ETHICS

Forthcoming “Outrage and the Bounds of Empathy”  — Philosophers' Imprint 

Often, when we are angry, we are angry at someone who has hurt us, and our anger is a protest against our perceived mistreatment. In these cases, its function is to hold the abuser accountable for their offense. The anger involves a demand for some sort of change or response: that the hurt be acknowledged, that the relationship be repaired, that the offending party reform in some way. In this paper, I develop and defend an account of a different form of anger, called "outrage anger". Outrage anger does not aim to hold an abuser accountable, nor to demand repair or reform. Drawing on the work of Maria Lugones, I argue that outrage anger is directed at the state of affairs in which a violation is unintelligible to the dominant moral community. The central function of outrage anger is a psychological boundary setting: it closes off the victim’s ability to feel empathy for their abuser. Outrage has an important role to play in the context of political injustice, but that it also comes with significant costs.  

2021 “Double Binds and Oppression”  — Ethics 131 (4): 643-669

In this paper, I give an account of the structure of double binds as they are found in oppressive contexts, explaining how they are both a product of, and serve to reinforce, oppressive structures. I argue that double binds are choice situations in which a member of an oppressed group is forced to choose between either cooperating or resisting in some oppressive norm and, because of the way her own prudential good is bound up with her ability to resist oppression, she ends up to some degree reinforcing her own oppression no matter what she does.

(2019) “What’s Aristotelian about Neo-Aristotelian Virtue Ethics?” — Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 98 (3): 671-696. 2019.

I argue that Aristotle was not a virtue ethicist: he does not explain the goodness of actions in terms of the concept of a virtuous character. This might seem disappointing. We do not find in Aristotle a distinct normative theory alongside deontology and consequentialism. But I argue that we find instead is a sophisticated and compelling view of how being virtuous — performing good actions with the right reasons and desires — puts us in the position to live a good human life.

(2018) “Not Always Worth the Effort: Difficulty and the Value of Achievement” — Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 100 (2): 525-548. 2019

Recent literature has argued that what makes certain activities ranging from curing cancer to running a marathon count as achievements, and what makes achievements intrinsically valuable is, centrally, that they involve great effort. Gwen Bradford, in her recent book Achievement develops and defends the most worked out version of a difficulty-based account of achievement. She argues that the value of the product of an achievement makes no contribution to its essential value. Rather, we should understand the value of achievements in perfectionist terms: achievements allow us to exercise characteristic human capacities, chief amongst which is “the will”.  Although there is much the difficulty-based view gets right, I argue that it generates the wrong results about some central cases of achievement, and this is because it is too narrowly focused on only one perfectionist capacity, “the will”. I propose a revised perfectionist account on which an achievement is an activity that fully exercises or expresses any number of a range of perfectionist capacities.

 

ANCIENT GREEK PHILOSOPHY

(2021) “External Goods and the Complete Exercise of Virtue in Aristotle’s NE” — Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie 103(1): 29-53

Aristotle seems to think that certain “external” goods like wealth, political power, good children and a good birth are required for happiness because, in the first place, they are required for virtuous activity. This is puzzling. Intuitively, it seems possible for a virtuous agent to exercise her virtuous character even under conditions of extreme hardship or deprivation. Why then isn’t Aristotle drawn to the Stoic conclusion that even someone suffering from great misfortune can be happy so long as she is able to exercise her virtuous character? I argue there is good sense to be made of Aristotle’s initially puzzling stance of external goods. Specifically, I explain how a range of external goods is required for the full exercise of virtue, and I show that it is only this full exercise of virtue that is constitutive of eudaimonia.

(2021) “Aristotelian Eudaimonism and the Dualism of Practical Reason”  — The Ethics of Sidgwick and Kant: Exploring the Cosmos of Duty Above and the Moral Law Within

Both Kant and Sidgwick recognize a deep tension between moral and prudential reasons. On dthe basis of what we can observe, both agree that fulfilling one’s moral obligation is not always prudentially optimal. And, both agree, if acting morally must sometimes come at the cost of one’s own happiness, then we should be skeptical about the possibility of having a completely rationalized — that is, a completely systematic and coherent — account of practical reason. Ancient eudaimonism might seem to offer a solution to the dualism of practical reason, and without any theological assumptions. In this paper, I review the challenges that Kant and Sidgwick pose to eudaimonism, and argue that there are resources within ancient theories — and with Aristotle in particular — to potentially resolve at least some of their concerns. Much turns on how exactly we understand ancient eudaimonist theories, and I argue here that this question is far from settled.

(2018) “Acting Virtuously as an End in Aristotle’s Ethics” British Journal of the History of Philosophy 26 (6): 1006-1026. 2018.

 

I tackle the familiar problem of whether, for Aristotle, virtuous actions are ends, or whether they are for the sake of ends beyond themselves. I argue that we can make sense of Aristotle’s seemingly inconsistent claims about the way virtuous actions are related to their ends by distinguishing between virtuous actions and “acting virtuously” — performing virtuous actions with a full rational grasp of what makes the actions good, and with the appropriate emotional responses. I argue that this distinction sheds light on how to think about the relationship between virtue and happiness in the Nicomachean Ethics

(2020) “Aristotle on the Uses of Contemplation” by Matthew D. Walker; Philosophical Review 129 (3): 465-468.