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Unpublished and Forthcoming Work
'Addiction Between Compulsion and Choice' (with Kent Berridge)' Forthcoming in Neil Levy (ed.) Addiction and Self-Control (OUP) [pdf version: US letter]
Abstract: We aim to find a middle path between disease models of addiction, and those that treat addictive choices as choices like any other. We develop an account of the disease element by focussing on the idea that dopamine works primarily to lay down dispositional intrinsic desires. Addictive substances artifically boost the dopamine signal, and thereby lay down intrinsic desires for the substances that persist through withdrawal, and in the face of beliefs that they are worthless. The result is cravings that are largely outside the control of the addict. But this does not mean that addicts are bound to act on such cravings, since they typically retain their faculty of self-control. The issue is one of difficulty not impossibility. Controlling an addictive craving is exceedingly demanding.
'Facts, Factvies and Contra-factives' [pdf version]
Abstract: Frege begins his discussion of factives in 'On Sense and Reference' with an example of a purported contra-factive, i.e. a verb that entails the falsity of the complement sentence. But the verb he cites, 'waehnen', is now obsolete, and native speakers are sceptical about whether it really was a contra-factive. Despite the profusion of factive verbs, there are no clear examples of contra-factive propositional attitude verbs in English, French or German (or indeed any other Indo-European languages). This paper attempts to give an explanation of why there are no contra-factives, and to use this to shed light on the behaviour of factives more generally. The suggestion is that factive propositional attitude verbs take facts, not propositions, as the referents of their complement sentences; and that as there are no contra-facts (merely false propositions), there can be no contra-factives. This claim is also used to help explain Timothy Williamson's observation that knowledge is the weakest stative propositional attitude factive.. Complexity amongst the factives is then explored.
'Primitive Self-Ascription: Lewis on the De Se' forthcoming in Barry Loewer & Jonathan Schaffer (eds.) The Blackwell Companion to David Lewis (Blackwell) [pdf version: US letter]
Abstract: There are two parts to Lewis's account of the de se. First there is the idea that the objects of de se thought (and, by extension of de dicto thought too) are properties, not propositions. This is the idea that is center-stage in Lewis's discussion. Second there is the idea that the relation that thinkers bear to these properties is that of self-ascription. It is crucial to Lewis’s account that this is understood as a fundamental, unanalyzable, notion: self-ascription of a property is not ascription of a property to the self, on a par with ascription to someone else. This has been overlooked in much recent discussion, especially when Lewis's account is understood in terms of centered worlds. When it is back in focus it brings problems. An almost Cartesian starting point is required; and first-person plural ascriptions, and those with first person pronouns other than in subject position, become unmanageably complex.
'Intention as a Model for Belief' forthcoming in Manuel Vargas and Gideon Yaffe (eds.) Rational and Social Agency: Essays on the Philosophy of Michael Bratman (Oxford: Oxford University Press) [pdf version: US letter]
Abstract: This paper argues that a popular account of intentions can be extended to beliefs. Beliefs are stable all-out states that allow for planning and coordination in a way that is tractable for cognitively limited creatures like human beings. Scepticism is expressed that there is really anything like credences as standardly understood.
'From Determinism to Resignation, and How to Stop It' forthcoming in Andy Clark, Julian Kiverstein and Tillman Vierkant (eds.) Decomposing the
Will (Oxford University Press) [pdf version]
Abstract: A few philosophers have held that determinism should lead to an attitude of resignation: since what will be will be, there is no point trying to influence the future. That argument has rightly been seen as mistaken. But a plausible parallel argument leads from the thesis of predictability—the thesis that it can be known what will happen—to an attitude of resignation. So if predictability is true, our normal practical attitudes may well be deeply mistaken. Fortunately, whilst determinism is a plausible doctrine, there is a strong argument against predictability. Determinism and predictability should be kept well apart.
