Broadly speaking, I work on three topics: Promises & Agreements; The Nature of Rights; and Sexual Ethics. Here are my publications. The titles below sometimes link to either the PhilPapers page associated with the paper or, in the case of forthcoming papers, to penultimate drafts.
1. “The Problem with Sexual Promises” Ethics, forthcoming
Sexual content does not cause a promise to misfire. I argue instead that sexual promises are problematic because of the role and responsibilities of the promisees – those to whom the promises are made. I distinguish between positive and negative sexual promises (i.e. promises to engage in sexual activity vs promises not to engage in sexual activity) and argue that both types of sexual promise are problematic for the same reason.
2. “Two Ways to Transfer a Bodily Right” Journal of Moral Philosophy, Forthcoming
One might transfer a bodily right in a detaching way – that is, without transferring jurisdiction over one’s future bodily choices to another. Alternately, one might transfer a bodily right in an attaching way – that is, in a way that transfers such jurisdiction. In this paper I argue that the distinction between attaching and detaching transfers of bodily rights has a variety of implications for popular debates in moral and political philosophy regarding controversial markets and whether certain contracts and agreements should be legally enforced. In particular, I argue that in cases of attaching transfers of bodily rights, the libertarian or free market advocate cannot complain that a state refusing to enforce a contract is interfering with individuals’ rights.
3. “Promises and the Backward Reach of Uptake” American Philosophical Quarterly, forthcoming
I present a set of cases that pose problems for existing theories of promissory uptake. These cases involve (i) a delayed receipt and/or acceptance of a promise, though the obligation arises before the receipt or acceptance has taken place; (ii) a delay or absence of agency on the part of the promisee – making it impossible to satisfy the various suggested uptake criteria, though promissory obligation is nonetheless generated; (iii) the promise is made to someone, de dicto – that is, the person who will be the promisee has not yet been filled in at the time when the obligation begins. I identify clues within each theory of promising to determine the temporal and agency-related boundaries on promissory obligation. I then introduce: the backward reach of uptake.
4, “Promissory Obligation: Against a Unified Account” Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics. Edited by Mark Timmons, forthcoming.
What sort of moral obligation is promissory obligation? Philosophers have produced a variety of accounts of the normative relationship between a promise-maker and a promisee. So far, all have pursued unified theories – accounts that attempt to explain all instances of promissory obligation. I argue against the unification endeavor. I provide an argument for the view that there is no single type of moral obligation that arises from successful promises and that can accurately be described as promissory obligation.
5. “Promises, Release, and Exploitation: How you should not get off the hook” Spindel supplement to the Southern Journal of Philosophy, forthcoming
I argue that promissory release-seeking can be wrongful exploitation – even though the promisee has viable alternatives to releasing the promisor from the promise, and even though the promisee is voluntarily releasing the promisor from the promise. I offer two methods by which someone can unfairly take advantage of the promisee’s vulnerability that count as wrongfully exploitative. I then argue that these scenarios of exploitative release-seeking pose interesting puzzles for a variety of accounts of promissory obligation.
6. “Intention and Sexual Consent” in Philosophical Explorations, Special Issue edited by Matthew Smith and Ulrike Heuer, forthcoming
Two philosophers have recently made strong cases for the power of misinformation or lack of information to undermine consent. Both implement the link between intentions and consent in order to describe the mechanism by which misinformation or lack of information undermines consent. One of these is Tom Dougherty in his paper, “Sex, Lies, and Consent,” in which he argues that any person deceived about one of his “deal-breakers” related to a sexual encounter has not given morally valid consent to that encounter. Another such argument is by David Boonin – an argument he gives in his A Defense of Abortion, wherein he explains why it cannot be the case that a pregnant woman gives tacit consent to the fetus’ use of her body. I argue that there are cases in which agents intend to consent to gambles, and intend to consent to have sex with people under certain descriptions, de re, rather than de dicto. I believe that these are cases that serve as counterexamples for the theories at hand.
Mark Rowlands gives a compelling argument that, if John Rawls’s contractarianism is consistently applied, and Rawls’ premises fully explained, then we have powerful reasons to believe that representatives behind the Veil of Ignorance should be blind to species membership in the same way that they are blind to economic status and natural talent.I argue that even if we suppose this to be correct, these agents would not choose the two principles of justice, but instead ones that more closely resemble Utilitarian principles.
8. “Evil, Wrongdoing, and Concept-Distinctness” with Fred Harrington Philosophical Studies, forthcoming
Philosophers theorizing about ‘evil’ usually distinguish evil actions from acts of ordinary wrongdoing. They either attempt to isolate some quality or set of qualities shared by all evil actions that is not found in other wrongful actions, or they concede that their account of evil is only distinguished by capturing the very worst acts on the scale of moral wrongness. The idea that evil is qualitatively distinct from wrongdoing has recently been under contention. We explore the grounds for this contention, and argue that there is a third option that might be useful for a variety of philosophical accounts of evil. Our broader philosophical point, that conceptual distinctions need not be limited to either purely quantitative or purely qualitative distinctions, is embedded and illustrated throughout the paper.
9. “Review of Buchanan, Allen. The Heart of Human Rights. Oxford: Oxford University Press: 2013.” Ethics. July 2015 (Vol. 125, No. 4).
In this book review I critique one of Buchanan’s arguments against the “mirroring” view in human rights – the view that human rights ought to correspond to moral rights.
10. “Exploitation and the Vulnerability Clause” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, Special Issue from the British Society of Ethical Theory Meeting, Vol.17: 4 (2014).
