Giving reasons and given reasons
Forthcoming in a festschrift for Derek Parfit, edited by Tim Campbell, Jeff McMahan and Ketan Ramakrishnan, Oxford University Press

The first normative 'reason'
The first use in English of the word 'reason' to refer to a normative reason occurs in a manuscript of the Ancrene Riwle from about 1225. It was used to refer to an explanation of why one ought to do something.

Reasons and rationality
Forthcoming in The Handbook of Rationality, edited by Marcus Knauff and Wolfgang Spohn, MIT Press
Many philosophers think that rationality can be defined in terms of reasons. I explore this reductive idea, and oppose it. I start with a review of the meanings of ‘reason’ and ‘rationality’ in order to clarify the issue. Then I assess the view that rationality consists in responding correctly to reasons. To this I oppose a ‘quick objection’, describe the defences it has against this objection, and argue that these defences fail. Next I assess various related views, including the view that rationality consists in responding correctly to beliefs about reasons, and argue against each of them. Eventually I identify the kernel of truth that lies within them, which is that rationality requires you to intend to F if you believe you ought to F. I call this ‘enkrasia’. It is only one requirement of rationality among many, so no reduction of rationality to reasons is possible.

Practical reason: rationality or normativity but not both
Forthcoming in The Routledge Handbook of Practical Reason, edited by Ruth Change and Kurt Sylvan, Routledge.
The word ‘reason’ is very ambiguous, with the result that the term ‘practical reason’ may refer to two quite different topics. It may refer either to practical normativity or to practical rationality. The first is a matter of what one ought to do or has reason to do; the second is a matter of good practical reasoning and mental coherence in practical matters. Many philosophers fail to separate normativity from rationality as sharply as they should. Partly this is because they are confused by the ambiguity of ‘reason’ and partly because there are some substantive arguments that purport to show that there is no real distinction. This chapter enforces the distinction. It starts by separating the different meanings of ‘reason’, and then responds to the substantive arguments. The response turns on the conceptual feature of rationality that it is a property of the mind and supervenes on other properties of the mind. On the other hand, normativity does not supervene on the mind. The chapter concludes by discussing a Kantian approach to identifying normativity with rationality.

Reason fundamentalism and what is wrong with it
In The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity, edited by Daniel Star, Oxford University Press, 2018, pp. 297–318.

Is there a fundamental feature of normativity, to which other features can be reduced? One defensible view is that the fundamental feature is the relation that holds between a person and F-ing when the person has reason to F. (“F” stands for any verb phrase, such as “run for the bus” or “hope for relief” or “believe Kampala is in Ghana.”) Another defensible view is that the fundamental feature is the relation that holds between a person and F-ing when the person ought to F. The popular view that the fundamental feature of normativity is the property of being a reason is not defensible, since that property can be reduced to either of the two relations I described. I argue that the second of these views—“ought fundamentalism”—is more credible that the first—“reason fundamentalism”—because it is more faithful to our ordinary normative concepts.

A linguistic turn in the philosophy of normativity?
Analytic Philosophy
, 57 (2016), pp. 1-14
The theory of deontic modality within linguistics offers an account of the meaning of normative terms including 'ought'. How should the philosophy of normativity be affected by this theory? I argue that it should not be affected much. Indeed the theory of deontic modality needs some correction from the philosophy of normativity;
Preprint     Journal  page


Philosophical Studies
, 173 (2016), pp. 3369-3371 and 3431-3448
Contributions to a symposium on my book Rationality Through Reasoning, responding to Paul Boghossian, Garrett Cullity, Philip Pettit and Nicholas Southwood.
Journal page for Précis
   Preprint of  Précis    Journal page for  Responses    Preprint of Responses

Précis of Rationality Through Reasoning

Contributions to a symposium on my book Rationality Through Reasoning, responding to comments by Olav Gjelsvik, María José Frápolli and Neftalí Villanueva, Conor McHugh and Jonathan Way, Miranda del Corral, Fernando Broncano and Jesús Vega, and Nicholas Shackel.  
Teorema, 34 (2015), pp. 99-103 and 191-209

Full text of Précis     Full text of Replies

Précis of Rationality Through Reasoning
Responses to Setiya, Hussain and Horty
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
, 91 (2015), pp. 200-3 and 230-42
Contributions to a symposium on my book Rationality Through Reasoning
Journal page for Précis
    Preprint of Précis    Journal page for Response     Preprint of Response

Reason versus ought
Philosophical Issues
, 25 (2015), pp. 80-97
Which is the more fundamental feature of normativity; reason or ought? This paper sets up two parallel ontologies for normativity: in one reason is fundamental and in the other ought. It argues that the ought ontology is more faithful to our ordinary normative concepts.
Journal page     Preprint

Rationality Through Reasoning
Wiley-Blackwell, 2013
Rationality Through Reasoning answers the question of how people are motivated to do what they believe they ought to do, built on a comprehensive account of normativity, rationality and reasoning that differs significantly from much existing philosophical thinking. Develops an original account of normativity, rationality and reasoning significantly different from the majority of existing philosophical thought. Includes an account of theoretical and practical reasoning that explains how reasoning is something we ourselves do, rather than something that happens in us. Gives an account of what reasons are and argues that the connection between rationality and reasons is much less close than many philosophers have thought. Contains rigorous new accounts of oughts including owned oughts, agent-relative reasons, the logic of requirements, instrumental rationality, the role of normativity in reasoning, following a rule, the correctness of reasoning, the connections between intentions and beliefs, and much else. Offers a new answer to the ‘motivation question’ of how a normative belief motivates an action.
Information from publisher

Organon F, 20 (2013), pp. 425-36
Full text

Williams on ought
In Luck, Value and Commitment: Themes from the Ethics of Bernard Williams, edited by Ulrike Heuer and Gerald Lang, Oxford University Press, 2012, pp. 247-65

In 2002, Bernard Williams delivered a lecture that revisited the arguments of his article 'Ought and moral obligation', published in his Moral Luck. The lecture attributed to the earlier article the thesis that there are no ‘personal’ or (as I put it) ‘owned’ oughts. It also rejected this thesis. This paper explains the idea of an owned ought, and supports Williams’s lecture in asserting that there are owned oughts. It also examines the question of how accurately Williams’s later lecture interprets his earlier article.

In A Companion to the Philosophy of Action, edited by Timothy O'Connor and Constantine Sandis, Blackwell, 2010, pp. 285-92

Is rationality normative?

, 11 (2008), pp. 153-71

Does rationality consist in responding correctly to reasons?
Journal of Moral Philosophy
, 4 (2007), pp. 349-74
Reprinted in Studies in Moral Philosophy, 1 (2011), pp. 25-55
Full text


In Homage à Wlodek: Philosophical Papers Dedicated to Wlodek Rabinowicz, edited by Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen, Björn Petersson, Jonas Josefsson and Dan Egonsson, 2007,
Expressions such as ‘morality requires’, ‘prudence requires’ and ‘rationality requires’ are ambiguous. ‘Morality’, ‘prudence’ and ‘rationality’ may refer either to properties of a person, or to sources of requirements. Consequently, ‘requires’ has a ‘property sense’ and a ‘source sense’. I offer a semantic system for its source sense. Then I consider the logical form of conditional requirements, in the source sense.
Full text