Publications

Articles and Book Chapters


21. The Axiology of Abortion: Should we Hope Pro-Choicers or Pro-Lifers are Right?

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Forthcoming, Ergo.

The ethics of abortion considers whether abortion is immoral. Pro-choice philosophers think that it is not immoral, while pro-life philosophers think that it is. The axiology of abortion considers whether world would be better if the pro-choice or pro-life position is right. While much attention has been given to the ethics of abortion, there has been no attention given to the axiology of abortion. In this article, I seek to change that. I consider various arguments for thinking our world would be better if the pro-choice position or the pro-life position is correct, ultimately concluding that it would be better if the pro-choice position is right. This is unfortunate, however, since there is no good reason to think the pro-choice position is correct.

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Forthcoming, Philosophia.

Tiddy Smith argues that common consent amongst geographically and historically isolated communities provides strong evidence for animism―the view that there are nature spirits. In this article, I argue that the problem of animistic hiddenness―the lack of widespread belief in nature spirits―is at least as strong evidence against animism that common consent is evidence for it, meaning that the evidence for animism that Smith provides is (at least) neutralized

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2021, The Journal of Medical Ethics.

There are some cases in which the government should coerce its citizens into providing care to vulnerable persons. For example, suppose that a woman and her infant are snowed in a cabin, and that the only available food for the infant is her mother's breastmilk. The government should coerce the mother into breastfeeding her infant. This fact, however, has significant implications: first, it shows that David Boonin's recent argument for legalised abortion fails. And second, it shows that (given fetal personhood) abortion should be illegal.

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2021, Analysis 81 (1): 27-32.

De facto objections to theism purport to show that theism is false, whereas de jure objections to theism claim that whether or not theism is true, belief in God is irrational. Divine hiddenness―the (supposed) fact that there are people who non-resistantly lack belief in God―is sometimes used as an argument against theism. In this article, I show that accepting the argument from divine hiddenness carries a high cost: it eliminates all de jure objections to theism. So, atheists can either have de jure objections to theism or the objection from divine hiddenness, but they can’t have both.

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2021, American Philosophical Quarterly 58 (2): 125-134.

Critics of skeptical theism often claim that if it (skeptical theism) is true, then we are in the dark about whether (or for all we know) there is a morally justifying for God to radically deceive us. From here, it is argued that radical skepticism follows: if we are truly in the dark about whether there is a morally justifying reason for God to radically deceive us, then we cannot know anything. In this article, I show that skeptical theism does not entail that we are in the dark about whether (or for all we know) there is a morally justifying reason for God to deceive us. And hence arguments against skeptical theism that make use of this assumption fail.

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2021, The Journal of Medical Ethics 47 (9):641-642. (Coauthored with Bruce Blackshaw)

Perry Hendricks’ original impairment argument for the immorality of abortion is based on the impairment principle (TIP): if impairing an organism to some degree is immoral, then ceteris paribus, impairing it to a higher degree is also immoral. Since abortion impairs a fetus to a higher degree than fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and giving a fetus FAS is immoral, it follows that abortion is immoral. Critics have argued that the ceteris paribus is not met for FAS and abortion, and so we proposed the Modified Impairment Principle (MIP) to avoid these difficulties. Dustin Crummett has responded, arguing that MIP is open to various counterexamples which show it to be false. He also shows that MIP can generate moral dilemmas. Here, we propose a modification to MIP that resolves the issues Crummett raises. Additionally, Alex Gillham has criticized our appropriation of Don Marquis’ ‘future like ours’ reasoning about the wrongness of impairment. We show that his objections have minimal implications for our argument.

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2020 The Journal of Medical Ethics 47 (7):515-518 . (coauthored with Bruce Blackshaw)

Perry Hendricks’ impairment argument for the immorality of abortion is based on two premises: first, impairing a fetus with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is immoral, and second, if impairing an organism to some degree is immoral, then ceteris paribus, impairing it to a higher degree is also immoral. He calls this the impairment principle (TIP). Since abortion impairs a fetus to a higher degree than FAS, it follows from these two premises that abortion is immoral. Critics have focussed on the ceteris paribus clause of TIP, which requires that the relevant details surrounding each impairment be sufficiently similar. In this article, we show that the ceteris paribus clause is superfluous, and by replacing it with a more restrictive condition, the impairment argument is considerably strengthened.

