Published and forthcoming

Moral Realism and Reliance on Moral Testimony, Philosophical Studies, 176:5 (May 2019), pp. 1141–1153.

Moral realism and some of its constitutive theses, e.g., cognitivism, face the following challenge. If they are true, then it seems that we should predict that deference to moral testimony is appropriate under the same conditions as deference to non-moral testimony. Yet, many philosophers intuit that deference to moral testimony is not appropriate, even in otherwise ordinary conditions. In this paper I show that the challenge is cogent only if the appropriateness in question is disambiguated in a particular way. To count against realism and its constitutive theses, moral deference must fail to be appropriate in specifically the way that the theses predict it is appropriate. I argue that this is not the case. In brief, I argue that realism and allied theses predict only that deference to moral testimony is epistemically appropriate, but that the intuitive data plausibly show only that it is not morally appropriate. If I am right, then there is reason to doubt the metaethical relevance of much of the skepticism regarding moral deference in recent literature. {link}

Melis Erdur's Moral Argument Against Moral Realism, Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, 22:2 (April 2019),  pp. 371-377.

In a previous volume of Ethical Theory & Moral Practice, Melis Erdur defends the provocative claim that postulating a stance-independent ground for morality constitutes a substantive moral mistake that is isomorphic to the substantive moral mistake that many realists attribute to antirealists. In this discussion paper I reconstruct Erdur’s argument and raise two objections to the general framework in which it arises. I close by explaining why rejecting Erdur’s approach doesn’t preclude normative criticism of metaethical theories. {link}

Heschel, Hiddenness and the God of Israel, European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 8:4 (Winter 2016), pp. 109-124.

Drawing on the writings of the Jewish thinker, Abraham Joshua Heschel, I defend a partial response to the problem of divine hiddenness. A Jewish approach to divine love includes the thought that God desires meaningful relationship not only with individual persons, but also with communities of persons. In combination with John Schellenberg’s account of divine love, the admission of God’s desire for such relationships makes possible that a person may fail to believe that God exists not because of any individual failing, but because the individual is a member of a larger community that itself is culpable. {link}

Moral Realism and Philosophical Angst, in Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, forthcoming

This paper defends pro-realism, the view that it is better if moral realism is true rather than any of its rivals. After offering an account of philosophical angst, I make three general arguments. The first targets nihilism: in securing the possibility of moral justification and vindication in objecting to certain harms, moral realism secures something that is non-morally valuable and even essential to the meaning and intelligibility of our lives. The second argument targets antirealism: moral realism secures a desirable independence for moral justification that is qualitatively different from antirealistic independence that is only explicable in terms of degrees of distance from our subjective responses and attitudes. Finally, I argue that while the pan-expressivist semantic program of quasi-realism has significant effects on what can be appropriately said in meta-ethical discourse, it provides no comfort to the pro-realist who is already angsty about anti-realism.

Transformative Experience and the Problem of Religious Disagreement (with Laurie Paul), Religious Disagreement and Pluralism, eds. Jon Kvanvig and Matthew Benton, Oxford University Press, in progress (expected 2020)

Religious pluralism presents religious believers, agnostics, and skeptics alike with an epistemological problem: how can confidence in any religious claims (including their negations) be epistemically justified? There seem to be rational, well-informed adherents among a variety of mutually incompatible religious and non-religious perspectives, and so the problem of peer disagreement inevitably arises in the religious domain. We show that the transformative nature of religious experience and identity poses more than just this traditional, epistemic problem of religious belief. In encountering one another, believers, agnostics, and skeptics confront not just different beliefs, but different ways of being a person. To transition between religious belief and skepticism is not just to adopt a different set of beliefs, but to transform into a different version of oneself. We argue that the transformative nature of religious identity intensifies the problem of pluralism by adding a new dimension to religious disagreement, for there are principled reasons to think we can lack epistemic and affective access to potential religious, agnostic, or skeptical selves. Finally, we reflect on the relationship between the transformative problem of religious pluralism and the more traditional question about which religious beliefs are true.

"Not My People": Jewish-Christian Ethics and Divine Reversals in Response to Injustice, in The Lost Sheep in Philosophy of Religion: New Perspectives on Disability, Gender, Race, and Animals, Routledge, eds. Kevin Timpe and Blake Hereth, 2019.

