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James Skidmore

James Skidmore

Associate Professor of Philosophy; Department Vice Chair; Director of Philosophy

Office: LA 253



PhD, Philosophy (2000), University of Minnesota

BA, Philosophy (1993), Washington State University

BA, English (1992), Washington State University

My main philosophical interests are in ethical theory, and in particular Kantian and utilitarian moral theory. In my dissertation I focused on Kantian theories and their inability to accommodate moral obligations toward non-human animals. I argued, and continue to argue, that their failure in this regard constitutes a serious theoretical problem. My interests are now gradually turning toward the project of developing and defending a plausible consequentialist theory (an approach that traditionally defines morally right action as action that maximizes overall, long-run value; utilitarianism is an example of such an approach). Since a crucial first step is to define consequentialism in a plausible way, my current work examines how, and how not, to do this. From here my goal is to contribute to the defense of such a theory. Since I believe there is little hope of doing so through conceptual analysis or argument a priori, my concern is to examine the extent to which a consequentialist theory can accommodate various considered judgments that are widely shared at the level of practice—in particular, features of our moral practice that appear to be thoroughly non-consequentialist in nature.

While these topics are the focus of my research, my teaching continues to be in many ways the most rewarding part of my job. I regularly teach lower-division courses in Introduction to Ethics, Introduction to Philosophy, and Bioethics. I also teach upper-division courses in Ethical Theory, Political Philosophy, and Philosophy of Law. When schedules permit, I enjoy teaching courses on special topics—recent examples include Philosophy of War and Terrorism and an Honors Seminar: Lying and Deception.

Selected Publications

"Does ‘Ought’ Imply ‘Might’? How (not) to Resolve the Conflict between Act and Motive Utilitarianism." Philosophia 46 (2018), 207-221.

“Skepticism about Practical Reason: Transcendental Arguments and Their Limits.” Philosophical Studies 109 (2002), 121-141.

“Duties to Animals: The Failure of Kant’s Moral Theory.” Journal of Value Inquiry 35 (2001), 541-559.

--Reprinted in Applied Ethics, Dimock and Tucker (eds.),Thomson Nelson (2004), 160-176.

--Reprinted in Environmental Ethics, Botzler and Armstrong (eds.), McGraw-Hill (2003).


Master Teacher, ISU, 2011

Courses Taught

4450/5550: Ethical Theory

3353: Philosophy of Law

2230: Medical Ethics

1103: Introduction to Ethics

1101: Introduction to Philosophy

POLS 3313: Political Philosophy