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How to Perform a Nonbasic Action

Noûs. forthcoming.

On Accuracy and Coherence with Infinite Opinion Sets

Philosophy of Science. forthcoming.

  • A version with most proofs in the main text can be found here.

  • Some slides can be found here.

A note on Murakami's theorems and incomplete social choice without the Pareto principle

with Wesley Holliday

Social Choice and Welfare. 2020. Publisher's Version.

Under Review

The Control Theory of Action

In this paper, I propose a theory of action. The central claim of the theory is that action is movement that is controlled by the mover, where movement is understood capaciously and control is characterized by a trio of conditions consisting of an aim condition, a modal condition, and an explanatory condition. Importantly, being controlled is shown to be a determinable property of movements, and its determination dimensions are isolated. Paired with the claim that action is movement that is controlled by the mover, this account of control as a determinable illuminates a key idea motivating the proposed theory of action, namely that there is a variety of forms of action.

Anscombe's Knowledge Thesis and the Argument from Distinct Thresholds

In her groundbreaking Intention, G.E.M. Anscombe defends the Knowledge Thesis: while intentionally Xing, one knows without observation that one is Xing. This thesis has proved deeply controversial, largely due to what looks like a wealth of counterexamples. Among those who follow Anscombe, some have defended weaker versions of the Knowledge Thesis. Some weaken the necessity of the connection between knowledge and action, usually by granting the proposed counterexamples. Others retain the necessary connection, but alter the features, content, or species of the knowledge necessary for action. In this paper, I present an argument to the effect that we have good reason to think that there is no necessary connection between intentional action and knowledge, no matter the assumed features, content, or species of the knowledge. Further, rather than argue by counterexample, I present an argument that explains why we continue to find counterexamples to claims of a necessary connection between action and knowledge. The explanation is in the spirit of Gilbert Harman's separation of intentional action and belief and Michael Bratman's separation of intentional action and intention in that it relies on the place of intentional action in ethical life.

Accuracy and Infinity: A Dilemma for Subjective Bayesians

with Sven Neth

We argue that subjective Bayesians face a dilemma: they must offend against the spirit of their permissivism about rational credence or reject the principle that one should avoid accuracy dominance.

Escaping Arrow's Theorem: The Advantage-Standard Model

with Wesley Holliday

There is an extensive literature in social choice theory studying the consequences of weakening the assumptions of Arrow's Impossibility Theorem. Much of this literature suggests that there is no escape from Arrow-style impossibility theorems unless one drastically violates the Independence of Irrelevant Alternatives (IIA). In this paper, we present a more positive outlook. We propose a model of comparing candidates in elections, which we call the Advantage-Standard (AS) model. The requirement that a collective choice rule (CCR) be rationalizable by the AS model is in the spirit of but weaker than IIA; yet it is stronger than what is known in the literature as weak IIA (two profiles alike on x, y cannot have opposite strict social preferences on x and y). In addition to motivating violations of IIA, the AS model makes intelligible violations of another Arrovian assumption: the negative transitivity of the strict social preference relation P. While previous literature shows that only weakening IIA to weak IIA or only weakening negative transitivity of P to acyclicity still leads to impossibility theorems, we show that jointly weakening IIA to AS rationalizability and weakening negative transitivity of P leads to no such impossibility theorems. Indeed, we show that several appealing CCRs are AS rationalizable, including even transitive CCRs.

In Preparation

Intentional Action as Intrinsically Ethical

I argue that intentional action is, in a sense, intrinsically ethical. The central claim that I defend 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 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 functional role partially determines the extension of the concept of intentional action. As we will see, the sense in which intentional action is intrinsically ethical is also, to a large degree, consistent with naturalistic theories of action and thus should be appealing to the naturalist.

Deliberative Indispensability, Epistemic Justification, and Being a Successful Inquirer

Robust metanormative realists think there are irreducibly normative, metaphysically heavy normative facts. We might wonder how we could ever be epistemically justified in believing that such facts exist. According to David Enoch's deliberative indispensability argument, we are so justified because robustly real normative facts are instrumentally indispensable to the rationally non-optional project of practical deliberation. However, at the center of this argument is an account of the sources of basic epistemic justification which, as Tristram McPherson and David Plunkett convincingly argue, fails to respect the close connection between epistemic justification and truth. In this paper, I offer an improved deliberative indispensability argument for robust realism by offering an alternative account of the sources of basic epistemic justification that respects the close connection between epistemic justification and truth. The improved indispensability argument is based on the thought that in light of our agential natures, engaging in practical deliberation is essential to being a successful inquirer for creatures like us.

A Contextual Accuracy Dominance Argument for Probabilism

A central motivation for Probabilism---the principle of rationality that requires one to have credences that satisfy the axioms of probability---is the accuracy dominance argument: one should not have accuracy dominated credences, and one avoids accuracy dominance just in case one satisfies Probabilism. Up until recently, the accuracy dominance argument for Probabilism has been restricted to the finite setting. One reason for this is that it is not easy to measure the accuracy of infinitely many credences in a motivated way. In particular, as recent work has shown, the conditions often imposed in the finite setting are mutually inconsistent in the infinite setting. One response to these impossibility results is to weaken the conditions on a legitimate measure of accuracy. However, this response runs the risk of offering an accuracy dominance argument using illegitimate measures of accuracy. In this paper, I offer an alternative response which concedes the possibility that not all sets of credences can be measured for accuracy. I then offer an accuracy dominance argument for Probabilism that allows for this restrictedness. The normative core of the argument is the principle that one should not have credences that would be accuracy dominated in some epistemic context one might find oneself in if there are alternative credences which do not have this defect.

  • Some slides can be found here.

On Hold

  • A paper that responds to the reliability challenge for non-natural moral realism by making use of the intrinsic features of human nature

  • A paper that argues for an adequacy constraint on a theory of social rules and applies it to Michael Bratman's theory of social rules

  • A paper that offers a theory of demonization