Work in Progress papers

I will be adding some of my work in progress here. The links in the titles should get you to googledocs. 
Any comments on these papers would be most welcome (
This paper begins by arguing that all ethical theories face what I call the correlation problem. They are required to explain why rightness is perfectly correlated with properties on which these theories rely. I then consider three kinds of explanations which the ethical theorists could use to solve this problem. They rely on meanings of moral terms, metaphysical constitutions, and resultance-relations. I attempt to argue that these explanations cannot be used by the ethical theorists. Instead, it seems like the plausible solutions to the correlation problem all make ethical theories less central and less interesting.
This is a more long term project (in fact, I'm not sure if it will ever see the light of the day). There's been a lot of discussion in the consequentialist framework on whether the answer to the question of how many people ought there be in the future can be anything other than the repugnant conclusion. Contractualists have thought about this question far less. There was some debate when Rawls' view was popular, but Parfit and others argued that that view wouldn't not fair much better. I try to investigate in this paper what sort of resources Scanlonian contractualism would have to make progress in the basic questions of population ethics. I explain how there is a version of the non-identity problem that threatens Scanlon's view but try to show that there is a response to this worry. I also respond to some other obvious objections to the contractualist account of the future generations and try to formulate a plausible principle of beneficence that does not lead to the repugnant conclusion in the sketched framework. In the end, I hesitantly conclude that contractualism is a promising approach in population ethics. 

According to Derek Parfit, Kantian contractualism is a strong candidate for the supreme principle of morality. In its clearest form, this principle states that an act is wrong if and only if it is forbidden by the principles which everyone has sufficient reasons for seeing to it that everyone accepts. According to Gideon Rosen, this principle fails because we can imagine situations with evil gremlins in which people have no reason for seeing to it that everyone accepts the same principles. Thus, no act gets to be wrong according to Kantian contractualism. In this paper, I defend Kantian contractualism against Rosen’s objection. I show that Kantian contractualism has the same fundamental structure as the buck-passing accounts of value, and that Rosen’s objection is thus an application of the wrong kind of reasons objection to those views. This means that we can use the recent solutions to the wrong kind of reasons problem from the debates concerning the buck-passing accounts to protect Kantian contractualism from Rosen’s counter-examples, or so I will argue.


4. Descartes' Secret Atheist Argument in the First Meditation

This is a hand-out for a not so serious talk in which I argue that Descartes has an argument against the existence of God in the First Meditation...