Peer-reviewed articles

"Amnesia and Punishment" (forthcoming), Ethics

Surprisingly often, offenders suffer amnesia regarding crimes they have committed. Should punishment be abated in such cases? Philosophers have largely overlooked this question. Extant views cluster around a straightforward answer: deserving punishment depends on remembering one’s crime. However, arguments for that view rely on implausible assumptions about personal identity or the justification of punishment. Additionally, that view implies that offenders could manipulate how much punishment they deserve. Instead, uneasiness about punishing amnesiacs can be traced back to distinctive reasons to show mercy. In particular, amnesiacs are typically unable to access their motives for the crimes they committed. As a result, they face the peculiar hardship of not fully comprehending their own role in bringing punishment upon themselves. Furthermore, they cannot make up their minds how to feel about their past decisions nor situate those decisions within a satisfying narrative arc of their lives.

"When a Free Act Costs a Motive: Clearing Consequentialism of Conflict" (2023), Utilitas

Consequentialist theories that directly assess multiple focal points face an important objection: that one right option may conflict with another. Robert Adams raises an instance of this objection regarding the possibility that the right act conflicts with the right motives. Whereas only partial responses have previously been given, assuming particular views of the relation between motives and acts, an exhaustive treatment is in order. Either motives psychologically determine acts, or they do not—and I defend direct consequentialism on each assumption. Crucially, if motives determine acts, this may be compatible with the ability to act otherwise, but there remains a defense for consequentialism even on these assumptions. What clears consequentialism of conflict is not necessarily that the apparently right act is unavailable, but rather that its outcome is suboptimal once we account for necessary motives. Even if the agent remains free to perform the act, the act costs too much.

Work in progress

"The Dualism of Being For and Bringing About"

I motivate a form of dualism that has gone unappreciated in moral theory. One fundamental standard of rightness assesses acts according to their motives, while the other assesses acts according to their outcomes. For example, when a parent takes on an unnecessarily large risk out of sacrificial love for their child, the risk-taking is both right and wrong; when a friend tells an important truth out of spite, the truth-telling is both wrong and right. Each of these two standards of rightness has distinguished contemporary defenders who, recognizing the powerful attraction of the other standard, attempt to address its significance from within their own views. These include shallower forms of pluralism—pluralisms regarding focal points, values, pro tanto duties, targets of virtue, and other moral concepts—as attempts to supplement a single standard of rightness. I argue that none of these approaches is adequate. We should instead embrace the deeper and more radical dualism of two separate and equally fundamental standards of rightness: being for and bringing about. (draft)

"Against Motive Fatalism"

Motive Fatalism is a common assumption in moral psychology: that agents lack direct control over their motives. I argue that Motive Fatalism fails to earn its keep. Control over motives is deeply implicated in control over action. If Motive Fatalism were true, agents could not perform many acts that are intuitively available to perform, including morally important acts. One strategy for avoiding this conclusion appeals to purely moral motivation; another appeals to compatibilist accounts of ability to act otherwise. Crucially, however, those strategies succeed only if Motive Fatalism is false in the first place. The solution must be that agents do have direct control over motives. This solution finds promise in existing accounts of control—including control as reasons-responsiveness, and control as question-settling—which until now have been limited to actions and other attitudes like beliefs and intentions. (draft)

"Loving Your Enemy"

Hate—unlike the popular topic of love—receives little attention from contemporary philosophers. My article brings these opposing attitudes into tension by considering the moral injunction within Christian tradition that you ought to love your enemy. The difficulty with loving your enemy is that they may seem to merit hate instead, especially in the worst cases of serious injustice. I develop this simple thought into a challenge for loving your enemy: that you cannot be required to do what makes no sense to you. This challenge is not adequately met by extant explanations for why you ought to love your enemy, which tend to offer reasons that are either insufficient or else instrumentalize love. In the second half of the article, I introduce my preferred response to the challenge. Even if your enemy fails to merit love, love may still be fitting and thereby reasonable by your own lights, notwithstanding what many philosophers nowadays say about fittingness. In particular, what makes it fitting to love your enemy is the fact (if it is one) that you yourself have received unmerited love. (draft)

