Jonathan Dancy’s homepage

I am Professor of Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin, where I spend the second semester each academic year. I retired from the University of Reading on 30 September 2011.

For a complete list of my publications, with full details, click here.

For a complete cv, which contains all the same publications in a different order, click here.

Research Interests

My dominating interest is in moral theory. The main overall focus of my work here is the attempt to construct a viable form of realism, with an associated metaphysics, theory of motivation and theory of moral experience, if so it can be called. I am best known for the distinctively particularist slant that I put on these matters. My last book was a full-scale monograph on this topic under the title Ethics without Principles. While writing it, I have become more directly involved in what is now called the theory of reasons, and I expect to continue to make contributions in this more general field, with special attention still to the ethical aspects of the debate. 

One aspect of that debate, which is currently absorbing my attention, is the proper account of practical reasoning, otherwise known as deliberation. I reject all attempts to characterize this as inference, and offer a new picture which tells its own story about the force and structure of such deliberation, and explains how it can be that in this case reasoning can conclude in action.

The theory of reasons has to say something about what it is to act for a reason. This topic lies officially within the philosophy of action. I am looking for ways of unsettling the dominant view that the reasons for which we act must, since they are manifestly capable of motivating us, be mental states of ourselves. This view seems to me to create far too great a distinction between the good reasons there are for doing what we do and the reasons for which we do them. My initial work in this area was published by OUP under the title Practical Reality. But there remains much to do.

I maintain a subordinate interest in contemporary epistemology, partly for its own sake and partly because one of my special concerns is the intermediate area of moral epistemology (perhaps better described as that of moral rationality). More on the sidelines is an attempt to rewrite the standard account of the relation between Berkeley and his immediate predecessors and successors in such a way as to give a smoother account of the passage from scholasticism to later idealism; here I am trying to continue and expand a theme which I first presented in my 1987 book on Berkeley.

Blackwell have repeatedly asked me to write a second edition of my Introduction to Contemporary Epistemology. But I will never do it.

Some recent and forthcoming pieces:
‘Action in Moral Metaphysics’, in C. Sandis ed. New Essays on the Explanation of Action (Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 398-417.
 ‘Reasons and Rationality’, in Spheres of Reason eds. J. Skorupski, S. Robertson and J. Timmerman (OUP, 2009), pp. 93-112.
‘Action, Content and Inference’, in Wittgenstein and Analytic Philosophy, eds. H-J. Glock and J. Hyman (OUP, 2009) pp. 278-98.
‘Moral Perception’, in a symposium with Robert Audi, in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 2010, pp. 99-117.
‘Metaethics in the Twentieth Century’, forthcoming in M. Beaney ed. Oxford Handbook of the History of Analytic Philosophy.
‘Has Anyone Ever Been a Non-Intuitionist?’, in Underivative Duties: British Moral Philosophers from Sidgwick to Ewing ed. T. Hurka (OUP, 2011), pp. 87-105.
‘Why be a Humean?’, a contribution to a symposium  on Mark Schroeder’s Slaves of the Passions (OUP 2007), forthcoming in Philosophical Studies.
‘McDowell, Williams and Intuitionism’, in Luck, Value and Commitment: Themes from the Ethics of Bernard Williams eds. U. Heuer and G. Lang (OUP, forthcoming 2012).
‘Practical Concepts’, forthcoming in S. Kirchin ed. Thick Concepts (OUP).
‘Ryle and Strawson on Category Mistakes’, forthcoming in a collection on Gilbert Ryle, edited by D. Dolby.
‘Acting in Ignorance’, in Frontiers of Philosophy in China, vol. 6 no. 3, pp. 345-57; a revised version is to appear in C. Littlejohn and J. Turri eds. Epistemic Norms.
‘One thought too many about Bernard Williams?’, forthcoming in Theoretical and Applied Ethics.

Recently I did a 15 minute interview for Philosophy Bites, now available at: