Philosophy, Faculty of Humanities
University of Southampton
I am a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Southampton. Before coming to Southampton I was a fixed-term lecturer at the University of Stirling, a graduate student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and an undergraduate at the University of Bristol. My CV is available here.
My research focuses on issues in ethics and epistemology, broadly construed. I am especially interested in issues to do with reasons, rationality, value, and normativity, across both epistemic and practical domains. I also have general interests in action theory, normative ethics, and various issues in philosophy of mind and language. Some of the topics I have written on include:
Rationality: Philosophers traditionally accept that there are rational norms or principles requiring consistency and coherence. For example, theoretical rationality requires you to have consistent beliefs, and to believe the obvious consequences of your beliefs. Practical rationality requires you to have consistent intentions, and to intend the means to your ends. However, requirements of this sort are puzzling. On the one hand, it does seem as if, e.g. someone who fails to intend the means to their ends is going wrong in some way. On the other, it is not clear how, e.g. merely intending an end could make it the case that you should intend the means – after all, your end might be wicked or crazy. I’ve argued (here, here, and here) that the solution to this problem is to accept ‘wide-scope’ reasons against certain combinations of attitudes – e.g. a reason against the combination of intending the end while not intending the means. I develop this solution in the context of a wider framework in which rationality is a matter of doing what, relative to our beliefs, we have reason to do. I argue (here) that this view vindicates a good sense in which rationality is normative. I say a little more about my work on this topic here (this was written in early 2010, so is now somewhat out of date).
Reasons and Value: What is the relationship between reasons and value? Do values provide reasons for action and pro-attitudes? Or can we explain what value is in terms of reasons? I defend the latter view. In ‘Value and Reasons to Favour’ I argue that for something to be valuable is for there to be reasons to favour that thing (e.g. to desire, hope for, or be glad of it). In ‘Transmission and the Wrong Kind of Reason’ I defend this view against the famous ‘wrong kind of reason’ problem.
The Nature of Reasons: Normative reasons are considerations that count in favour of an action, belief, or other attitude. Are reasons of this sort the fundamental unit of the normative and evaluative domain? Or can we give an informative account of the nature of reasons, perhaps in terms of ‘ought’, or value, or the notion of good reasoning? Should we expect a unified account of reasons for action, belief, and other attitudes? Questions of this sort are in the background of much of my work; in my current work I bring them into the foreground. In a couple of papers in progress, I try to develop a view of reasons as premises of good reasoning. In future work, I hope to consider the implications of this view for issues in metaethics, action theory, first-order normative theory, and the old question of whether we have reason to be moral.
With my colleagues Conor McHugh and Daniel Whiting, I am currently an investigator on an AHRC funded project on Normativity: Epistemic and Practical. We recently completed a project on Aims and Norms: Belief, Action, Emotions.