Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 in review

Time to summarize the year's work... (Cf. 20112010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, and 2004.)

Professional: It's been a big year, professionally.  I finished my dissertation, started a bioethics postdoc at the University of Pennsylvania (dept of medical ethics) while Helen's been a Bersoff fellow at NYU, and next fall we will both start tenure-track positions in philosophy at BGSU.  (Hooray for solving the two-body problem!)
Articles accepted for publication in 2012 include: (1) 'Fittingness: The Sole Normative Primitive' in Phil Quarterly, which argues that the normative domain is "structured" in an important sense -- while we can flatly evaluate anything for its desirability (value), there are other kinds of normative assessment (e.g. "rightness") that only apply to agential (judgment-sensitive) evaluands like acts, beliefs, and desires.

(2) 'Knowing What Matters' (in a forthcoming OUP volume on Parfit) sets out what I think realists ought to say about moral epistemology. (But I think similar lessons apply to the epistemology of philosophy more broadly.)

(3) A review of Parfit's On What Matters, for the journal Philosophy. (Blogged here.)

(4) Co-authored with Helen: 'Mind-Body Meets Metaethics: A Moral Concept Strategy' in Phil Studies.  This is a fun one, where we basically argue that (cognitivist) metaethical naturalists aren't nearly as sophisticated as their physicalist counterparts in philosophy of mind, and that once we learn from the latter what kind of moves really need to be made to adequately address the strongest conceivability arguments, the prospects for metaethical naturalism look rather more dim.

(Anyone interested in phil mind should also check out Helen's 'Circularity in the Conditional Analysis of Phenomenal Concepts' in Phil Studies.)

Now on to the blog posts...


The Separateness of Persons: Commensurability without Fungibility sets out what I think is a decisive refutation of the traditional 'separateness of persons' / 'value receptacle' objections to consequentialism.  I expand upon this in my paper 'Value Receptacles' [pdf], which I actually think is my best and most important paper, but it's still waiting to be accepted by a journal...

* Competing Claims and Separate Persons explores Michael Otsuka's conception of the separateness of persons as requiring different responses in "non-identity" vs "fixed-identity" cases.

General and Particular Moral Explanations -- and why it's the reasons that feature in the latter that are relevant to the good-willed agent's motivations. (A response to Philip Stratton-Lake's "motive objection" to consequentialism.)

Assessing Decision Procedures: Background sets up the debate about assessing decision procedures.  Action-Guidance and Rational Decision Procedures then argues against the excessively subjective, 'instruction manual' approach of Holly Smith and Fred Feldman, in favour of a more objective standard for rational decision-making. Only the latter, I argue, has any genuine normative significance.

The Strongest Self-Effacingness Objection should be pretty self-explanatory.  My follow-up on Consequentialist Decision Procedures then sets out how I think the objection is best addressed.  These ideas form the core of my paper, 'What's Fit for the Fallible' [pdf]

* When is Significant Self-Sacrifice Obligatory? looks at respects in which even common-sense morality allows for the possibility of very "demanding" situations, and so raises the question of why we shouldn't think that our actual situation (being wealthy in a world that contains preventable poverty and suffering) is one of them.

* Singer's Pond and Quality of Will uses the latter to defuse a common objection to the former.  We may, for contingent psychological reasons, be less blameworthy for failing to donate to effective charities than we would be for letting a child drown before our eyes.  But that's compatible with holding that we have equally strong reasons for action in either case.

Parfit on Aggregation and Iteration - why we shouldn't think that a large harm to one person is more important to prevent than a very great number of smaller harms to different people. (And see the comments thread for a fuller elaboration of the argument.)

Consequences in Time - a straightforward response piece, explaining what's wrong with an argument that consequentialism is incompatible with presentism (and other non-eternalist views about time).

Direct vs. Indirect Beneficiaries argues that Kamm's distinction lacks normative significance -- and that her argument to the contrary rests on a misconception.

* Counterexamples to Consequentialism explains why I don't find the standard "organ-harvesting" type "counterexamples" particularly persuasive (and nor should you).

Ethics as What's Worth Caring About - and how this conception of ethics naturally leads one to (welfarist?) consequentialism.


* Parfit on Philosophical Waste corrects a common misinterpretation of what Parfit means when he says that much of his life's work would be a waste if naturalism turned out to be true.

Information and Necessarily Coextensive Properties argues (against Jackson and Streumer) that we shouldn't think that all necessarily coextensive properties are thereby identical.

Political Philosophy

What if everyone did that? analyses this argument form and its limits, with particular reference to the (ir)rationality of voting.

* Migration and Sustainability argues that we shouldn't prioritize the latter over relieving poverty via the former.

* Immigration and the "right to exclude" questions whether there is any such "right" sufficiently weighty to override the rights of outsiders to escape severe poverty and/or oppression.

* Individual vs. Political Feasibility explains what's wrong with the thought that "there's something odd about philanthropists like Warren Buffett calling for higher taxes when their own philanthropic efforts are instead directed towards funding non-governmental organizations."

Bioethics - Resource Allocation

Lives Can't be Saved argues against the (distressingly common) practice of treating person-numbers "saved" as an independent goal, over and above the more general utilitarian goal of extending (happy) lives by as many years as possible.

QALYs, DALYs, and Complete Lives argues, against Persad et al., that some (generally: younger) years of life are more important than others.

Fine-Grained vs. Indiscriminate Allocation argues for the former over the latter.

Treatment, Prevention, and Bad Bioethics offers a fairly scathing review of Macklin and Cowan's paper, 'Given financial constraints, it would be unethical to divert antiretroviral drugs from treatment to prevention'.

Catering to Mistaken Morals - If folks commonly believe in the "rule of rescue" (a bias in favour of "identifiable" over "statistical" victims), is that a reason to follow it?

Weight Discrimination in Drug Rationing - and why it isn't as bad as it sounds.


The Value of Defiance explores just what the title suggests.  This is something I remain unsure about, and would love to hear others' thoughts.

* The Value of Life suggests that our opposition to anti-natalism (the view that procreation is bad) is better grounded by substantive moral premises about the positive value of (happy) life, rather than purely formal arguments.

* Confucian Moral Psychology introduces some interesting ideas from... well, you know.

Unreliable Philosophy? addresses Jason Brennan's challenge, that "[w]idespread disagreement shows that pursuing philosophy is not a reliable method of discovering true answers to philosophical questions."

Effective Giving - on how to get the most bang for our charitable buck.

Happy new year!

1 comment:

  1. I have just happened upon this post and want to say congratulations to you and your wife, both on snagging positions at BGSU and on the publications. I have occasionally read blog posts here but it occurs to me that I should do so more often.


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