Published and Forthcoming
Ryan Cox “Democracy and Social Equality,” Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 23, no. 1 (2022), https://doi.org/10.26556/jesp.v23i1.1890.
Abstract: This essay explores the nature of the relation between democracy and social equality. It critically evaluates the egalitarian view that democracy is necessary for full social equality and that democracy is an important constituent of social equality. On such a view, inequalities in power and de facto authority are taken, in certain circumstances, and in the absence of certain dispositions to refrain from exercising such power and authority, to constitute a form of social inequality. On the basis of a series of cases, I argue that such a view is mistaken, and that political inequalities are, at best, causally and contingently related to social inequality. I argue that a better explanation of what is wrong with inequalities in power and de facto authority in many cases is that they can be used to extract greater consideration for those with greater power.
Ryan Cox “Introspection and Distinctness,” in A Materialist Theory of the Mind: 50 Years on, ed. Peter Anstey and David Braddon-Mitchell (Oxford University Press, 2022).
Abstract: Claims about the distinctness or non-distinctness of introspective beliefs from the mental states they are about have played a central role in the philosophy of introspection in the past fifty years or so. In A Materialist Theory of the Mind and work leading up to it, David Armstrong famously argued against infallibilist theories of introspection, and in defence of his own self-scanning theory of introspection, on the ground that introspective beliefs are distinct from the mental states they are about. Sydney Shoemaker, one of Armstrong’s most ardent critics, famously argued against Armstrong’s self-scanning theory of introspection, and in favour of his own constitutive theory of introspection, on the ground that introspective beliefs are not distinct from the mental states they are about. Yet the relevant sense or senses of distinctness involved here, and the role such claims about distinctness plays in such arguments, is notoriously hard to pin down. This essay explores some of the issues concerning distinctness and non-distinctness in the philosophy of introspection and in the dispute between Armstrong and Shoemaker and offers a reassessment of some of the central arguments offered in that dispute.
Ryan Cox “Knowledge of Moral Incapacity,” Journal of Value Inquiry, 2021, https://doi.org/doi:10.1007/s10790-021-09832-y.
Abstract: Are the limits on what we can do, morally speaking—our “moral incapacities” as Bernard Williams calls them—imposed on us from within, by reason itself, or from without, by something other than reason? Do they perhaps have their source in the will, as opposed to reason? In this essay, I argue for a theory of moral incapacity on which our moral incapacities have their source in reason itself. The theory is defended on the grounds that it provides the best explanation of our knowledge of our own moral incapacities. I argue that just as an agent’s reflective commitments play an essential role in the explanation of their knowledge of their moral incapacities, they play an essential role in the explanation of moral incapacities themselves. Since reflective commitments are rational commitments, and rational commitments have their source in reason, moral incapacities have their source in reason itself. The theory of knowledge of moral incapacity offered in this essay draws on elements of Richard Moran’s “deliberative” theory of self-knowledge and elements of that theory are used to offer a theory of moral incapacities which extends and improves on Bernard Williams’ “deliberative” theory of moral incapacities. The resulting theory is then defended against objections and alternatives.
Ryan Cox “Constitutivism about Instrumental Desire and Introspective Belief,” Dialectica 999, no. 1 (2022), https://doi.org/10.48106/dial.v74.i4.02.
Abstract: This essay is about two familiar theses in the philosophy of mind: constitutivism about instrumental desires, and constitutivism about introspective beliefs, and the arguments for and against them. Constitutivism about instrumental desire is the thesis that instrumental desires are at least partly constituted by the desires and means-end beliefs which explain them and is a thesis which has been championed most prominently by Michael Smith. Constitutivism about introspective belief is the thesis that introspective beliefs are at least partly constituted by the mental states they are about and is a thesis which has been championed most prominently by Sydney Shoemaker. Despite their similarities, the fortunes of these two theses could not be more opposed: constitutivism about instrumental desire is widely accepted, and constitutivism about introspective belief is widely rejected. Yet, the arguments for both theses are roughly analogous. This essay explores these arguments. I argue that the argument which is widely taken to be the best argument for constitutivism about instrumental desires—what I call the argument from necessitation—does not provide the support for the thesis it is widely taken to provide, and that it fails for much the same reasons that it fails to provide support for constitutivism about introspective belief and I argue that the best argument for constitutivism about instrumental desires—what I will call the argument from cognitive dynamics—is also a good argument, if not an equally good argument, for constitutivism about introspective belief (at least when the thesis is suitably qualified).
