My central research is on the intersection of ethics and the philosophy of action. I focus on the relation between moral and contemplative knowledge and on the relation between our active and our moral nature. I argue that moral knowledge has a contemplative element, which I spell out as openness to the world as what is at stake. I also argue that to understand our active nature we must appeal to our moral nature conceived as openness to the other in each encounter. These two arguments illuminate the sense in which virtuous reasoning involves both adherence to principle and attention to the particular. Articles related to this project have appeared in the Journal of Value Inquiry, the European Journal of Philosophy, the Philosophical Explorations, and elsewhere. I am working on a book project which is the culmination of this research.
Photo / Yiannis Hadjiaslanis
Reason in Nature, New Essays on Themes from John McDowell, co-edited with Matthew Boyle, Harvard University Press, 2022. View here
"The Question of Moral Experience in the Sovereignty of Good" forthcoming in Iris Murdoch's Sovereignty of Goof after 50 Years, Bagnoli, C. and Cokelet, B. (ed.), Cambridge University Press.
Let us grant that the philosophical question of moral experience is a question concerning the contribution of experience to moral knowledge and rationality. The topic of this essay is the right way to pose this question in light of Iris Murdoch’s
thought in The Sovereignty of Good [SG]. Contemporary philosophers tend to limit their accounts of moral experience to
what they call moral perception. The episodic exercise of a capacity to be affected by part(s) or aspect(s) of reality which issues in moral knowledge in the way that the episodic exercise of sensible receptivity in general issues in knowledge of the natural world. On this picture, the aim of philosophical elucidation is to determine the nature and the workings of this capacity. The thought of Iris Murdoch in SG was originally brought into these discussions to support some particular view of moral perception (Blum, McDowell, etc.). And recently, there has been a renewal of interest in what is misleadingly called ‘Murdoch’s own account of moral perception’ (Panizza, Cliffton.etc.). But this way of drawing Murdoch’s thought into contemporary discussions distorts the spirit of her vision.
In this essay I argue that we find the seeds for an alternative picture of moral experience in a re-consideration of her thought in SG. I begin my sketch of this picture with an alternative reading of the infamous example of M & D, which takes her at her word when she says that she almost chose ritual as her example. I suggest that the example of M & D is meant to illustrate the nature of moral activity not by way of constituting a case of moral perception but, rather, as a case of moral change and transformation. This, I argue, is not a matter of a mere change in conception but, at least for Murdoch, a matter of change in self-being and orientation. In order to appreciate what such a change really amounts to, we need to appreciate what I refer to as Murdoch’s view of the contemplative aspect of the working of concepts in experience. This contemplative aspect, I maintain, appears in three notionally distinct (but essentially connected) guises in the three chapters of the SG. My essay concludes by showing how an appreciation of this contemplative aspect of experience –what Murdoch calls moral activity –allows us a richer understanding of the question of moral experience. From this new vantage point, we can better see that this is the question of how truth is available to us not in adjusting our knowledge claims based on experience but in being transformed in experience.
"Naive and Sophisticated Constitutivism" forthcoming in Reason, Agency and Ethics: Kantian Themes in Contemporary Debates, Bagnoli, C. and Bacin, S. (ed.), Oxford University Press.
In the first part of this paper I take seriously the shmagency challenge to constitutivism; in fact, I take it more seriously
than its own proponents. I argue that shmagents – agents who don’t care much about acting – are not
merely fictional beings, conceptual possibilities and theoretical constructions. On the contrary; they
are actual, historical individuals for whom the question of what it really or ultimately means for us to
be acting as we do is no longer a living question, worthy of our ongoing attention and care. These are,
I argue tracing out Elizabeth Anscombe’s thought in Modern Moral Philosophy, both ordinary and
philosophical agents and thinkers who have been morally corrupted by consequentialism: the view
that the understanding of the moral character of our actions goes well beyond the understanding of
what our actions mean, so that the latter cannot constitute the former. But this opposition to
constitutivism is, as Anscombe insists, a species of moral corruption.
