Supervenience Arguments and Normative Non-naturalism (forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research)

Frank Jackson's supervenience argument against non-naturalism fails, because its premises entail that non-naturalism is false even under the supposition that the normative fails to supervene on the natural. But non-naturalism is clearly true under such a supposition. Jackson's premises are too strong, and I develop an under-explored approach on which non-naturalists can reject the conjunction of these premises.

Expressivism and Normative Metaphysics (provisionally forthcoming in Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. 11)

Expressivism, even of a quasi-realist variety, has metaphysical commitments that differ from realism, since it has different consequences for the naturalness or eliteness of the normative.

Whither Anankastics? (with Alex Silk; in Philosophical Perspectives)

So-called 'anankastic conditionals' (such as If you want to go Harlem, you ought to take the A-train) have been used to motivated a variety of substantive views about obligation and linguistic views about the semantics of ought. We isolate the key structual features of anankastics and argue that these same features are present in a wide range of constructions that do not contain deontic modals. We conclude that this shows that anakastics cannot be used to motivate the substantive linguistic and normative views in question.

Scepticism (with John Hawthorne; forthcoming in The Oxford Handbook of Epistemology and Theology)

To what extent are theological questions knowable? We outline some tools for addressing this question by first giving some plausible structural constraints on knowledge. Then we use these constraints to explore the relationship between the possibility (or impossibility) of theological knowledge and various issues including private interpretation, faith, the problem of evil, religious diversity, and morally good action.

Realism and Objectivity (forthcoming in The Routledge Handbook of Metaethics)

Philosophers have debated whether realism about ethics is true, and have asked whether ethics is objective. But less attention has been directed to what realism and objectivity are. I outline some issues for existing substantive views on these questions, and sketch answers to the questions of how and whether theorizing about realism and objectivity ought to be pursued.

Modal Quantification without Worlds (in Oxford Studies in Metaphysics, vol. 8)

The theoretical benefits of analyzing the modal operators ☐ and ♢ in quantificational terms have been assumed to come with an ontological cost. The cost is an ontology of “possible worlds”, which may be either the concrete worlds of David Lewis, or else some kind of abstract entity. I show how, with two independently motivated resources, we can reject the assumption that the benefits of quantificational analyses require this ontology. The resources in question are primitive second-order quantifiers, which bind variables in predicate-position and have no analysis in terms of first-order quantifiers, and a hyperintensional connective like 'in virtue of'.

The Folk Probably Do Think What You Think They Think (with Anna Edmonds and David Manley; in Australasian Journal of Philosophy)

Much of contemporary experimental philosophy involves taking surveys of 'folk' concepts. The results of these surveys are often claimed to be surprising, and treated as evidence that the relevant folk intuitions cannot be predicted from the 'armchair'. We conducted an experiment to test these claims, and found that a solid majority of philosophers could predict even results that were claimed to be surprising in the literature. We discuss some methodological implications as well as some possible explanations for the common surprisingness claims.

Minimalist Semantics in Meta-ethical Expressivism (in Philosophical Studies)

Some expressivists (most notably, Simon Blackburn) have claimed that expressivists can adopt a piecemeal strategy to show that all of the sentences realists accept are consistent with expressivism. I argue that the project cannot be carried out in the way Blackburn describes. This is because Blackburn's claims about the meaning of the realist's sentences commit him to claims about the meaning of the parts of these sentences— commitments the realist does not share.

Reference Magnetism as a Solution to the Normative Twin Earth Challenge (with Tristram McPherson; currently revise and resubmit at The Philosophical Review)

This paper explains how reference magnetism, when grounded in metaphysical fundamentality, provides a solution to the Moral Twin Earth argument from Horgan and Timmons.

Ethical Vagueness and Practical Reasoning

Sometimes it is vague what one ethically ought to do. The question I ask in this paper is whether there is a sense of 'ought' (perhaps an ought of practical rationality) which determinately yields verdicts about what to do in some of these borderline ethical cases. I outline an approach to the rational 'ought' which requires one to maximize expected moral value in cases of ethical vagueness. I close by using this approach to show that acting out of 'de dicto' moral concern is not always objectionable, as some have claimed.

Luck: Evolutionary and Epistemic

Proponents of evolutionary debunking arguments in ethics often help their case by drawing analogies with familiar examples of epistemic luck. I ask whether epistemic luck is in the end helpful to the debunker's case, or whether the support from luck-based considerations derives from a conflation of epistemically benign and epistemically problematic forms of luck. I conclude that the answer to this question hinges on the precise details of the correct empirical theory of the evolutionary origins of ethical belief.

Perfectly Natural Relative Naturalness

Is it possible that relative naturalness (in Lewis's sense) is perfectly natural? I consider an argument that it is not, which is inspired by Sider's 'Purity' constraint. Distinguishing between what I call 'horizontal' and 'vertical' conceptions of naturalness, however, shows that Purity does not necessarily rule out perfectly natural relative naturalness.

The Metaphysical Conception of Realism

What is at issue in disputes over whether realism about a domain is true? I outline plausible structural features that are characteristic of talk about realism, and argue that prominent accounts of what realism fail to capture all of the structural features. I then use these structural features to motivate a positive account on which talk about realism is about the relative fundamentality, in the metaphysician's sense, of the relevant domain.