'Inverse Akrasia and Weakness of Will' [pdf version: US Letter]
Abstract: The standard account of weakness of will identifies it with akrasia, that is, with action against one's best judgment. Elsewhere I have argued that weakness of will is better understood as over-readily giving up on one's resolutions. Many cases of weak willed action will not be akratic: in over-readily abandoning a resolution an agent may well do something that they judge at the time to be best. Indeed, in so far as temptation typically gives rise to judgment shift -- to a tendency to change one's judgment so that one values the tempting option as the best -- weak willed action will typically be akratic. But conversely, strong willed action now looks as though it will be akratic. I argue though that it need not be, once we distinguish between actual judgment, and dispositions to judge. Within this framework, the issue of inverse akrasia looks rather different. I argue that whilst Huckleberry Finn plausibly does show weakness of will in abandoning his resolve to turn Jim in, it is far from clear that he is akratic: a point brought out well in Twain's later additions to the text. Whilst cases of inverse akrasia are clearly theoretically possible, I suggest that, given cognitive dissonance mechanisms, they are unlikely to be very common.
Willing, Wanting, Waiting, Oxford University Press, 2009. [Chapter abstracts] [OUP website] [Amazon US] [Amazon UK]
Abstract: This book provides a unified account of the will, pulling together
a diverse range of phenomena that have typically been treated separately:
intention, resolution, choice, weakness and strength of will, temptation,
addiction, and freedom of the will. Drawing on recent psychological research,
it is argued that rather than being the pinnacle of rationality, these components
work to compensate for our inability to make and maintain sound judgments.
Choice is the capacity to form intentions even in the absence of judgment
of which action is best. Weakness of will is the failure to maintain resolutions
in the face of temptation, where temptation typically involves a shift in
judgment as to what is best, or, in cases of addiction, a disconnection between
what is judged best and what is desired. Strength of will is the corresponding
ability to maintain a resolution in the face of temptation, an ability that
requires the employment of a particular faculty or skill. Finally, the experience
of freedom of the will is traced to the experiences of forming intentions,
and of maintaining resolutions, both of which require effortful activity
from the agent.
'What in the World is Weakness of Will?' (with Josh May) Philosophical Studies 157 (2012) pp. 341-360 [pdf version]
'Modelling Legal Rules' in A. Marmor and S. Soames (eds.)
Philosophical Foundations of Language in the Law (Oxford University Press, 2011) pp. 165-83 [pdf version: US Letter]
Abstract: Building on earlier work, this paper develops a model of legal rules that admit of exceptions but are nonetheless governed by classical logic. The account is defended against alternative accounts that construe legal rules as generics, or as default rules.
'Norms and the Knobe Effect' Analysis 70 (2010) pp. 417-424 [pdf version: US Letter]
Abstract: It is argued that the many manifestation of the Knobe effect can be explained by the conjunction of two claims: (i) there is a fundmental asymmetry between what is needed for intentional norm violation and what is needed for intentional norm conformity -- the former only requires knowing violation, whereas the latter requires that the norm function as a guide; and (ii) that in making propositional attitude attributions we are influenced by whether the agent intentionally violated or conformed to a norm
'The Exception Proves the Rule' The Journal of Political Philosophy 18 (2010), pp. 369-388 [pdf version: US Letter].
Abstract: Legal rules admit of exceptions; indeed, it has been a legal maxim that one can infer the existence of a rule from exceptions that are made to it. Hart claims that the exceptions do not admit of exhaustive statement (a form of legal particularism) but that nonetheless rules can bind. This paper develops a logical framework which accommodates this position, shows that it is available to a positivist, elucidates the role of rules within it, and concludes by discussing the relevance to issues of judicial discretion.
'Disentangling the Will' forthcoming in R. Baumeister, A. Mele and K. Vohs eds. Free Will and Consciousness: How Might They Work? (New York: OUP, 2010) [pdf version: US Letter].
