William J. FitzPatrick

Gideon Webster Burbank Professor of Intellectual and Moral Philosophy

University of Rochester


Undergraduate Adviser


Associate Editor for Ethics (July, 2013 to present)


Current Courses

Philosophy 103: Moral Problems (Spring 2015)

Philosophy 225: Ethical Decisions in Medicine (Spring 2015)

 Research Areas

Moral Philosophy:

Metaethics: I am interested in defending a robust form of ethical realism that involves a non-naturalistic metaphysics of ethical facts and properties as well as an external reasons theory that allows for the categoricity of moral requirements. In addition to critiquing neo-Kantian constructivism, neo-Humean theories of reasons, and naturalistic forms of realism, I also have particular interests in critiquing common appeals to natural teleology and/or evolution in metaethical or ethical arguments. I have recently focused especially on providing a realist response to evolutionary debunking arguments, and on related issues in moral epistemology.  Finally, I am interested in problems concerning normative ignorance and moral responsibility.

Normative Ethical Theory: Much of my work in normative ethics has focused on resisting consequentialism, particularly through defenses of the Doctrine of Double Effect against various recent objections.

Applied Ethics: My work in applied ethics has been mainly in bioethics (the moral status of embryos, non-reproductive cloning, ethical issues in human subjects research) and in environmental ethics (the non-instrumental value of nature; climate change and the rights of future generations).



Teleology and the Norms of Nature (New York: Garland, 2000).


Articles and Chapters:


"Skepticism about Naturalizing Normativity: In Defense of Ethical Non-Naturalism," forthcoming in Res Philosophica (October 2014), special issue on ethical non-naturalism, edited by Terence Cuneo. Winner of 2014 Res Philosophica Essay Prize. (This article is freely available by clicking on the above link and then clicking the ‘SHOW DOCUMENT’ box.)


"Scientific Naturalism and the Explanation of Moral Beliefs: Challenging Evolutionary Debunking," forthcoming in Kelly Clark, ed., A Companion to Naturalism (Blackwell, 2014).


"Debunking Evolutionary Debunking of Ethical Realism," Philosophical Studies (2014). (Available online-first, then in the regular March, 2015 issue.)


"Why There is No Darwinian Dilemma for Ethical Realism," in M. Bergmann and P. Kain eds., Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief: Disagreement and Evolution (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).


"How Not To Be an Ethical Constructivist: A Critique of Korsgaard’s Neo-Kantian Constitutivism," in C. Bagnoli, ed., Constructivism in Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013). 


"Intention, Permissibility, and Double Effect," Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol. 2 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012).


"Worth/Dignity," in the International Encyclopedia of Ethics (2012).


"The Doctrine of Double Effect: Intention and Permissibility,” in Philosophy Compass, 7(3): 183-196 (March, 2012).


"Biology, Evolution, and Ethics," in the Continuum Companion to Ethics (London: Continuum, 2011).


"Ethical Non-Naturalism and Normative Properties," in Michael Brady ed., New Waves in Metaethics (Palgrave MacMillan, 2010).


"Recent Work on Ethical Realism," Analysis Reviews 69:4 (October, 2009).


"Thomson's Turnabout on the Trolley," Analysis 69:4 (October, 2009).


"Morality and Evolutionary Biology," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (December 2008).


"Moral Responsibility and Normative Ignorance: Answering a New Skeptical Challenge," Ethics, Vol. 118, No. 4 (July, 2008).


"Robust Ethical Realism, Non-Naturalism and Normativity," Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 3 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).


"Teleology," International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, ed. William A. Darity, Jr., Vol. 8. 2nd ed. (Detroit: Macmillan Reference USA, 2008).


"Climate Change and the Rights of Future Generations: Social Justice Beyond Mutual Advantage," Environmental Ethics, Vol. 29, No. 4 (Winter 2007).


"The Intend/Foresee Distinction and the Problem of Closeness," Philosophical Studies, Vol. 128, No. 3 (April, 2006).


"The Practical Turn In Ethical Theory: Korsgaard's Constructivism, Realism, and the Nature of Normativity," Ethics Vol. 115, No. 4 (July, 2005).


"Valuing Nature Non-Instrumentally," The Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 38 (2004).


"Reasons, Value, and Particular Agents: Normative Relevance Without Motivational Internalism," Mind Vol. 113, Issue 450 (April, 2004).


"Ethical Pluralism Without Complementarity," Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, Vol. 47, No. 2 (Spring 2004).


"Totipotency and the Moral Status of Embryos: New Problems for an Old Argument," Journal of Social Philosophy, Vol. 35 No. 1 (Spring 2004).


"Acts, Intentions, and Moral Permissibility: In Defense of the Doctrine of Double Effect," Analysis, 63:4 (October 2003).


"Surplus Embryos, Non-Reproductive Cloning, and the Intend/Foresee Distinction," The Hastings Center Report 33:3 (May/June 2003). *Reprinted in Ethical Issues in Modern Medicine, 7th edition, ed. by Bonnie Steinbock, Alex John London and John D. Arras (McGraw Hill, 2007).


"Defending Against Biochemical Warfare: Ethical Issues Involving the Coercive Use of Investigational Drugs and Biologics in the Military," with Lee Zwanziger, The Journal of Philosophy, Science and Law (Vol. 3, March, 2003).


"O'Neill and Korsgaard on the Construction of Normativity," with Eric Watkins, The Journal of Value Inquiry, Vol. 36, Nos. 2-3 (summer, 2002).


"Ethical Concerns Over Testing on Human Subjects," Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: Vol. 7, No. 6 (2001).




Review of Philip Kitcher, The Ethical Project (Harvard University Press), Ethics, Vol. 123, No. 1 (October, 2012).


Review of Judith Jarvis Thomson, Normativity (Chicago: Open Court, 2008), Ethics, Vol. 120, No. 2 (January, 2010).


Review of Richard Dean, The Value of Humanity in Kant's Moral Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), Mind, Vol. 116, Issue 464 (October, 2007).


Review of Michael Byron, ed., Satisficing and Maximizing: Moral Theorists on Practical Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), Philosophical Books (July, 2007): http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/pdf/10.1111/j.1468-0149.2007.00449_9.x


Review of Giovanni Boniolo and Gabriele De Anna, eds., Evolutionary Ethics and Contemporary Biology (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, April 2, 2007: http://ndpr.nd.edu/review.cfm?id=9205


Review of Joseph Raz, The Practice of Value (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), Ethics, Vol. 116, No. 4 (July, 2006).


Work in Progress:


"Ethical Realism in a Darwinian World"


"Practical Reason, Good Action, and the Normative Authority of Morality"


"Humanity, Persons and Dignity: Kantian and Non-Kantian Approaches"

 Essay Prizes

2014 Res Philosophica Essay Prize for "Skepticism about Naturalizing Normativity: In Defense of Ethical Non-Naturalism". (Follow link and click on ‘SHOW DOCUMENT’.)

2000 Aristotle Prize from The Metaphysical Society of America for "Metaphysics and Ethical Realism".

 Teaching Award

2008-09 Certificate of Teaching Excellence, College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences

Contact Information

Email address: william.fitzpatrick@rochester.edu

Office address and phone: 525 Lattimore Hall; (585) 275-8107

Biographical Information










AB, with Honors



 Prior Teaching:

Virginia Tech, Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies: 2005-2010

Virginia Tech, Assistant Professor: 1999-2005

Yale University, Lecturer: 1996-1999

UCLA, Instructor: 1991-1994