Book (In Progress)

How Moral Progress Happens

How do societies improve morally? To answer this question, I make a case study of the abolition of slavery in the United States, the most significant instance of moral progress in our history.

Understanding how this happened is not merely of empirical interest; if we can understand how abolitionists were able to change hearts and minds, then we can use some of those same strategies to make moral progress today.

This has ramifications for a number of topics in moral epistemology: the nature of ideology, epistemologies of ignorance, and how to combat testimonial injustice.


"Biological Explanations of Social Inequalities." Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. Vol. 103, No. 4. (December 2022), pp. 694-719.

Inequalities of social goods between gender, racial, or other groups call out for explanation. Such inequalities might be explained by socialization and discrimination. But historically some have attributed these inequalities to biological differences between social groups. Such explanations are highly controversial: on the one hand, they have a very troubling racist and sexist history; but on the other hand, they are empirical claims, and so it seems inappropriate to rule them out a priori. I propose that the appropriate epistemic attitude toward biological explanations of social inequalities is a general but defeasible skepticism. I then turn to the appropriate moral attitude, arguing that when such explanations are inadequately supported, they are offensive.

A shorter, more accessible version of the article which can be assigned to students is on my Public Philosophy page.

"The Deep Error of Political Libertarianism: Self-Ownership, Choice, and What's Really Valuable In Life." Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy. Vol. 23, No. 6 (2020), pp. 683-705.

Contemporary versions of natural rights libertarianism trace their locus classicus to Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. But although there have been many criticisms of the version of political libertarianism put forward by Nozick, many of these objections fail to meet basic methodological desiderata. Thus, Nozick’s libertarianism deserves to be re-examined. In this paper I develop a new argument which meets these desiderata. Specifically, I argue that the libertarian conception of self-ownership, the view’s foundation, implies what I call the Asymmetrical Value Claim: a dubious claim about the importance of choice relative to other valuable capacities. I argue that this misunderstands what is really valuable in life, and show how it causes libertarianism to generate counterintuitive public policy recommendations.

A shorter, more accessible version of the article which can be assigned to students is on my Public Philosophy page.

"The Study of Moral Revolutions as Naturalized Moral Epistemology." Feminist Philosophical Quarterly. Vol. 5, No. 2 (2019).

I argue for the merits of studying historical moral revolutions to inform moral and political philosophy. Such a research program is not merely of empirical, historical interest but has normative implications. To explain why, I situate the proposal in the tradition of naturalized epistemology. As Alison M. Jaggar and other scholars have argued, a naturalistic approach is characteristic of much feminist philosophy. Accordingly, I argue that the study of moral revolutions would be especially fruitful for feminist moral and political philosophers.

"The Experience Machine Objection to Desire Satisfactionism." Co-authored with Joseph Stenberg. Journal of the American Philosophical Association. Vol. 3, No. 2 (Summer 2017), pp. 247-263.

It is widely held that the Experience Machine is the basis of a serious objection to Hedonistic theories of welfare. It is also widely held that Desire Satisfactionist theories of welfare can readily avoid problems stemming from the Experience Machine. But in this paper, we argue that if the Experience Machine poses a serious problem for Hedonism, it also poses a serious problem for Desire Satisfactionism. We raise two objections to Desire Satisfactionism, each of which relies on the Experience Machine. The first is very much like the well-known Experience Machine objection to Hedonism. The second asks whether someone who accepts Desire Satisfactionism should want to form a desire to plug into the Experience Machine.

Book Review

Review of A Colony in a Nation by Chris Hayes . Ethnic and Racial Studies. Vol. 41, No. 8 (2018), pp. 1513-1515.

For my publication on pedagogy, please see my page on Teaching.

For my writing for a general audience, please see my page on Public Philosophy.

For a list of my talks at conferences, please see my CV.