“On Enforcing Unjust Laws in a Just Society," Philosophical Quarterly 68/273 (2019): 758-778. 

Prepint | Publication

Abstract: Legitimate political institutions sometimes produce clearly unjust laws. It is widely recognized, especially in the context of war, that agents of the state may not enforce political decisions that are very seriously unjust or are the decisions of illegitimate governments. But may agents of legitimate states enforce unjust, but not massively unjust, laws? In this paper I respond to three defenses of the view that it is permissible to enforce these unjust laws. Analogues of the Walzerian argument from patriotism, the Vitorian epistemic argument, and the proceduralist argument found in Rawls, Estlund, and others fail to show that law enforcement is usually permitted to enforce unjust laws. Finally, I develop a proceduralist argument for the thesis that law enforcement is permitted to disregard unjust laws. I conclude by considering objections concerning the problem of optimizing society for justice and the problem of law enforcement agents with deplorable moral beliefs.    

“Biological Ties and Biological Accounts of Moral Status," Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 44/3 (2019): 355-77.

Publication

Abstract: Speciesist or biological accounts of moral status can be defended by showing that all members of Homo sapiens have a moral status conferring intrinsic or relational property. In this paper I argue that the most promising defense locates the moral status conferring property in the property of being biologically tied to other humans. This requires that biological ties ground moral obligations. I consider and reject the best defenses of that premise. Thus, we are left with compelling evidence that biological ties and membership in a biological category like ‘species’ ground neither moral obligations nor moral status. Because it is crucial to account for the moral significance of family bonds, I conclude by describing the sense in which biological ties matter morally. 

“The Special Moral Obligations of Law Enforcement," Journal of Political Philosophy 25/2 (2017): 218-37. 

Publication

Abstract: Recent controversial cases of killings by police have generated competing Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements. Blue Lives Matter proponents claim that the focus on and protests in light of police killings of unarmed black persons is unwarranted. Part of this dispute turns on the moral evaluation of the killing of citizens by law enforcement. To address the dispute, I develop an account of the special moral obligations of law enforcement and show how it can be applied. I argue that members of law enforcement have special moral obligations against killing citizens. The account generates moral guidance for law enforcement in a number of other ways. It implies, finally, that the Blue Lives Matter proponents fundamentally misunderstand the ethics of law enforcement.

“Killing in Self-Defense and the Case for Biocentric Individualism," Environmental Values 27/2 (2018): 119-36.

Preprint | Publication

Abstract: The primary method for defending biocentric individualism—a prominent theory of the moral value of organisms—is to appeal to the fact that certain things are good for or  bad for living creatures, even if they are not sentient. This defense is typically and frequently met with the objection that we can determine what is good for some living creature without thereby having any moral reason or obligation to promote or avoid undermining it. In this  paper I show how a theory of the morality of defensive violence undermines this objection.

“Epistemic Closure in Folk Epistemology,” (with James Beebe) in Joshua Knobe, Tania Lombrozo, and Shaun Nichols (eds.), Oxford Studies in Experimental Epistemology. (2018). New York: Oxford University Press.

Preprint

 Abstract: We report the results of four empirical studies designed to investigate the extent to which an epistemic closure principle for knowledge is reflected in folk epistemology. Previous work by Turri (2015a) suggested that our shared epistemic practices may only include a source-relative closure principle--one that applies to perceptual beliefs but not to inferential beliefs. We argue that the results of our studies provide reason for thinking that individuals are making a  performance error when their knowledge attributions and denials conflict with the closure principle. When we used research materials that overcome what we think are difficulties with Turri’s original materials, we found that participants did not reject closure. Furthermore, when we presented Turri’s original materials to non- philosophers with expertise in deductive reasoning (viz., professional mathematicians), they endorsed closure for both perceptual and inferential beliefs. Our results suggest that an unrestricted closure principle—one that applies to all  beliefs, regardless of their source—provides a better model of folk patterns of knowledge attribution than a source-relative closure principle.