In Progress

"Against Mother’s Day and Employee Appreciation Day and other representations of oppressive expectations as opportunities for excellence and virtuous beneficence"

Appreciation and gratitude get a lot of good press: They are central virtues in many religious and secular ethical frameworks, core in positive psychology research, and they come highly recommended by the self-improvement set. Generally, appreciation and gratitude feature as a good things, in popular consciousness. Of course, at least on an Aristotelian model, the belief that these are virtues implies they are something that people can get right, and get wrong. This paper is an examination of bad appreciation and bad gratitude. I aim to identify and characterize several forms of appreciation and gratitude that are at the center of some major social norms and practices, and to demonstrate that they serve to mask oppressive expectations.

This paper is not yet available for comments, but I will be discussing it at the Moral and Political Philosophy Seminar (MaPPS) at UCSD, on June 7, 2019.



“Personal Bonds: Directed Obligations Without Rights”

I argue for adopting a conception of obligation that is broader than the conception commonly adopted by moral philosophers. According to this broader conception, the crucial marks of an obligatory action are, first, that the reasons for the obliged party to perform the action include an exclusionary reason and, second, that the obliged party is the appropriate target of blaming reactive attitudes, if they inexcusably fail to perform the obligatory action. An obligation is directed if the exclusionary reason depends on the relationship between the obliged person and the person to whom they owe the obligatory action, and the latter person is positioned to personally blame the obligated person for inexcusably failing to perform the obligatory action. Some directed obligations are not owed as a matter of right, and the person to whom the obligatory action is owed is the only person positioned to blame nonperformance. Other directed obligations are owed as a matter of right, and people who are not part of the relationship grounding the obligation nevertheless are also positioned to (impersonally) blame non-performance. Only the rights-based form of directed obligation has received significant attention from moral philosophers, yet the former—which is at the heart of what I call “personal bonds”—is a pervasive and significant theme of our ordinary interpersonal lives. 

Forthcoming in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

“Interpersonal Hope”

I present and revise the concept of normative hope that I originally presented in Chapter 5 of How We Hope. I identify and correct some mistakes in my original conception, and argue that interpersonal hope is a genus of Strawsonian “participant” relation that includes as species both generous benefaction and trust.

Complete and forthcoming in The Moral Psychology of Hope, ed.s Claudia Bloser and Titus Stahl (Rowman and Littlefield).

"Obligations of Gratitude: Directedness Without Rights”

A survey of recent philosophical examinations of gratitude reveals a shared puzzlement about debts of gratitude. These debts are, philosophers generally agree, owed by beneficiaries to their benefactors (this essay focuses on gratitude in beneficiary-benefactor relationships). That is, beneficiary debts of gratitude are directed to the benefactor. The puzzlement is that philosophers also generally agree that benefactors have no right to gratitude, cannot demand or insist on gratitude—in sort, have no claim against the benefactor that they show gratitude. What, then, directs the debt of gratitude to the benefactor? If there is no correlative claim on the part of the benefactor, how is that the beneficiary owes gratitude to the benefactor, specifically? In this essay, I address this puzzlement.

Complete and forthcoming in The Moral Psychology of Gratitude, ed.s Robert Roberts and Daniel Telech (Rowman and Littlefield, February 2019).



  1. Martin, A. (2016). “Complicity in Factory Farming.” Commissioned for Philosophy Comes to Dinner: Arguments About the Ethics of Eating, eds. Andrew Chignell, Terence Cuneo, and Matthew Halteman (Routledge), pp. 203-14.

  2. Martin, A. (2015). “Love, Incorporated.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 18 (4): 691- 702.

  3. Martin, A (2013). [primary author of 25 pages], Meyer, S.S. “Emotion and the Emotions,” Oxford Companion to the History of Ethics. Ed. Roger Crisp. (Oxford University Press), 638-671.

  4. Martin, A. (2011). “Hopes and Dreams,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, 83 (1): 148-73.

  5. Martin, A. (2010). “Owning Up and Lowering Down: the Power of Apology,” Journal of Philosophy, 107 (10): 534-53.

  6. Martin, A. (2008). “Hope and Exploitation,” Hastings Center Report, 38(5): 49-55.

  7. Martin, A. (2007). “Tales Publicly Allowed: Competence, Capacity, and Religious Belief,” Hastings Center Report, 37(1): 33-40.

  8. Martin, A. (2006). “How to Argue for the Value of Humanity,” Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 87(1): 96-125.