Lecturer in Philosophy
Phone: 0133 446 4439
Applied Ethics; Political Philosophy; Normative Ethics; Philosophy of Law; Metaethics
See also the PURE research profile.
2006: PhD in Philosophy (University of Wisconsin). Thesis title: Does Rationality Ever Require Immorality?
2004: MA in Philosophy (University of Wisconsin)
2001: BA in Philosophy (University of Illinois)
2009-12: Assistant Professor/Faculty Fellow in the Program in Environmental Studies and the Center for Bioethics at New York University
2007-09: Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Bioethics, Warren G. Magnuson Clinical Center, National Institutes of Health (USA)
Papers on Contractarianism
- 'Contractarianism as a Political Morality', Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 161:1 (2016):49-67. Contractarianism is not plausible as a theory of the legitimacy of the state, nor as a theory of individuals' obligations to each other, nor as a theory of justice. What, then, is it good for? I argue that the state has two kinds of obligations, obligations-qua-agent and obligations-qua-state, and that contractarianism is well-suited to provide an account of the state's obligations-qua-state. Contractariaism, so understood, is a political morality.
- (in progress) ‘Contractarianism as Teleological’. Contractarianism gets criticized for having implausible implications regarding the scope of the state's obligations--specifically, whether it has any obligations to animals and severely mentally disabled humans. I argue that only a teleological political morality can give an answer to this scope question, that we should reject all political moralities that give no answer, and that contractarianism is the best teleological political morality.
- (in progress) 'Reversing the State of Nature Thought Experiment'. Every version of contractarianism contains a state of nature thought experiment. One classic worry is that there is no single correct way of describring the state of nature and the parties to it, and so any particular verison of the thought experiment will necessarily be arbitrary. I argue that the contractarian can avoid this criticism by reversing the thought experiment. This means treating the state of nature not as a situation we're in and trying to escape, but rather as a situation we're not in and trying to remain not in.
Papers on Distributive Justice
- (in progress) ‘The Scope Problem for Distributive Principles’. All principles regarding the distribution of welfare, or the distribution of something else (e.g., resources, capabilities) that is important only because of its connection to welfare, are false as a matter of interpersonal morality, though some of them may be derivatively true as a matter of political morality.
- 'Fair Equality of Opportunity in Our Actual World', Theory and Research in Education 14:3 (2016):277-94. An explanation of how it can make sense to advocate fair equality of opportunity while taking meritocracy and broad liberty within the family as given, and a defense of a narrow principle of fair equality of opportunity against objections by Arneson and others.
- 'The Relevance of Distributive Justice to International Climate Change Policy', Ethics, Policy & Environment 17:2 (2014):208-24. A criticism of Climate Change Justice by Eric Posner and David Weisbach. Distinguishes teleological and non-teleological approaches to distributive justice, and shows why that distinction is important in thinking about global warming.
- 'The Limits of Fair Equality of Opportunity', Philosophical Studies 160:2 (2012):323-43. The principle of fair equality of opportunity, once all the variables are filled in, is quite narrow and consequently will justify only a narrow range of social policies.
- ‘Lingering Problems of Currency and Scope in Daniels’s Argument for a Societal Obligation to Meet Health Needs’, The Journal of Medicine & Philosophy 35:4 (August 2010):402-14. A critique of Daniels's theory of justice in health care as presented in his book, Just Health Care.
- ‘Extortion and the Ethics of “Topping Up”’, The Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 18:4 (October 2009):443-5. In countries that have a single-payer health care system there should be no rule against the private purchase of supplemental health services.
- ‘The Liberty Principle and Universal Health Care’, The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 18:2 (June 2008):149-72. Justice, specifically the liberty principle, requires universal health care.
Papers on Coercion
- 'The Crime of Self-Solicitation' Ratio Juris 28:2 (June 2015):180-203. The criminal law should be designed in such a way that judges and juries are never required to determine whether an individual has issued a threat. It should simply allow for the criminal punishment of anyone who announces an intention to commit a crime, regardless of whether that announcement is a threat.
- 'Why Coercion is Wrong when it's Wrong', Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91:1 (2013):63-82. What makes coercion wrong when it's wrong is not that it causes fear or that it is autonomy-compromising. Rather, it's that the coercer makes herself more likely to do wrong.
Papers on Animal Ethics
- 'Non-Consequentialist Theories of Animal Ethics', Analysis Reviews 75:4 (2015):638-54. Critiques of Christine Korsgaard, Mark Rowlands, and Martha Nussbaum respectively.
- 'The Status of Moral Status', Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 91:1 (March 2011):87-104. We should cease talking about "moral status" and its cognates.
- ‘Morality, Adapted’, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 53:4 (Fall 2010):624-9.
Papers on Normative Ethics
- 'Non-Consequentialist Theories of Animal Ethics'. See description above.
