I am assistant professor of philosophy at Macalester College. I work in ethics, metaethics, action theory, and epistemology.
My research seeks to understand the fundamental concepts used in moral philosophy and related areas, with a special focus on concepts relating to human motivation. I'm currently occupied with two projects in this area. One concerns the concept of a reason for action; I'm a partisan of a theory called the Reasoning View. The other explores some under-studied problems for the causal theory of action and the distinctive practical attitude theory of intention.
At Macalester I teach courses in ethics, bioethics, metaethics, epistemology, and the philosophy of race and gender. In spring 2018, I'm teaching ethics and ethical theory.
E-mail? sasarnow [at] macalester [dot] edu.
Asarnow? uh-SAR-no (/ʌˈsɑr noʊ/).
Fig. 1: Standing in front of art
"On Not Getting Out of Bed"
Philosophical Studies (vol. and pages TBA) [final; draft]
William James had trouble getting out of bed on cold mornings. He could "resolve" to get up, but his resolution could not "burst the resistance" supplied by his desire to stay in bed. Yet his lingering in bed seemed irrational. On one interpretation, James is reporting that he formed the intention to get out of bed, but he did not execute it. I argue that this phenomenon -- the irrational failure to execute an intention -- is real. Then I argue that it raises a puzzle for Mentalists about rationality, who think rationality supervenes on the mind. I try, but fail, to solve the puzzle. Let me know if you figure it out!
"The Reasoning View and Defeasible Practical Reasoning"
Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 95, 3: 614-636 (2017) [final; draft]
I argue that the Reasoning View about normative reasons for action faces an extensional objection. I show that the objection can be avoided if the norms of practical reasoning are defeasible, in a sense I make precise. Happily, that idea is independently motivated, and I explain why.
Ethics 127, 1: 147-178 (2016) [final]
I raise an action-theoretic objection to Objectivist theories of normative reasons for action (sometimes called "value-based theories"). Then I argue that the Reasoning View satisfies the common motivations for Objectivism while also being action-theoretically plausible. Many Objectivists thus have reason (ouch) to convert to the Reasoning View.
Note on Work In Progress and Under Review
To facilitate anonymity in the review process, I do not post the titles of my unpublished work here. In progress, or currently under review, are papers on reasons for action, rational belief, normative intuitions, and the causal theory of action.
Fig. 2: Winter in St. Paul, Minnesota
keywords: samuel asarnow, sam asarnow, asarnow