Works in Progress
Minds that Matter
The immodest ambition of this book is to unwind the traditional problem of free will and moral responsibility. I think the problem can be unwound, because I believe it is a philosophical one—that is to say, I believe the problem is created by certain philosophical pictures to which we are naturally (or culturally) prone. We model our experiences in certain ways, and we end up in paradox and difficulty. One such picture is what I will call the ordinary notion of control, another is what I will call the merited-consequences conception of responsibility. Both are natural, and fine for certain purposes, but together they lead to the traditional problem of free will and moral responsibility. The solution, I believe, is to do some remodeling: to revisit these models, understand what has gone wrong, and replace them with something better. This is what I attempt. The replacements I advocate are, I believe, still natural models of our experience. I believe the replacements are better models than those that lead us into difficulty—and not just because they avoid the difficulty. I believe they have a greater claim to being correct.
Chapters (a draft of each chapter exists, though only the Introduction is currently available here):
Part One: Freedom and Control
Chapter 1: Problems in Life and Problems in Theory
Chapter 2: Standpoints and Freedom
Chapter 3: The Underlying Problem
Chapter 4: Conventional and Real-Self Compatibilism
Chapter 5: Control
Chapter 6: The Embodiment of Agency
Part Two: Freedom, Control, and Moral Responsibility
Chapter 7: The Ethical Challenge
Chapter 8: Fairness, Sanction, and Condemnation
Chapter 9: The Force of Fact
Chapter 10: Beyond Belief
Chapter 11: Moral Standards
Chapter 12: All that Matters
“No Inertia in Consciousness”
Sartre claims that there is no inertia in consciousness. Like many of his claims, this seems patently false. However, also like many of his claims, it can be interpreted in way in which it is both true and illuminating. I will provide such an interpretation and argue that, so understood, the claim is true.
“Extrinsic Reasons, Alienation, and Moral Philosophy” (draft is not posted)
In the last few decades virtue ethics has become a staple in introductory ethics courses, taking its place alongside consequentialism and deontology. These three comprise the default syllabus. Recent interest in virtue ethics is due, in no small part, to a spate of criticisms directed against the perceived alternatives, utilitarianism and Kantianism. In this paper I hope, not to revisit these familiar debates, but rather to point out a familiar but overlooked fact about action, a fact with implications that can be understood to unify and underwrite many of the criticisms against modern moral philosophy. The overlooked fact, once appreciated, does indeed tell against a particular approach to moral philosophy.
“Attempting Virtue” (draft is not posted)
This long-neglected paper displays the role of each form of control in our attempts at moral self-improvement. It examines the way in which trying to believe can be self-defeating, and shows that the attempt to perform a virtuous action or adopt a virtuous attitude will be self-defeating in just the same sense.