My research focuses on topics in the philosophy of welfare. I am primarily interested in how best to characterize the nature of the relationship between a welfare subject's attitudes and the token states of basic benefit or harm to that subject. I am also interested in the nature and value of pleasure, as well as questions concerning the alleged symmetry between well-being and ill-being (e.g., Does each state of basic benefit to you have an opposite state that is basically bad for you?). Below is a list of my published papers as well as works in progress at various stages of preparation. 

Promised to Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 20

The concept of alienation plays a central role in our philosophical theorizing about well-being. One of the most important and widely held doctrines about well-being is the alienation constraint, which says that a person cannot be alienated from that which is basically good for her. Indeed, one of the central objections to objective theories like an Aristotelian perfectionism is that they violate the constraint, and one of the central attractions of subjective theories like Chris Heathwood's desire satisfactionism is that they respect it. It is therefore surprising that there has been so little explicit discussion of what it is for a person to be alienated from a state of affairs in a way that would rule it out as a basic welfare good for her. My main aim in this paper is to sketch the first theory of this pivotal concept. What I call prudential alienation—that is, the kind of alienation that figures in the alienation constraint—is properly analyzed as a normative distance or estrangement between a state of affairs and a subject's evaluative perspective. The view offered here suggests radical modifications to extant theories of welfare provided that we wish to bring them into compliance with the alienation constraint. 

Promised to Mauro Rossi and Christine Tappolet's edited volume, Perspectives on Ill-Being, under contract with Oxford University Press 

Both proponents and critics of the desire theory of welfare have narrowly focused on the positive side of the theory while virtually ignoring its negative side. On the positive side, the desire theorist says that getting what you want is good for you. But what should the desire theorist say is bad for you? A common and plausible-sounding answer is that if getting what you want is good for you, then surely not getting what you want is bad for you. I argue that this answer is a mistake that would commit desire theorists to a claim that is implausible by their own lights, namely that something could be bad for you even if you were not at all bothered by it. The desire theorist should instead say that getting what you are averse to is bad for you. If desire satisfaction is good for you, then aversion satisfaction, not desire frustration, is bad for you.

Promised to a special issue of Philosophical Studies that compiles papers from the fifth annual Chapel Hill Normativity Workshop 

According to internalism about prudential value, the token states of affairs of basic benefit to you must be suitably connected, under the proper conditions, to your positive attitudes. It is commonly thought that any theory of welfare that implies internalism is thereby guaranteed to respect the alienation constraint, the doctrine that you cannot be alienated from that which is basically good for you. The assumption is that because internalism requires a necessary connection between a subject's positive attitudes and each state of basic benefit to that subject, theories that imply internalism will only postulate basic goods that resonate with the subject. In this paper, I show that extant formulations of internalism do not have this desirable feature. The central defect of traditional formulations is that they do not respect a basic truth about alienation: namely, that even if a state of affairs is suitably connected to your positive attitudes, your negative attitudes can nonetheless render you alienated from it. By taking into account the relevance of the negative attitudes, I propose the new internalism—the view that x is basically good for you only if you have a net positive attitude towards it—as a way to advance our thinking about what is required to avoid alienating theories of welfare. 

Midwest Studies in Philosophy. Vol. 46 (2022): 109-135

According to subjective theories of ill-being, the token states of affairs that are basically bad for you must be suitably connected, under the proper conditions, to your negative attitudes. This article explores the prospects for this family of theories and addresses some of its challenges. This article (i) shows that subjectivism about ill-being can be derived from a more general doctrine that requires a negatively valenced relationship between any welfare subject and the token states that are of basic harm to that subject and (ii) responds to some objections, including the objection that subjectivists about ill-being cannot plausibly explain the badness of pain. 

Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy, Vol. 19, No. 3, (2021): 291-310

Judgment subjectivism is the view that x is good for S if and only if, because, and to the extent that S believes, under the proper conditions, that x is good for S. In this paper, I offer three related arguments against the theory. The arguments are about what judgment subjectivism implies about the welfare of welfare nihilists, people who believe there are no welfare properties, or at least that none are instantiated. I maintain that welfare nihilists can be benefited and harmed. Judgment subjectivism is implausible because it implies otherwise. 

This paper explains what I call the attitudinal hedonic tone theory of pleasure, which includes doctrines concerning both the nature and value of pleasure. The theory says that a sensation is a pleasure in virtue of how it feels and in particular in virtue of its hedonic tone. The theory also says that a token sensory pleasure is good for you just in case you have a net desire for it. I also defend the theory from objections, including the objection that there is no common phenomenal character among pleasurable experiences and the objection that the theory cannot accommodate the common-sense datum that pleasure is good because of how it feels. 

It is natural to think that if pleasure is basically good for you, then surely pain is basically bad for you. After all, pleasure and pain are opposites in some apparently important sense. Similarly, if getting what you want is good for you, then surely its opposite—failing to get what you want or, perhaps instead, getting what you are averse to—is bad for you.  In each case, the inverse appears to hold as well. It would seem odd, for example, to claim that pain is bad for you and to deny that pleasure is good for you. Generalizing from these cases, we might come to think that there is a symmetry between well-being and ill-being: x is basically good for you if and only if x’s opposite is basically bad for you. Call this the symmetry thesis. In this paper, I properly formulate and evaluate the symmetry thesis. I argue that the sense in which what is good for you must be the “opposite” of what is bad for you, and vice versa, is not at all clear and, further, that the symmetry thesis is not well-supported by a number of natural, plausible-sounding rationales, such as those that appeal to simplicity or theoretical unity.