I am an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at The Ohio State University. From September 2013 until June 2016, I was an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Rutgers University, Newark. I completed my PhD in philosophy at Princeton University in 2013.
Welfare Invariabilism, forthcoming in Ethics
We are not the only entities that are capable of well-being. Besides cognitively typical human adults, many other entities can fare well or poorly: seriously cognitively disabled adults, children, infants, non-human animals of various kinds, and perhaps even some plants. Invariabilism is the view that the same theory of welfare is true of every welfare subject. Variabilism is the view that invariabilism is false. In light of how many welfare subjects there are and how greatly they differ in their natures and capacities, it is natural to suppose that variabilism is true. I argue that these considerations do not support variabilism, and indeed, that we should accept invariabilism. As I explain, this has important implications: it eliminates many of the going theories of welfare while making some of the remaining ones more attractive.
Simple Probabilistic Promotion, forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
Many believe that normative reasons for action are necessarily connected with the promotion of certain states of affairs: on Humean views, for example, there is a reason for you to do something if and only if it would promote the object of one of your desires. But although promotion is widely invoked in discussions of reasons, its nature is a matter of controversy. I propose a simple account: to promote a state of affairs is to make it more likely to obtain than it previously was. I argue that this view has been unfairly neglected, that it avoids serious problems faced by many other views, and that it is a contender for the correct theory of promotion.
Asymmetrism about Desire Satisfactionism and Time, in Mark Timmons (ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, vol. 7 (2017)
Desire-satisfaction theories of welfare must answer the timing question: when do you benefit from the satisfaction of one of your desires? There are three existing views about this: the Time of Desire view, on which you benefit at just those times when you have the desire; the Time of Object view, on which you benefit just when the object of your desire obtains; and Concurrentism, on which you benefit just when you have the desire and its object obtains. This paper introduces a new view, Asymmetrism, on which you sometimes benefit at the time of desire and sometimes benefit at the time of object. On this view, if the time at which you have a desire is later than the time at which its object obtains, then you benefit at the time of the desire. On the other hand, if the time of object is later than the time of desire, then you benefit at the time of object. Three arguments are given for the conclusion that Asymmetrism is superior to the Time of Desire and Time of Object views. It is argued that Asymmetrism and Concurrentism are the most credible answers to the timing question.
Enumeration and Explanation in Theories of Welfare, Analysis 77: 65-73 (2017)
It has become commonplace to distinguish enumerative theories of welfare (which tell us which things are good for us) from explanatory ones (which tell us why the things that are good for us have that status). It has also been claimed that while hedonism and objective list theories are merely enumerative (i.e., enumerative but not explanatory), desire satisfactionism is merely explanatory (i.e., explanatory but not enumerative). In this paper, I argue that this is mistaken. When properly understood, every major theory of welfare is both enumerative and explanatory.
Against Welfare Subjectivism, Noûs 51: 354-77 (2017)
Subjectivism about welfare is the view that something is basically good (bad) for you if and only if, and to the extent that, you have the right kind of favorable (disfavorable) attitude toward it under the right conditions. I make a presumptive case for the falsity of subjectivism by arguing against nearly every extant version of the view. My arguments share a common theme: theories of welfare should be tested for what they imply about newborn infants. Even if a theory is intended to apply only to adults, the fact that it is false of newborns may give us sufficient reason to reject it.
Attraction, Description, and the Desire-Satisfaction Theory of Welfare, Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy (2016)
A discussion note on Donald Bruckner's "Quirky Desires and Well-Being."
How to Use the Experience Machine, Utilitas 28: 314-32 (2016)
The experience machine was traditionally thought to refute hedonism about welfare. In recent years, however, the tide has turned: many philosophers have argued not merely that the experience machine doesn't rule out hedonism, but that it doesn't count against it at all. I argue for a moderate position between those two extremes: although the experience machine doesn't decisively rule out hedonism, it provides us with some reason to reject it. I also argue for a particular way of using the experience machine to argue against hedonism—one that appeals directly to intuitions about the welfare values of experientially identical lives rather than to claims about what we value or claims about whether we would, or should, plug into the machine. The two issues are connected: the conviction that the experience machine leaves hedonism unscathed is partly due to neglect of the best way to use the experience machine.
The Subjective List Theory of Well-Being, The Australasian Journal of Philosophy 94: 99-114 (2016)
A subjective list theory of well-being is one that accepts both pluralism (the view that there is more than one basic good) and subjectivism (the view, roughly, that every basic good involves our favourable attitudes). Such theories have been neglected in discussions of welfare. I argue that this is a mistake. I introduce a subjective list theory called disjunctive desire satisfactionism, and I argue that it is superior to two prominent monistic subjectivist views: desire satisfactionism and subjective desire satisfactionism. In the course of making this argument, I introduce a problem for desire satisfactionism: it cannot accommodate the fact that whenever someone experiences an attitudinal pleasure, his welfare is (other things equal) higher during the pleasure. Finally, I argue that any subjectivist about welfare should find disjunctive desire satisfactionism highly attractive.
Monism and Pluralism, in Guy Fletcher (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Well-Being (2016)
I argue that the distinction between monism and pluralism about well-being should be understood in terms of explanation: the monist affirms (but the pluralist denies) that whenever two particular things are basically good for you, the explanation of their basic goodness for you is the same. I then consider a number of arguments for monism and a number of arguments for pluralism.
Prudence, Morality, and the Humean Theory of Reasons, The Philosophical Quarterly 65: 220-40 (2015)
Humeans about normative reasons claim that there is a reason for you to perform a given action if and only if this would promote the satisfaction of one of your desires. Their view has traditionally been thought to have the revisionary implication that an agent can sometimes lack any reason to do what morality or prudence requires. Recently, however, Mark Schroeder has denied this. If he is right, then the Humean theory accords better with common sense than it has been thought to. I argue that Schroeder is mistaken, even if welfare (and thus prudence) is understood in terms of the satisfaction of one’s desires: any Humean must concede that one can sometimes lack any reason to act morally or prudently. I also identify a novel variant on Humeanism that could perhaps avoid its revisionary implications about prudence (but not morality) if desire satisfactionism is the correct theory of welfare.
Pluralism about Well-Being, Philosophical Perspectives 28: 127-54 (2014)
Theories of well-being purport to identify the basic goods and bads whose presence in a person's life determines how well she is faring. Monism is the view that there is only one basic good and one basic bad. Pluralism is the view that there is either more than one basic good or more than one basic bad. In this paper, I give an argument for pluralism that is general in the sense that it does not purport to identify any basic goods or bads. If I am right, then even if you cannot name a single basic good or bad, you can know that pluralism is true.