14. Skeptical Theism, Pro-Theism, and Anti-Theism

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2020, Four Views on the Axiology of Theism: What Difference Does God Make? (ed. Kirk Lougheed) Bloomsbury Academic: 95-115.

In this chapter, I consider personal and impersonal anti-theism and personal and impersonal pro-theism. I show that skeptical theism undermines arguments for personal anti-theism and impersonal anti-theism. Next, I show that (at least some) arguments for personal and impersonal pro-theism are not undermined by skeptical theism. This throws a wrench in debates about the axiology of theism: if skeptical theism is true, then it is very difficult to establish certain positions in answer to the axiological question about God.

2020, Logos & Episteme 11 (3): 323-331.

The subject’s perspective objection (SPO) is an objection against externalist theories of justification, warrant, and knowledge. In this article, I show that externalists can accommodate the SPO while remaining externalist. So, even if the SPO is successful, it does not motivate internalism, and the primary motivation for internalism has been lost. After this, I provide an explanation for why so many people find cases that motivate the SPO convincing.

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2020 The Journal of the American Philosophical Association (6): 2: 264-274.

Skeptical theism is a popular response to arguments from evil. Many hold that it undermines a key inference often used by such arguments. However, the case for skeptical theism is often kept at an intuitive level: no one has offered an explicit argument for the truth of skeptical theism. In this article, I aim to remedy this situation: I construct an explicit, rigorous argument for the truth of skeptical theism.

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2020 Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 101 (1): 43-73.

Arguments from evil purport to show that some fact about evil makes it (at least) probable that God does not exist. Skeptical theism is held to undermine many versions of the argument from evil: it is thought to undermine a crucial inference that such arguments often rely on. Skeptical objections to skeptical theism claim that it (skeptical theism) entails an excessive amount of skepticism, and therefore should be rejected. In this article, I show that skeptical objections to skeptical theism have a very limited scope: only those who reject certain (apparently) popular epistemological theories will be threatened by them.

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2020 Sophia 59: 489-499. (coauthored with Tina Anderson)

Alvin Plantinga has famously argued that the naturalist who accepts evolutionary theory has a defeater for all of her beliefs, including her belief in naturalism and evolution. Hence, he says, naturalism, when conjoined with evolution, is self defeating and cannot be rationally accepted. This is known as the evolutionary argument against naturalism (EAAN). However, Tyler Wunder (Religious Studies 51:391– 399, 2015) has recently shown that if the EAAN is framed in terms of objective probability and theism is assumed to be non-contingent, then either theism is necessarily false or the EAAN is unsound. Neither option is attractive to the proponent of the EAAN. Perry Hendricks (Religious Studies 1–5, 2018) has responded to Wunder’s criticism, showing that the EAAN can be salvaged and, indeed, strengthened, by framing it in terms not of naturalism (N), but of a proposition that is entailed by N that is also consistent with theism. We will show that once Hendricks’ solution to Wunder’s objection is accepted, a puzzle ensues: if the EAAN provides the naturalist with a defeater for all of her beliefs, then an extension of it appears to provide God with a defeater for all of his beliefs. After bringing out this puzzle, we suggest several ways in which the proponent of the EAAN might solve it, but also show some potential weaknesses in these purported solutions. Whether the solutions to the puzzle that we consider ultimately succeed is unclear to us. (Translation: the authors disagree. One author thinks that the solutions (or,at least, some of them) that we consider do solve the puzzle while the other author does not.) However, it is clear to us that this is an issue that proponents of the EAAN need to address.

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2020 Religious Studies 56 (2): 292-296. [published online in 2018]

This paper is a response to Tyler Wunder’s ‘The modality of theism and probabilistic natural theology: a tension in Alvin Plantinga's philosophy’ (this journal). In his article, Wunder argues that if the proponent of the Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism (EAAN) holds theism to be non-contingent and frames the argument in terms of objective probability, that the EAAN is either unsound or theism is necessarily false. I argue that a modest revision of the EAAN renders Wunder’s objection irrelevant, and that this revision actually widens the scope of the argument.

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2019 Bioethics 33 (8): 968-969.

In my article "Even if the fetus is not a person, abortion is immoral: The impairment argument" (this journal), I defended what I called “The impairment argument” which purports to show that abortion is immoral. Bruce Blackshaw (2019) has argued that my argument fails on three accounts. In this article, I respond to his criticisms.

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2019 Philosophia Christi 21 (1): 105-119.