Abstract: It is argued that there are at least three things bundled up in the idea of free will: the capacity manifested by agents whenever they act freely; the property possessed by those actions for which an agent in morally responsible; and the ability to do otherwise. This paper attempts some disentangling
'Determinism, Self-Efficacy, and the Phenomenology of Free Will' Inquiry 52 (2009) 412-28 [pdf version: US Letter]
Abstract: Some recent studies have suggested that belief in determinism tends to undermine moral motivation: subjects who are given determinist texts to read become more likely to cheat or to go in for vindictive behaviour. One possible explanation is that people are natural incompatibilists, so that convincing them of determinism undermines their belief that they are morally responsible. I suggest a different explanation, and in doing so try to shed some light on the phenomenology of free will. I contend that one aspect of the phenomenology is our impression that maintaining a resolution requires effort-an impression well supported by a range of psychological data. Determinism can easily be interpreted as showing that such effort will be futile: in effect determinism is conflated with fatalism, in a way that is reminiscent of the Lazy argument used against the Stoics. If this interpretation is right, it explains how belief in determinism undermines moral motivation without needing to attribute sophisticated incompatibilist beliefs to subjects; it works by undermining subjects' self-efficacy. It also provides indirect support for the contention that this is one of the sources of the phenomenology of free will.
'Partial Belief, Partial Intention' Mind 117 (2008), pp. 27-58 [pdf version: US Letter].
Abstract: Is a belief that one will succeed necessary for an intention? It is argued that the question has traditionally been badly posed, framed as it is in terms of all-out belief. We need instead to ask about the relation between intention and partial belief. An account of partial belief that is more psychologically realistic than the standard credence account is developed. A notion of partial intention is then developed, standing to all-out intention much as partial belief stands to all-out belief. Various coherence constraints on the notion are explored. It is concluded that the primary relations between intention and belief should be understood as normative and not essential.
'Freedom, Coercion and Discursive Control' Common Minds, edd. Geoffrey Brennan, Robert Goodin and Michael Smith (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2007) pp. 104-17 [pdf version: A4] [pdf version: US Letter].
'Self-Control in the Modern Provocation Defence' (with Stephen Shute), The Oxford Journal of Legal Studies 27 (2007) pp. 49-73 [pdf version: A4] [pdf version: US Letter]
Abstract: Most recent discussion of the provocation defence has focused on the objective test, and little attention has been paid to the subjective test. However, the subjective test provides a substantial constraint: the killing must result from a provocation that undermines the defendant's self-control. The idea of loss of self-control has been developed in both the philosophical and psychological literatures. Understanding the subjective test in the light of the conception developed there makes for a far more coherent interpretation of the provocation defence. It also makes clear just how radical various proposals for reform of the defence would be.
'The Act of Choice', The Philosophers' Imprint 6, 3 (2006) [pdf version: US Letter] [Philosophers' Imprint text]
Abstract: Choice is one of the central elements in the experience of free will, but it has not received a good account from either compatibilists or libertarians. This paper develops an account of choice based around three features: (i) choice is an action; (ii) choice is not determined by one's prior beliefs and desires; (iii) once the question of what to do has arisen, choice is typically both necessary and sufficient for moving to action. These features might appear to support a libertarian account, but they do not. Instead it is argued that all three features can be accommodated within a compatibilist account, where choice is needed because of agents' inabilities to arrive at judgements about what is best. Choice differs though from random picking: in choosing, agents frequently (though not always) deploy abilities that enable them to make good choices. In such cases, judgements about what is best will frequently follow the choice. Finally choice is distinguished from agency, and, on the basis of the distinction, the claim that choice is an action is made good.
