Note: If you cannot access a paper that you'd like to read, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I would be more than happy to send you a copy. I am also happy to send drafts of (most of) my unpublished papers, many of which are listed on my C.V. in the "Selected Works in Progress" section.
(1) Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying: Classical and Contemporary Perspectives (Routledge, 2021) (co-edited with Michael Cholbi)
(26) Constraint-Free Meaning, Fearing Death, and Temporal Bias, The Journal of Ethics (2022)
Abstract: This paper focuses on three distinct issues in Fischer’s (2020) Death, Immortality, and Meaning in Life, viz. meaning in life, fearing death, and asymmetrical attitudes between our prenatal and postmortem non-existence. I first raise the possibility that life’s total meaning can be negative and argue that immoral or harmful acts are plausibly meaning-detracting acts, which could make the lives of historically impactful evil dictators anti-meaningful. After that, I review Fischer’s two necessary conditions for meaning in life (i.e. not being significantly deluded and having free will) and argue against each. In the second section, I review Fischer’s argument that we should fear death in virtue of it bringing about a permanent loss of our viewpoint. I offer an opposing argument that only intrinsic (not extrinsic) badness is a fitting object of fear. Since death is extrinsically bad, it cannot merit fear, even though it can be the appropriate object of other negative attitudes (e.g. lament). In the third and final section, I consider Fischer’s solution to the asymmetry problem, which appeals to the rationality of temporal bias. I then raise two worries about it. I first argue that temporal bias is not necessarily, as Fischer claims, survival conducive. I then argue that, even if it is, this may actually be an epistemic defeater (rather than justifier) for the rationality of temporal bias
(25) Dissolving Death's Time-of-Harm Problem, Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2022)
Abstract: Most philosophers in the death literature believe that death can be bad for the person who dies. The most popular view of death’s badness—namely, deprivationism—holds that death is bad for the person who dies because, and to the extent that, it deprives them of the net good that they would have accrued, had their actual death not occurred. Deprivationists thus face the challenge of locating the time that death is bad for a person. This is known as the Timing Problem, which is thought to be one of the biggest challenges facing views holding that death can be bad for the person who dies. Every possible answer to this question has been defended in the literature, yet each answer can seemingly be shown to be subject to compelling objections. In this paper, I argue that the force of the Timing Problem is illusory. Specifically, I argue that the problem, as formulated in the literature, is underspecified. Any adequately precise form of the question ‘When is death bad for the person who dies?’ is one to which there is a clear, decisive, and unproblematic answer.
(24) Grief's Badness and the Paradox of Grief, Journal of Philosophy of Emotion (2022)
Abstract: In this paper, I focus on the points of disagreement between Cholbi and myself about the nature of grief. More precisely, I am going to provide reasons to reject Cholbi’s positive account of grief, specifically the condition that grief necessarily brings about a change in our practical identity. Then I am going to discuss the so-called Paradox of Grief, raising a few concerns I have about Cholbi’s solution and suggesting there is more to be said in favor of the "Pain as a Cost" solution he dismissed.
(23) Sweatshops and Free Action: The Stakes of the Actualism/Possibilism Debate for Business Ethics, Journal of Business Ethics (2021) (co-authored with Abe Zakhem)
Abstract: Whether an action is morally right depends upon the alternative acts available to the agent. Actualists hold that what an agent would actually do determines her moral obligations. Possibilists hold that what an agent could possibly do determines her moral obligations. Both views face compelling criticisms. Despite the fact that actualist and possibilist assumptions are at the heart of seminal arguments in business ethics, there has been no explicit discussion of actualism and possibilism in the business ethics literature. This paper has two primary goals. First, it aims to rectify this omission by bringing to light the importance of the actualism/possibilism debate for business ethics through questions about the ethics of sweatshops. Second, it aims to make some progress in the sweatshop debate by examining and defending an alternative view, hybridism, and describing the moral and practical implications of hybridism for the sweatshop debate.
(22) If You Want to Die Later, Then Why Don't You Want to Have Been Born Earlier? in Exploring the Philosophy of Death and Dying: Classic and Contemporary Perspectives eds. Michael Cholbi and Travis Timmerman (Routledge, 2021)
(21) The Limits of Virtue Ethics, Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics (2020) (co-authored with Yishai Cohen)
Abstract: Virtue ethics is often understood as a rival to existing consequentialist, deontological, and contractualist views. But some have disputed the position that virtue ethics is a genuine normative ethical rival. We aim to crystallize the nature of this dispute by providing criteria that determine the degree to which a normative ethical theory is complete, and then investigating virtue ethics through the lens of these criteria. In doing so, we argue that no existing account of virtue ethics is a complete normative ethical view that rivals existing consequentialist, deontological, and contractualist views. Moreover, we argue that one of the most significant challenges facing virtue ethics consists in offering an account of the right-making features of actions, while remaining a distinctively virtue ethical view.
