Ralf M. Bader

I am a professor of philosophy at the Université de Fribourg in Switzerland, where I hold the chair for ethics and political philosophy. My research focuses on ethics, meta-ethics, metaphysics, Kant, political philosophy and decision theory. I am also interested in neo-Kantian and early analytic philosophy, as well as the history of political thought. Previously, I was a Fellow of Merton College and an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of Oxford, as well as a Bersoff Assistant Professor and Faculty Fellow in the Philosophy Department at New York University. I have held visiting positions at Princeton University, at UT Austin (as a Harrington Faculty Fellow) and at the IFFS in Stockholm. I received my Ph.D. and M.Litt. from the University of St Andrews and did my undergraduate degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics at the University of Oxford (St Edmund Hall).

Email: ralf.bader@unifr.ch

Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society (forthcoming)

Pluralists argue for the distinctness of coinciding objects on the grounds that they have different properties. The grounding problem is the problem of explaining how the supposed difference in properties can arise in the first place. This paper considers this problem as an instance of a more general phenomenon, namely the problem of dealing with underdetermination in asymmetrical systems admitting of non-trivial automorphisms. It argues in favour of primitivism by developing an account of stochastic grounding that makes room for non-fundamental bruteness and substantially mitigates the costs of primitivism.

The asymmetry

Ethics and Existence: The Legacy of Derek Parfit,
Oxford University Press (forthcoming)

This paper provides an account of the asymmetry in population ethics. The first half of the asymmetry is explicated by means of a person-affecting view, whereas the second half is established by means of a structural consistency constraint. This account can be integrated into a general theory that can handle (i) cases where there are externalities in that members of the original distribution are positively or negatively affected by bringing the miserable life into existence, (ii) cases in which one is concerned not only with bringing individual persons into existence but also groups of people, and (iii) situations in which it is uncertain whether an action will result in the addition of lives that are worth not living.

The dignity of humanity

Rethinking the Value of Humanity,
Oxford University Press (forthcoming)

This paper argues that the normative significance of humanity is not to be understood in axiological terms (and that it is hence somewhat misleading to speak of the 'value of humanity') but is instead to be construed in distinctly deontological terms (and that it is accordingly preferable to speak of the 'status of humanity'). It argues, in particular, that humanity has dignity insofar as humanity is the ground of being a member of the domain over which maxims have to be universalisable.

The fundamental and the brute

Philosophical Studies, 178 (2021), pp. 1121-1142

This paper distinguishes bruteness from fundamentality by developing a theory of stochastic grounding that makes room for non-fundamental bruteness. Stochastic grounding relations, which only underwrite incomplete explanations, arise when the fundamental level underdetermines derivative levels. The framework is applied to fission cases, showing how one can break symmetries and mitigate bruteness whilst avoiding arbitrariness and hypersensitivity.

Kantian meta-ontology

Routledge Handbook of Metametaphysics
Routledge (2021), pp. 23-31

This paper develops a Kantian approach to meta-ontology. It contrasts first-order and second-order construals of existence with Kant's modal interpretation of existence and then identifies the problem of modal representation as the central issue of Kantian meta-ontology, showing how this problem can be overcome by means of non-conceptual resources.

De facto monopolies and the justification of the state

Routledge Handbook of Anarchy and Anarchist Thought
Routledge (2021), pp. 152-162

This paper explains how Nozick's notion of a de facto monopoly makes room for states that are justified in claiming a monopoly on coercion despite lacking authority and despite their citizens lacking political obligation. Along the way, it establishes that political obligation and political authority are fundamentally distinct mechanisms for underwriting content-independent duties, yet that neither can plausibly apply in the absence of consent.

Noumena as grounds of phenomena

The Sensible and Intelligible Worlds,
Oxford University Press (forthcoming)

The debate between one-world and two-worlds interpretations of transcendental idealism generally proceeds on both systematic and exegetical grounds. A common objection to two-worlds interpretations is that they are committed to an implausible, if not incoherent, ontology and that considerations of charity consequently speak against attributing such a view to Kant. This paper focuses primarily on systematic rather than exegetical considerations. It aims to develop an account of the relation between noumena and phenomena that makes sense of a two-world ontology. In particular, the goal is to elucidate this relation in such a way that it neither undermines noumenal ignorance nor ontologises space and time. Far from being incoherent or implausible, the resulting theory constitutes a powerful metaphysical system.