Read in this way the shmagency challenge -Why be an agent? - is reduced to a version of the original
Why be moral challenge. But seeing this makes room for an alternative, naïve, formulation of the
central constitutivist insight, which is inspired by Anscombe’s great works. On the naïve formulation,
we remain the active beings for whom morality is a living possibility as long as we remain the active
beings for whom the question of what it means for us to be acting as we do is alive. Contrary to what
the sophisticated constitutivists think, the original skeptical challenge – Why be moral? – cannot be
addressed from sideways on – by appealing to independently available facts about the metaphysics of
agency – but from the first person perspective: the perspective of the agent who asks about her own
action, What does it really mean to be doing this? This, I finally suggest, is the right constitutivist way to interpret Kant’s distinction between action as the merely useful (good for or hypothetically commanded) and action as the moral (good in itself or categorically commanded).
"Seeing the World; Moral Difficulty and Drama", in Reason in Nature; New Essays on Themes from John McDowell, HUP, 2022. Download
In this paper I endorse the McDowellian conception of virtue as a quasi-perceptual capacity but argue that its proper appreciation requires a recognition of how our openness to changing perceptions of particular people and circumstances essentially involves an openness to a changing perception of our world as a whole. By focussing on Henry James’s The Portrait of a Lady, I bring out how on a rich description of moral experience, having a clear view of the particulars in sound moral judgment may on occasion come to no less than the total collapse of one’s view of the world as a whole. I use this case to argue that an enriched moral philosophy must be sensitive to this world-involving dimension of ethical experience.
In this paper, I develop and defend an interpretation of Anscombe’s philosophy of human action as a philosophy of practical knowledge. This is a philosophy which reframes questions of moral obligation as belonging to the grammar of our talk of human action. But contrary to popular opinion, I argue that Anscombe’s account of the grammar of human action is not fully in view in her action-theoretic works. I suggest, instead, that to get her account of the grammar of human action fully into view we need to turn to her view of the spiritual nature of man in her religious writings. I then offer an interpretation of her view of the spiritual nature of man which shows that, contrary to popular interpretations, hers is a spiritual and not an Aristotelian or neo-Aristotelian philosophy of practical knowledge. I close this paper with a sketch of a spiritual philosophy of practical knowledge which moves along Anscombean lines but abandons talk of God.
"The Question of Practical Knowledge", Philosophical Explorations, 2020. Download
In this paper I start from a discussion of Jonathan Dancy's theory of practical reasoning as it is laid out in his most recent book, Practical Shape, in order to bring out what I think is the problem of practical knowledge: How to conceive of a cognitive response to the world which is both a) a response to a bit of reality, i.e. what may transcend our attempt to grasp it, and b) a response to a reality with a thought-ish shape; i.e. a bit of reality which is not intelligible as being what it is except in terms of the particular way in which it can be known. To answer this question, I argue, we must have recourse to a Murdochian conception of what it is and it takes to encounter an individual reality.
"Philippa Foot", in Oxford Bibliographies, 2019. Download
In this article I attempt the first full bibliographical assessment of the work of the philosopher. There I trace the genealogy of the philosophical position of the philosopher, while also highlighting her distinct contribution in the moral philosophy of her time and today.
"The Individual in Pursuit of the Individual; a Murdochian Account of Moral Perception", Journal of Value Inquiry, 2018. Download
The aim of this paper is to frame and answer the question of moral perception. The question of moral perception is framed as a problem concerning the possibility of being sensitive to such things as rational relations in the word. Formerly when John McDowell treated this question he thought that to answer it we should explain what one is sensitive to in moral perception on the model of the perception of secondary qualities. McDowell's answer is examined from a Murdochian perspective in this paper and it is found lacking. The reason is that from Murdoch's perspective the perception of what is true in moral perception requires the suppression of the self. Starting from a non-moralist interpretation of Murdoch's talk of suppressing the self, this paper suggests an alternative conception of the knowledge that moral perception constitutes. This is the knowledge of an other as an individual reality. This conception opens the way for an alternative account of moral perception which does not incur the burden of answering the question of moral perception in the way that accounts of moral perception in terms of knowledge of an other as an object do.
