My research statement is here. Below are some published and forthcoming academic works, not including book reviews. Most of the links give you the penultimate versions, but the final versions of the two published in the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy are linked since JESP is an open-access journal. Books in progress:
Is Morality Real? Co-authored with Matt Lutz Advance contract with Routledge, editor Andrew Beck, series editor Tyron Goldschmidt. This book is intended for use in teaching basic concepts and debates in metaethics. Little or no prior philosophical knowledge is presupposed, making this an ideal teaching text for undergraduates and graduate students who are coming to the questions of metaethics for the first time. However, the book is not content to rehearse old arguments in metaethics. The authors frame issues in unique ways and, as the dialogue over realism and anti-realism progresses, the authors develop their own preferred versions of the views that they are championing. The book is organized into four parts. Part I, coauthored by Case and Lutz, provides a basic overview of the debate. Part II, written by Lutz, presses the case for moral anti-realism. Part III, written by Case, presses the case for moral realism. Finally, in Part IV Case and Lutz respond to each other in two rounds. (May 5, 2022 update: We are just now dotting the i's and crossing the t's; the manuscript should be available for advance review by the end of the month. If you're interested in being an advance reader, please contact me at Spencer.firstname.lastname@example.org)
Why It’s Ok to Be Patriotic Advance contract with Routledge, editor Andrew Beck; part of the “Why it’s ok” series Should athletes stand or kneel when the national anthem is played before games? This American culture war skirmish might seem like a small thing, but what it highlights is a big deal: a fundamental disagreement about the nature of our society – whether it’s fundamentally good or bad – and what our attitudes toward it should be. Upsurges of populism in Europe and Brexit show that this disagreement isn’t uniquely American, either. In this book, Spencer Case offers a defense of patriotism–a sense of loyalty and affection towards one’s own country. Critics of patriotism characterize it as a divisive and exclusionary force in human life. In response, Case argues that national loyalties allow people to transcend more parochial identities, and to create novel cultural achievements. He also draws a distinction between a kind of reflective, affirmative patriotism – expressed, for example, in the essays of George Orwell – and the extreme forms of nationalism that can be plausibly blamed for atrocities. Drawing on work from several subjects, including history, philosophy and sociology, Case argues that enlightened patriotism, far from being an impediment of progress, is instrumental to it.
Front Line Philosophy (co-edited with Mark Zelcer and Jesse Hamilton) One publisher has expressed interest in the project, as have several prospective contributors Front Line Philosophy aims to be a collection that speaks to the intersection of the life of the mind and the warrior life. Contributors will be professional philosophers who have served in various capacities in their nations’ militaries. The goal for the volume is to marry first-person lived experiences of combat and military life with philosophical reflection and rigor. We expect a wide variety of themes to emerge from the contributions. We expect that military ethics will be a central theme, and that the veteran contributors will conceive military ethics to be much broader than the ethics of killing in war. We may see reflection on topics such as intelligence, logistics, and information warfare, which will broaden military ethics.
Published Academic Papers:
Metaethics and Theoretical Ethics "Moral Extremism," Journal of Applied Philosophy 2021 38(4): 615-629. Abstract: The word “extremist” is often used pejoratively, but it’s not clear what, if anything, is wrong with extremism. My project is to give an account of moral extremism as a vice. It consists roughly in having moral convictions so intense that they cause a sort of moral tunnel vision, pushing salient competing considerations out of mind. We should be interested in moral extremism for several reasons: it’s consequential, it’s insidious –we don’t expect immorality to arise from excessive devotion to morality – and it’s yet to attract much philosophical attention. I give several examples of moral extremism from history and explore their social-political implications. I also consider how we should evaluate people who miss the mark, being either too extreme in the service of a good cause, or inconsistent with their righteous convictions. I compare John Brown and John Quincy Adams, who fell on either side of this spectrum, as examples. (Could also be classified as a political philosophy paper).
"The Normative Error Theorist Cannot Avoid Self-Defeat," Australasian Journal of Philosophy (2020) 98(1): 92-104. Many philosophers have noted that normative error theorists appear to be committed to saying ‘Error theory is true, but I have no reason to believe it’, which seems paradoxical. In defense of error theory, some have claimed that the word ‘reason’ in that statement is ambiguous between ‘normative reason’ and a purely descriptive sense of ‘reason’ that the error theorist can accept. I argue, however, that there is no descriptive sense of ‘reason’ that can prevent the paradox from re-emerging. Moreover, these implications of error theory probably provide good grounds for rejecting the view.
"From Epistemic to Moral Realism," Journal of Moral Philosophy (2019) 16(5): 541-562. Both beliefs and actions can be assessed as being reasonable or unreasonable, right or wrong, good or bad. Some philosophers have thought that these commonalities are evidence for moral realism. After all, if epistemic and moral facts share all salient features, then the moral anti-realist cannot claim that moral facts are uniquely suspicious entities. If this reasoning is on point, then the best arguments against moral realism are not decisive given that we should accept epistemic facts. What it does not show, and what a realist might hope can be shown, is that if there are realistically-construed epistemic facts, then there are moral facts of the same level of robustness. That is what I hope to show here.