(20) Actualism, Possibilism, and the Nature of Consequentialism in The Oxford Handbook of Consequentialism ed. Douglas Portmore (Oxford University Press, 2020) (co-authored with Yishai Cohen)
Abstract: The actualism/possibilism debate in ethics is about whether counterfactuals of freedom concerning what an agent would freely do if they were in certain circumstances even partly determines that agent’s obligations. This debate arose from an argument against the coherence of utilitarianism in the deontic logic literature. In this chapter, we first trace the historical origins of this debate and then examine actualism, possibilism, and securitism through the lens of consequentialism. After examining their respective benefits and drawbacks, we argue that, contrary to what has been assumed, actualism and securitism both succumb to the so-called nonratifiability problem. In making this argument, we develop this problem in detail and argue that it’s a much more serious problem than has been appreciated. We conclude by arguing that an alternative view, hybridism, is independently the most plausible position and best fits with the nature of consequentialism, partly in light of avoiding the nonratifiability problem.
(19) A Case for Removing Confederate Monuments and Racist Monuments and the Tribal Right: A Reply to Dan Demetriou in Ethics, Left and Right: The Moral Issues that Divide Us ed. Bob Fischer (Oxford University Press, 2020)
Abstract: A particularly important, pressing, philosophical question concerns whether Confederate monuments ought to be removed. More precisely, one may wonder whether a certain group, viz. the relevant government officials and members of the public who together can remove the Confederate monuments, are morally obligated to (of their own volition) remove them. Unfortunately, academic philosophers have largely ignored this question. This paper aims to help rectify this oversight by moral philosophers. In it, I argue that people have a moral obligation to remove most, if not all, public Confederate monuments because of the unavoidable harm they inflict on undeserving persons. In the first section, I provide some relevant historical context. In the second section, I make my unique harm-based argument for the removal of Confederate monuments. In the third section, I consider and rebut five objections to my argument.
(18) The (Un)desirability of Immortality, Philosophy Compass (2020) (co-authored with Felipe Pereira)
Abstract: While most people believe the best possible life they could lead would be an immortal one, so‐called “immortality curmudgeons” disagree. Following Bernard Williams, they argue that, at best, we have no prudential reason to live an immortal life, and at worst, an immortal life would necessarily be bad for creatures like us. In this article, we examine Bernard Williams' seminal argument against the desirability of immortality and the subsequent literature it spawned. We first reconstruct and motivate Williams' somewhat cryptic argument in three parts. After that, we elucidate and motivate the three best (and most influential) counterarguments to Williams' seminal argument. Finally, we review, and critically examine, two further distinct arguments in favor of the anti‐immortality position.
(17) Non-Repeatable Hedonism is False, Ergo (2019) (co-authored with Felipe Pereira)
Abstract: In a series of recent papers, Ben Bramble defends a version of hedonism which holds that purely repetitious pleasures add no value to one’s life (i.e. Non-Repeatable Hedonism). In this paper, we pose a dilemma for Non-Repeatable Hedonism. We argue that it is either committed both to a deeply implausible asymmetry between how pleasures and pains affect a person’s well-being and to deeply implausible claims about how to maximize well-being or is committed to the claim that a life of eternal pleasure for a person can be just as good for them as a life of eternal suffering. The only way out of this dilemma is for Bramble to reject the Non-Repetition Requirement. Yet, rejecting this requirement both forces Bramble to reject the wholly unique, core component, of his view and undermines his view’s ability to handle one of the most powerful objections to hedonism, viz., that a life with a larger quantity of so-called “base” (or lower) pleasures is better for a person than a life with a slightly smaller quantity of so-called higher pleasures. We conclude that Non-Repeatable Hedonism must be rejected in favor of standard forms of hedonism or some non-hedonic view of well-being.
