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 normative and metanormative theory. I am currently working on a book defending contextualism about a range of expressions that have figured in recent contextualism/relativism debates (below).

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

  2. “Accommodation and Negotiation with Context-Sensitive Expressions.” Forthcoming. Thought.

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

  4. “Nietzschean Constructivism.” Forthcoming. Special issue of Inquiry on Nietzsche’s moral psychology.

  5. “Wither Anankastics?” (with Billy Dunaway). Forthcoming. Philosophical Perspectives 28: Ethics.

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

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

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

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

  12. “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 (SUPERSEDED: See the drafts “Weak and Strong Necessity” and “Modality, Weights, and Inconsistent Premise Sets” below for more up-to-date developments of the ideas in this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(Please do not cite or quote without permission.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.

  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. “Normative Language in Context”: language, ethics

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

  5. “Deontic Conditionals: Weak and Strong”: language

  6. “Normativity in Language and Law”: language, ethics, philosophy of law

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

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

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

  10. “Evaluational Adjectives” (in preparation; slides available here)

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