Under Review

A Control Theory of Action

Separating Action and Knowledge

Escaping Arrow's Theorem: The Advantage-Standard Model

with Wesley Holliday

A Contextual Accuracy Dominance Argument for Probabilism

Zetetic Indispensability and Epistemic Justification

In Preparation

The Ethical Function of Intentional Action

The idea that intentional action is in some sense intrinsically ethical has a rich and varied history. We see this thought in the Kantian tradition, among experimental philosophers, in the doctrine of the guise of the good dating back to Plato and Aristotle, and in the work of both more and less naturalistically inclined contemporary action theorists. In this paper, I defend a version of the idea that intentional action is intrinsically ethical. The central claim argued for is the following two-part thesis spelling out the precise sense in which intentional action is intrinsically ethical. First, the concept of intentional action plays a distinctive functional role in our ethical conceptual scheme: it flags behaviors that are of priority for ethical evaluation broadly construed. Second, by way of fixing the degree of control required for intentional action, this ethical function partially determines the extension of the concept of intentional action. One advantage of the proposed version of the idea that intentional action is intrinsically ethical is that it should be appealing to the naturalist who is interested in embedding intentional action into a scientific, metaphysically sensible picture of the world.    

Against Minimalist Theories of Action

A paper arguing for what I call the Aim Condition on Action (ACA): action in the broadest sense requires meeting an explanatorily relevant aim that belongs to the agent. ACA entails that individuals that are incapable of having aims are not genuine agents. It follows, on the plausible empirical claim that many living and non-living individuals are incapable of aiming, that many living and non-living individuals are not genuine agents. Establishing ACA also marks a significant step in defending the control theory of action as a theory of action in the broadest sense.

Action in a Virtual World

Danny has a virtual affair with his lifelong friend Karl while playing a virtual reality fighting game.  Each night over a number of weeks, Danny and Karl place small buttons on their temples, their physical forms go motionless, and they enter virtual reality, taking on the forms of their chosen characters Lance and Roxette. Danny and Karl (or Lance and Roxette?) start out fighting one another in the game but eventually turn to having sex. This story, drawn from an episode of Black Mirror, raises an interesting and difficult question for philosophers of action: can the doings of one's virtual counterpart in virtual reality be one's actions? In particular, does Danny have sex with Karl---or perform any action at all---while his physical body lay motionless on the couch in physical reality? In this essay, I try to isolate exactly what is interesting and difficult about these questions. I then offer some possible answers.

Group Dominance Principles in Infinite Ethics


Control in Action, Ph.D. Dissertation, Stanford University.