"Instrumental Normativity and the Practicable Good: A Murdochian Constitutivist Account", Manuscrito, 2018. Download
In this paper I address the problem of instrumental normativity. This problem stems from the difficulty to reconcile the intuition that one may be criticized merely for failing to take the means to one's ends and the intuition that one has no reason to perform an action if it is morally impermissible. In order to solve this problem, I argue, we should turn our gaze from instances of taking means to finite ends to instances of taking means to infinite ends. By focussing on the latter cases I argue we see that the source of the requirement in this case is the requirement to understand what one's ends really are. The same can then be said about the case of taking the means to one's finite ends. I classify this account as a Murdochian variant of constitutivism and I argue that it overcomes the restrictions of the neo-Anscombean variant of constitutivism without reverting to the reductivism of Kantian constitutivism. I call this account “Murdochian”, for it relies on Iris Murdoch’s conception of the practicable good.
"Judgments of Practice and Ways of Life”, in Philosophy and Crisis: Responding to Challenges to Ways of Life in the Contemporary World, Catholic University of America, Washington D.C, 2018. Download
In this paper I present a neo-Aristotelian account of the role that our representations of our practices play in the constitution of the human form of life. I explain that on such an account it is impossible to have life that is formless or naked, as the Italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben assumes. But the question remains for the neo-Aristotelian: how to understand the life that remains when a form of life - the set of the practices that constitutes this life - has been devastated. I argue that in order to answer this question we must qualify Jonathan Lear's account of radical hope.
“Action as the Conclusion of Practical Reasoning; The Critique of a Rödlian Account”, European Journal of Philosophy, 2017. Download
In this paper I take up the question of whether and in what sense action might be the conclusion of practical reasoning and argue against the answer provided by Sebastian Rödl's account of practical reasoning. Rödl's account aspires to steer a middle ground between the attitudinal and the neo-Aristotelian accounts of practical reasoning, by proposing that its conclusion is at once a thought and a movement. This account is worth considering for it promises to explain both practical reasoning's practicality and its rationality in one move. But, I argue in this paper, a Rödlian account—an account which grants Rödl's central theses—fails to deliver on its promise. The reason is that, like others, a Rödlian also assumes that the only sense in which practical reasoning is practical is the sense in which it has a conclusion. Challenging this assumption in the right way, I finally suggest, helps us reassess the task of explaining practical reasoning in a way that goes beyond Rödlian, attitudinal and neo-Aristotelian accounts alike.
“Practical Knowledge and Perception” in Action and Morality, Olms Verlag, 2016. Download
In this paper I examine the relation between intentional action and morality from the perspective of practical epistemology. In particular I study the relation between Elizabeth Anscombe's knowledge of one’s own intentional actions (knowledge in action) and Iris Murdoch's knowledge of what is good to do or what one ought to do in particular circumstances (knowledge in the circumstances). If practical knowledge in the former sense (knowledge in action) and practical knowledge in the latter sense (knowledge in the circumstances) turn out to constitute exercises of one and the same capacity for knowledge, as I will argue they do, this will give us strong reason to believe that what is known in the two cases (i.e. intentional action and the moral fabric of the world) is in some sense the same. If the argument of this paper works, it will transpire that both of these forms of knowledge are instances of the exercise of our capacity for self-knowledge. This account of practical knowledge opens the way for understanding intentional action and the moral fabric of the world as knowable as the self. And it is thus that what is known in the two forms of knowing (i.e. intentional action and the moral fabric of the world) is in some sense the same.
