Selected Abstracts of Articles and Books
“Unwarranted Torture Warrants: A Critique of the Dershowitz Proposal” Journal of Social Philosophy, Volume XXXIX Number 2, Summer 2008
My aim in the current article is to demonstrate that Dershowitz’s either/or, resting as it does on a claim about the efficacy of torture warrants, faces several (perhaps lethal) lines of objections. After demonstrating that using torture warrants (on the basis of their supposed ability to reduce instances of torture) is unwarranted, I turn my attention (albeit briefly) to what I regard as a rather strange tension in Dershowitz’s work between the need for debate in a healthy democracy, on the one hand, and his rather undemocratic argument that torture warrants are required if torture is inevitable, on the other.
"When the Dead Do Not Consent: A Defense of Non-Consensual Organ Use" Public Affairs Quarterly Volume 22, Number 3, July 2008 289
The current policy of the American Medical Association regarding the use of organs from the recently deceased is to act only when 1) the deceased is known to have no objections to the use of his or her organs, and 2) no member of the immediate family, upon consultation, vetoes the use of the deceased’s organs. This policy has been called the ‘double veto’:1 either the deceased’s wishes concerning his or her remains, or the wishes of the family members surviving the deceased, is suffi cient to stop the procurement of organs from the deceased. If either party vetoes the decision to use the deceased’s organs for transplant, the procurement, as a matter of policy, will not take place. I argue that this policy ought to be abandoned. I will not, however, argue that the autonomy of the patient should trump all else. Rather, I will argue that there is suffi cient reason to take, without consent on the part of the deceased, to take the deceased’s organs. As I hope to show, this position is entirely compatible with the view that we have a prima facie obligation to respect the wishes of the deceased.
"It’s About Time: Defusing the Ticking Bomb Argument" International Journal of Applied Philosophy 22:1.
The most common argument in favor of torture in the current literature is the ticking bomb argument. It asks us to imagine a case where only torture can prevent the detonation of a bomb that will kill millions. In this paper, I argue that the seeming effectiveness of this argument rests on two things: 1) the underdetermined semantic content of the term ‘torture,’ and 2) a philosophical attitude that regards the empirical facts about torture as irrelevant. Once we pay attention to the facts about torture, and particularly about the role time plays in actual torture, the ticking bomb argument becomes incoherent, and hence cannot provide a basis for accepting torture.
“Failures of Sight: An Argument for Moral Perception” J. Jeremy Wisnewski and Henry Jacoby. American Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 44, Number 3 July 2007
We will provide an argument aimed at establishing that appeal to moral perception is necessary to account for specific instances of moral failure. Following this, it will be argued that this notion must be distinguished from the idea of moral judgment. A suggestion about how a discussion of moral perception might advance the debate when considering issues like factory farming, same-sex marriage, and torture is considered. Finally, we claim that moral perception remains agnostic on the question of moral properties.
“Expressibility and Truthmaker Maximalism: A Problem” Journal of Analytic Philosophy, Volume XIV, 2007
Advocates of truthmaker theory (like David Armstrong) regularly postulate both maximalism (that every truth has a truthmaker) and expressibility (that any truth can be expressed in a preposition). My aim in this paper is to demonstrate that these two theses are inconsistent, and hence that we must abandon one of them if we are to preserve truthmaker theory.
“Murder, Cannibalism, and Indirect Suicide: A Philosophical Study of a Recent Case,” Philosophy in the Contemporary World, Winter, 2007.
Recently, a man in Germany was put on trial for killing and consuming another German man. Disgust at this incident was exacerbated when the accused explained that he had placed an advertisement on the internet for someone to be slaughtered and eaten—and that his ‘victim’ had answered this advertisement. In this paper, I will argue that this disturbing case should not be seen as morally problematic. I will defend this view by arguing that 1) the so-called ‘victim’ of this cannibalization is not in fact a victim of murder, and that 2) there is nothing wrong with cannibalism.
“The Relevance of Rules to a Critical Social Science,” Philosophy of the Social Sciences, Volume 35, No. 4, 2005.
My aim in this paper is to argue for a conception of critical social science based on the model of constitutive rules. I argue that this model is pragmatically superior to those models which employ notions like ‘illusion’ and ‘ideology,’ as it does not demand a specification of the ‘real (but hidden) interests’ of social actors.
