Papers

A stronger doctrine of double effect
Many believe that intended harms are more difficult to justify than harms which result as a foreseen side effect of one's conduct. We describe cases of harming in which the harm is not intended, yet the harmful act nevertheless runs afoul of the intuitive moral constraint which governs intended harms. We note that these cases provide new and improved counterexamples to the so-called Simple View, according to which intentionally A-ing requires intending to A. We then give a new theory of the moral relevance of intention. This theory yields the traditional constraint on intending harm as a special case, along with several stronger demands.

coauthored with Ben Bronner

forthcoming in Australasian Journal of Philosophy

Triviality results for probabilistic modals
In recent years, a number of theorists have claimed that beliefs about probability are transparent. To believe probably p is simply to have a high credence that p. These same theorists have also defended non-factualist theories of probabilistic modals. On this view, probabilistic sentences do not express propositions; rather, they are semantically associated with sets of probability functions. But what exactly is the connection between transparency and nonfactualism? In this paper, I prove a triviality result for probabilistic modals. If these modals satisfy transparency, then they cannot express propositions: they must be nonfactual. However, there is a problem for nonfactualism. I formulate another version of transparency as a principle governing the logic of the probabilistic modal n% likely. I then prove some impossibility results, showing that this second transparency thesis is incompatible with n% likely obeying the probability calculus.

forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research | penultimate version

Believing epistemic contradictions
What is it to believe something might be the case? We raise a challenge for standard answers to this question. We begin by developing a new puzzle involving belief, epistemic modals, and certainty. After showing that standard treatments of beliefs involving epistemic modals fail to resolve our puzzle, we propose our own solution, which integrates a Bayesian approach to belief with a dynamic semantics for epistemic modals. We go on to investigate a surprising consequence of our solution to the puzzle: virtually all of our beliefs about what might be the case provide counterexamples to the view that rational belief is closed under logical implication.

coauthored with Bob Beddor

The Review of Symbolic Logic 2017 | penultimate version

A preface paradox for intention

In this paper I argue that there is a preface paradox for intention. The preface paradox for intention shows that intentions do not obey an agglomeration norm. But what norms do intentions obey? I argue that intentions come in degrees. These `partial' intentions are governed by the norms of the probability calculus.

First, I give a dispositional theory of partial intention. Dispositions come in degrees. Intentions are dispositions. So the degree to which you intend to A is simply the degree to which you possess the dispositions characteristic of intending to A. Second, I use this theory to defend probabilism about intentions. Intentions involve some degreed dispositions. Degrees can be ordered from 0 to 1. So an agent's degree of dispositions involved in Aing can satisfy the probability calculus. I show that if they do not, the agent is irrational.

But this argument assumes my particular theory of partial intention. One might look for a more general approach. In the rest of the paper, I offer a decision theoretic argument for probabilism about intentions. I show that if an agent's partial intentions do not satisfy the probability calculus, then she violates a variety of plausible decision theoretic norms. These arguments extend `epistemic utility' theory from beliefs to intentions.



Philosophers' Imprint 2016 | final version