Abstracts of Published Academic Papers
Open Letters Monthly, July 2011, http://www.openlettersmonthly.com/the-new-old-atheism/
Abstract: Aikin and Talisse think it important to show that atheism does not imply that objective values don’t exist. At least on this matter, then, they agree with Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, and many other New Atheists. The old atheists (Friedrich Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell), though, thought that if we’re going to be rid of God, we might as well rid ourselves of all other transcendent sources of authority. In this review, I use this difference to explain the superiority of the old atheists to the new ones.
International Journal of Applied Philosophy 24, No. 2, Fall 2010, pp. 211-224 (Photocopy)
Abstract: To believe a proposition wishfully is to believe it because one wants to believe it, not because one has evidence or reason that it is true. Is it wise to be open to believing wishfully? After criticizing one popular argument that we ought to be closed to believing wishfully, I develop an argument that being closed to believing wishfully is to labour under a debilitating prejudice. As a rule, then, we ought to be open to believing wishfully. I find one and only one exception to this rule. People who value understanding things as they are, and value this more than anything else they value, are wise to be closed to believing wishfully.
Scott C. Lowe, ed., Christmas: Better than a Lump of Coal (The “Philosophy for Everyone” series), Wiley-Blackwell, 2010, pp. 70-79 (Photocopy)
Abstract: A multicultural society is one that gathers together different cultures and communities within a common geographical area and under a common government. One complaint against multicultural societies is that the cultures within them are prone to shut themselves off from each other. A good way to bring cultures together is through common celebrations. Because the values it honours are honoured in almost all cultures, Christmas is ideally suited to be a celebration that brings people of different cultures together. The first task, though, is to dispel the idea that Christmas is a Christian holiday.
Facta Philosophica 9, No. 1/2, 2007, pp. 37-53 (Photocopy)
Abstract: Psychological events are physical events and there are no psychological laws; thus, because there are physical laws, any event that can be explained in folk psychological terms can be better explained in physical terms. Does it follow that folk psychological explanations lack sound epistemic credentials and, therefore, should be eliminated from our thought and talk in favour of physical explanations? I argue, first, that folk psychological terms cannot be eliminated from our descriptions of the world or our explanations of events in it and, second, that the reason why they cannot be eliminated directs us to the reason why the epistemic credentials of folk psychology are in good order.
Facta Philosophica 8, No. 1/2, 2006, 3-22 (Photocopy)
Abstract: Donald Davidson holds that metaphors have no linguistic meaning in addition to their literal meaning. Max Black and Frank B. Farrell each contends that Davidson’s view is inconsistent with the fact that metaphors are appropriate objects of explication and evaluation. However, as I show, Davidson’s view actually is entirely consistent with this fact. I also argue that Black’s and Farrell’s own accounts of metaphor imply that sometimes the linguistic meaning of a sentence is other than a product of the meanings of its words and its logical form, and I give a reason why accounts of metaphor with this implication are best rejected. E.M. Zemach, for his part, agrees with Davidson about what metaphors mean, but contends that, on Davidson’s recent account of language and interpretation, all metaphors turn out to be true; metaphors express novel or impractical but nonetheless literally true comparisons or categorizations. Zemach, however, I argue, has neglected the distinction between how speakers actually apply their words to things and their standards of correct application.
Erkenntnis 55, No. 2, 2001, pp. 217-237 (Photocopy)
Abstract: Weak psychological egoism is the doctrine that anything an agent does intentionally, that agent does at least expecting thereby to realize one of her self-regarding ends. (Strong psychological egoism, by contrast, is the doctrine that agents act always intending thereby to realize a self-regarding end.) Though weak psychological egoism is a doctrine ultimately answerable to empirical evidence, we presently have excellent a priori reasons for accepting it and attempting to construct psychological theories that include it as an organizing principle. These reasons have mainly to do with the idea that to understand the motivation behind an action, we need to understand the force of the consideration that motivates the agent, and the way to do this is to find a self-regarding end associated in the agent’s mind with acting on that consideration.
Journal of Value Inquiry 33, No. 3, September 1999, pp.319-334 (Photocopy)
Abstract: To be liberal is, among other things, to hold in high regard the personal virtue of tolerance. In the political sphere, this virtue is manifested in the desire that the state be as neutral as possible with regard to different ways of life and conceptions of the good. What grounds might a liberal have for thinking highly of tolerance and state neutrality? I discuss seven arguments for being tolerant, three of which I find lacking, three of which I find strong, but only one of which I think is both strong and specifically liberal. This is the argument according to which tolerance is a mark of respect for the autonomy of rational agents. Though there can be no argument that everyone has a practical reason for respecting the autonomy of rational agents, I argue that anyone who does respect autonomy is obliged to cultivate the virtue of tolerance.
Southern Journal of Philosophy XXXVI, no. 4, Winter 1998, pp. 557-576 (Photocopy)
Abstract: Psychological egoism is the thesis that anything a person does intentionally, that person does for a self-regarding reason. This thesis might well be false, but many popular arguments against it, as I show in this paper, are fallacious.
American Philosophical Quarterly 30, no. 2, April 1993, pp. 163-173 (Photocopy)
Abstract: One who wishes to retain her commitment to kindness and justice had better believe that that commitment rests on objective facts about value, for to believe instead that one’s commitment is based merely on one’s tastes is to risk losing one’s commitment. Or so at least goes a pragmatic argument against being pragmatic about value. I counter that since the belief that our personal values answer to objective values is implausible and hard to maintain, one who wishes to retain her commitment to kindness and justice would do well to divest herself of metaphysical yearnings.
Philosophical Quarterly 41, no. 164, July 1991, pp. 301-315 (Photocopy)
Abstract: Meaning holism is the view that each of a speaker’s beliefs is the belief it is because of its connections to other beliefs. Because meaning holism makes beliefs interdependent, it implies that it is possible for a speaker to be massively mistaken. According to Donald Davidson, the possibility of massive error threatens interpretability; thus, since he holds that no language is uninterpretable, Davidson seeks to constrain meaning holism with a causal account of meaning. This causal account, however, makes it difficult to ascribe errors of certain kinds; and once the need to allow for such errors is taken seriously, it becomes clear that meaning holism cannot be constrained. The authors argue, however, that while meaning holism makes massive error possible, it does not, as Davidson fears, threaten interpretability. What ensures interpretability is that beliefs have the contents they do because of events others can in principle identify and describe.
International Studies in Philosophy XXII, no. 3, 1990 (Photocopy)
International Studies in Philosophy XXII, no. 1, 1990 (Photocopy)
Carleton University Student Journal of Philosophy 9, no. 1, Fall 1984