Fundamentality and non-symmetric relations

The Foundation of Reality: Fundamentality, Space and Time,
Oxford University Press (2020), pp. 15-45

The first part of this paper argues that there are no non-symmetric relations at the fundamental level. The second part identifies different ways in which asymmetry and order can be introduced into a world that only contains symmetric but no non-symmetric fundamental relations. The third part develops an account of derivative relations and puts forward identity criteria that establish that derivative non-symmetric relations do not have distinct converses. Instead of a plurality of relations, there are only different ways of picking out the same relation. The final part provides an account of how generative operations can induce order and argues for a reconceptualisation of grounding as an operation rather than as a relation.

Kant on freedom and practical irrationality

The Idea of Freedom: New Essays on the Kantian Theory of Freedom,
Oxford University Press (forthcoming)

This paper argues that we have transcendental freedom, according to Kant, due to being both rational and sensible creatures that face two heterogeneous incentives. Freedom is, accordingly, located at the crossroads between reason and sensibility and is restricted to the choice between rational self-love and self-conceit. It then examines how practical deliberation proceeds and how incentives are incorporated to result in actions in order to identify the different types of practical irrationality that Kant countenances. It argues that there is only one type of practical irrationality in the moral sphere, namely having a bad will, but that there cannot be weakness of will in terms of implementing one's commitment. In the prudential sphere, by contrast, there is no irrationality with respect to end-setting, yet there might be practical irrationality in pursuing happiness, since there can be actions that lead to more pleasure despite bringing about less happiness.

Agent-relative prerogatives and sub-optimal beneficence

Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, 9 (2019), pp. 223-250

The first part of this paper uses considerations of sequential choice to argue that suboptimal beneficence is impermissible. The second part shows how the prohibition on suboptimal beneficence follows from an agent-relative theory that understands permissible actions in terms of a dominance principle defined over both the agent-relative and the agent-neutral ordering. This theory incorporates agent-relative prerogatives that ensure that agents are not required to do what is impartially best, yet rules out suboptimal beneficence. The third part shows that the prohibition on suboptimal beneficence is in tension with dynamic consistency, since it leads to violations of expansion consistency condition beta. In particular, there can be cases in which an agent can, by means of a sequence of permissible choices, bring about an outcome that is deemed to be impermissible from the outset. This problem is addressed by developing global choice principles that ensure dynamic consistency.

Person-affecting utilitarianism

Oxford Handbook of Population Ethics (forthcoming)

This paper argues that impersonal versions of utilitarianism involve an objectionable axiology that does not take personal good seriously. Rather than attributing ethical significance to personal good, they only consider it to be ethically relevant. As a result, they end up sub-ordinating and sacrificing personal good for the sake of impersonal good and thereby treat persons as mere containers of impersonal good. This gives rise to particularly troubling implications in variable-population cases. The paper then evaluates the prospects for person-affecting versions of utilitarianism. It argues that same-number person-affecting utilitarianism is the only version of utilitarianism that neither involves an objectionable axiology nor requires problematic metaphysical commitments.

Moralising liberty

Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, 4 (2018), pp. 141-166

This paper argues in support of moralised conceptions of liberty on the grounds that distinguishing between liberty and license allows us to develop a theoretically fruitful notion of freedom that is intrinsically normatively significant and that can play a substantive role in political philosophy. Section 2 argues that the contrast between liberty and license is to be understood in terms of a moralisation of the z-parameter, whereby the domain of this parameter consists of permissible courses of actions. Section 3 defuses the prisoner objection, which is frequently taken to be one of the primary reasons for rejecting moralised accounts. Section 4 argues that only moralised conceptions of liberty can underwrite the presumption of liberty by providing us with a notion of freedom that is intrinsically normatively significant.

Stochastic dominance and opaque sweetening

Australasian Journal of Philosophy, 96: 3 (2018), pp. 498-507

This paper addresses the problem of opaque sweetening and argues that one should use stochastic dominance in comparing lotteries even when dealing with incomplete orderings that allow for non-comparable outcomes.

Real predicates and existential judgements

European Journal of Philosophy, 26 (2018), pp. 1153-1158

One of the central commitments of Kant's modal theory is the claim that existence is not a determination/real predicate. This paper criticises interpretations, such as Stang's, that consider existence to be a synthetic yet non-real predicate, on the grounds that it does not divide the extension of any concept, in order to circumvent the inconsistent triad identified by Shaffer. Instead, it argues that one has to deny that existence is a synthetic predicate and that an alternative account is required for explaining the syntheticity of existential judgements.

