Home Registration Schedule Abstracts Call for Papers Hospitality Archives Keynote Speaker
PAPER ONE: "Post-Archaeological Revolutions,"


This paper is part of my long term project which seeks an account of normativity in and consequent to revolutions. This paper investigates the status, after Foucault, of our personal and collective revolutions against the social and political institutions that surround us.

The problem that I identify is a consequence of Foucaultian archaeology. These investigations leave us passionately inflamed by the realization that our ethical, social, and political conditions are fully constructed and utterly contingent. This presents a dilemma. On one horn we accept the archaeology and are forced to abandon freewill and liberty, both crushed by the apparent impossibility of ever escaping the institutional and social associations that regulate who and what we are. On the other horn we find that any escape that we make would be to a set of normalized practices that is just as apparently groundless and dominating as those left behind. We cannot know if our revolution is progressive, regressive, or simply warrantless change.

I argue that Michel Foucault's work can be read in a way that holds real promise for providing a substantial normative "grounding" for revolution. I first argue that there is a deep commitment to freedom in Foucault's critical work. I then move on to suggest a conception of revolution that works at the level of "microphysics." Such revolutions, I contend, can meet our desire for firm footing in our efforts to social change while allowing that we can no longer have "grounds."

PAPER TWO: "A Defense of Rawls on Welfare Rights: A Reply to Walzer, Gutmann, Thompson and Nozick"


It is well known that Rawls' difference principle makes redistribution an essential aspect of the just state. For Rawls welfare rights stem from what he labels the difference principal. According to this principle the amount of primary goods, in which Rawls includes income, should always be distributed to the degree to which they maximize the amount of primary goods available to the poorest members of society. Precisely how, however, will the difference principle operate in practice? Does it result in a fair and just conception of welfare? In this essay I examine four criticisms of the Rawlsian view that welfare guarantees are the result of the just distribution of primary goods demanded by the difference principle. First, I focus on an alternative to the notion of primary goods presented by the political philosopher Michael Walzer. I argue that this alternative would necessitate an unacceptable limit on liberty. Second, I explore the criticism made by Gutmann and Thompson that Rawls fails to offer an adequate solution to the free-rider problem in his view of welfare and that a policy of "fair workfair" would be a more just policy solution. Third, I examine Nozick's claim that Rawls' offers a faulty view of talent. In response I offer a defense of Rawls' view. Finally, I offer my own criticism of Rawls' view of the relationship between welfare rights constitutional rights. I argue that welfare rights can justifiably be defended as constitutional essentials that would be guaranteed by the court.

PAPER THREE: "Rawls and the Limits of Social Cooperation


The notion of social cooperation stands at the foundation of Rawls' arguments for the principle of equal liberty and the difference principle. I shall argue, however, that the phenomenon of cooperation in fact does not give rise to the issues of distributive justice that the difference principle purports to address.

Given the conditions that make social cooperation an important goal, we can find that many basic right and liberties as well as other primary goods are indeed the product of a cooperative scheme that is subject to justice as fairness. However, shares of wealth, while also a primary good, are not clearly the product of such a scheme, and so the scope of social cooperation is properly understood to not include their production. Therefore, parties in the original position should not formulate the difference principle, for they must limit their concern to the distribution of the actual products of social cooperation. I shall argue further that parties in the original position, making decisions behind a veil of ignorance, would still retain the knowledge that our economic institutions do not facilitate genuine cooperation as do other elements of the basic structure of society. Finally, I conclude that justice as fairness does require a weaker distributive principle that requires redistribution of wealth to an extent necessary to insure that all members of society can enjoy their due shares of other primary goods secured by a cooperative scheme.

PAPER FOUR: "Clarifying the Partiality Debates"


In this paper I clarify some of the central issues in the so-called "partiality debates." I argue that one reason the problems within the debate have seemed so intractable is that both partialists (those arguing for a partial moral standpoint) and impartialists (those defending the traditional impartial moral standpoint) have been unclear about what is at stake. Once the issue at stake is brought into focus, I will argue that the partialists are correct that impartialist answers to their concerns have been inadequate, but that this does not mean that an impartialist answer must be inadequate. In conclusion I will offer an impartialist answer that is compatible with partialist concerns and accounts for those concerns in a way partialists can be satisfied.

