Rory O'Connell

Rory O'Connell
Humanities Teaching Fellow (2018-19)
University of Chicago PhD (2018); Kings College London BA and M.Phil.
Research Interests: Philosophy of Mind and Action, Ethics


Ethics, Philosophy of Action, Philosophy of Mind, Ancient Philosophy, Kant



Dissertation Title: “The Efficacy of The Good”

Dissertation Committee: Candace Volger (chair), Jason Bridges, Agnes Callard, Anton Ford, and Matthias Haase



PHIL 24260 Ethical Knowledge

What sort of knowledge do we have when know what we ought to do—where ‘what we ought to do’ is the ethical or moral thing to do? In this course we shall look at different contemporary attempts to answer this question, as well as some of their historical influences. This will involve reading some philosophers who doubt that there is any such thing as ethical knowledge, some who think ethical knowledge is akin to less controversial examples of knowledge, and some who take it to constitute a special form of knowledge. Along the way, we shall aim to get in view both the appeal and the difficulty of the ancient idea that morality can be understood in terms of knowledge. Readings will include: J.L Mackie, John McDowell, Christine Korsgaard, Peter Railton, Peter Geach and others.

2018-2019 Spring

PHIL 23021 Reason and Agency

In this course we shall investigate the kind of rationality that is distinctive of human agency: practical rationality. We shall consider what (if anything) sets practical reasoning apart from theoretical reasoning as a special form of rationality, as well as the relation between the kind of rationality distinctive of agents and the moral character of action. Some of the questions we shall consider are:  What makes an action rational or irrational? Is it irrational to act immorally? If so, what kind of failure of rationality does that involve? Is instrumental reasoning exhaustive of practical reasoning? Is instrumental reasoning itself an ‘amoral’ activity?  We shall read selections from: Bernard Williams, Philippa Foot, Christine Korsgaard, Kieran Setiya, Warren Quinn, David Enoch, Elizabeth Anscombe and others.

2018-2019 Winter