'Rational Resolve', Philosophical Review 113 (2004) 507-35 [pdf version: A4] [pdf version: US Letter]
Abstract: Empirical findings suggest that temptation causes agents not only to change their desires, but also to revise their beliefs, in ways that are not necessarily irrational. But if this is so, how can it be rational to maintain a resolution to resist? For in maintaining a resolution it appears that one will be acting against what one now believes to be best. This paper proposes a two-tier account according to which it can be rational neither to reconsider the question of what one is going to do nor the question of what it is best to do; hence in the resolute agent the change in belief is not actual but merely potential. Various reasons are given for thinking that the resulting account is preferable to an alternative given by Bratman.
'How is Strength of Will Possible?' in S. Stroud and C Tappolet (eds.)
Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2003) pp. 39-67 [pdf version: A4] [pdf version: US Letter]
Abstract: Most recent accounts of will-power have tried to explain it as reducible to the operation of beliefs and desires. In opposition to such accounts, this paper argues for a distinct faculty of will-power.
Considerations from philosophy and from social psychology are used in support.
'David Lewis's Philosophy of Language. Mind and Language 18 (2003), pp. 286-95
Abstract: This is a survey of David Lewis's influential writings in the philosophy of language, published as part of a special issue of Mind and Language following his untimely death.
'Ramsey on Saying and Whistling: A Discordant Note' (with Huw Price). Nous 37 (2003), pp. 325-41
Abstract:In 'General Propositions and Causality' Ramsey rejects his earlier view that universal generalizations are infinite conjunctions, arguing that they are not genuine propositions at all. We argue that his new position is unstable. The issues about infinity that lead Ramsey to the new view are essentially those underlying Wittgenstein's rule-following considerations. If they show that generalizations are not genuine propositions, they show that there are no genuine propositions. The connection raises interesting historical questions about the direction of influence between Ramsey and Wittgenstein, the origin of the rule-following argument, and the influence of writers such as Brouwer.
'Principles and Particularisms' Proceedings of the Aristotelian
Society Supplementary Volume 67, (2002) pp. 191-209
Abstract:Should particularists about ethics claim that moral
principles are never true? Or should they rather claim that any finite set of
principles will not be sufficient to capture ethics? This paper explores and defends
the possibility of embracing the second of these claims whilst rejecting the first,
a position termed principled particularism. The main argument that particularists
present for their position - the argument that holds that any moral conclusion can be
superceded by further considerations - is quite compatible with principled particularism;
indeed, it is compatible with the idea that every true moral conclusion can be shown
to follow deductively from a finite set of premises. Whilst it is true that these
premises must contain implicit ceteris paribus clauses, this does not render the
arguments trivial. On the contrary, they can do important work in justifying moral
conclusions. Finally the approach is briefly applied to the related field of
'What is the Role of the Self in Self-Deception?' Proceedings
of the Aristotelian Society, 101 (2000/1) pp. 53-69
Abstract: The orthodox account holds that the ordinary idea of self-deception
is that of deception by the self. This paper explores the idea that it is rather
deception (i.e. mistake) about the self. The contention is that mistake of
this kind is a necessary condition on self-deception; self-deception thus essentially
involves a lack of self-knowledge. The orthodox account can then be seen as stemming
from an attempt to explain how such a lack of knowledge is possible. It is suggested
that this is the role it has had in much of the Christian literature.
'Minimalism and Truth-Value Gaps' Philosophical Studies, 97 (2000) pp. 135-165
Abstract: The question is asked whether one can consistently both be a minimalist
about truth, and hold that some meaningful assertoric sentences fail to be either true
or false. It is shown that one can, but the issues are delicate, and the price is high:
one must either refrain from saying that the sentences lack truth values, or else
one must invoke a novel non-contraposing three-valued conditional. Finally it is
shown that this does not help in reconciling minimalism with emotivism, where this
latter is understood as involving the view that ethical sentences are neither
true nor false.
'Intention and Weakness of Will' Journal of Philosophy, 96 (1999) pp. 241-62
[pdf version] [JSTOR text]
The Philosopher's Annual 1999, eds. P. Grim, G. Mar, K. Baynes,
and P. Ludlow (Atascadero, California: Ridgeview Press).