(16) Actualism and Possibilism in Ethics, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2019) (co-authored with Yishai Cohen)
(15) Effective Altruism's Underspecification Problem in Effective Altruism: Philosophical Issues ed. Hilary Greaves and Theron Pummer (Oxford University Press, 2019)
Abstract: Effective altruists either believe they ought to be, or strive to be, doing the most good they can. Since they’re human, however, effective altruists are invariably fallible. In numerous situations, even the most committed EAs would fail to live up to the ideal they set for themselves. This fact raises a central question about how to understand effective altruism. How should one’s future prospective failures at doing the most good possible affect the current choices one makes as an effective altruist? This question is important to answer not only because every effective altruist will face this question due to typical human akrasia, but also because how the question is answered will determine just how demanding effective altruism can be. I argue that no matter how effective altruists answer this question, they will have to take on some commitments seemingly antithetical to their movement. More precisely, I argue that effective altruism is subject to a dilemma. Effective altruists’, at times, implicit actualist assumptions (i) commit them to conclusions seemingly antithetical to what typical effective altruists actually believe, as well as the spirit of the movement and (ii) undermine effective altruists’ arguments against moral offsetting and giving to charities close to the heart. Yet, effective altruists’, at times, implicit possibilist assumptions (iii) also commit them to conclusions seemingly antithetical to what typical effective altruists actually believe, as well as the spirit of the movement and (iv) undermine typical responses to demandingness worries for the normative conception of effective altruism. I argue that the best way out of the dilemma is to accept hybridism, though even hybridism won’t preserve every commitment of effective altruism.
(14) The Problem with Person-Rearing Accounts of Moral Status, Thought (2019) (co-authored with Bob Fischer)
Abstract: Agnieszka Jaworska and Julie Tannenbaum recently developed the ingenious and novel person‐rearing account of moral status, which preserves the commonsense judgment that humans have a higher moral status than nonhuman animals. It aims to vindicate speciesist judgments while avoiding the problems typically associated with speciesist views. We argue, however, that there is good reason to reject person‐rearing views. Person‐rearing views have to be coupled with an account of flourishing, which will (according to Jaworska and Tannenbaum) be either a species norm or an intrinsic potential account of flourishing. As we show, however, person‐rearing accounts generate extremely implausible consequences when combined with the accounts of flourishing Jaworska and Tannenbaum need for the purposes of their view.
(13) How to be an Actualist and Blame People, Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility (2019) (co-authored with Philip Swenson)
Abstract: The actualism/possibilism debate in ethics concerns the relationship between an agent’s free actions and her moral obligations. The actualist affirms, while the possibilist denies, that facts about what agents would freely do in certain circumstances partly determines that agent’s moral obligations. In this paper, we assess the plausibility of actualism and possibilism in light of desiderata about accounts of blameworthiness. We first argue that actualism cannot straightforwardly accommodate certain very plausible desiderata before offering a few independent solutions on behalf of the actualist. We then argue that, contrary to initial appearances, possibilism is subject to its own comparably troubling blameworthiness problem.
(12) A Dilemma for Epicureanism, Philosophical Studies (2019)
Abstract: Perhaps death’s badness is an illusion. Epicureans think so and argue that agents cannot be harmed by death when they’re alive nor when they’re dead. I argue that each version of Epicureanism faces a fatal dilemma: it is either committed to a demonstrably false view about the relationship between self-regarding reasons and well-being or it is involved in a merely verbal dispute with deprivationism. I first provide principled reason to think that any viable view about the badness of death must allow that agents have self-regarding reason to avoid death if doing so would increase their total well-being. I then show that Epicurean views which do not preserve this link are subject to reductio arguments and so should be rejected. After that, I show that the Epicurean views which accommodate this desideratum are involved in a merely verbal dispute with deprivationism.
(11) Doomsday Needn't Be So Bad, dialectica (2018)
Abstract: In his Death and the Afterlife, Samuel Scheffler provides a compelling argument that people would see less reason and be significantly less motivated to pursue most of their life’s projects if they were to discover that there is no collective afterlife (i.e. future generations of humans continuing to exist after they die). Scheffler focuses on how people would react to learning there is no collective afterlife. In this paper, I focus on issues concerning how people ought to react to learning there is no collective afterlife. Answers to this question lead to surprising conclusions that challenge some of the normative claims Scheffler seems disposed to endorse. This paper has two central aims. First, I attempt to show that negative attitudes toward the lack of a collective afterlife are warranted for two reasons that have been heretofore overlooked. Interestingly, such reasons leave open the possibility that it can be appropriate to lament the lack of a collective afterlife even if it is not bad, all things considered, for anyone. Second, I argue that the lack of a collective afterlife need not be bad, all things considered, for most people. This is because there could be a sufficient number of meaningful projects available to people that would compensate for the loss of pro tanto value caused by the lack of a collective afterlife. These considerations lead to the somewhat paradoxical conclusion that the lack of a collective afterlife need not negatively affect the total value of anyone’s life, yet it may still be appropriate to lament the fact that there is no collective afterlife.