“Is the Immortal Life Worth Living?” International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, Volume 58, Number 1, 2005.
In this paper, I consider Bernard Williams’ view that an immortal life would be unlivable for human agents. Despite escaping some objections made by J.M. Fischer, I argue, Williams’ view does not stand up to criticism. Williams fails to acknowledge that there might be an infinite number of ways to fulfill categorical desires. Given this possibility, an infinite amount of time will not necessarily result in fatal boredom. Thus, it is conceivable that an immortal life would in fact be one worth living.
“Rules and Realism: Remarks on the Poverty of Brute Facts,” Sorites, Vol. 16, 2005.
In this paper, I offer a critical reconstruction of John Searle’s argument for what he calls ‘External Realism.’ I argue that Searle’s thesis is in fact ambiguous, and hence that it cannot establish the existence of brute entities (even if it can establish that we must presuppose an external world). I further argue that, once properly understood, constitutive rules can be shown to be prior to, rather than dependent on, what Searle calls ‘brute facts’—and hence that Searle’s analysis reverses the order of priority between rules and brute facts.
“A Defense of Cannibalism,” Public Affairs Quarterly, 18:3, July, 2004.
In this paper, I examine the moral intuition that cannibalism is morally impermissible. I consider seven arguments one might use to justify the cannibalism prohibition, and demonstrate that each of these arguments fails.
“An Antirealist Essentialism?” Philosophical Writings, Issue 23, Summer, 2003.
In this paper I present a view called ‘antirealist essentialism.’ I arrive at this position by offering a philosophical reconstruction of Kripke’s arguments in Naming and Necessity, showing that Kripke’s position is based on articulating the logic of natural kind terms, and that this position is compatible with standard antirealist views concerning discursive practices (such as the one exemplified by Foucault).
“Five Forms of Philosophical Therapy,” Philosophy Today, Volume 43, Issue 1, Spring, 2003.
This paper articulates five distinct versions of the view that philosophy is a form of therapy. By a careful consideration of these divergent models of philosophy, I argue that there is no overlapping view that adequately captures what we call ‘philosophy as therapy.’ Following this, I argue that this is no objection to the locution.
“Revolutions without Reasons: Foucault’s Ironic Ethics,” premiere issue, Review Journal of Political Philosophy, Volume 1, No. 1, 2003.
My aim in this paper is to examine Foucaultian ethics. My point of departure is Christopher Falzon’s Foucault and Social Dialogue. It is my contention that Falzon has (perhaps advertently) re-inscribed some of the ontological features of a Marxist picture of human agency into the fabric of the Foucaultian subject. By presenting what seem to be metaphysical arguments for our existence in the social, Falzon has presented a view of the Foucaultian subject commensurate with Marxist critical theory. I argue that Falzon’s approach to Foucault is fundamentally misguided, but that we need not dismiss Falzon’s portrait, even though it commits us to stronger ontological views than Foucault himself might have endorsed. On the contrary, when we take Foucault’s ironism seriously (if that is possible), we are entitled to do with Foucault’s texts what we will. In this light, situating the Foucaultian subject in the idiom of critical theory might be our best bet when considering political and ethical questions arising in the Foucaultian corpus.
“Assertions, Clarifications, and Recommendations: Theories of Agency in a Wittgensteinian Key,” American Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 39, Number 2, April 2002.
In this paper, I present an argument for the view that theories of human agency should be approached as a fundamentally moral enterprise. The reason for this lies in the fact that human agents are partially constituted by their understanding of themselves, and that this understanding can be shaped by theoretical reflection.
“Foucault and Public Autonomy,” Continental Philosophy Review (formerly Man and World), Vol. 33, No. 4, October 2000.
In this paper I argue that the social constructionist view found in Foucault’s
work does not condemn one to a deterministic portrait of the ‘self.’ Attention to the early and late writings allows one to articulate a weak notion of autonomy even under the heavy-handed descriptions found in Foucault’s early work. By recognizing autonomy as a public task, and not as a notion of freedom relegated to particular individuals, one is entitled to view autonomy as present in Foucault’s work - and not merely in those writings dedicated to the `techniques of the self.` Far from emphasizing practices of freedom, I demonstrate that we need not always think of autonomy as contained in necessary resistance. It is this that permits reading autonomy as a product of social construction, and not an objection to it.