Abstract: Philosophical orthodoxy identifies weakness of will with akrasia: the weak willed person
is someone who intentionally acts against their better judgement. It is argued that this is
a mistake. Weakness of will consists in a quite different failing, namely an over-ready
revision of one's intentions. Building on the work of Bratman, an account of such over-ready
revision is given. A number of examples are then adduced showing how weakness of will,
so understood, differs from akrasia.
'Dispositions All the Way Round' Analysis, 59 (1999) pp. 9-14
Abstract: Simon Blackburn has argued that if dispositions are analysed as subjunctive
conditionals, then it cannot be the case that all properties are dispositions, since
this would entail that every sentence is made true at other possible worlds, and there
would be no truth anywhere. (Other writers have made similar claims.) It is shown
that the argument fails. There is no logical problem in giving a model for a theory
all of whose contingent sentences are subjunctive conditionals; an example is given.
It is a feature of the example that the analyses it contains are all circular.
But, drawing on work by Stephen Yablo, it is argued that this need not be seen as a problem.
'Empathy and Animal Ethics' (with Rae Langton) in Dale Jamieson (ed.) Singer and His Critics
(Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1998), pp. 209-232
'Positivism and the Internal Point of View' Law and Philosophy, 17 (1998), pp. 597-625
[pdf version] [JSTOR text]
Abstract: Can one consistently (i) be a positivist, and (ii) think that the internal attitude
to the law is a moral attitude? Two objections are raised in the literature.
The first is that the combination is straight-out contradictory. The second is that if the
internal attitude is a moral attitude, those who take it cannot be positivists.
Arguments from Shiner, Goldsworthy and Raz are examined. It is concluded that neither
objection works. The arguments are based on scope errors, conflations of what is said
with what is implicated, and a false view of the distinction between detached and
'Some Telling Examples: Reply to Tsohatzidis', Journal of Pragmatics 28 (1997) pp. 625-8
Abstract: In a recent paper Savas Tsohatzidis has provided a number of putative
counterexamples to the well-attested Kartunnen-Vendler (K-V) thesis that the use of
'tell' with a wh-complement
requires that the speaker spoke truthfully. His counterexamples are sentences like:
(1) Old John told us who he saw in the fog, but it turned out that he was mistaken.
I argue that such examples do not serve to refute the K-V thesis. Rather, they are
examples of a more general phenomenon that I label participant projection, which is manifested
in sentences like:
(2) He gave her a ring studded with diamonds, but they turned out to be glass.
Just as the acceptability of (2) does not show that some diamonds are glass, so the acceptability of
(1) does not disprove the K-V thesis.
'Reason, Value and the Muggletonians', Australasian Journal of Philosophy
74 (1996), pp.484-7 [pdf version]
Abstract: Michael Smith has argued that to value an action is to believe that if
one were fully rational one would desire that one perform it. I offer the Muggletonians
as a counter-example. The Muggletonians, a 17th century English sect, believed
that reason was the path of the Devil. They believed that their fully rational
selves - rational in just Smith's sense - would have blasphemed against God; and
that their rational selves would have wanted their actual selves to do likewise.
But blaspheming against God was not what they valued.
Michael Smith and John Bigelow published a lengthy reply in the Australasian Journal of Philosophy 75 (1997) 511-27. A short reply to that, which was never published, is available here: 'Smith and Bigelow on the Muggletonians'
'Davidson, McFetridge and the Counting Problem', Analysis 55 (1996),
'Leapfrogging and Scope: Reply to Pickles', Mind 104 (1995), pp. 583-4 [JSTOR text]
'Attitude Ascriptions and Intermediate Scope', Mind 103 (1994), pp. 123-30 [JSTOR text]
Abstract: Quantification into a belief ascription has often been taken to indicate
that the believer knows who (or what) their belief is about. Here it is shown, by means
of some iterated ascriptions, that this cannot be the correct interpretation of
such quantification. In conclusion it is suggested that it should rather be
interpreted as indicating that the belief has its source in the object denoted
by the quantifier.