Moralised conceptions of liberty

Oxford Handbook of Freedom,
Oxford University Press (2018), pp. 59-75

This paper is concerned with rights-based conceptions of liberty, elucidating how exactly rights-based accounts moralise liberty, identifying two ways in which rights enter into the analysis of freedom, namely (i) by determining which courses of action an agent can be free or unfree to perform, and (ii) by determining which obstacles classify as constraints on freedom. It distinguishes moralised negative conceptions of liberty from positive conceptions of liberty, thereby showing that moralising liberty is not tantamount to adopting a positive conception. Moreover, it contrasts rights-based conceptions with the moral responsibility view, showing that the latter does not constitute a viable alternative and that a rights-based approach is the only acceptable way in which liberty can be moralised.

The grounding argument against non-reductive moral realism

Oxford Studies in Metaethics, 11 (2017), pp. 106-134

The supervenience argument threatens to rule out the existence of irreducibly normative properties by establishing that for every normative property there is a corresponding non-normative property that is necessarily co-extensive with it. This paper identifies a hyperintensional analogue of the supervenience argument that threatens non-reductionism even within a hyperintensional setting by establishing that for every normative property there is a corresponding non-normative property that has the very same grounds and is, accordingly, hyperintensionally equivalent. It is argued that non-reductionism can nevertheless be salvaged by distinguishing the different grounding relations that are involved in grounding the normative property and the corresponding non-normative property. Non-reductionist versions of moral realism thus turn out to be committed to there being irreducibly different grounding relations.

The Refutation of Idealism

Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason' - A Critical Guide,
Cambridge University Press (2017), pp. 205-222

This paper analyses Kant's Refutation of Idealism in the B-edition of the Critique of Pure Reason by examining the conditions that must be satisfied for inner states to be objectively determined in time, focusing in particular on the question to what extent their temporal ordering is parasitic on an objective ordering of outer states. Such a dependence of the ordering of inner states on that of outer states would show, contrary to the problematic idealist, that one's existence (understood in terms of one's mental states) cannot be objectively determined in time unless there is an external world.

Counterfactual justifications of the state

Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, 3 (2017), pp. 101-131

By providing an interpretation of Nozick's justification of the state in Anarchy, State, and Utopia, this paper identifies and illustrates a form of justification that is distinct from traditional hypothetical, teleological and historical justifications.

Inner sense and time

Kant and the Philosophy of Mind,
Oxford University Press (2017), pp. 124-137

This paper explains how outer appearances end up in time, despite the fact that time is only the form of inner and not outer sense, on the basis that they are objects of representations of which we become aware in a temporal manner by means of an act of reflexive awareness. This temporalising function of inner sense, which is due to the fact that time is the form of awareness and which involves the application of the indexical 'now', is to be distinguished from the subjective temporal ordering that results from the reappropriation of mental states by means of inner intuition. Both of these functions pertain to sensibility and are, in turn, to be distinguished from time determination, which is performed by the understanding. There is thus a three-fold progression that begins with 1. the temporalising of appearances as a result of reflexive awareness (subjective simultaneity), continues with 2. the subjective ordering of representings that occurs as part of the reappropriation of mental states (subjective succession), and that culminates in 3. an objective ordering identified by means of time determination (objective simultaneity and succession)

Contingent identity and counterpart theory

Philosophical Perspectives, 30: 1 (2016), pp. 7-20

This paper argues that counterpart-theoretic accounts of modality that allow for many-one counterpart relations, and thereby make room for contingent identities, are not able to preserve the transitivity of identity. It will be shown that the translation scheme of counterpart theorists breaks down and that they have to abandon the claim that objects can be contingently identical in virtue of sharing a counterpart. Moreover, modifications of counterpart theory that preserve the transitivity of identity are shown to require jettisoning the idea that the counterpart relation is a similarity relation and greatly reduce the explanatory power of counterpart theory.