(10) You're Probably Not Really a Speciesist, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (2018)
Abstract: I defend the bold claim that self-described speciesists are not really speciesists. Of course, I do not deny that self-described speciesists would assent to generic speciesist claims (e.g. Humans matter more than animals). The conclusion I draw is more nuanced. My claim is that such generic speciesist beliefs are inconsistent with other, more deeply held, beliefs of self-described speciesists. Crucially, once these inconsistencies are made apparent, speciesists will reject the generic speciesist beliefs because they are absurd by the speciesists’ own lights.
This paper is divided into three sections. I first lay the groundwork for my argument, defining necessary terminology and making a largely overlooked distinction between two kinds of speciesism. I then present two thought experiments which together reveal that any of the features self-described speciesists claim give humans a higher moral status than non-humans results in consequences that even self-described speciesists regard as absurd. In the final section, I review a few arguments for speciesism that may be thought to fall outside the scope of my argument. I argue that they actually do not and conclude that, upon reflection, even those who self-identify as speciesist do not really accept speciesism.
(9) Avoiding the Asymmetry Problem, Ratio (2018)
Abstract: If earlier-than-necessary death is bad because it deprives individuals of additional good life, then why isn’t later-than-necessary conception bad for the same reason? Deprivationists have argued that prenatal non-existence is not bad because it is impossible to be conceived earlier, but postmortem non-existence is bad because it is possible to live longer. Call this the Impossibility Solution. In this paper, I demonstrate that the Impossibility Solution does not work by showing how it is possible to be conceived earlier in the same senses it is possible to live longer. I then offer a solution to the Asymmetry Problem by suggesting a novel way to separate the badness of each type of non-existence from the type, and frequency, of attitudes we should have towards each type of non-existence. Even if both types of non-existence are equally bad, certain contingent facts about our postmortem non-existence provide reason for the badness of early deaths to be more frequently salient than the badness of late conceptions.
(8) Save (some of) the Children, Philosophia (2018)
Abstract: In Save the Children! Artúrs Logins responds to my argument that, in certain cases, it is morally permissible to not prevent something bad from happening, even when one can do so without sacrificing something of comparable moral importance. Logins’s responses are thought-provoking, though I will argue that his critiques miss their mark. I rebut each of the responses offered by Logins. However, much of my focus will be on one of his criticisms which rests on an unfortunately common misunderstanding of Singer’s argument in Famine, Affluence, and Morality. My response, then, is important not only because it salvages my positive argument, but also because it identifies, and corrects, this misunderstanding.
(7) Moral Obligations: Actualist, Possibilist, or Hybridist?, Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2016) (co-authored with Yishai Cohen)
Abstract: Do facts about what an agent would freely do in certain circumstances at least partly determine any of her moral obligations? Actualists answer ‘yes’ while possibilists answer ‘no’. We defend two novel hybrid accounts that are alternatives to actualism and possibilism: Dual Obligations Hybridism (DOH) and Single Obligation Hybridism (SOH). By positing two moral ‘oughts’, each account retains the benefits of actualism and possibilism, and yet is immune from the problems that face actualism and possibilism. We conclude by highlighting one substantive difference between our two hybrid accounts.
(6) Actualism Has Control Issues, Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (2016) (co-authored with Yishai Cohen)
Abstract: According to actualism, an agent ought to φ just in case what would happen if she were to φ is better than what would happen if she were to ~φ. We argue that actualism makes a morally irrelevant distinction between certain counterfactuals, given that an agent sometimes has the same kind of control over their truth-value. We then offer a substantive revision to actualism that avoids this morally irrelevant distinction by focusing on a certain kind of control that is available to an agent. Finally, we show how this revised view has two additional advantages over actualism.
(5) Your Death Might be the Worst Thing Ever to Happen to You (But Maybe You Shouldn't Care), Canadian Journal of Philosophy (2016)
Abstract: Deprivationism cannot accommodate the commonsense assumption that we should lament our death iff, and to the extent that, it is bad for us. Call this the Nothing Bad, Nothing to Lament Assumption. As such, either this assumption needs to be rejected or deprivationism does. I first argue that the Nothing Bad, Nothing to Lament Assumption is false. I then attempt to figure out which facts our attitudes concerning death should track. I suggest that each person should have two distinct attitudes toward death: one determined by the agent’s reasonable expectations about when she will die and one determined by the amount of expected metaphysically possible good death precludes.
