Peer-reviewed scholarly articles. See here for my popular level writings.
“Why Recreational Drug Use is Immoral” (The National Catholic Bioethics Quarterly 17:4 : 605-614)
This paper argues for two claims. First, recreational drug use is immoral because it undermines cognitive functioning. Second, for similar reasons, the state has a prima facie public policy interest in enacting legal restrictions on recreational drug use. In this context, “recreational drug use” refers to activities in which a person uses some intoxicating substance to impair, destroy, or otherwise frustrate the functioning of his cognitive faculties for the sake of pleasure or enjoyment.
“The Perverted Faculty Argument” (Philosophia Christi 19:1 : 207-216.)
There is an old argument rooted in the classical natural law tradition that says that the “perverse” or “unnatural” use of a human faculty is immoral. This short essay offers a derivation, overview, and brief defense of this “perverted faculty” argument (PFA). I shall argue that the PFA is entailed by some commonsense theses about the nature of goodness.
“Industrial Farming is Not Cruel to Animals” (Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 30:1 : 37-54)
ABSTRACT: Critics of industrial animal agriculture (also known as “factory” farming) have argued that its practices are cruel, inhumane, or otherwise degrading to animals. These arguments sometimes form the basis of a larger case for the complete abolition of animal agriculture, while others argue for more modest welfare-based reforms that allow for certain types of industrial farming. This paper defends industrial farming against the charge of cruelty. As upsetting as certain practices may seem, I argue that they need not be construed as cruel or inhumane. Any link between industrial farming and cruelty or inhumanity is contingent on certain cultural, behavioral, and psychological facts that are person-dependent. For many people working in animal agriculture, these facts do not obtain. To be sure, industrial animal agriculture has real moral hazards that must be carefully avoided, but all that this shows is that working with animals is not for everyone.
“The Ethics of ‘Gun-Free Zones’“ (Philosophia 45:2 : 659-676)
ABSTRACT: I argue that location-specific gun bans (commonly known as “gun-free zones”) are typically unjust. If there is a right to carry firearms outside of one’s home, then the state cannot prohibit gun owners from carrying their firearms into certain areas without assuming a special duty of protecting those whom it coercively disarms. This task is practically impossible in most of the areas where guns are commonly banned. Gun owners should therefore be allowed to carry their guns in most public places, including college campuses.
“Against Moderate Gun Control“ (coauthored with C’Zar Bernstein, Libertarian Papers 8:2 : 308-325)
“Consenting Adults, Sex, and Natural Law Theory“ (Philosophia 44:2 : 509-529)
ABSTRACT: This paper argues for the superiority of natural law theory over consent-based approaches to sexual morality. I begin by criticizing the “consenting adults” sexual ethic that is dominant in contemporary Western culture. I then argue that natural law theory provides a better account of sexual morality. In particular, I will defend the “perverted faculty argument” (PFA), which holds that it is immoral to use one’s bodily faculties contrary to their proper end.
“A Carnivorous Rejoinder to Bruers and Erdös” (Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 28:6 : 1227-1238)
ABSTRACT: In an earlier paper, I defended the moral permissibility of eating meat against sentience-based arguments for moral vegetarianism. The crux of my argument was that sentience is not an intrinsically morally salient property, and that animals lack moral status because they lack a root (basic) capacity for rational agency. Accordingly, it is morally permissible to consume meat even if doing so is not strictly necessary for our nutrition. This paper responds to critiques of my argument by Bruers (J Agric Environ Ethics 28(4):705–717, 2015) and Erdös (J Agric Environ Ethics, 2015). I show that their criticisms are easily dispatched and therefore fail to undermine my defense of meat consumption.
“Against Gun Bans and Restrictive Licensing” (Essays in Philosophy 16:2 : 180-203)
ABSTRACT: Arguments in favor of an individual moral right to keep and bear firearms typically appeal to the value of guns as a reasonable means of self-defense. This is, for the most part, an empirical claim. If it were shown that allowing private gun ownership would lead to an overall net increase in crime or other social harms, then the strength of a putative right to own a gun would be diminished. But would it be defeated completely? I do not think so, and indeed I want to suggest in this paper that even if the harms outweigh the benefits, that neither an outright ban on handguns nor restrictive discretionary ownership policies are justified as an initial reaction. In other words, given that the overall harms outweigh the overall benefits, the default position is still one in favor of reasonably permissive gun laws over a total ban or restrictive discretionary policies.
“In Defense of Eating Meat” (Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 28:2 : 277-291)
ABSTRACT: Some arguments for moral vegetarianism proceed by appealing to widely held beliefs about the immorality of causing unjustified pain. Combined with the claim that meat is not needed for our nourishment and that killing animals for this reason causes them unjustified pain, they yield the conclusion that eating meat is immoral. However, what counts as a good enough reason for causing pain will depend largely on what we think about the moral status of animals. Implicit in these arguments is the claim that sentience is sufficient for having moral status. These arguments, however, fail to specify the conceptual connection between the two. I argue in this paper that sentience is not sufficient for moral status. Thus, although animals experience pain as it is physically bad, their experience of it is not in itself morally bad. They are harmed in feeling pain, but this harm is not of a moral kind. This distinction parallels the more familiar distinction between moral and non-moral goods. When considered, this significantly mitigates the force of sentience-based arguments for moral vegetarianism. Since animals lack moral status, it is not wrong to eat meat, even if this is not essential to nutrition.
“The Moral Right to Keep and Bear Firearms“ (coauthored with C’Zar Bernstein and Matthew Palumbo, Public Affairs Quarterly 29:4 : 345-363)
ABSTRACT: The moral right to keep and bear arms is entailed by the moral right of self-defense. We argue that the ownership and use of firearms is a reasonable means of exercising these rights. Given their defensive value, there is a strong presumption in favor of enacting civil rights to keep and bear arms ranging from handguns to ‘assault rifles.’ Thus, states are morally obliged as a matter of justice to recognize basic liberties for firearm ownership and usage. Throughout this paper we build upon the relevant criminological and social science research in addition to the work of other philosophers who have in recent years argued in favor of gun rights. Although we believe the statistical evidence supports our case, our argument is primarily non-consequentialist. We do, however, address consequentialist objections in the last section of this paper.
“A Defense of the Perverted Faculty Argument Against Homosexual Sex” (The Heythrop Journal 56:5 : 751-758)
ABSTRACT: Critics of homosexual activity often appeal to some form of natural law theory as a basis for their arguments. According to one version of natural law theory, actions that “pervert” or misuse a bodily faculty are immoral. In this paper, I argue that this “perverted faculty argument” provides a successful account of good and evil action. Several objections are assessed and found inadequate.