Canadian Journal of Philosophy, in press (pre-published online).
In the fourteenth paragraph of the fifth chapter of Utilitarianism, J. S. Mill writes that ‘We do not call anything wrong, unless we mean to imply that a person ought to be punished in some way or other for doing it; if not by law, by the opinion of his fellow-creatures; if not by opinion, by the reproaches of his own conscience.’ I criticize the attempts of three commentators who have recently presented act-utilitarian readings of Mill – Roger Crisp, David Brink, and Piers Norris Turner – to accommodate this passage.
Environmental Ethics 38:1 (2016), pp. 126-7.
“The Place of Plural Voting in Mill’s Conception of Representative Government”
The Review of Politics 77:3 (2015), pp. 399–423.
Southwest Philosophy Review 31:1 (2015), pp. 157–66
"'Freedom and Resentment' and Consequentialism: Why 'Strawson's Point' is not Really Strawson's Point"
Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 8:2 (2014), pp. 1–22
In The Second-Person Standpoint, Stephen Darwall offers an interpretation of P. F. Strawson’s “Freedom and Resentment” according to which the essay advances the anti-consequentialist thesis that good consequences are the “wrong kind of reason” to justify “practices of punishment and moral responsibility.” Darwall names this thesis “Strawson’s Point.” I argue for a different reading of Strawson, one according to which he does not in fact hold this thesis and, more generally, he is not the unequivocal critic of consequentialism that Darwall makes him out to be. I further contend that Strawson’s account of the reactive attitudes, as he presents it in “Freedom and Resentment” and the later Skepticism and Naturalism, can potentially be a useful resource for consequentialists.
Oxford Handbook of British Philosophy in the Nineteenth Century, ed. William Mander (Oxford University Press, 2014), pp. 365–82
This chapter is (effectively) a précis of my 2010 book J. S. Mill: Moral, Social and Political Thought.
The Philosophical Quarterly 64:254 (2014), pp. 39–59
Bernard Williams charges that the moral psychology built into R M. Hare’s utilitarianism is incoherent in virtue of demanding a bifurcated kind of moral thinking that is possible only for agents who fail to reflect properly on their own practical decision making. I mount a qualified defence of Hare’s view by drawing on the account of the ‘reactive attitudes’ found in P. F. Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’. Against Williams, I argue that the ‘resilience’ of the reactive attitudes ensures that our taking an instrumental view of our dispositions to experience guilt and compunction, as Hare calls for us to do while engaged in ‘critical’ moral thinking, will not prevent us from experiencing these feelings as people ordinarily do while we are thinking ‘intuitively’. I also consider the implications of my argument for consequentialism more generally and (briefly) Kantianism.
Talk presented at the University of Hamburg, 10 July 2013
Utilitas 25:3 (2013), pp. 421-432
In Ideal Code, Real World, Brad Hooker proposes an account of the relation between his rule consequentialism and virtue according to which the virtues (1) have intrinsic value and (2) are identical with the dispositions that are ‘essential parts of accepting the rules’ of the ideal code. While it is not clear whether Hooker actually intends to endorse this account or only intends to moot it for discussion, I argue that for him to adopt it would be a mistake. Not only would this mean that his moral theory was no longer properly a consequentialist view at all, but it would commit him to inconsistent views about how normative theories—in particular theories of morality in the deontic sense and theories of virtue—are justified.
Mill On Justice, ed. Leonard Kahn (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 70–89
John Stuart Mill and the Art of Life, ed. Ben Eggleston, Dale E. Miller, and David Weinstein (Oxford UP, 2011), pp. 94–116
With Ben Eggleston and David Weinstein
John Stuart Mill and the Art of Life, ed. Ben Eggleston, Dale E. Miller, and David Weinstein (Oxford UP, 2011), pp. 3–18
Politics, Philosophy and Economics 9:1 (2010), pp. 47–66
In this article, I argue that the reading of Mill that D.G. Brown presents in "Mill’s Moral Theory: Ongoing Revisionism" is inconsistent with several key passages in Mill’s writings. I also how that a rule-utilitarian interpretation that is very close to the one developed by David Lyons is able to account for these passages without difficulty.