Ryan Cox and Matthew Hammerton “Setiya on Consequentialism and Constraints,” Utilitas, 2021, https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1017/S0953820821000121.
Abstract: It is widely held that agent-neutral consequentialism is incompatible with deontic constraints. Recently, Kieran Setiya has challenged this orthodoxy by presenting a form of agent-neutral consequentialism that he claims can capture deontic constraints. In this reply, we argue against Setiya’s proposal by pointing to features of deontic constraints that his account fails to capture.
Ryan Cox “Bromberger on the Syntax of Why-Interrogatives,” Lingua, 2020, https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lingua.2020.102884.
Abstract: Are why-interrogatives just like other wh-interrogatives, syntactically speaking? Are they filler-gap constructions? This essay presents the case for thinking that they are. It brings together the standard arguments for thinking that they are and presents a new argument for thinking so. It then critically examines the justly influential arguments of Sylvain Bromberger for thinking that why-interrogatives are not syntactically just like other wh-interrogatives and argues that they do not establish their conclusion.
Ryan Cox “Only Reflect,” Philosophical Topics 47, no. 2 (2019): 183–204.
Abstract: While it is widely held that normative reflection is an effective means of controlling our emotions, it has proven to be notoriously difficult to provide a plausible model of such control. How could reflection on the normative status of our emotions be a means of controlling them? Higher-order models of reflective control give a special role to higher-order beliefs and judgements about the normative status of our emotions in controlling our emotions, but in doing so claim that higher-order beliefs and judgements have more control over our emotional lives than they in fact have, and fail to explain some of the central features of reflective control. First-order models of reflective control give a special role to first-order evaluative beliefs and perceptions about the objects of our emotions in controlling our emotions, but in doing so fail to explain how normative reflection could be a distinctive means of controlling our emotions at all. In this essay, I defend a model of reflective control which avoids the twin pitfalls of the higher-order and first-order models of reflective control, while learning from them both. I defend a model according to which normative reflection is a means of bringing our emotions under the control of reflective reason, where an emotion’s being under the control of reflective reason is to be understood in terms of its being under the control of one’s first-order evaluative beliefs and perceptions in accordance with one’s reflective commitments.
Ryan Cox “How Why-Interrogatives Work,” Synthese, 2019, 1–38, https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1007/s11229-019-02364-w.
Abstract: How do why-interrogatives work? How do they express the questions they express, in the contexts in which they express them? In this essay, I argue that, at a fundamental level, why-interrogatives work just like other wh-interrogatives, particularly other adjunct wh-interrogatives, and they express the questions they express, in the contexts in which they express them, by the same means that other wh-interrogatives do. These conclusions go against a trend in recent work on why-interrogatives, which holds that they are syntactically and semantically unlike other wh-interrogatives. Since the claim that why-interrogatives are unlike other wh-interrogatives has been taken to support various philosophical theses about the nature of why-questions and explanation, showing that why-interrogatives are just like other wh-interrogatives undermines this line of support for these theses.
Ryan Cox “Knowing Why,” Mind & Language 33, no. 2 (2018): 177–97, https://doi.org/10.1111/mila.12173.
Abstract: In this essay, I argue that we have a non-inferential way of knowing particular explanations of our own actions and attitudes. I begin by explicating and evaluating Nisbett and Wilson’s influential argument to the contrary. I argue that Nisbett and Wilson’s claim that we arrive at such explanations of our own actions and attitudes by inference is not adequately supported by their findings because they overlook an important alternative explanation of those findings. I explicate and defend such an alternative explanation of how we can know such explanations in a non-inferential way, drawing on recent work in the philosophy of self-knowledge.
Ryan Cox “The Revised Democratic Threshold Principle and the Distribution of Educational Resources,” Interamerican Journal of Education for Democracy 3 (2010): 109–20.
Abstract: The aim of this paper is to provide a conceptual framework for understanding the connection between the nature of democracy and the role of education in a democratic society. I begin by giving an account of the nature of democracy, along with an account of the conditions and substantive outcomes required to achieve and sustain a democratic society. I then examine the role education plays in securing these outcomes. From this understanding, and taking my cue from the work of Amy Gutmann, I argue that a democratic society is required to distribute educational resources according to what I call the Revised Democratic Threshold Principle. The account offered here provides broad requirements for the distribution of educational resources in a democratic society, along with a justification for these particular requirements in relation to the broader aspects of democratic theory. I finish by briefly examining ways in which the Revised Democratic Threshold Principle can fail to be met, and how this serves to undermine democratic decision-making.