PAPER FIVE: "Kagan's Consequentialism and the Subjective Perspective"


In The Limits of Morality (1989), Shelly Kagan presents an extremely persuasive defense of extreme consequentialism, where morality prohibits any action failing to produce the best consequences overall, and so demands that we always act from the objective perspective. His argument fails, though, on several counts. The first concerns that which we deeply value, both in possessions and more so in relationships. Concerning the former, his rejection relies on our agreement that such valuing leads to unacceptable conclusions; on examination, we will doubt how serious these conclusions should be taken. Concerning the latter, he agrees that morality should include an account of such relationships, and attempts to do so within objective consequentialism. On reflection, though, those features of relationships that we value, such that morality must include them, are inadequately addressed by Kagan's account. If morality requires such an account, Kagan fails to meet the minimum requirements; if not, then Kagan has undercut himself by admitting that it does, and so has failed to acknowledge the extreme demands of his position.

Lastly, even if we grant that Kagan does adequately meet the challenge of deeply valuing, if we are committed to consequentialism, then we should still reject his demand that we always act from the objective perspective. When we look into exactly what is required in making the calculations for advancing the best consequences overall, we will agree that this is best accomplished when we live life from the subjective perspective, and accept options and constraints into our morality.

PAPER SIX: "A Social Epistemology of Ethics"


The naturalist position which has recently come into fashion in the field of meta-ethics is lacking in two crucial respects. First, the social epistemology of our moral beliefs has not been adequately addressed by the realist qua naturalist. Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, there has not been sufficient discussion pertaining to the veritistic aims of ethical judgments which entail a realist understanding of the reference of moral terms. In the first section I will discuss the role of consensus and group justification in ethical judgments. I will suggest that when I make ethical claims my intent is not merely to say that I agree or disagree with something; rather, I intend to address a shared opinion concerning the moral nature of the action. In section two, I will argue that ethical inquiry does have as its goal truth and that there is a criterion by which it is possible to evaluate inconsistent ethical judgments made by different groups about wether an action is right or not. Thus, the primary aim of this paper it to argue that the social character and veritistic aims which govern ethical inquiry support a cognitivist and realist, rather than a non-cognitivist or relativist, epistemology about moral claims.

PAPER SEVEN: "Natural and Artificial, but Never Arbitrary: Humean Morality and Post-Rationalist Political Possibilities"


This paper argues that despite all the reasons for thinking that a person committed to a Foucauldian analysis of the place of ethical discourse in embedded lives could never come to terms with a Humean notion of morality, it is actually the case that one can arrive at a reading of Book III of the Treatise that is not only not against Foucault, but actually echoes one of his central claims: that ethical action, and our discourse about it, is never only rational, only cultural, or only natural. That, on the contrary, human existence, and our reflection upon it, is always a confused mix of all these factors.

To effect this reading, I will begin with a brief recapitulation of the standards of coherence Foucault lays out in his "What is Enlightenment?" essay. I will then enact a series of close readings of key passages in the Treatise, one from early in Book I, and then a few from the very beginning of Book III. These will conclude with the assertion that the view of human existence, and our speaking and judging about it, that Hume has in mind is one which holds that we and our institutions and conventions are always natural and artificial, but never arbitrary. I will then show how this is not only not against Foucault, but actually is precisely with him.

PAPER EIGHT: "Mental Health Care Planning: A Narrative Model for Advanced Directives"


This paper describes the aspects of a successful medical advance directive program and applies specific components of its design to advance care planning in mental health care. A brief review of the salient literature on advance directives for mental health care is introduced. Subsequently, it is shown how this method may be helpful for a specific population of the mentally ill who are cared for in a community mental health setting. Two characteristics of the medical advance directive program, emphases upon narrative and relationship-building, may be tailored to meet the needs of specific community mental health systems. I explore why the narrative and relationship-oriented approach is well-suited to planning mental health care, and this is hi-lighted in an examination of distinctions between the legal concept of competency and the clinical relevance of decision-making ability. I proceed to explain what information an advance directive for mental health care should include and suggest how an advance directive program should be implemented throughout a community mental health system.

PAPER NINE: "Contingent Vegetarianism" Abstract

[Abstract Forthcoming]