Adventures in the History of Philosophy

Here are some of the papers I've written in the history of philosophy and other assorted philosophical topics. You can view them through Google docs at your leisure or you can send me an email if you want a .pdf copy. Comments are welcome on any, as none have been published anywhere and therefore must be terrible. Also their fate as unpublished may be partially attributable to the fact that they haven't been submitted anywhere. These are not mutually exclusive.

Voluntariness and Character in Aristotle's Ethics
Fall 2011. Some have interpreted Aristotle's account of voluntariness in his two ethical works (NE and EE) to be an account of moral responsibility. I argue here that instead of thinking of Aristotle as concerned with responsibility, what the account voluntariness shows is his concern with moral character.
Supererogation and Kantian Moral Theory
Spring 2010. A moral theory that cannot account for an entire category of moral agent or action is flawed, in my view. Here I argue that a deontological ethical system, at least one based closely on Kant's concept of duty as the ground of moral evaluation, cannot account for the class of actions that are good but not required.
Natural Beliefs and Natural Norms in Hume's First Enquiry
Winter 2010. I argue that Hume has the skeleton of a naturalistic account of epistemic normativity, which you may find surprising if one of the things you know about Hume is that he held tight to the "is-ought" distinction. Hume shows that you can get a kind of ought from an is; it just doesn't take the form of a traditional justified true belief account of normative epistemology.
Substance and Predication in the Categories and Metaphysics ZHΘ
Spring 2009. Here I argue that though Aristotle developed his views on predication from the writing of the Categories to the later (and weirder) Metaphysics, that there is a plausible interpretation of the two works that renders them compatible, even if different.
Substance and Real Constitution in Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding
Spring 2009. In the history of metaphysics Locke is a significant figure in my estimation, even if he is normally read as more of a forerunner to modern empiricist epistemology. He is one of the first philosophers to recognize the vacuousness of the idea of "substance" and replaces that scholastic notion with the idea that an object's properties are determined by the arrangement of its parts rather than by the inherence of some quasi-mystical substantial form. He represents a big leap forward in terms of detheologizing the field of metaphysics.
The Account of Universals in Boethius’ Commentary on Porphyry’s Isagoge
Spring 2009. Boethius' formulation of the problem of universals provided the groundwork for the problem as taken up later in the Middle Ages. He offers his own interesting but ultimately flawed solution derived from the early metaphysics and psychology of perception of Aristotle. You probably don't want to read this paper.
Norms Without Values: A Sketch of Epistemic Pragmatism
Spring 2007. Quine proposed that epistemology “settle for psychology” and dump the attempt to provide a normative evaluation of our belief practices. Philip Kitcher has argued that epistemic normativity can be based on the existence of uniquely cognitive values; I argue that his account is unsatisfying. I will argue that a pragmatic or instrumental approach like the one outlined by Stephen Stich, supplemented by cost-benefit analysis and an account of the social dimension of knowledge, is sufficient for normative evaluation of epistemic practice without invoking separate cognitive values.
The Role of Parsimony in Biological Theory Evaluation
Winter 2007. A foray into something I know almost nothing about. But I argue here that attempts by Sober and Plutynski to interpret the appeals to parsimony in evolutionary biology in terms of Bayesian probability judgments misses the point. I argue that all of the examples they claim to have found that support their interpretation are better understood as good old-fashioned appeals to Occam's Razor. So there.

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