Dr. Dan Baras

Jakobovits Building (1002), room 407
Fields of Interest

Areas of Research: Ethics (especially Climate-Ethics and Metaethics), Epistemology, Philosophy of Science, Philosophy of Religion.

In addition, I teach or have taught: Philosophy of Language, Logic, Judaism and Jewish Philosophy.

Reception Hours
By appointment

    Epistemic Principles

    In the upcoming years I will engage in a project that develops deas sketched in chapter 2 of my book and focuses on epistemic principles. The question I ask is whether there are certain principles of reasoning and belief forming that are fundamental, such that all instances of rational reasoning are rational in virtue of being implementations of those fundamental principles. This question is important in light of a large proliferation of epistemic principles put forth in the literature, with little attempt to understand how they might relate to each other and how we should determine whether they are good principles. 

    Calling for explanation

    My most substantial research project to date focuses on an idea that is central to several philosophical and scientific debates: the idea that there are facts that call for explanation. This idea serves as an unexamined premise in influential arguments for the inexistence of moral facts, for the inexistence of mathematical facts, for theism, for the existence of multiple universes, and others. Despite being prevalent and playing such an important role, this idea has previously received only anecdotal attention. My work is the first to systematically examine the idea that there are facts that call for explanation. I first published four articles that explore various aspects of this topic. Then I completed a comprehensive monograph in which I develop a new way of thinking about calling for explanation. I argue that calling for explanation is a sometimes-misleading metaphor rather than a fundamental property of facts.


    Surprises are important in our everyday lives as well as in our scientific and philosophical theorizing—in psychology, information theory, cognitive-neuroscience, philosophy of science, and confirmation theory. In joint work with Oded Na’aman, we thoroughly characterize the notion of surprise and argue that none of the previous accounts of surprise are adequate. We develop a novel account according to which something is surprising if and to the extent that it is both unexpected and significant. We illustrate how this account solves theoretical puzzles.

    Because the notion of surprise is used and explored in several disciplines, in the process of working on this project we organized an interdisciplinary workshop in which cognitive scientists, philosophers, a linguist, a musicologist and an English literature researcher came together to share their insights on surprise. Insights from this workshop were then incorporated in our article.

    Epistemological challenges to robust moral realism

    A number of my articles contribute to a debate about robust moral realism, the view according to which there are objective moral facts. One type of challenge to this view is to argue that if there were moral facts, we would not have any way of knowing what they are. In particular, this is because our moral judgments were shaped by evolutionary forces that track adaptivity rather than abstract moral truths. In ‘Our Reliability Is In Principle Explainable’ I suggest a way to respond to the challenge. In ‘A Reliability Challenge To Theistic Platonism’ and in ‘The Explanatory Challenge: Moral Realism Is No Different Than Theism’ I compare the prospects for responding to such challenges in metaethics to the prospects of solving similar challenges in philosophy of religion.

    Within this debate there is a principle called ‘Modal Security’ that has played a significant role, due in particular to the work of Justin Clark-Doane (Columbia University). In joint work with Justin ('Modal Security'), we develop and discuss ten challenges to this principle.


    2022–2023: Introduction to Philosophy of Language, Climate Ethics, a two part course on Derek Parfit's Reasons and Persons.

    2023–2024 (tentative): Theism and Atheism (with Aaron Segal, Hebrew University), Introduction to Metaphysics.



    Calling for Explanation (Oxford University Press, 2022)

    This book is the first comprehensive treatment of the idea that some facts call for explanation. I argue that if calling for explanation is thought of as a fixed property of facts that justifies explanatory inferences, as many believe it to be, this leads to a futile philosophical project and confusions in reasoning. I develop the view that calling for explanation is merely a figurative form of speech without a fixed meaning. This sheds new light on influential debates in metaphysics, philosophy of mathematics, metaethics, cosmology and philosophy of physics, among others. To hear more about my book, you can listen to this podcast episode.

    Articles in Peer Reviewed Journals:

    1. What Makes Something Surprising?’ (with Oded Na’aman), Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (forthcoming)
    2. How Can Necessary Facts Call for Explanation?’, Synthese 198:12 (2021), pp. 11607–11624.
    3. Modal Security’ (with Justin Clarke-Doane), Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 102 (2021), pp. 162–183
    4. A Moral Argument against Absolute Authority of the Torah’, Sophia 60:2 (2021), pp. 307–329. [The Association for the Philosophy of Judaism held an online symposium on this paper]
    5.  ‘A Strike against a Striking Principle’, Philosophical Studies 177:6 (2020), pp. 1501–1514
    6. No Need to Get Up from the Armchair (If You Are Interested in Debunking Arguments in Metaethics)’, Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 23:3–4 (2020), pp. 575–590
    7. Calling for Explanation: The Case of the Thermodynamic Past State’ (with Orly Shenker), European Journal for Philosophy of Science 10:3 (2020)
    8. How Close Are Impossible Worlds? A Critique of Brogaard and Salerno’s Account of Counterpossibles’, dialectica 73:3 (2019), pp. 315–329
    9. Why Do Certain States of Affairs Call for Explanation? A Critique of Two Horwichian Accounts’, Philosophia 47:5 (2019), pp. 1405–1419
    10. The Explanatory Challenge: Moral Realism Is No Better Than Theism’, European Journal of Philosophy 26:1 (2018), pp. 368–389
    11. A Reliability Challenge to Theistic Platonism’, Analysis 77:3 (2017), pp. 479–487
    12. Our Reliability is in Principle Explainable’, Episteme 14:2 (2017), pp. 197–211

    Public Philosophy (in Hebrew)

    1. ‘Claiming That We Should Have Less Children Does Not Imply a Hatred for Humanity’ (Hebrew), Haaretz (18.1.2022) [Op-Ed, climate change and population ethics]
    2. All Racists are Racists: Racism, Stereotypes and Generalizations’ (Hebrew), Alaxon (2020) [Discusses when and why generalizations about people are harmful]

    In Preparation:

    1. Carbon Offsetting
    2. ‘Deflating the Undercutting /Rebutting Distinction’ (with Justin Clarke-Doane)

    Last Updated Date : 25/01/2023