In the Hebrew Scriptures, there are familiar consequences for disobedience to God—destruction of holy sites, slavery, exile, and death. But there is one consequence that is less familiar and of special interest in this chapter. Disobedience to God sometimes results in stark reversals in God’s very relationship and experiential availability to God’s own people. Such people may even remove God’s very presence. This is a curious form of punishment that threatens the very spiritual identity of the victims of the reversal. This chapter explores divine reversal in the Hebrew Scriptures (and its continuation in the New Testament). Insofar as the self-identified people of God commit positive injustices against others, and even insofar as they are culpable for failing to prevent such injustices from occurring, devotees of the Hebrew Scriptures—so, devout Jews and Christians alike—ought to take seriously the possibility that God will side with those who suffer the injustices and even, in a sense, sanctify their life, practices, and identity. Divine reversals pose problems for Jewish and Christian ethics, which must grapple with the possibility that God might seem to adopt inconsistent moral positions across time—or at least inconsistent moral postures. {link}

The Problem of Unwelcome Epistemic Company, forthcoming in Episteme

Many of us are unmoved when it is objected that some morally or intellectually suspect source agrees with our belief. While we may tend to find this kind of guilt by epistemic association unproblematic, I argue that this tendency is a mistake. We sometimes face what I call the problem of unwelcome epistemic company. This is the problem of encountering agreement about the content your belief from a source whose faults give you reason to worry about the belief’s truth, normative status, etiology, or implications. On the basis of an array of cases, I elaborate four distinct kinds of problems that unwelcome epistemic company poses. Two of these are distinctly epistemic, and two are moral. I canvass possible responses, ranging from stubbornness to an epistemic prudishness that avoids unwelcome company at all costs. Finally, I offer preliminary lessons of the problem and distinguish it from the problem of peer disagreement. {draft}

Unpublished or under review

Moral Deference and the Stability of Moral Belief

While some philosophers argue that there is something wrong with moral deference, others think that moral deference is just as acceptable as non-moral deference. Moreover, there are some grounds for thinking that the intuition against moral deference is culturally contingent. I offer a unified explanation for all of the above. Morality helps us to live together, and stable moral belief serves this purpose. However, whether or not practices of moral deference are conducive to the stability of moral belief depends upon various contingent factors within a culture, and this goes a long way toward explaining differing intuitions on the subject. {draft}

Philosophical Angst

Some philosophical debates evoke what I call philosophical angst: the judgment that the truth of some thesis is essential for the meaning or intelligibility of our lives, combined with an anxious concern that it might be false. This paper offers an account of philosophical angst, exploring its phenomenology and normative status in contrast to related phenomena, for example, grief at the death of a loved one. Getting a better grasp of the nature and status of philosophical angst is a research program in its own right, but it also has implications for how we may fruitfully proceed in some otherwise trenchant philosophical debates. I show how my concept can illuminate what is at stake and what drives some of our concerns in contemporary controversies ranging from the metaphysics of reasons to the relationship between God and the meaning of life. {draft}

Value as a Guide to Truth in Metaethics (and Other Domains)

We generally reject inferences from its being good if p, to its being true that p. I call these value-truth inferences. I show that popular reasons for rejecting these inference are not cogent. I argue to the contrary that value-truth inferences are appropriate (albeit defeasible) in domains of inquiry where theorists are responsible for accommodating evaluative features of their target phenomena. This approach vindicates some value-truth inferences in metaethics, and it has theoretical advantages over competing accounts in recent literature. {draft}

You of All People: Acquaintance, Wrong Action, and Blame (with Keshav Singh)

It is widely agreed that one’s degree of blameworthiness for performing a wrong action is lower under conditions of non-culpable ignorance than under conditions of knowledge. One might also ask, however, whether there are conditions under which one’s degree of blameworthiness is higher than it would be under conditions of mere knowledge. One such condition is satisfied when the agent has not just moral knowledge, but moral acquaintance. Intuitively, all else equal, the acquainted wrongdoer is more blameworthy than the unacquainted (but still knowledgeable) wrongdoer. Our goal in this paper is to explain why this is the case. We consider and reject three proposals that attempt to explain the phenomenon by appeal to normatively significant features not unique to acquaintance. We then develop our own proposal: the phenomenological possession account. According to the phenomenological possession account, moral acquaintance heightens blameworthiness for wrongdoing because it uniquely puts the agent in a position to phenomenologically possess reasons against the wrong action. When an agent possesses a reason not just intellectually but phenomenologically, her grasp of that reason is stronger. We contend that given plausible connections between blameworthiness and the possession of reasons against wrong actions, phenomenological possession heightens blameworthiness. After developing the phenomenological possession account, we conclude by considering three applications of our view to debates in normative theory, as well as responding to three objections. {draft}