(4) Reconsidering Categorical Desire Views, in Michael Cholbi (ed.), Immortality and the Philosophy of Death, Rowman and Littlefield (2016)
Abstract: Deprivation views of the badness of death are almost universally accepted among those who hold that death can be bad for the person who dies. In their most common form, deprivation views hold that death is bad because (and to the extent that) it deprives people of goods they would have gained had they not died at the time they did. Contrast this with categorical desire views, which hold that death is bad because (and to the extent that) it thwarts people’s categorical desires. Categorical desires are desires that are not conditional upon one being alive; yet provide reason for the agent to continue living to ensure that those very desires are satisfied. I argue that categorical desire views are subject to two serious problems that deprivation views are not. First, categorical desire views entail that it is not bad for someone to not be resuscitated after dying a bad death. Second, categorical desire views cannot account for cases in which it is good to prevent people from coming into existence or cases in which it is good to prevent them from continuing to exist. After considering, and rejecting, various replies on behalf of categorical desire proponents, I conclude that we have good reason to reject categorical desire views in favor of deprivation views.
(3) Sometimes There is Nothing Wrong with Letting a Child Drown, Analysis (2015)
Abstract: Peter Singer argues that we’re obligated to donate our entire expendable income to aid organizations. One premise of his argument is "If it is in your power to prevent something bad from happening, without sacrificing anything nearly as important, it is wrong not to do so." Singer defends this by noting that commonsense morality requires us to save a child we find drowning in a shallow pond. I argue that Singer’s Drowning Child thought experiment doesn’t justify this premise. I offer my own Drowning Children thought experiment, which reveals that commonsense morality entails that premise two is actually false.
(2) Does Scrupulous Securitism Stand-Up to Scrutiny? Two Problems for Moral Securitism and How We Might Fix Them, Philosophical Studies (2015)
Abstract: A relatively new debate in ethics concerns the relationship between one's present obligations and one's future free actions. One popular view is actualism, which holds that an agent's present obligations are determined by what would be best to do now in light of how the agent would act in the future. Doug Portmore defends a view he calls moral securitism, which is supposed to avoid the problems that plague actualism. According to moral securitism, what an agent would do in the future is treated as fixed iff that agent's future actions are not currently under the agent's present deliberative control. I argue that moral securitism is subject to two of the same serious problems that face actualism: it lets agents avoid incurring moral obligations because they have rotten moral dispositions and entails that agents ought to perform truly terribly acts. I end the paper by suggesting a substantive revision of moral securitism that would allow it to avoid the aforementioned problems.
(1) The Persistent Problem of the Lottery Paradox: And Its Unwelcome Consequences for Contextualism, Logos and Episteme (2013)
Abstract: This paper attempts to show that contextualism cannot adequately handle all versions of The Lottery Paradox. Although the application of contextualist rules is meant to vindicate the intuitive distinction between cases of knowledge and non-knowledge, it fails to do so when applied to certain versions of The Lottery Paradox. I first briefly explain why this issue should be of central importance for contextualism. I then review David Lewis’ contextualism before offering my argument that the lottery paradox persists on all contextualist accounts. Although I argue that the contextualist does not fare well, hope nevertheless remains. For, on Lewis’ behalf, I then offer what I take to be the best solution for the contextualist. Once this solution is adopted, contextualism will be in a better position to handle the lottery paradox than any other viable view.
(7) Why it's OK to Love Bad Movies by Matthew Strohl, Journal of Value Inquiry (forthcoming) (co-authored with Mi Rae Ryu and Alexander Middleton)
(6) Dead Wrong: The Ethics of Posthumous Harm by David Boonin, Journal of Value Inquiry (2022)
(5) Time Biases: A Theory of Rational Planning and Personal Persistence by Meghan Sullivan, Journal of Moral Philosophy (2020)
(4) Near Death Experiences: Understanding Visions of the Afterlife by John Martin Fischer and Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin, Philosophical Quarterly (2018)
(3) The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically by Peter Singer, Philosophical Quarterly (2016)
(2) Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation by Charles Camosy, The Philosopher's Magazine (2016)
(1) Consciousness and Moral Responsibility by Neil Levy, The Philosopher's Magazine (2015) (co-authored with Sean Clancy)