Skeptical theism is a popular response to arguments from evil. Recently, Matthew A. Benton, John Hawthorne, and Yoaav Isaacs have argued that the theses that ground skeptical theism are either false or limited in scope. In this article, I show that their objections rest on dubious assumptions about the nature of skeptical theism. Along the way, I develop and clarify the ambiguous parts of skeptical theism. The upshot of this is that—once the nature of skeptical theism is made clearer—it is far more difficult to resist.

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2019 Bioethics 33 (6): 669-673.

The “Embryo Rescue Case” (ERC) refers to a thought experiment that is used to argue against the view that embryos have a right to life (i.e. are persons). I will argue that cognitive science undermines the intuition elicited by the ERC; I will show that whether or not embryos have a right to life, our mental tools will make it very difficult to believe that embryos have said right. This suggests that the intuition elicited by the ERC is not truth indicative. The upshot of this is that we have an undercutting defeater for our intuition that embryos do not have a right to life.

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2019 Bioethics 33 (2): 245-253.

Much of the discussion surrounding the ethics of abortion has centered around the notion of personhood. This is because many philosophers hold that the morality of abortion is contingent on whether the fetus is a person - though, of course, some famous philosophers have rejected this thesis (e.g. Judith Thomson and Don Marquis). In this article, I construct a novel argument for the immorality of abortion based on the notion of impairment. This argument does not assume that the fetus is a person - indeed, I concede (for the sake of argument) that the fetus is not a person - and hence the morality of abortion is not contingent on whether the fetus is a person. I finish by answering a plethora of objections to my argument, concluding that none of them are successful.

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2019 International Journal for Philosophy of Religion 86 (1): 3-15. (coauthored with Kirk Lougheed)

Lougheed argues that a possible solution to the problem of divine hiddenness is that God hides in order to increase the axiological value of the world. In a world where God exists, the goods associated with theism necessarily obtain. But Lougheed also claims that in such a world it’s possible to experience the goods of atheism, even if they don’t actually obtain. This is what makes a world with a hidden God more valuable than a world where God is unhidden, and also more valuable than an atheistic world with no God. We show that Lougheed never considers the comparison between a world where God hides and an atheistic world. We argue that it’s possible for a person to experience theistic goods in a world where God does not exist, a possibility Lougheed never considers. If this is right it undermines his axiological solution to divine hiddenness. We conclude by showing how our discussion of the axiology of theism connects to the existential question of whether God exists; that is, we show that the axiological question is dependent on the existential question.

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2018 Bioethics 32 (6): 395-397.

Joona Räsänen, in his article ‘Ectogenesis, abortion and a right to the death of the fetus’, has argued for the view that parents have a right to the death of the fetus. In this article, I will explicate the three arguments Räsänen defends, and show that two of them have false or unmotivated premises and hence fail, and that the support he offers for his third argument is inconsistent with other views he expresses in his article. Therefore, I conclude that there is no right to the death of the fetus—or, if there is one, Räsänen has not shown it.

2018 Faith and Philosophy, 35 (3): 354-355.

Trent Dougherty has argued that commonsense epistemology and skeptical theism are incompatible. In this paper, I explicate Dougherty’s argument, and show that (at least) one popular form of skeptical theism is compatible with commonsense epistemology.

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2018 Religious Studies 54 (4): 549-561.

This article is a response to Stephen Law's article ‘The evil-god challenge’. In his article, Law argues that if belief in evil-god is unreasonable, then belief in good-god is unreasonable; that the antecedent is true; and hence so is the consequent. In this article, I show that Law's affirmation of the antecedent is predicated on the problem of good (i.e. the problem of whether an all-evil, all-powerful, and all-knowing God would allow there to be as much good in the world as there is), and argue that the problem of good fails. Thus, the antecedent is unmotivated, which renders the consequent unmotivated. Law's challenge for good-god theists is to show that good-god theism is not rendered unreasonable by the problem of evil in the same way that evil-god theism is rendered unreasonable by the problem of good. Insofar as the problem of good does not render belief in evil-god unreasonable, Law's challenge has been answered: since it is not unreasonable to believe in evil-god (at least for the reasons that Law gives) it is not unreasonable to believe in good-god. Finally, I show that – my criticism aside – the evil-god challenge turns out to be more complicated and controversial than it initially appears, for it relies on the (previously unacknowledged) contentious assumption that sceptical theism is false.