Alex Silk


I am a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Birmingham. I completed my Ph.D. philosophy at the University of Michigan. I am interested in all things modal, conditional, context-sensitive, projective, and expressive. My dissertation was on the meaning of normative language—especially deontic modals—and how incorporating insights from philosophy of language and linguistics can illuminate classic questions in (meta)normative theory. I recently finished a book defending contextualism about a range of expressions that have figured in recent contextualism/relativism debates (below).

You can email me at


  1. “How to Be an Ethical Expressivist.” Forthcoming. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.

  2. “Normative Language in Context.” Forthcoming. In R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 12. Winner of the 2015 Sanders Prize in Metaethics.

  3. “What Normative Terms Mean and Why It Matters for Ethical Theory.” Forthcoming. In M. Timmons (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Vol. 5.

  4. “The Progressive and Verbs of Creation.” Forthcoming. Journal of Semantics.

  5. “Normativity in Language and Law”: Forthcoming.

  6. “Contextualism in Metaethics.” Forthcoming. In T. McPherson & D. Plunkett (Eds.), Routledge Handbook of Metaethics.

  7. “Nietzsche and Contemporary Metaethics.” Forthcoming. In P. Katsafanas (Ed.), Routledge Philosophy Minds: Nietzsche.

  8. “Nietzschean Constructivism.” 2015. Inquiry, Special Issue: Nietzsche’s Moral Psychology, 58(3): 244-280.

  9. “Accommodation and Negotiation with Context-Sensitive Expressions.” 2014. Thought 3(2): 115-123.

  10. “Evidence-Sensitivity in Weak Necessity Deontic Modals.” 2014. Journal of Philosophical Logic 43(4): 691-723.

  11. “Why ‘Ought’ Detaches.” 2014. Philosophers’ Imprint 14(7): 1-16.

  12. “Wither Anankastics?” (with Billy Dunaway). 2014. Philosophical Perspectives 28: Ethics, 75-94.

  13. “Truth-Conditions and the Meanings of Ethical Terms.” 2013. In R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 8.

  14. “Modality, Weights, and Inconsistent Premise Sets.” In A. Chereches (Ed.), Semantics and Linguistic Theory (SALT) 22, pp. 43-64. 2012. (SUPERSEDED: See the drafts “Weak and Strong Necessity” and “Modality, Weights, and Inconsistent Premise Sets” below for more up-to-date developments of the ideas in this paper.)


(Please do not cite or quote without permission. Comments welcome.)

  1. Discourse Contextualism: A Framework for Contextualist Semantics and Pragmatics. Book manuscript. To be published by Oxford University Press UK.

  2. “Weak and Strong Necessity”: language. (This is an expanded and revised version of the sections in my 2012 SALT paper on weak and strong necessity modals, and of Chapter 3 of my 2013 dissertation.)

  3. “Deontic Conditionals: Weak and Strong”: language. (A previous version of this paper was published in Proceedings of the 19th International Congress of Linguists, Départment de Linguistique de l’Université de Genève, 2013.)

  4. “How to Embed an Epistemic Modal: Attitude Problems and Other Defects of Character”

  5. “Evaluational Adjectives”

  6. “Modality, Weights, and Inconsistent Premise Sets”: language. (This is an expanded version of the section of my SALT paper on weights and priorities.)

  7. “Agent-Relative Teleology, Conditional Preferences, and Centered Worlds”: ethics

  8. “Nihilism, art, and value creation in Nietzsche’s ethics and metaethics”: history, ethics

  9. “Dynamic Semantics for Weak Necessity Modals” (in preparation)


  1. 1. Review of R. Shafer-Landau (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, Vol. 6. Ethics 122(3): 622–627.

  2. 2. Review of P. Katsafanas, Agency and the Foundations of Ethics. Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.

  3. 3. Critical Notice of G. Fletcher & M. Ridge (Eds.), Having it Both Ways: Hybrid Theories and Modern Metaethics. Analysis. (In preparation)