I am an assistant professor of philosophy at Macalester College, in St. Paul, Minnesota. I received my PhD from Stanford and my BA from Swarthmore. I grew up in Portland, Oregon.
I specialize in the philosophy of action, metaethics, and ethics.
My research focuses on metaphysical, psychological and ethical questions about deliberation, motivation, and action. I've published on topics including normative reasons, practical reasoning, normative judgment, action, intention, and shared agency.
My other philosophical interests are very broad (too broad?), and include bioethics, decision theory, epistemology, feminist philosophy, free will, philosophy of gender, philosophy of law, philosophy of mind, political philosophy, philosophy of psychiatry, and philosophy of race.
At Macalester, I regularly teach ethics, bioethics, metaethics, epistemology, the philosophy of race and gender, introduction to philosophy, and our senior capstone seminar.
Outside of philosophy, I like cooking, baking, running, cycling, skiing, and playing and listening to música Brasileira. I live in Minneapolis with my partner, Rebecca, and (obviously) our sourdough starter, Adoniran. A map of (almost) every block I have run on in San Francisco may be found here.
E-mail? sasarnow [at] macalester [dot] edu
Asarnow? uh-SAR-no (/ʌˈsɑr noʊ/)
Pronouns? he/him or they/them
Fig. 1: Standing in front of art
7. [A paper about intention and normative judgment]
This paper has been "conditionally accepted" by a journal.
Abstract below; more details to follow; draft upon request.
Several philosophers have noted parallels between noncognitivism about normative judgment and the planning theory of intention. I consider whether those parallels entail that the planning theory faces a famous objection to noncognitivism, the Frege-Geach problem. I argue that broadly Anscombean versions of the planning theory do face it, while a broadly Gricean version can avoid it. The Gricean version has numerous other virtues, including that it allows the theory to respond to an influential criticism due to Marušić and Schwenkler.
6. Judgment Internalism (w/David E. Taylor) [draft soon]
The Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology (forthcoming)
Manuel Vargas and John Doris, eds.
This is an opinionated survey article about the moral psychological thesis of judgment internalism (also known as "motivational internalism"), according to which there is some kind of necessary link between normative judgment and motivation. (Note: publication of this article is pending final review.)
5. Shared Agency without Shared Intention
The Philosophical Quarterly (vol. and pages TBD) [final; draft]
I argue that creatures who lack plan-laden intentions, and whose agency is thus not temporally extended, may enjoy forms of social interaction that can creditably be called "shared agency." My framework for modeling these agents leads naturally to a formula for producing novel hypotheses about the social capacities of great apes and other sophisticated non-human agents.
4. Internal Reasons and the Boy Who Cried Wolf
Ethics 130, 1: 32-58 (2019) [final]
This is my attempt to explain why you shouldn't be a reasons internalist (or a subjectivist about normative reasons, for that matter). In brief: seemingly powerful sources of appeal for that view evaporate once you get clear about the distinction between objective and subjective reasons.
You can find a critical precis and discussion of this paper on the Pea Soup blog.
3. On Not Getting Out of Bed
Philosophical Studies 176, 6: 1639-1666 (2019) [final; draft]
[Published online in March 2018]
How does intention lead to action? I have no idea. This paper tries to capture my confusion about that question by describing a new puzzle about intentions. Please let me know if you think of a solution!
2. The Reasoning View and Defeasible Practical Reasoning
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95, 3: 614-636 (2017) [final; draft]
This paper presents my favorite version of the Reasoning View about normative reasons, responds to an objection, and argues that the norms of practical reasoning are defeasible or non-monotonic (just like the norms of theoretical reasoning).
1. Rational Internalism
Ethics 127, 1: 147-178 (2016) [final]
This is my attempt to explain why you shouldn't accept an objectivist ("value based") theory of normative reasons. In brief: you should accept the Reasoning View instead, as the Reasoning View is compatible with the standard motivations for objectivism while being far more plausible from an action-theoretic perspective.
2. Review of Tim Henning, From a Rational Point of View
Ethics 130, 1: 113-118 (2019) [final]
1. Review of David Sobel, From Valuing to Value
The Philosophical Review 128, 2 (246-249) (2019) [final; draft]
Work in Progress
To help preserve anonymity in the review process, I don't post the titles of my unpublished work here. If you're looking for a visiting speaker or referee, this should give you a sense of what I'm working on. In some cases drafts are available upon request.
What's currently under review
A paper on motivating reasons and the Reasoning View.
A paper on subjective reasons and the Reasoning View.
What's on deck
A paper on moral responsibility and psychosis.
A paper on squeamishness.
A proposal for a monograph on the Reasoning View.
What I may or may not get around to soon
A paper on reasons-responsiveness theories of moral responsibility.
A paper laying out the master argument for the Reasoning View.
A paper on functionalism and the requirements of rationality.
A paper on permissivism and irrationality.
A paper on forgetfulness.
A collection of essays cataloging my vices.
A book on consequentialism, the doctrine of double effect, and intention.
Fig. 2: Winter in St. Paul, Minnesota
Fig. 3: Winter in São Paulo, Brasil
Fig. 4: Some bread
keywords: samuel asarnow, sam asarnow, asarnow