My Research


I'm now working on a book-length defence of desire-as-belief, under contract with Oxford University Press. I have a draft: Email me if you'd like to see the most recent version.

Published Papers

"Why do desires rationalize actions?"

2018, in Ergo 5:40. (PDF)
I begin the paper by outlining one classic argument for the guise of the good: that we must think that desires represent their objects favourably in order to explain why they can make actions rational (Quinn 1995; Stampe 1987). But what exactly is the conclusion of this argument? Many have recently formulated the guise of the good as the view that desires are akin to perceptual appearances of the good (Stampe 1987; Oddie 2005; Tenenbaum 2007). But I argue that this view fails to capitalize on the above argument, and that the argument is better understood as favouring a view on which desires are belief-like states. I finish by addressing some countervailing claims made by Avery Archer (2016).

"How Verbal Reports of Desire May Mislead"

2017, in Thought 6:4 pp.241-249. (PDF)
Ascriptions of desire can be misleading: "I don't want P" can mean "I fail to want P" or "I want not P". And sometimes desires are too obvious to be worth mentioning. I show how these two phenomena have led people to make mistakes, especially in rejecting the claim that all motivation requires desire, and in their estimations of how much divergence there is between desire and normative judgement.

"Are All Normative Judgements Desire-like?"

2017, in The Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 12:1 pp.29-55. (PDF)
Normative judgements play a distinctive motivational role. This might seem like a reason to adopt non-cognitivism. But non-cognitivism is committed to the implausible claim that other-regarding (and logically non-atomic) normative judgements are desires. Desire-as-belief explains the motivational role of first-personal (atomic) normative judgements without implausibly entailing that all normative judgements play a similar motivational role.

"Might Desires Be Beliefs About Normative Reasons For Action?"

2017, in Deonna, J. and Lauria, F. (eds) The Nature of Desire. OUP pp.201-217 (PDF).
I defend the view that desires just are beliefs about reasons for action from some of the most common objections. I consider objections from the notion of direction of fit, the existence of appetites, weakness of will, and addiction. I also object to nearby views that treat desires as more like perceptual states.

"Reasons as Good Bases"

2016, in Philosophical Studies 173:9 pp.2291–2310 (PDF)
I offer a new theory of normative reasons: they are good instances of motivating reasons ("bases"). Just as many functional items can be evaluated by thinking about how good they are as members of their kind, I suggest that a good reason to do something just is a motivating reason to do it that is a good instance of its kind. This theory has various interesting implications. This paper is a kind of follow-up to the paper on buck passing, below.

"A Very Good Reason To Reject The Buck Passing Account"

2014, in The Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92:2 pp.287-303 (PDF)
The buck passing account analyses values (goodness) in terms of reasons. But reasons can be better or worse than one another - indeed, this is the normal way we pick out normative reasons, as good reasons. That suggests that the buck passing account implicitly appeals to the very thing it is trying to explain. Perhaps the main complication for this argument is the distinction between predicative and attributive value: I argue that buck passers should be buck passers about both. I then sketch the theory of reasons that I defend in the paper above.

"The Guise of Reasons"

2013, in American Philosophical Quarterly 50:1 pp.63-72 (PDF)
The guise of the good says that desires somehow represent goodness. The guise of reasons says that they represent normative reasons. These theories are very similar in that both say that desires are representational, and that they represent normative properties. But the difference between them might nonetheless be significant. I show that it is and that the latter view is superior. This is independently interesting but also shows how sympathisers of this general kind of view can avoid some standard objections.

"Changing Direction On Direction of Fit"

2012, in Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15:5 pp.603-614 (PDF)
I argue against Smith and Humberstone's analyses of the direction of fit metaphor. Instead, I argue for a normative interpretation of the metaphor, on which beliefs ought to fit the world, and the world ought to fit our desires. Making these claims more precise and plausible occupies much of the paper.

Handbook/Encyclopedia entries