With Ben Eggleston
Southwest Philosophy Review 24:1 (2008), pp. 153–61
The debate over whether Mill is better read as an act or a rule utilitarian began in the 1950s and has continued ever since. We argue that in certain passages in which Mill initially appears to be endorsing the act-utilitarian moral theory, he is really doing something quite different. Insofar as he is endorsing any particular view at all, it is not act utilitarianism—nor is it even a moral theory. Instead, it is a view about how to assess individual actions that informs, but does not translate without modification into, Mill’s rule-utilitarian moral theory.
With Ben Eggleston
Southwest Philosophy Review 23:1 (2007), pp. 39–47
Among the most thoroughly debated interpretive questions about the moral philosophy of John Stuart Mill is whether he should be understood as an act utilitarian or as an ideal-code rule utilitarian. We argue that neither of these interpretations fits the textual evidence as well as does a novel view we call ‘India House utilitarianism’. On this view, an act is right if and only if it is not forbidden by the code of rules the agent is justified in believing to be the one, of those she can reasonably be expected to be aware of, whose general acceptance would produce the most happiness."Mill's Theory of Sanctions"
The Blackwell Guide to Mill's Utilitarianism, ed. Henry R. West (Malden MA: Blackwell, 2006), pp. 159–73
Southwest Philosophy Review 22 (2006), pp. 147–9
Southwest Philosophy Review 20 (2004), pp. 175–7
Ethics Expertise: History, Contemporary Perspectives, and Applications, ed. Lisa Rasmussen (Dordrecht: Springer, 2005), pp. 73–87
"Reparations for Emancipation: Mill's Vindication of the Rights of Slave Owners"
Southern Journal of Philosophy 43:2 (2005), pp. 245–65
Business and Society Review 109:2 (2004), pp. 225–43
Politics, Philosophy and Economics 2:2 (2003), pp. 213-38
Utilitas 16:1 (2003), pp. 96–108
In a recent article in Ethics, Elijah Millgram presents a novel reconstruction of J. S. Mill's ‘proof’ of the principle of utility. Millgram's larger purpose is to critique instrumentalist approaches to practical reasoning. His reading of the proof makes Mill out to be an instrumentalist, and Millgram thinks that the ultimate failure of Mill's argument usefully illustrates an inconsistency inherent in instrumentalism. Yet Millgram's interpretation of the proof does not succeed. Mill is not an instrumentalist. Millgram may be right that instrumentalism is incoherent, but he has chosen the wrong figure to illustrate the point.
Australasian Journal of Philosophy 81:1 (2003), pp. 123–5
Ratio 16:1 (2003), pp. 49–62
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2013 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79:4 (2001), pp. 465–78
"John Stuart Mill’s Civic Liberalism"
History of Political Thought XXI:1 (2000), pp. 88–113
Although it is frequently overlooked, J.S. Mill's political philosophy has a significant civic component; he is a committed believer in the value of active and disinterested participation in public affairs by the citizens of liberal democracies, and he advocates a programme of civic education intended to cultivate public spirit. In the first half of this essay I present a brief but systematic exploration of his thought's civic dimension. In the second half I defend Mill's civic liberalism against various critics who have explicitly or implicitly charged that the civic and liberal components of his political philosophy are inconsistent.
Utilitas 10:1 (1998), pp. 68–81
Mill's discussion of 'the internal sanction' in chapter III of Utilitarianism does not do justice to his understanding of internal sanctions; it omits some important points and obscures others. I offer an account of this portion of his moral psychology of motivation which brings out its subtleties and complexities. I show that he recognizes the importance of internal sanctions as sources of motives to develop and perfect our characters, as well as of motives to do our duty, and I examine in some detail the various ways in which these sanctions give rise to motivating desires and aversions.