Essays on Derek Parfit’s On What Matters, co-edited with John Cottingham, Blackwell, 2009.
"Essays on 'On What Matters' contains seven critical papers addressing crucial aspects of Parfit's treatise, together with a helpful introduction and summary of the monograph by co-editor Jussi Suikkanen. ... This collection provides an excellent starting-point for reflection on the ideas discussed by Parfit. As well as high-quality criticism tacking some ofthe most crucial aspects of Parfit's treatise, the contributors provide thought-provoking positive suggestions about these important issues (Fiona Woollard, Philosophical Quarterly 2011)."
Articles in Peer-Reviewed Journals:
“Contractualism and the Conditional Fallacy”. Provisionally forthcoming in the Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics 4, 2014.
So-called ‘subjunctivist’ theories in philosophy attempt to give accounts of certain properties of objects in terms of what would happen to them in some
counterfactual circumstances. These views are claimed to commit the so-called ‘conditional fallacy’. The crux of that fallacy is that, sometimes, placing the object in the counterfactual circumstances changes the nature of the object so as to make its properties in those circumstances irrelevant for what properties the object actually has.
Very roughly, contractualist theories in ethics attempt to give an account of rightness and wrongness in terms of what principles we would agree to live by in certain hypothetical situations. My paper investigates whether the most popular recent accounts that belong to the contractualist family fail as a result of committing the conditional fallacy. I will argue that Nicholas Southwood’s and T.M. Scanlon’s versions of contractualism have implausible consequences in some cases because they commit the fallacy. I also argue that Scanlon’s view can be developed to avoid the problem.
"Consequentialist Options". Forthcoming in Utilitas.
According to traditional forms of act-consequentialism, we are always required to do the action which would have the best consequences of the alternatives available for us in the given circumstances. It has been objected that this view does not leave for us enough moral freedom to choose between different actions which we intuitively think are morally permissible (but not required) options for us. I will first go through the previous consequentialist responses to this freedom objection, and why I think those responses are not completely satisfactory. I will then attempt to argue that agents have more options on consequentialist grounds than the traditional forms of act-consequentialism acknowledged. This is because having a choice between many permissible options can itself make things go better.
“Moral Error Theory and the Belief Problem”. Forthcoming in the Oxford Studies in Metaethics 8, 2013.
Moral error theories have recently become popular in metaethics. These views claim that (i) moral utterances express moral beliefs, that (ii) moral beliefs ascribe moral properties, and that (iii) moral properties are not instantiated. They also accept that, because (i), (ii), and (iii) seem to be true, there seems to be conclusive evidence against the truth of our moral beliefs. Yet, they claim that, if we accepted all of this, we could still in principle hold onto our moral beliefs. Whether we should keep these beliefs, give them up, or adopt new make-belief attitudes to replace our beliefs depends on our prudential reasons. So-called abolitionists think that we have sufficient reasons to give up our moral beliefs; fictionalists think that we should adopt make-belief attitudes to replace our beliefs; and conservationists think that we should keep our original beliefs.
I argue that all these views are incompatible with the standard philosophical accounts of beliefs. Functionalism, normative theories of beliefs, representationalism, and interpretationalism all imply that being sensitive to thoughts about evidence is a constitutive feature of beliefs. This means that our moral judgments, as characterised by the error theorists themselves, could not count as beliefs. However, for the moral error theory to be true, moral judgements would need to be beliefs. As a result, error theorists must either give up their view and adopt some form of metaethical non-cognitivism, or argue for some new, radical theory of beliefs.
“Reasons-Statements as Non-Extensional Contexts”. The Philosophical Quarterly 62 (248), 2012, pp. 592–613 (LINK).
Many believe that, if true, reason-statements of the form ‘that X is F is a reason to φ’ describe a ‘favouring-relation’ between the fact that X is F and the act of φing. This favouring-relation has been assumed to share many features of other, more concrete relations. This combination of views leads to immediate problems. Firstly, unlike statements about many other relations, reason-statements can be true even when the relata do not exist, i.e., when the relevant facts do not obtain and the relevant acts are not done. Secondly, the previous combination of views also makes it very difficult to draw the distinction between agent-relative and agent-neutral reasons. I argue that we should think that the predicate ‘is a reason to’ creates non-extensional contexts in the statements in which it is used. This would both solve the previous problems and avoid the awkward consequences of the so-called slingshot argument.
