Jacob Ross

Associate Professor
USC School of Philosophy
3709 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0451
Office: 115 Stonier Hall
Email: jacobmro [at] usc [dot] edu
USC Department Website

Curriculum Vitae

I am an associate professor of Philosophy at the University of Southern California. I received my BA in Philosophy from the University of Toronto, and was a graduate student in Philosophy at Rutgers University, where I received my PhD in 2006. My research is on Practical Reason, Ethics, and Epistemology.

Published and Forthcoming

  • Rationality, Normativity, and Commitment
    Forthcoming, Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 7, edited by Russ Shafer-Landau.
    I consider three challenges to the normativity of rationality: the ignorance problem (which concerns cases where we are rationally required to do what we have most objective reason not to do), the wrong kind of reasons problem (which concerns cases where we seem to have overwhelming pragmatic reason to have irrational attitudes), and the mere incoherence problem (which concerns cases where a combination of attitudes is rationally prohibited, and yet we have sufficient reason for each of the constituent attitudes).  After criticizing traditional responses to each of these challenges, I offer an account of the connection between rationality and reasons that answers all of them and that has considerable explanatory power.

  • Actualism, Possibilism and Beyond
    Forthcoming, Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 2, edited by Russ Shafer-Landau.
    How should we act when we don’t currently have perfect deliberative control over our future conduct?  Actualists say that we should f when f-ing would be preferable to what we would do otherwise, whereas possibilists say that we should ϕ when all our maximally preferable options involve f-ing.  I argue that neither of these views can succeed, and I propose an alternative view that avoids the difficulties facing each.

  • Belief, Credence and Pragmatic Encroachment (cowritten with Mark Schroeder)
    Forthcoming, Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    We compare two alternative theories of outright belief and its relation to credence.  We criticize one view, which we call pragmatic credal reductivism, according to which believing a proposition consists in having sufficient credence in it for practical purposes.  And we propose and defend an alternative view, which we call the reasoning disposition account, according to which believing a proposition consists in having a defeasible disposition to treat it as true in reasoning.
  • Sleeping Beauty, Countable Additivity, and Rational Dilemmas
    2010, Philosophical Review. (Selected for the 2010 Philosopher’s Annual)
    I argue that the main arguments for the 1/3 solution to the Sleeping Beauty problem entail a more general principle (what I call the Generalized Thirder Principle) which conflicts with the principle of countable additivity.  I argue that the most plausible response to this conflict is to accept both principles and to maintain that, in cases where they conflict, rational dilemmas arise.

    Supplement: Stalnaker on Sleeping Beauty

  • How to Be a Cognitivist about Practical Reason
    2009, Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Volume 4, edited by Russ Shafer-Landau.
    Cognitivism about practical reason is the view that intentions involve beliefs and that rational norms on intentions can be explained in terms of rational norms on the beliefs they involve.  This paper provides a detailed examination of the prospects of cognitivism and of the challenges it faces.  In it I argue that the self-referential account of intentions typically adopted by cognitivists will not serve their purposes, and I propose an alternative account which, I argue, is more promising.
  • Should Kantians Be Consequentialists?
    2009, Ratio.
    Parfit argues that Rule Consequentialism can be derived from the most plausible formulation of Kantian ethics, and hence that Kantians should be consequentialists.  I argue that there is strong reason to reject two of the assumptions that figure in this derivation.
  • Derek Parfit
    2009, 12 Modern Philosophers, edited by Christopher Belshaw and Gary Kemp, Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Rejecting Ethical Deflationism
    2006, Ethics.
    I consider what I call deflationary ethical theories, including Nihilism and Relativism.  Drawing a distinction between practical acceptance and rejection, on the one hand, and belief and disbelief, on the other, I argue that we have strong reason to reject these theories from the practical point of view even if we don’t have reason to disbelieve them.

In Preparation

Comments welcome. Please don't quote without permission.

  • Reversibility or Disagreement (cowritten with Mark Schroeder)
    This paper concerns the debate between contextualists and relativists over a family of expressions that includes both epistemic and deontic modals (“might,” “must,” “ought,” etc.).  We argue that these expressions all display an important but largely overlooked feature that we call reversibility:  they give rise to sentences that one can rationally and sincerely assertively utter while knowing that one will later rationally and sincerely assertively utter their negations.  We argue that this phenomenon undermines claims about disagreement that have been used to support relativism.
  • Any Way You Slice It: On Fission, Fusion and the Weighing of Welfare
    If you have special concern for someone, how should this affect the manner in which you weigh this person’s welfare against the welfare of others?  I argue that what appears prima facie to be the most plausible answer to this question has unacceptable implications in cases involving fission and fusion.  And this is true, I argue, on any metaphysical theory about what happens in such fission and fusion cases.  I then propose and defend an alternative answer to this question.


Other Work