'Deciding to Trust, Coming to Believe', Australasian Journal of Philosophy
72 (1994), pp.63-76 [pdf version]
Abstract: Can we decide to trust? Sometimes, yes. And when we do, we need not
believe that our trust will be vindicated. This paper is motivated by the need to
incorporate these facts into an account of trust. Trust involves reliance; and in
addition it requires the taking of a reactive attitude to that reliance. I explain
how the states involved here differ from belief. And I explore the limits of our ability
to trust. I then turn to the idea of trusting what others say. I suggest that we
sometimes decide to trust people to be sincere and knowledgeable; and that having taken
this attitude towards them, we come to believe what they say. I spell out some
consequences that this has for an account of testimony, and for van Fraassen's decision
theoretic principle of Reflection.
'Minimalisms about Truth', in B. Garrett and K. Mulligan (eds.) Themes from
Wittgenstein (ANU Working Papers in Philosophy 4) Canberra, 1993, pp. 45-61 [pdf version]
'Intention Detecting', Philosophical Quarterly 43 (1993), pp. 298-318 [JSTOR text]
Abstract: Crispin Wright has argued that our concept of intention is extension-determining,
and that this explains why we are so good at knowing our intentions: it does so by subverting
the idea that we detect them. This paper has two aims. The first is to make sense of Wright's
claim that intention is extension-determining; this is achieved by comparing his position to
that of analytic functionalism. The second is to show that it doesn't follow from this that
we do not detect our intentions. Wright has conflated two questions. Firstly, do we detect
our intentions? Secondly do we detect the concept of intention itself? The
extension-determining account returns a negative answer only to the second.
'Response-dependence and infallibility', Analysis 52 (1992), pp. 180-4
Abstract: Some say that subjects will, in general, be infallible in their
application of response-dependent concepts. I show that this is not right.
Infalliblity will only result if the relevant response meets three further conditions.
It must be (i) a judgement, that (ii) concerns the concept in question, and (iii)
is made by the very class of people who use the concept.
'Intentions, response-dependence and immunity from error', in P. Menzies (ed.)
Response Dependent Concepts (ANU Working Papers in Philosophy 1) Canberra, 1991,
pp.83-121 [pdf version]
'Industrial Politics in France: Nationalisation under Mitterrand', West European
Politics 9 (1986), pp.67-80 [pdf version]
'Comment on Ralph Wedgwood's The Nature of Normativity'
forthcoming in Philosophical Studies
'Comment on 'Free Will as Advanced Action Control for Human Social Life and Culture' by Roy F. Baumeister, A. William Crescioni and Jessica L. Alquist, forthcoming in Neuroethics [pdf version]
'Review of Experimental Philosophy, ed. Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols' Times Literary Supplement 13 February 2009
'Review of The Illusion of Conscious Will
by Daniel Wegner', Mind 113 (2004) 218-21
'Reviews of Meaning, Knowledge and Reality, and Mind, Value and Reality
by John McDowell', Times Literary Supplement 23 June 2000
'Review of Objectivity, Simulation and the Unity of Consciousness,
edited by Christopher Peacocke', Philosophical Books 38 (1997), pp. 125-8
'Reviews of Frege's Theory of Sense and Reference by Wolfgang Carl and
Frege by Anthony Kenny', Philosophical Quarterly 47 (1997), pp. 275-8
[pdf version] [JSTOR text]
'Review of Talk about Beliefs by Mark Crimmins', Australasian Journal
of Philosophy 74 (1996), pp. 210-12
'Review of Frege in Perspective by Joan Weiner', Australasian Journal
of Philosophy 70 (1992), pp. 238-40
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Last updated: 7 January 2010