Conditions, modifiers and holism

Weighing Reasons, Oxford University Press (2016), pp. 27-55

This paper provides a framework for understanding two ways in which reasons can vary across contexts, namely through the effects of (i) conditions which take the form of enablers and disablers and which determine whether a consideration constitutes a reason at all, as well as (ii) modifiers which take the form of intensifiers and attenuators and which affect the weight of a reason. Making sense of these forms of context-dependence requires one to develop a fine-grained account of the way in which the weights of reasons are determined. In particular, one needs to distinguish that in virtue of which something is a reason (the source of the reason) from that which makes it the case that it is a reason (that which necessitates the reason). It will be shown that such a distinction is metaphysically robust and can be drawn in a non-arbitrary and non-pragmatic manner. Moreover, it will be established that the features of the context that condition or modify a reason cannot be included in the specification of the reason. On the basis of this account of conditions and modifiers, it will be shown that, despite context-dependence, intrinsicality as well as restricted forms of non-trivial separability can be preserved, thereby establishing that the additive theory of weighing reasons can be rendered consistent with these forms of context-dependence.

Kant's theory of the highest good

The Highest Good in Aristotle and Kant,
Oxford University Press (2015), pp. 183-213

This paper provides an interpretation of the account of the highest good that Kant puts forward in the Critique of Practical Reason. The paper addresses in particular the questions (i) why happiness is included in the highest good, (ii) in what way we are meant to bring our dispositions into complete conformity with the moral law, (iii) why happiness should be distributed in proportion to virtue, (iv) in what sense the highest good is something that we are meant to bring about, and (v) why the validity or bindingness of the moral law presupposes the possibility of the highest good.

Kantian axiology and the dualism of practical reason

Oxford Handbook of Value Theory,
Oxford University Press (2015), pp. 175-201

This paper provides an account of the Kantian theory of value, showing how the fundamentally heterogeneous values of morality and prudence can be integrated into a complete ordering by appealing to the conditionality of the value of happiness, which allows us to explain how the claims of prudence can be silenced by the claims of morality, thereby solving the Sidgwickian problem of the dualism of practical reason. Moreover, it establishes that the Kantian understanding of silencing is the only way of rendering dualism coherent, given that the question as to what one ought to do, considering all the normative demands to which one is subject, requires either that these demands be commensurable, which presupposes monism, or that these demands never conflict, which can only be ensured in principle by means of conditional value structures.

Towards a hyperintensional theory of intrinsicality

Journal of Philosophy, 110: 10 (2013), pp. 525-563

The distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic properties is an elusive distinction that has resisted precise formulation. This paper argues in favour of a hyperintensional analysis of intrinsicality that appeals to 'in virtue of' claims. It will be shown that accounts of intrinsicality that appeal to combinatorial and duplication principles do not yield satisfactory results, even when they are supplemented with a notion of 'naturalness'. We need to appeal to 'in virtue of' claims rather than to 'naturalness' in order (i) to allow for cases whereby a property is possessed both intrinsically and extrinsically, (ii) to adequately classify modal properties when these are given a counterpart-theoretic analysis, and (iii) to retain the idea that the set of intrinsic properties and the set of pure extrinsic properties are closed under Boolean operations. Moreover, the paper will argue in favour of treating the intrinsically/extrinsically distinction as more basic than the intrinsic/extrinsic distinction and explaining the latter in terms of the former.

Multiple-domain supervenience for non-classical mereologies

Varieties of Dependence, Philosophia (2013), pp. 347-367

This paper develops co-ordinated multiple-domain supervenience relations to model determination and dependence relations between complex entities and their constituents by appealing to R-related pairs and by making use of associated isomorphisms. Supervenience relations are devised for order-sensitive and repetition-sensitive mereologies, for mereological systems that make room for many-many composition relations, as well as for hierarchical mereologies that incorporate compositional and hylomorphic structure. Finally, mappings are provided for theories that consider wholes to be prior to their parts.

Self-knowledge in § 7 of the Transcendental Aesthetic

Proceedings of the XIth International Kant Kongress,
de Gruyter (2013), Vol. 2, pp. 531-540

Kant's claim that time is a subjective form of intuition was first proposed in his Inaugural Dissertation. This view was immediately criticised by Schultz, Lambert and Mendelssohn. Their criticisms are based on the claim that representations change which implies that change is real. From the reality of change they then argue to the reality of time, which undermines its supposed status as a subjective form of intuition that only applies to appearances. Kant took these criticisms very seriously and attempted to reply to them in § 7 of the Transcendental Aesthetic. This paper provides a critical assessment of the objections raised by Schultz, Lambert and Mendelssohn as well as of Kant's diagnosis and response. In particular, it shows how Kant can consistently hold that knowledge of our mental states is restricted to knowledge of appearances.