What conditions of vulnerability must an individual face in order that we might ever correctly say that she or he has been wrongfully exploited? Mikhail Valdman has recently argued that wrongful exploitation is the extraction of excessive benefits from someone who cannot reasonably refuse one’s offer. So, ‘being unable to reasonably refuse an offer’ is Valdman’s answer to this question. I will argue that this answer is too narrow, but that other competing answers, like Alan Wertheimer’s, are too broad. I propose a new answer, a “vulnerability clause” to partially comprise a theory of wrongful exploitation. In so doing, I appeal to Marilyn Frye’s account of oppression and take guidance from her inclusion and exclusion criteria.
11. “The Exploitation Solution to the Non-Identity Problem” Philosophical Studies, Selected Papers from the 2013 Bellingham Summer Philosophy Conference, Vol. 167, Issue 1 (2014).
When discussing exploitation, we often say things like this, “sweatshop laborers have terrible working conditions and are paid almost nothing, but they are better off with that labor than with no labor.’’ Similarly, in describing the Non-Identity Problem, Derek Parfit points out: we cannot say that the individuals born in future generations are worse off because of our destructive environmental policies because the particular people living in those future generations wouldn’t even exist if it were not for these destructive policies. How can we explain these cases, exploitation and environmental destruction, as ones of wrongdoing when the victims in both cases are no worse off than they would have otherwise been? This paper investigates the link between these two moral puzzles and ultimately uses one to solve the other: an exploitation solution to the Non-Identity Problem.
12. “The Moral Specification of Rights: A Restricted Account” Law and Philosophy, Vol. 33: 2, (2014).
I begin by summarizing and critiquing the debate between two views: Moral Specificationism about rights and Moral Generalism about rights. I then show how the conceptual framework that Wesley Hohfeld uses to describe legal rights can also clarify the discussion of moral rights, in general, and of moral specification, in particular. Drawing upon Hohfeld’s framework, I argue for the Restricted Account of the moral specification of rights, which stakes out a middle-ground between the view that all justified exceptions are built into the description of rights and the view that no exceptions are built in. According to the Restricted Account, if and only if the justification for an exception is the same as the justification for rights within the broader ethical theory, then the exception is specified in the right. The Restricted Account is compatible with a wide variety of theories of the function of rights.
13. “Noxious Markets vs Noxious Gift Relationships” Social Theory and Practice, Vol. 39: 2 (2013)
I argue that women in traditional marriages are a vulnerable source for kidneys and this vulnerability gives rise to exploitative donation arrangements made within families. In so doing, I critique Alan Wertheimer’s account of the impact that emotional closeness between participants in an agreement has on the wrongfulness of exploitation. I propose a regulated market scheme that is not only less exploitative than our current donation scheme, but also resolves a variety of other moral problems that typically arise in real and imagined kidney sale scenarios, problems that render markets “noxious,” according to Debra Satz.
Julia Driver has argued that there is a special set of actions, lodged between neutral actions and wrongful actions called suberogatory actions. These actions are not impermissible, according to Driver, but still strike us as troubling or bad, and are therefore worse than morally neutral. Driver’s argument for the existence of this moral territory amounts to three types of moral cases that, according to Driver, can only be explained by the existence of the suberogatory. In this short paper, I respond by saying that we can account for these cases using our traditional notions of moral neutrality and moral wrongness.
15. “The Ethics of Polyamorous Marriage” in The Ethics of the Family, Stephen Scales, Linda Oravecz, Adam Potthast (eds.), Cambridge Scholars Publishing. (2010)
I argue that there are moral risks in polyamorous relationships that sometimes go unnoticed by those who defend them. In particular, I explain Susan Okin’s argument for why women are vulnerable in traditional marriages. I suggest that men might be vulnerable in polyamorous marriages. I appeal to empirical data suggesting that men and women might have different access to extramarital relationships, and that this might generate a difference in exit power.
16. “On the Costly Compromises of Research Relationships” The American Journal of Bioethics, July, Volume 10, Number 7 (2010).
In this very short commentary I respond to the view that research restrictions on romantic relationships between researcher and subject should not apply to non-medical research.
17. “Normalizing Prostitution vs Normalizing the Alienation of Sexual Rights: A response to Scott A. Anderson” Ethics Vol. 120 (2009)
Scott A. Anderson has defended the radical feminist position by arguing that the legalization and normalization of prostitution actually reduces sexual autonomy, a specific type of autonomy on which we all place a special value. I contest Anderson’s position by arguing that there are two types of prostitution, sexual-rights-alienating prostitution and sexual-rights-preserving prostitution, and Anderson’s argument only applies to the former.
Completed, Invited Volume Contributions, Pending Final Review
18. “Sweatshops, Sex, and Survival: Exploitation and the nature of consent” pending final review of volume, Exploitation, edited by Matt Zwolinski, under contract at Oxford University Press
I begin this paper by investigating whether agreements are ever non-consensual in virtue of being exploitative. In so doing, I use cases of sexual consent and sexual exploitation because recent literature in this area has been helpful for uncovering how other manipulative strategies, like coercion, might undermine consent. I will argue that exploitation does not itself undermine consent, but that it often piggy-backs on things that do undermine consent. When the rights-waiving that is undermined through coercion is the same right that is being exercised in an exploitative agreement, then the exploitative agreement is not consensual. This holds for sexual exploitation as well as exploitation in other labor markets (e.g. sweatshop labor).
19. “Chemical Castration and the Violation of Sexual Rights” pending final review of volume, Treatment for Punishment ed. David Birks, under contract at Oxford University Press
This paper provides a philosophical analysis of the use of chemical castration as a treatment or punishment for aggravated sexual crimes. However, the analysis is limited in scope. I will simply be attempting to answer the question: Is the use of chemical castration on perpetrators of aggravated sexual crimes a violation of their moral rights?
“Dominating Speech” Guest editor of special issue of Social Theory and Practice. Forthcoming, 2016.
20. My Introduction