaphysics, and epistemology, but my work also extends into normative ethics, moral psychology, and the philosophy of language.
1. "Non-naturalism and Normative Necessities", Oxford Studies in Metaethics 12 (2017) [Penultimate Draft]
- I argue that the best way for a non-naturalist to explain why the normative supervenes on the natural is to claim that, while there are some sui generis normative properties whose essences cannot be fully specified in non-normative terms and do not specify any non-normative sufficient conditions for their instantiation, there are certain hybrid normative properties whose essences specify both naturalistic sufficient conditions for their instantiation and sufficient conditions for the instantiation of sui generis normative properties. This is the only metaphysical explanation for supervenience on offer, I argue, that both (a) clearly captures the pre-theoretical commitments of non-naturalism, and (b) does not posit any unexplained metaphysical necessities between the natural and the normative.
- Many philosophers claim that there are no practical reasons for belief because truth is the constitutive standard of correctness for belief or because practical considerations cannot constitute motivating reasons for belief. I argue that both of these arguments against practical reasons for belief fail and that, in the absence of any better argument, we should admit that there are practical reasons for belief.
- Adina Roskies argues that patients with damage to their ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VM patients) are unmotivated by their normative judgments and are thereby counterexamples to motivational internalism. I argue, however, that the neuroscientific evidence that she appeals to does not suggest that VM patients are unmotivated by their normative judgments, but rather, that VM patients only form weak normative judgments. And this account of VM patients' defect, I argue, affords the internalist with a better explanation for VM patients' behavior than Roskies's externalist explanation.
4. "Choosing Normative Properties: a reply to Eklund's Choosing Normative Concepts" forcoming in Inquiry
- In Choosing Normative Concepts, Eklund argues that there's a metaphysical problem that arises from thinking about hypothetic linguistic communities that use alternative normative concepts. The problem is that ardent realists take reality itself to objectively favor certain ways of acting and valuing, but it's not clear how the ardent realist can even state what's at issue between us and such an alternative linguistic community to make good on this claim. I argue in this reply that Eklund's treatment of the problem and his metasemantic solution to it re-entangles certain metaphysical and metasemantic issues that we ought to keep separate. And I suggest that there's a purely metaphysical solution to the problem - one which Eklund takes himself to reject, but which I think he actually smuggles into his own metasemantic view.
5. "Grounding and Normativity" forthcoming in The Routledge Handbook of Metaphysical Grounding
- I give a guide to grounding's applications to normative ethics and metaethics.
Works In Progress
"Grounding the Domains of Reasons" In this paper, I argue that the best explanation for why practical and epistemic reasons are substantively different kinds of reasons that exhibit different weighing behaviors is that practical and epistemic reasons have very different grounds (what I call the Different Source View). And since this view is compatible with taking both practical and epistemic reasons to be facts that stand in the very same, unified normative relation, it can also thereby explain what practical and epistemic reasons have in common that makes them both normative reasons. And the viability of this view, I argue, has significant implications for our metanormative theorizing: it implies that the answer to certain metanormative questions may differ between the practical and epistemic domains. (View pdf)
"What is Moorean Non-naturalism?" Most metaethicists take the sort of non-naturalist view endorsed by Moore and his followers to amount to either a claim about identity or a claim about grounding. In this paper, however, I argue that specifying non-naturalism just in terms of identity is at best not illuminating, and specifying the view in terms of grounding either makes the naturalism vs. non-naturalism debate settled by general metaphysical considerations or fails to make room for Moore himself to count as a genuine non-naturalist. So, instead, I propose that we understand the view in terms of essence: specifically, as the claim that the essences of at least some normative properties cannot be ultimately specified in entirely non-normative terms and do not specify non-normative sufficient conditions for their instantiation. Characterizing the view in these terms most clearly captures the non-naturalist's core pre-theoretical claims in a way that makes it a substantive, local view about normative properties and makes room for Moore.
"Why be a Non-naturalist?" Naturalists, I argue, are committed to taking what I call a "language first" approach to answering to the question of which properties are normative properties: they must claim that the normative properties are simply whatever natural properties stand in the right metasemantic relation to our normative terms. Non-naturalists, on the other hand, may instead offer a "metaphysics first" approach to answering this question: according to the non-naturalist, whether a property is a normative one does not depend on whether it stands in the right metasemantic relation to our normative terms, but instead on whether it has a sui generis normative essence. I argue that this difference between the two views is a crucial one, which shows that only non-naturalism secures the sort of ardent realist view according to which reality itself objectively backs certain ways of acting and valuing.
"Why Relativism Doesn't Explain Internalism" Relativists claim that the truth value of all normative judgments varies between contexts, depending on either (i) the actual attitudes of some person or group in the context, or (ii) the attitudes that some person or group in the context would have, if she or they were in more ideal conditions. While many relativists take a virtue of their view to be that it explains why internalism is true, I argue that relativists actually cannot fully explain internalism. Specifically, I argue that relativism only explains why one is motivated to act in accord with one's normative beliefs when those normative beliefs are true or rational. But the relevant connection between one’s motivations and one’s normative beliefs, for the internalist, holds regardless of the epistemic status of those beliefs. Relativists thus fail to explain a thesis that captures the spirit of internalism.