The non-transitivity of the contingent and
occasional identity relations

Philosophical Studies, 157: 1 (2012), pp. 141-152

This paper establishes that the occasional identity relation and the contingent identity relation are both non-transitive and as such are not properly classified as identity relations. This will be achieved by appealing to cases where multiple fissions and fusions occur simultaneously. These cases show that the contingent and occasional identity relations do not even satisfy the time-indexed and world-indexed versions of the transitivity requirement and hence are non-transitive relations.

The role of Kant's Refutation of Idealism

Archiv für Geschichte der Philosophie, 94: 1 (2012), pp. 53-73

This paper assesses the role of the Refutation of Idealism within the Critique of Pure Reason, as well as its relation to the treatment of idealism in the First Edition and to transcendental idealism more generally. It is argued that the Refutation is consistent with the Fourth Paralogism and that it can be considered as an extension of the Transcendental Deduction. While the Deduction, considered on its own, constitutes a 'regressive argument', the Refutation allows us to turn the Transcendental Analytic into a 'progressive argument' that proceeds by the synthetic method.

Supervenience and infinitary property-forming operations

Philosophical Studies, 160: 3 (2012), pp. 415-423

This paper provides an account of the closure conditions that apply to sets of subvening and supervening properties, showing that the criterion that determines under which property-forming operations a particular family of properties is closed is applicable both to the finitary and to the infinitary case. In particular, it is established that, contra Glanzberg, infinitary operations do not give rise to any additional difficulties beyond those that arise in the finitary case.

The framework for utopia

The Cambridge Companion to Nozick's 'Anarchy, State, and Utopia',
Cambridge University Press (2011), pp. 255-288

This paper analyses Nozick's possible-worlds model of utopia. It identifies and examines three arguments in favour of the minimal state: (1) the minimal state is the real-world analogue of the possible-worlds model and can hence be considered to be inspiring; (2) the minimal state is the common ground of all possible utopian conceptions and can hence be universally endorsed; and (3) the minimal state is the best or at least a very good means for approximating or achieving utopia. While constituting fascinating lines of inquiry, all arguments are found to be wanting and unable to yield the conclusions that Nozick intended to establish. Nonetheless, they establish interesting and important results, in particular the result that the minimal state is the maximal institutional structure that is in principle compatible with the complete satisfaction of the maximal non-arbitrary set of preferences that are in principle co-satisfiable, as well as the corollary that in utopia any state will exert at most the functions of a minimal state.

Kant and the Categories of Freedom

British Journal for the History of Philosophy, 17: 4 (2009), pp. 799-820

This paper provides an account of Kant's categories of freedom, explaining how they fit together and what role they are supposed to play. The interpretation places particular emphasis on the structural features that the table of the categories of freedom shares with the table of judgements and the table of categories laid out by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason. In this way we can identify two interpretative constraints, namely (i) that the categories falling under each heading must form a synthetic unity whereby the third one derives from the combination of the other two. and (ii) that the first two categories falling under each heading must be morally undetermined and sensibly conditioned, while the third category is sensibly unconditioned and determined only by the moral law.

The Transcendental Structure of the World

Ph.D. dissertation, University of St Andrews, 2010

This dissertation provides a systematic account of the metaphysics of transcendental idealism. The key claim that is advanced is that in order to be realists we have to be transcendental idealists.

Review of U. Abaci: Kant's Revolutionary Theory of Modality
Journal of the History of Philosophy

Review of M. Timmons: Significance and System - Essays on Kant's Ethics
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Review of M. Jago: The Impossible - An Essay on Hyperintensionality
Journal of Philosophy

Review of M. Peterson: The Dimensions of Consequentialism

Review of G. A. Cohen: Finding Oneself in the Other
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Review of S. A. Davison: On the Intrinsic Value of Everything
Journal of Moral Philosophy

Review of V. Hoffmann-Kolss: The Metaphysics of Extrinsic Properties
Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

Review of K. Koslicki: The Structure of Objects

Review of R. Leonard: Von Neumann, Morgenstern, and the Invention of Game Theory
Economic Affairs

Contact details

Ralf M. Bader
Department of Philosophy
Université de Fribourg
Av. de l'Europe 20, CH-1700 Fribourg