Work in Progress
Episodic Theories of Moral Experience; A Critique
In this paper I characterize and critique a view of moral experience that moral philosophers of our time widely share. Doing so enables me to highlight an alternative whactich has received little attention as such but which is forthcoming in the work of various thinkers. Most moral philosophers limit their accounts of moral experience to what they call moral perception: episodes in the history of a subject’s susceptibility—whether this is sensible, quasi-sensible or motivational susceptibility—which issue in knowledge of the moral part or aspect of reality in the way that episodes of sensible receptivity in general issue in knowledge of the natural world. In this view, which I call episodic, moral perception grounds knowledge of moral reality in particular, because, depending on the theory, these episodes embody, draw upon or are penetrated by the subject’s moral concepts. In this paper, I do three things: First, I trace how philosophers of various persuasions share this approach to moral experience, yet in a way that often makes it difficult to discern what they have in common. Second, I show how a certain critique of the episodic view of moral experience allows us to bring into sharper focus an alternative view of moral experience. I call this view contemplative and I trace it in the work of philosophers who attempt to do justice to the following intuition: that in the moral grasp of reality one is in view of the whole and not merely a part or aspect thereof. Finally, I argue for a particular variety of the contemplative view whose seeds I find in the later work of Iris Murdoch.
Wittgenstein on Moral Experience
In this paper I develop a Wittgensteinian conception of moral experience. To do this I read his Lectures on Ethics together with the Tractatus.
Us and Animals Download
In this paper I propose an interpretation of J.M. Coetzee's lectures "The Lives of Animals". On my reading, what lies at the heart of the protest of the book against ordinary but wrongheaded ways of viewing the lives of animals is an understanding of what it is to be the bearer of life. I argue that this is, for Coetzee, the locus of moral value and also that locating moral value thus has ramifications for our discussions on the subject of justice.
The Need for a Resolute Reading of Iris Murdoch’s Later Thought, with Megan Laverty
In this paper Megan Laverty and I argue that there are compelling historical and philosophical reasons to turn our attention to Iris Murdoch's long neglected book, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (MGM) and to attempt to read it in a resolute way. The historical reasons have to do with the need to know just who is this thinker who inspired Aristotelians and Platonists alike. We argue that to address this question we should avoid an eclectic reading of Murdoch's later work and dive into it with the hope of finding a systematic, even if growing and maturing, thinker. The philosophical reasons have to do with the need to explore and settle interpretative issues as they arise in the more sustained and focused treatment of Murdoch’s scholarship. In short, we argue that to clarify Murdoch’s precise influence on and place in 20th-century moral philosophy there is a need to interpret her philosophy in a way that incorporates a resolute reading of MGM. Such a resolute reading, we also argue, will shed light on issues raised in SG, now seen as an earlier work.
Metahysics as a Guide to Morals; Iris Murdoch's Copernican Turn in Moral Philosophy, with Megan Laverty
In this paper Megan Laverty and I argue for the significance of Iris Murdoch's later thought for the moral philosophy of her time as well as our time. More specifically we argue that with her book Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, Murdoch attempts a Copernican Turn in moral philosophy. Where most of the moral philosophers attempt to protect value from the contingency of the world by separating it from the world into limited wholes, Murdoch locates value in contingency.
«Action, Knowledge and Will, by John Hyman», Philosophical Quarterly, Volume 67, Issue 267, 1 April 2017, p. 429–434, 2016.
In this paper I show how John Hyman takes the traditional question whether we should give a physical, ethical, psychological or intellectual account of human action and stands it on its head. For Hyman argues that the real question is how to distinguish the physical, the ethical, the psychological and the intellectual dimensions of human action, and he thereby changes the landscape in the philosophy of action. Finally, I argue that Hyman's positive proposal fails by the lights of his own argument.
G.E.M. Anscombe, Intention, with Constantine Sandis (University of Hertfodshire), forthcoming by Crete University Press.
D. Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, forthcoming by Ekkremes Publishing House, Greece.
P. F. Strawson, Skepticism and Naturalism, Ekkremes Publishing House, 2003.
Papers published in Greek
“Πρακτική Γνώση και Αντίληψη», Δευκαλίων, Περίοδος Ε’, τόμος 29/τεύχος 12, 2012.
«Ελεύθερη Βούληση και Εμπρόθετη Πράξη», σε συλλογικό τόμο για την ελεύθερη βούληση από τον Κωνσταντίνο Σαργέντη (Πανεπιστήμιο Κρήτης), υπό 2021.
"Το πνευματικό στην αναλυτική φιλοσοφία της Ελίζαμπεθ Άνσκομπ", περιοδικό Άνθρωπος, τεύχος 3, 2021.