"The Cheap Considerateness of Social Media"

Spontaneously noticing meaningful details about others—remembering their birthdays, appreciating their fashion sense, picking up on muted emotions—used to matter for our relationships. Across a variety of ethical approaches, the significance of such “considerateness” is under threat from social media. Automatic notifications and reminders delivered by social media are becoming more and more ubiquitous, effectively cheapening expressions of considerateness. One might think that considerateness has simply been relocated to the extended mind—you plus your social media—but automated notifications occupy a very different role within the extended mind compared to considerateness within the organic mind. I conclude by cautioning against various possible responses: neither more elaborate communication, more user involvement in setting up notifications, nor more individually-tailored notifications can exactly replace the significance of considerateness. But I also end on a positive note about the upside of social media for users who struggle to keep track of conventionally important social facts. (draft)

"Squeezing God into Fitting-Response Theories of Value"

Work on the axiology of theism typically discusses God’s value in terms of the discrete values and disvalues contributed by God’s existence. In contrast, I motivate a novel approach to the question of God’s value along the lines of a fitting-response theory of value. However, the modes of value that are familiar from fitting response theories do not seem to do justice to the depth of that question. In order more fully to understand the ways in which God’s value is distinctive, we must look to certain responses that are uniquely fitting towards God—my discussion focuses on awe and prayer. Because such responses are neither positively nor negatively valenced, however, I argue that we should loosen our grip on a valenced notion of value and instead think more broadly about how God matters. (draft)

"Fitting Selflessness and Partiality Together"

Selflessness is widely regarded as a moral ideal. The person who puts a family member or friend before themselves, even when their own interests are as great or greater, merits our admiration and aspiration to do the same. Partiality in appropriate forms is a moral ideal, too. Although this is not exceptionless, prioritizing those who are near and dear is fitting in many situations—again, even when there are others who stand to gain more or lose more. My aim is, first, to juxtapose partiality with selflessness in order to bring into view a tension between them that existing approaches to partiality struggle to balance. Second, I aim to offer a unified vindication of these intuitive ideals at the level of the moral quality of one’s motives by proposing a new way of understanding the epistemic condition on quality of will.

"Reasons For, Reasons Of, and the Dyadic End of Love"

Two important debates in the moral psychology of love center around the reasons for love and the reasons of love. The first issue concerns the grounds of love: some say that love is based on attractive properties intrinsic to the beloved; others, that love is based on the relationship with the beloved. The second issue concerns what love aims at: here, some say that the lover desires union with the beloved; others, that the lover aims at the good of the beloved. But it is interesting to note that each of those views finds a natural home in either eros or philia. And unlike the competition between those views in the contemporary literature, the classical forms of love tend to be seen as equally legitimate. In this more inclusive spirit, I propose an account of love that unites the various views corresponding to the reasons for and reasons of love.

"Divine Mercy"

Many religious traditions attribute to God a merciful, gracious, loving stance toward humanity. I home in on God’s reasons for showing mercy in particular. My discussion aims to illuminate points of contact between divine mercy and mercy within human legal institutions as characterized by contemporary moral and political philosophy. Eschewing appeals to repentance (another common ground for mercy), I present a two-pronged approach to justifying God’s mercy on the basis of God’s role as storyteller and of humanity’s having already suffered “poetic justice.”

"Pay-It-Forward Love"

Three classic forms of love, long recognized by philosophers, are eros, philia, and agape. These are often glossed as romantic love, friendship love, and divine or universal love. Furthermore, each of these corresponds roughly to one of three extant accounts of reasons for love in contemporary moral psychology: the property view, the relationship view, and the no-reasons view, respectively. I argue for a fourth kind of love, which can also be categorized by its grounds: that of having received love from a distinct third party. Paying love forward explains how love can sometimes be initiated, in the absence of attractive properties or a pre-existing relationship, without seeming to be entirely gratuitous. On the other hand, some see love as a force originating from elsewhere and passing through you. By combining these two observations, pay-it-forward love finds wide appeal in traditions ranging from Buddhism to Christianity to feminist care ethics.