"An Improved Whole Life Satisfaction Account of Happiness", International Journal of Wellbeing 1, 2011, pp. 149-166 (LINK)
According to the popular Whole Life Satisfaction theories of happiness, an agent is happy when she judges that her life fulfils her ideal life-plan. Fred Feldman has recently argued that such views cannot accommodate the happiness of spontaneous or preoccupied agents who do not consider how well their lives are going. In this paper, I formulate a new Whole Life Satisfaction theory that is not vulnerable to this objection. My proposal is inspired by Michael Smith’s advice-model of desirability. According to it, an agent is happy when a more informed and rational hypothetical version of her would judge that the agent’s actual life matches the best life-plan for her. I will argue that my new Whole Life Satisfaction theory is a flexible model that can avoid many of the problems besetting previous theories of happiness.
"The Possibility of Love Independent Reasons", Essays in Philosophy 12, 2011, pp. 32-54 (LINK)
In his recent work, Harry Frankfurt has defended a theory according to which an agent’s practical reasons are determined by what she happens to love. In the first section of this article, I will describe some of the awkward consequences of this view. For instance, it would turn out that not all rapists would have reasons not to rape their victims. The second section of the article explains in detail Frankfurt’s argument for his theory of reasons. The crux of this argument is that, because reasons have to be attached to significant life-changes, any attempt to show that there were love independent reasons would need to be based on a prior evaluation of significance. However, such evaluations can only be based on what we already love, or so Frankfurt argues. From this threat of circularity, Frankfurt concludes that there cannot be reasons outside the realm of the objects of our loves. The rest of the article is a critical examination of Frankfurt’s argument. It first constructs an analogical argument for reasons for beliefs. In that case, both the unacceptable consequences of the argument and its basic flaws are more transparent. It is clear that our prior beliefs are not the only epistemic standard by which the justificatory role of new experiences is to be evaluated. In the end of the article, I argue that, likewise, our prior loving attitudes cannot be the only relevant standard for assessing the significance of life-changes. This is why our reasons are not constrained by what we love.
“Non-Naturalism: the Jackson Challenge”, Oxford Studies in Metaethics 5, 2010, pp. 87-110.
Frank Jackson has argued that, if one is committed to truth-aptness of moral claims and the supervenience of the moral on the descriptive, then one must think that moral properties are descriptive properties (or, rather, natural properties). I argue that his argument works only if we accept a controversial nominalist view about properties in general. This is because other views about properties leave logical room for distinct moral properties even if these properties would be necessarily co-instantiated with some natural properties on the supervenience-base level.
“The Subjectivist Consequences of Expressivism”, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 90 (3), 2009, pp. 364-387 (LINK). Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit argue that expressivism in metaethics collapses into subjectivism. A sincere utterer of a moral claim must believe that she has the relevant attitudes to be expressed. The truth-conditions of that belief, according to Jackson and Pettit, provide also the truth-conditions of the moral utterance. Thus, the expressivist cannot deny that moral claims have subjectivist truth-conditions. As critics have argued, this argument appears to fail as stated. I try to show that expressivism does have subjectivist repercussions in a way that avoids the problems of the Jackson-Pettit argument. In order to do this, the new argument, based on the norms for the correct use of moral sentences, attempts to tie the expressivist to a more modest form of subjectivism than the previous argument.
“Buck-Passing Accounts of Value”, Philosophy Compass 4 (5), 2009, pp. 768-779 (LINK). This review article looks at the history of the so-called buck-passing accounts of value, the arguments that motivate these views, the details of how these views should be formulated, and what kind of problems they face.
“A Dilemma for Rule-Consequentialism”, Philosophia 36 (1), 2008, pp. 141–150 (LINK). Rule-consequentialists tend to argue for their normative theory by claiming that their view matches our moral convictions just as well as a pluralist set of Rossian duties. As an additional advantage, rule-consequentialism offers a unifying justification for these duties. I challenge the first part of the ruleconsequentialist argument and show that Rossian duties match our moral convictions better than the rule-consequentialist principles. I ask the rule-consequentialists a simple question. In the case that circumstances change, is the wrongness of acts determined by the ideal principles for the earlier circumstances or by the ideal ones for the new circumstances? I argue that whichever answer the rule-consequentialists give the view leads to normative conclusions that conflict with our moral intuitions. Because some set of Rossian duties can avoid similar problems, rule-consequentialism fails in the reflective equilibrium test advocated by the rule-consequentialists.