- 'Direct Moral Grounding and the Legal Model of Moral Normativity’, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18:4 (2015):703-16. I argue that the explanatory connection between the non-normative facts and the verdictive facts (i.e., the facts about what we morally ought to do) is direct, as opposed to being mediated by moral reasons. But this doesn't mean that there is no place for moral reasons. Moral reasons exist, and they're explained by the verdictive facts.
- 'Reasons Consequentialism', Journal of Moral Philosophy 10:5 (2013):671-82. A review article on Douglas Portmore's Commonsense Consequentialism, a book that combines the idea that morality requires us to maximize the good with the idea that goodness is grounded in reasons.
- 'Consequentialism's Double-Edged Sword', Utilitas 22:3 (September 2010):258-71. Although consequentialism may be flexible enough to yield an intuitively compelling set of case-specific verdicts, this doesn't help to show that the best version of consequentialism will be better than the best version of non-consequentialism.
Papers on Philosophy of Law
- 'Political Theory and the Criminal Law's Agenda'. I argue that political theory is prior to that part of legal theory concerned with the criminal law. To determine whether there is a case to be made in favor of a certain class of criminal laws--for instance, any of the four classes that occupied Feinberg's attention, including laws criminalizing harming others and laws criminalizing harmless wrongdoing--we have to do political theory and infer our answer from that theory. The negative corollary of this thesis is that the criminal law has no internal logic. In other words, there is no hope of discovering the criminal law's agenda by gaining a better understanding of what the criminal law is, does, and could be.
- 'Direct Moral Grounding and the Legal Model of Moral Normativity’, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18:4 (2015):703-16. See description above.
- 'The Crime of Self-Solicitation' Ratio Juris 28:2 (June 2015):180-203. See description above.
Papers on Environmental Ethics
- 'The Relevance of Distributive Justice to International Climate Change Policy', Ethics, Policy & Environment 17:2 (2014):208-24. See description above.
- 'Mazor on Indirect Obligations to Conserve Natural Resources for Future Generations', Ethics, Policy & Environment 16:2 (2013):208-11.
Papers on the Ethics of Research on Human Subjects
- 'Two Kinds of Rule Regulating Human Subjects Research', Journal of Law and the Biosciences 2:2 (2015):431-37. Alan Wertheimer has argued that bodies that promulgate rules for the conduct of human subjects research should take into account the consequences of such promulgation with respect to some of those rules. Wertheimer is right, I argue, but his argument doesn't go through unless he distinguishes the ethics of promulgating ethical rules from the ethics of promulgating policy.
- ‘Going from Principles to Rules in Research Ethics', Bioethics 25:1 (January 2011):9-20. Most of the canonical rules of research ethics cannot be supported by appeal to the canonical principles of bioethics.
- 'The Case for Evidence-Based Rulemaking in Human Subjects Research', The American Journal of Bioethics 10:6 (June 2010):3-13. Most of the canonical rules of research ethics should be understood as rules of policy, not rules of ethics, and therefore should be seen as having a purpose.
- ‘Response to Comments on “The Case for Evidence-Based Rulemaking”’, The American Journal of Bioethics 10:6 (June 2010):W1-3
- ‘The Exceptional Ethics of the Investigator-Subject Relationship’, The Journal of Medicine & Philosophy 35:1 (February 2010):64-80. Most of the canonical rules of research ethics are exceptional when seen against the backdrop of the widely-accepted rules governing other activities.
Papers on Health Care Justice
- ‘Lingering Problems of Currency and Scope in Daniels’s Argument for a Societal Obligation to Meet Health Needs’. See description above.
- ‘Extortion and the Ethics of “Topping Up”’, The Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 18:4 (October 2009):443-5. See description above.
- ‘The Liberty Principle and Universal Health Care’, The Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 18:2 (June 2008):149-72. See description above.
- ‘Reasons and Requirements’, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 11:1 (February 2008):73-83.
I'm working a lot on animal ethics and beginning to turn my attention to contractarianism, which I'd like to defend. Mostly, however, I'm working on a book. My goal is to establish that moral theorizing is an explanatory project and then demonstrate that, if we approach it as such, that will have important, radical and surprising implications for what conclusions we'll reach about right and wrong.
The purpose of engaging in moral theorizing is, I hold, to search for explanations of purported facts about which particular things are right, wrong, permissible, impermissible, etc. If we try to do this, then we'll end up rejecting the most popular versions of moral monism--act-consequentialism, Kantianism, and contractualism/contractarianism--on the grounds that they offer bad explanations, and we'll instead adopt moral pluralism. Specifically, we'll adopt a version of pluralism on which moral reasons play no explanatory role. Having reached these conclusions, we will be able to achieve new insights about real-world moral problems. My examples will be animal research ethics and the ethics of distribution (with special attention to the distribution of health care).
I am very happy to supervise most topics within normative ethics, applied ethics and political philosophy. Please get in touch if you are interested in being supervised by me as a full-time, part-time, or visiting PhD/MPhil student.