This paper was featured and discussed on the PEA Soup Blog February 15-17, 2019. David Enoch wrote a critical precis of the article. I responded to Enoch and others in the comments section below. Link here.
"Normative Pluralism Worthy of the Name is False," Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy, (2016) 11(1). Normative pluralism is the view that practical reason consists in an irreducible plurality of normative domains, that these domains sometimes issue conflicting recommendations and that, when this happens, there is never any one thing that one ought simpliciter to do. Here I argue against this view, noting that normative pluralism must be either unrestricted or restricted. Unrestricted pluralism maintains that all coherent standards are reason-generating normative domains, whereas restricted pluralism maintains that only some are. Unrestricted pluralism, depending on how it is cashed out, is either nihilism about practical reason or else it is subjectivism, neither of which is consistent with normative pluralism. Restricted pluralism faces two problems. The first stems from the question: “Why is it that some standards are normative domains while others are not?” The second is that restricted pluralism has difficulty accounting for our intuitions about cases in which one option is optimal in all domains, but not better than each alternative in any one domain. The unique option that is optimal in every domain seems better than its competitors, though it isn’t better within any domain.
"Rethinking Demandingness: Why Scalar Consequentialism and Satisficing Consequentialism are not Less Demanding than Maximizing Consequentialism," Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy (2016) (10)(1). To object to a moral theory, such as maximizing consequentialism, on the grounds that it is too demanding is apparently to say that its requirements are implausibly stringent. This suggests an obvious response: Modify the theory so that its requirements are no longer as stringent. A consequentialist may do this either by placing the requirement threshold below maximization – thereby arriving at satisficing consequentialism – or, more radically, by dispensing with deontological notions such as “requirement” altogether – thereby arriving at scalar consequentialism. Suppose, however, that a moral theory’s demandingness is not a matter of its requirements being stringent, but whether it entails that we have most reason, all things considered, to undertake burdensome actions. If this is the right account of demandingness – as I shall argue – then neither modification necessarily alleviates demandingness. We are led to the surprising conclusion that neither satisficing consequentialism nor scalar consequentialism is inherently less demanding than their more familiar maximizing counterpart.
Philosophy of Religion "Small Evils and Live Options: A New Strategy Against the Argument from Evil," Philosophia Christi 22(2): 307-321. Many philosophers have thought that aggregates of small, broadly dispersed evils don’t pose the same sort of challenge to theism that horrendous evils like the Nazi Holocaust do. But there are interesting arguments that purport to show that large enough aggregates of small evils are morally and axiologically equivalent to horrendous evils. Herein lies an intriguing and overlooked strategy for defending theism. In short: small evils, or aggregates of such evils, don’t provide decisive evidence against theism; there’s no relevant difference between horrendous evils and aggregates of small evils; hence horrendous evils must not provide decisive evidence against theism, either.
"A Limited Defense of the Kalam Cosmological Argument," Res Philosophica 94(1): 165-175. The Kalām cosmological argument proceeds from the claims that everything with a beginning has a cause of its existence, and that the universe has a beginning. It follows that the universe has a cause of its existence. Presumably, this is God. Some defenders of the argument contend that, since we don’t see things randomly coming into existence, we know from experience that everything with a beginning has a cause of its existence. Some critics argue that we may not, in this context, legitimately move from observations of material things within the universe to conclusions about the universe itself. I argue that these critics are mistaken. Plausibly we can, after all, draw cosmic conclusions from everyday experiences in support of the Kalām argument.
Social and Political Philosophy "Political Conviction and Epistemic Injustice" Philosophia (2020) 49(1): 197-216. Epistemic injustice occurs when we fail to appropriately respect others as epistemic agents. Philosophers building on the work of Miranda Fricker, who introduced the concept, have focused on epistemic injustices involving certain social categories, particularly race and gender. Can there be epistemic injustice attached to political conviction and affiliation? I argue yes: politics can be a salient social category that draws epistemic injustice. Epistemic injustices might also be intersectional, based on the overlap of politics and some other identity category like race or sex. Further, and more provocatively, I argue that political minorities in academia, in particular conservatives and libertarians, are most likely the victims of epistemic injustice on the basis of their politics. Such epistemic injustices might even be routine. Although more limited in scope and severity than other forms of epistemic injustice, political epistemic injustices in academia ought to be of special concern from a standpoint of social justice because of the academy’s central role in knowledge production and dissemination.
"White Privilege: A Conservative Perspective" and "Reply to Lowe," in Robert Fischer, ed., Ethics, Left and Right: The Issues that Divide Us (OUP, 2019). I argue that the discourse of “white privilege” is misleading and more likely to exacerbate racial tensions than help to ameliorate them. My central criticism of the notion of privilege is that it is ambiguous between a weak and a strong sense. Ambiguity is not itself inherently problematic. The trouble is that there is apparently no way of resolving the ambiguity while retaining all of the features of privilege that privilege opponents claim that it has. If race-based privilege is understood in the weaker sense, then white privilege clearly exists today, but it’s significance is unclear. On the other hand, if race-based privilege is defined in the strong sense, then it certainly has moral significance, but it’s unclear to what extent it currently exists.