louvre abu dhabi

Ceiling of the Louvre Abu Dhabi (photo by me)

Research interests

My research most generally concerns the nature of value and reasons, with special attention to the moral and aesthetic domains. My two major research projects to date concern, first, the ‘ought implies can’ principle, and second, the nature of aesthetic value and reasons.

I'm also interested in a variety of topics in aesthetics, including aesthetic properties like subtlety and high and low art (see my post on this topic at Aesthetics for Birds).

Selected Publications

For a full list of publications, see my CV.


Art and Philosophy, co-edited with Christy Mag Uidhir

(Oxford University Press, est. 2022)

A volume of invited essays looking at the ways in which art informs philosophers' own views and work.

What We Ought and What We Can, 2019

(Routledge, Amazon)

This book argues against the 'ought implies can' principle and provides an overview of the debate that surrounds it. I discuss common interpretations of the principle, common objections to it, and motivations for and against it. I explain how those who deny the principle can still recover much of what makes it attractive, and I close with a chapter on how the principle gets used (and abused) in popular debates. This book is part of Routledge's Focus on Philosophy Series.


"Response-Dependence and Aesthetic Theory", in Fittingness (eds. C. Howard and R.A. Rowland), Oxford University Press, forthcoming


This paper provides a framework for thinking about response-dependence theories, distinguishing between what I call dispositional and normative versions. I examine their relative advantages and disadvantages for aesthetics, suggesting that the latter are more promising than the former. But I then consider a new type of objection to all response-dependence theories that is unique to aesthetics.

"Reasons, Normativity, and Value in Aesthetics", Philosophy Compass, 2022

(pre-print, official version)

This piece outlines six basic questions about aesthetic reasons, normativity, and value and examines the space of possible answers.

"Matilal's Metaethics" (co-authored with Nicolas Bommarito)
in Comparative Metaethics: Neglected Perspectives on the Foundations of Morality (ed. C. Marshall), Routledge, 2019

(pre-print, Routledge link)

This paper elucidates the metaethical views of Bimal Krishna Matilal (1935-1991). It is part of the Lost Voices at the Foundations of Ethics project, and appears in the corresponding edited volume.

"The Culpable Inability Problem for Synchronic and Diachronic 'Ought Implies Can'", Journal of Moral Philosophy, 2019

(pre-print, official version)

This paper offers a semi-formal framework for talking about different time-indexed versions of 'ought implies can'. It also argues, contra a common line of thought, that the culpable inability problem does not motivate a switch from the synchronic 'ought implies can' to the diachronic 'ought implies could have'.

"A Plea for Emoji", American Society for Aesthetics Newsletter, 2018

(official version)

This short piece looks at different philosophical dimensions of emoji: the metaphysical, the linguistic and communicative, and the phenomenological and social. The plea is for philosophers to think more about emoji as well as other non-standard, internet-based forms of communication.

"The Amoralist and the Anaesthetic", Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 2018

(pre-print, official version)

This paper puts pressure on moral motivational internalism and rejects normative motivational internalism by examining and rejecting a parallel aesthetic principle. I address possibly relevant disanalogies between the moral and the aesthetic, arguing that either they don't hold, or they do, but aren't strong enough to underwrite a motivational difference between the two domains.

"'Ought Implies Can': Not So Pragmatic After All", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 2018

(pre-print, official version)

The view that 'ought implies can' should be understood as a pragmatic principle - one involving either conversational implicature or presupposition - has become very popular. I argue that this strategy fails because 'ought implies can' fails to satisfy tests for conversational implicature and presupposition, and furthermore that it cannot account for the 'ought implies can' phenomena that arise in deliberation.

"The Virtue of Subtlety and the Vice of a Heavy Hand", The British Journal of Aesthetics, 2017

(pre-print, official version)

I examine subtlety in aesthetics. I discuss its hallmarks and offer an account of its value: It is valuable because it promotes active engagement with the artwork. I connect this to the role of agency and autonomy in art experience.

"Actions That We Ought, But Can't", Ratio, 2014

(pre-print, official version)

I offer a class of counterexamples to the 'ought implies can' principle by highlighting complex actions involving both behavioral and robust mental components. We often think that individuals have obligations to perform such actions, even while they cannot bring about the relevant mental states.

Encyclopedia Articles

"Metaethics and Meta-aesthetics", Oxford Handbook of Ethics
and Art (ed. J. Harold)
, Oxford University Press, forthcoming

An examination of existing metaethical theories and their potential parallels in aesthetics.

"The Aesthetic Attitude" in The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

An introduction to different conceptions of and theories about the aesthetic attitude.