Elijah Millgram

Copyright © 2017 Elijah Millgram.
All Rights Reserved.

Publications -- Moral and Political Philosophy

My projects tend to cut across the usual taxonomy of areas of specialization; for instance, work on theory of rationality tends to come out as moral philosophy when the reasoning is practical (when it is about deciding what to do), but looks like metaphysics and epistemology when the reasoning is theoretical (when it's about figuring out what the facts are). However, I realize that fellow academics often want to find reading matter in a standard subfield (usually the one they are themselves working in). So to make it easier to find a journal article or book chapter that matches a particular AOS, you'll find subheadings for my publications in moral and political philosophy in the sidebar to the left.

Here's a quick overview of how what you'll find there fits together.

As I just indicated, much of my work in moral and political philosophy is driven by an interest in the theory of rationality, and specifically in practical reasoning. Now, most philosophical discussion of practical reasoning simply assumes that there are just one or two live positions (though not always the same ones); usually the correctness of one's own position is taken as obvious, and very occasionally there's some attempt to argue against a lone contrasting position. But if you only ever think about the view that seems to you to be the right one, and not about the full range of competing views, you won't even manage to articulate and defend your favored view adequately. And so it seems to me that our first priority should be to develop an overview of the range of various positions one could reasonably adopt on the subject -- and especially about what patterns of practical inference there might be. A good many of the papers and book chapters fall under that heading: sometimes they're exploring some existing view and trying to make it live up to its full potential; sometimes they're arguing against some such view; sometimes they're trying to add a position to the menu.

In addition, under the heading of documenting what the range of positions is, you'll find a survey of the specificationist position (which holds that practical deliberation is largely a matter of specifying thin or abstract ends or rules more concretely), a Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on recent work on action theory that attempts to settle what the right theory of practical reasoning is, and an anthology on practical reasoning, suitable for use as an advanced undergraduate or graduate textbook, and meant to make available to nonspecialists the by-now-largish menu of alternatives.

There's a second unifying theme also. Because moral reasoning is practical reasoning, results in the theory of practical reasoning ought to be able to drive work in moral theory. To substantiate that claim, and show the approach it suggests to be as plausible and promising as I think it is, a number of my papers (collected in Ethics Done Right: Practical Reasoning as a Foundation for Moral Theory) exhibit connections between the two areas, and try to show that successful moral theories are built around theories of practical reasoning.

A further and more recent focus of my research in ethics has to do with biography and the meaning of life; I'm pursuing it by examining particular lives, and you'll accordingly find that described on the History of Philosophy page.