“Reasons and Value – A Defence of the Buck-Passing Account”, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 7 (5), 2005, pp. 513–535 (LINK). In this article, I will defend the so-called “buck-passing” theory of value. According to this theory, claims about the value of an object refer to the reason-providing properties of the object. The concept of value can thus be analyzed in terms of reasons and the properties of objects that provide them for us. Reasons in this context are considerations that count in favour of certain attitudes. There are four other possibilities of how the connection between reasons and value might be formulated. For example, we can claim that value is a property that provides us with reasons to choose an option that has this property. I argue that none of these four other options can ultimately be defended, and therefore the buck-passing account is the one we ought to accept as the correct one. The case for the buck-passing account becomes even stronger, when we examine the weak points of the most pressing criticism against this account thus far.
“Contractualist Replies to the Redundancy Objections”, Theoria 71 (1), 2005, pp. 38–58 (LINK) Contractualism has been claimed to be redundant in two ways. First, it has been argued that which principles cannot be reasonably rejected depends on which actions are wrong, and thus the non-rejectable principles cannot be used to account for which actions are wrong. Second, it has been argued that there would not be a need for any justification-based reasons not to do wrong actions as sufficient reasons not to do these actions are already prodivided by more basic, first-order considerations. I try to argued that contractualism can be formulated in a way that can avoid these problems.
“What We Owe to Many”, Social Theory and Practice 30 (4), 2004, pp. 485–506 (LINK). It has been argued that Scanlonian contractualism has implausible moral consequences in situations that concern different sized harms to different sized groups. This is because it only allows pair-wise comparisons of burdens to different individuals. I try to argue that a view of this kind can provide all the intuitive results in the aggregation cases when we take into account all the long term consequences to individuals from the adoption of the potential moral principles.
“Intentions, Blame, and Contractualism”.
An extended review of T.M. Scanlon’s Moral Dimensions: Permissibility, Meaning, Blame, Jurisprudence
2(2), 2011, pp. 561–573 (LINK
“Consequentialism, Constraints, and the Good-Relative-to: A Reply to Mark Schroeder”.
Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy
, 2009 (March) (LINK
“Normativity of Reasons – A Critical Notice of Joshua Gert’s Brute Rationality”.
International Journal of Philosophical Studies
12 (4), 2004, pp. 478–491 (LINK
“Review of James Lenman and Yonatan Shemmer’s (eds.) Constructivism in Practical Philosophy”, forthcoming in Ethics.
“Review of Thomas Hurka’s Drawing Morals – Essays in Ethical Theory, The Best Things in Life, and (ed.) Underivative Duty – British Moral Philosophers from Sidgwick to Ewing”, Philosophy in Review
33 (1), 2013, pp. 44-48 (LINK
“Review of Derek Parfit’s On What Matters, Volumes 1 & 2”, Philosophers’ Magazine
54 (3), 2011, pp. 102–103 (LINK
"Review of John Kekes's The Human Condition", Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
, January 2011 (LINK)
"Review of Alan Goldman's Reasons from Within", Times Literary Supplement, 23 July, 2009, p. 12.
“Review of Anita Superson’s The Moral Sceptic”, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews
, July 2009 (LINK
“Review of Roger Crisp’s Reasons and the Good”, The Philosophical Quarterly
57 (July, vol. 228), 2007, pp. 503–505 (LINK
“Review of Nomy Arpaly’s Unprincipled Virtue”, Ratio
19 (2), 2006, pp. 261–265 (LINK
“Review of T.M. Scanlon’s What We Owe to Each Other”, Utilitas 19 (4), 2007, 524–526.
Articles in Edited Collections:
“Morality and Wellbeing” and “Deontology”.
Forthcoming in A. Michalos (ed.): Encyclopedia of Quality of Life Research (Springer).
“Contractualism and Climate Change”.
Forthcoming in G. Pellegrino (ed.): Climate Change Ethics (Routledge).
Forthcoming in J. Crimmins & D. Long (eds.): The Encyclopedia of Utilitarianism (Continuum).
In Oxford Bibliographies Online: Philosophy, D. Pritchard (ed.). New York: Oxford University Press, 25.5.2011 (LINK
In J. Suikkanen & J. Cottingham (eds.): Essays on Derek Parfit’s On What Matters (Blackwell, 2009), pp. 1–20.
“The Open Question Argument” and “The Naturalistic Fallacy”.
n H. LaFollette (ed.): The International Encyclopedia of Ethics
(Routledge, 2013), pp. 3714-3720 and pp. 3542-3549.
“Contractualism”, co-authored with Matthew S. Liao.
In S. Caney (ed.): Encyclopedia of Political Theory (SAGE, 2010).