Overview

Noell Birondo is associate professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy. He joined WSU in 2013 having taught previously at Pomona College and University of Rochester among other appointments. He completed his Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame and his B.A. at the University of California, Berkeley.

His research focuses on moral character and the history of ethics. He is currently editing a book on the moral psychology of hate and writing a book on the influence of historical prejudice on current conceptions of moral character. Winner of the American Philosophical Association’s 2019 Essay Prize in Latin American Thought, he is an affiliated faculty member for the Certificate in Latin American and Latinx Studies, and a past member of the APA Committee on Inclusiveness in the Profession.

Information

Academic Interests and Expertise

Areas of Specialization

Virtue Ethics

History of Ethics

Meta-Ethics

Areas of Interest

Aristotle

Epistemic Injustice

Latin American Philosophy

Feminist Philosophy

Philosophy of Race

 

 

Publications

Books

Virtues and reasons are two of the most fruitful and important concepts in contemporary moral philosophy. Many writers have commented upon the close connection between virtues and reasons, but no one has done full justice to the complexity of this connection. It is generally recognized that the virtues not only depend upon reasons, but also sometimes provide them. The essays in this volume shed light on precisely how virtues and reasons are related to each other and what can be learned by exploring this relationship. Virtue’s Reasons is divided into three sections, each of them devoted to a general issue regarding the relationship between virtues and reasons. The first section analyzes how the virtues may be related to, or linked with, normative reasons in ways that improve our understanding of what constitutes virtuous character and ethical agency. The second section explores the reasons moral agents have for cultivating the virtues and how the virtues impact moral responsiveness or development. The final section examines how reasons can be employed in understanding the nature of virtue, and how specific virtues, like modesty and practical wisdom, interact with reasons. This book will be of major interest to scholars working on virtue theory, the nature of moral character, and normative ethics.

Articles and Chapters

The Virtues of Mestizaje: Lessons from Las Casas on Aztec Human Sacrifice

APA Newsletter on Hispanic/Latino Issues in Philosophy 19 (2): 2-8. 2020.

Winner of the American Philosophical Association’s 2019 Essay Prize in Latin American Thought | Western imperialism has received many different types of moral-political justifications, but one of the most historically influential justifications appeals to an allegedly universal form of human nature. In the early modern period this traditional conception of human nature—based on a Western archetype, e.g. Spanish, Dutch, British, French, German—opens up a logical space for considering the inhabitants of previously unknown lands as having a ‘less-than-human’ nature. This appeal to human nature originally found its inspiration in the philosophy of Aristotle, whose ethical thought pervaded the work of European philosophers at the outset of the early modern period and the modern age of empire. Indeed some Spanish writers—most famously, Juan Ginés de Sepúlveda (b. 1494)—explicitly appealed to Aristotle’s moral-political philosophy in order to justify the conquest of the Americas in the early sixteenth century, for instance to justify war against the Aztecs and other indigenous peoples. At the time of European arrival, the Aztec civilization was easily the greatest in Mesoamerica—and yet the Europeans generally considered the Aztec people to be ‘barbaric,’ i.e. less-than-fully-human.

 

Patriotism and Character: Some Aristotelian Observations

In Mitja Sardoč (ed.), Handbook of Patriotism, Springer. 2020.

This chapter defends an Aristotelian account of patriotism that differs from, and improves upon, the ‘extreme’ account of Aristotelian patriotism defended by Alasdair MacIntyre in a famous lecture. The virtue of patriotism is modeled on Aristotle’s account of the virtue of friendship; and the resulting account of patriotism falls between MacIntyre’s extreme patriotism and Marcia Baron’s moderate patriotism. The chapter illustrates how this plausible Aristotelian account of patriotism can avoid the dilemma that Baron has pressed against MacIntyre’s extreme account. It also illustrates why the virtue of patriotism cannot coexist with willful forms of ignorance. In its discussion of patriotism and ignorance the chapter draws on a recent study (2018) of the especially strong connection in the United States between patriotism and poverty.

 

Whose Metaethical Minimalism?

Southwest Philosophy Review 34 (2): 37-43. 2018.
T. M. Scanlon’s ‘Reasons Fundamentalism’ rejects any naturalistic reduction of normative truths and it also rejects the type of non-naturalism that invokes a ‘special metaphysical reality.’ Here I argue that this still does not commit Scanlon—as some have thought—to an extreme ‘metaethical minimalism’ according to which there are no ‘truth makers’ at all for normative truths. I emphasize that the issue here is not just about understanding Scanlon, since the actual position defended by Scanlon might, more significantly, point the way toward a satisfying non-reductive position in metaethics, one that embodies the ontological modesty that disavows any appeal to a ‘special metaphysical reality’ in Scanlon’s sense.
 

Introduction: Virtue's Reasons 

with S. Stewart Braun In Noell Birondo & S. Stewart Braun (eds.), Virtue's Reasons: New Essays on Virtue, Character, and Reasons, Routledge. pp. 1-7. 2017.

Over the past thirty years or so, virtues and reasons have emerged as two of the most fruitful and important concepts in contemporary moral philosophy. Virtue theory and moral psychology, for instance, are currently two burgeoning areas of philosophical investigation that involve different, but clearly related, focuses on individual agents’ responsiveness to reasons. The virtues themselves are major components of current ethical theories whose approaches to substantive or normative issues remain remarkably divergent in other respects. The virtues are also increasingly important in a variety of new approaches to epistemology.

Virtue and Prejudice: Giving and Taking Reasons

The Monist 99 (2): 212-223. 2016.
 
The most long-standing criticism of virtue ethics in its traditional, eudaimonistic variety centers on its apparently foundational appeal to nature in order to provide a source of normativity. This paper argues that a failure to appreciate both the giving and taking of reasons in sustaining an ethical outlook can distort a proper understanding of the available options for this traditional version of virtue ethics. To insist only on giving reasons, without also taking (maybe even considering) the reasons provided by others, displays a sadly illiberal form of prejudice. The paper finds and criticizes such a distortion in Jesse Prinz’s recent discussion of the ‘Normativity Challenge’ to Aristotelian virtue ethics, thus highlighting a common tendency that we can helpfully move beyond.