Research

Dissertation Building Reasons without Authority

    Are there any norms that have a kind of authority over us that is not simply due to our acceptance of practices that embody them? Many believe such practice-external authority is required if we are to make sense of our normative practices, including moral and political philosophy. I disagree, and argue that while there is no positive answer to the normative question, we also don’t need one. I lay out in detail why I believe practice-external normativity cannot be accommodated within the world as we know it. The chief goal of my dissertation, however, is to propose an interpretation of normative practices that dispenses with externally authoritative facts directing us what to do. Practical questions, I counter, retain their significance only when pursued from an engaged rather than detached perspective; a perspective we adopt when, driven by our concerns and commitments, we actively participate in the resolution of practical problems, including the selection and development of which norms to live by, and are searching for common ground for how to coordinate our individual and joint endeavors. The deliberative enterprise is not unconstrained and is answerable to standards of correctness as it is carried out within a tight web of norms that we do already accept, a web we continuously spin and expand.

Publications

  • Against Moral Fictionalism Journal of Moral Philosophy, forthcoming.
  • Why Reasons Skepticism is Not Self-Defeating European Journal of Philosophy, forthcoming.
  • Promising – A Practice and Nothing More? in: Understanding Promises and Agreements: Philosophical Essays, edited by Hanoch Sheinman, Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2011.

Presentations

  • Against Fictionalism. UNC Chapel Hill, 2011 & The Fourth Annual Rocky Mountain Ethics Conference (RoME), University of Colorado, Boulder, 2011
  • Inescapability and Authority. Colloquium Presentation, Pacific APA, San Diego
  • Against Naturalistic Accounts of Normative Reasons. University of Cologne, Germany & Humboldt University Berlin, Germany, 2011
  • Desire and Desirability for Subjectivists. University of Graz, Austria, 2011
  • Why Reasons Skepticism is Not Self-Defeating. The Third Annual Rocky Mountain Ethics Conference (RoME), University of Colorado, Boulder, 2010.
  • Promising – A Practice and Nothing More? The Second Annual Rocky Mountain Ethics Conference (RoME), University of Colorado, Boulder, 2009.
  • Explanation, Justification, and Motivating Reasons. Colloquium Presentation, Eastern APA, Philadelphia, 2008 *** Winner Graduate Student Travel Stipend ***
  • Desire Satisfaction Accounts of Value: Actual Versus Informed. Colloquium Presentation, Pacific APA, Pasadena, 2008 *** Winner Graduate Student Travel Stipend ***
  • New Wave, Arbitrary Moral Facts, and Radical Error. Thirtieth Annual Midsouth Philosophy Conference, Memphis, 2006.

Essays

  • Inescapability and Authority. (pdf)
  • Against Reductive Normative Realism. (Excerpt from my 3rd Dissertation Chapter) (pdf)
  • Explanation, Justification, and Motivating Reasons. (pdf)
  • Desire Satisfaction Accounts of Value: Actual Versus Informed. (pdf)

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