Jeremy Schwartz


Do Hypothetical Imperatives Require Categorical Imperatives (European Journal Of Philosophy, March 2010)

Recently, the idea that every hypothetical imperative must somehow be ‘backed up’ by a prior categorical imperative has gained a certain influence among Kant interpreters and ethicists influenced by Kant. Since instrumentalism is the position that holds that hypothetical imperatives can by themselves and without the aid of categorical imperatives explain all valid forms of practical reasoning, the influential idea amounts to a rejection of instrumentalism as internally incoherent. This paper argues against this prevailing view both as an interpretation of Kant and as philosophical understanding of practical reason. In particular, it will be argued that many of the arguments that claim to show that hypothetical imperatives must be backed up by categorical imperatives mistakenly assume that the form of practical reasoning must itself occur as a premise within the reasoning. An alternative to this assumption will be offered. I will conclude that while instrumentalism may well be false, there is no reason to believe it is incoherent.

Unity and the Frege Geach Problem (with Christopher Hom TTU, Phil Studies, March 2013).

The problem of the unity of the proposition asks what binds together the constituents of a proposition into a fully formed proposition that provides truth conditions for the assertoric sentence that expresses it, rather than merely a set of objects. Hanks’ solution is to reject the traditional distinction between content and force. If his theory is successful, then there is a plausible extension that readily solves the Frege-Geach problem for normative propositions. Unfortunately Hanks’ theory isn’t successful, but it does point to significant connections between expressivism, unity and embedding.

A Kantian Account of Gratitude (under review, Ethics)

When we receive a kindness, gratitude is owed to our benefactor. But what does gratitude demand? Must we reciprocate the kindness or simply acknowledge it with a “thank you”? Or, perhaps, we ought to do both? Most theorists about gratitude believe that significant acts of beneficence require reciprocation. In this essay, I argue that it is acknowledgment rather than reciprocation that lies at the core of gratitude. Relying on arguments first provided by Kant in his Metaphysics of Morals, I will argue for the importance of acknowledgment by articulating and defending three Kantian claims. First, I show that beneficence is the proper object of gratitude and gratitude is the companion obligation that acknowledges an act of beneficence. Second, I contend that beneficence is a social practice that depends upon the acknowledgment of its participants. In other words, widespread ingratitude can destroy the possibility of beneficence. Finally, I argue that in situations where reciprocation is appropriate, it ought to be performed as a token of acknowledgment rather than any type of “paying back”. Taking all these claims together, acknowledgment turns out to play the central role in gratitude’s justification and also to play the central role in guiding actual acts of gratitude. I conclude that gratitude just is a duty to acknowledge acts of beneficence.

Why the Negation Problem Is Not a Problem for Expressivism (with Christopher Hom, under review, Nous)

The Negation Problem states that expressivism has insufficient structure to account for the various ways in which a moral sentence can be negated. We argue that the Negation Problem does not arise for expressivist accounts of all normative language but arises only for the specific examples on which expressivists usually focus. In support of this claim, we argue for the following three theses: 1) A problem that is structurally identical to the Negation Problem arises in non-normative cases, and this problem is solved once the hidden quantificational structure involved in such cases is uncovered; 2) the terms ‘required’, ‘permissible’, and ‘forbidden’ can also be analyzed in terms of hidden quantification over a normative primitive, and the Negation Problem disappears once this hidden structure is uncovered; 3) the Negation Problem does not arise for normative language that has no hidden quantificational structure. We conclude that the Negation Problem is not really a problem about expressivism at all but is rather a feature of the quantificational structure of the required, permitted, and forbidden.

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