Political and economic philosophy

Global Justice and Economic Growth: Ignoring the Only Thing that Works

What should a time traveling altruist do in 18th century Britain, amid poverty and malnourishment? There is a serious case to be made that he should promote commerce and economic growth. Buying railroad stock and so capitalizing firms participating in industrialization would be an eminently worthy (if unsentimental) approach to take. The same lesson applies today. Altruism disconnected from the ultimate aim of growth is senseless. In Economic Liberties and Human Rights, Routledge forthcoming PDF

Dilemmas of Political Correctness

The cliché is that political correctness tramples on rights to free-speech, as if the potential loss were merely expressive; the real issue is that in filtering public discourse, political correctness may defeat our own substantive aims. Journal of Practical Ethics, forthcoming  PDF

Property and the Creation of Value

Most philosophical discussions of property have followed Locke in focusing on natural resources as the key to wealth. But in modern economies wealth is mainly generated by services. This casts doubt on philosophical programmes predicated on the natural resource paradigm, and makes wealth transfers harder to justify. Philosophy and Economics, forthcoming  PDF

Justice and the Wealth of Nations

Philosophers often emphasize injustices in trying to make sense of global poverty, but they tend to overlook the fact that poverty has been the default option for nearly all of human history. And the so-called Great Divergence that brought wealth to some but not others wasn't itself caused by morally culpable factors. This should lead us to reconsider normative accounts of global poverty. Public Affairs Quarterly 2014  PDF

The Epistemology of Popularity and Incentives

"Faced with a pick of accountants at a firm, sound epistemology overwhelmingly suggests barreling past attractive, polite workers and urgently seeking out the ugliest, shortest, most boorish one available, yet this strategy is rarely even considered." Thought 2013  PDF

Wealth, Disability and Happiness

The Easterlin paradox says that higher income makes individuals happier within a country, even though the population of a country doesn’t seem to get happier with higher average income. The Disability paradox says that people with significant disabilities experience far less of an impact on their happiness than one would predict. I argue that these results can’t easily be dismissed, and that they tell us something interesting about the nature of happiness and practical reasoning. Philosophy & Public Affairs 2011  PDF


Art & the emotions

Drunk and in the Mood: Affect and Judgment

What we should do is often subject to our affective shifts, at least if how much we care about something is an important element of practical reasoning. Journal of Moral Philosophy 2014  PDF

The Boring

A lot of art and the rest of life is pretty boring, but philosophers and critics tend to avoid admitting it. I offer an account of the boring, using Wagner as a case-study. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 2014PDF

Anticipated Emotions and Emotional Valence

I argue that anticipated emotions like regret give us little or no reason to act. I also argue that the valence of emotions is a function of the sensations they involve. Includes a discussion of death-bed regrets, and of whether teenagers should listen to their annoying parents. Philosopher's Imprint 2011  PDF

Love and Death

I explore various reasons we might have for regretting our resilience to loss, both because of what resilience tells us about our ultimate significance to others, and because resilience may render us incapable of comprehending the true nature of a loss. The Journal of Philosophy 2007  PDF


Ethics and religion

Abortion and Moral Risk

Reasonable people will admit that there is a non-trivial possibility that one of the arguments against abortion goes through. That seems to leave room for worrying about moral risk–the thought that abortion is risky even if we believe the pro-life position to be wrong. Philosophy 2011  PDF

A Simple Argument against Design

God seems to have had many more options by which to bring about life than were available under natural selection. If so, then mundane features of the world, like that the earth is very old, would actually be evidence that the world was not designed, since that outcome was "optional" on the design hypothesis but nearly inevitable on natural selection. Theists like myself might find this evidence unwelcome, but as I stress, this is only one piece of evidence among many. Religious Studies 2010  PDF

An Argument against Marriage

Consider the Bachelor's Argument: assume that marriage involves a promise to be in a lifelong relationship with another person. Either that promise has lifelong binding force or it doesn't. If it does, marriage is crazy, since it commits us to a relationship with someone even if we cease to love or even like them. Alternatively, if the promise loses its force once we cease to love our spouse, then the commitment lacks authority in the only circumstance in which it is needed and is therefore pointless. People should get married (the author did!), but not for reasons related to oaths and vows. Philosophy 2003  PDF