James Mahon Professor of Philosophy and Adjunct Professor of Law

James Mahon

Washington Hall 310
Website - Curriculum Vitae

Professor Mahon joined the Department of Philosophy in 2000 as an Assistant Professor of Philosophy. He was appointed head of the Philosophy Department in 2007. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at W&L School of Law. He has been a Visiting Scholar in the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge and a Visiting Fellow in the Department of Philosophy at Princeton University. In 2011-2012 he was a Lecturer in the Program on Ethics, Politics, and Economics at Yale University, and a Visiting Researcher at Yale Law School. He continues to teach each summer for Yale Summer Session. In June 2015 he will be a Visiting Professor at the University of International Business and Economics in Beijing, China.

Professor Mahon’s research interests are in moral philosophy, the history of moral philosophy, early modern philosophy, and applied ethics. He has written on lies and deception for a number of books and journals, as well as for the Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the Encyclopedia of Deception, and the Oxford Handbook of Lying.


Ph.D. Philosophy, Duke University
M.Phil. Philosophy, University of Cambridge
B.A. Philosophy and Modern English, Trinity College, Dublin


Moral Philosophy, History of Moral Philosophy, Early Modern Philosophy, Applied Ethics, Lies and Deception


Ancient Philosophy, Modern Philosophy, Philosophy and Religion, Nietzsche, Contemporary Ethics, Philosophy of Law, History of Ethics, Metaethics, Roe v. Wade and the Abortion Question, Bioethics, The Limits of Morality 

Jurisprudence (W&L Law School)

Lies and Deception (Yale Summer Session)

Selected Publications


Motivational Internalism and the Authority of Morality (VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, 2011) 

Book Chapters and Articles

  1. "Secrets vs. Lies," in Lying: Language, Knowledge, and Ethics, eds. Andreas Stokke and Eliot Michaelson (Oxford University Press, in preparation)
  2. "Deception and Breach of Trust in Lying," in Lying: The Making of the World, ed. J. Edward Mallot, Ayanna Thompson, Steven Neuberg, and Jennifer Fewell (Harvard University Press, in preparation)
  3. "Classic philosophical approaches to lying and deception," in The Oxford Handbook of Lying, ed. Jörg Meibauer (Oxford University Press, in preparation)
  4. "Modern philosophical approaches to lying," in The Oxford Handbook of Lying, ed. Jörg Meibauer (Oxford University Press, in preparation)
  5. "Lying and the philosophy of language," in The Oxford Handbook of Lying, ed. Jörg Meibauer (Oxford University Press, in preparation)
  6. "Kant, Morality, and Hell" in Philosophical Approaches to Hell, eds. Robert Arp and Ben McCraw (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming)
  7. "Abortion and Indecency," in Philosophy and Public Matters: From Philosophical Reflection to Political Engagement, eds. Allyn Fives and Keith Breen (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming)
  8. The Definition of Lying and Deception,” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2008; rev. 2015)
  9. "Innocent Burdens," Washington and Lee Law Review 71 (2014): 1429-1469
  10. Lying for the Sake of the Truth: The Ethics of Deceptive Journalism,” in Contemporary Media Ethics, eds. Mitchell Land, Koji Fuse and Bill W. Hornaday (2nd ed., Marquette Books, 2014): 219-237
  11. MacIntyre and the Emotivists,” in What Happened in and to Moral Philosophy in the Twentieth Century? Essays in Honor of Alasdair MacIntyre, ed. Fran O’Rourke (University of Notre Dame Press, 2013): 167-201
  12. All’s Fair in Love and War? Machiavelli and Ang Lee's Ride With the Devil,” in The Philosophy of Ang Lee, eds. Robert Arp, Adam Barkman, and Jim McRae (University Press of Kentucky, 2013): 265-290
  13. A Double-Edged Sword: Honor in The Duellists,” in The Culture and Philosophy of Ridley Scott, eds. Adam Barkman, Ashley Barkman, and Nancy King (Lexington Books, 2013): 45-60
  14. “Spinoza, Bad Faith, and Lying: A reply to John W. Bauer,” Wassard Elea Rivista 1 (2013)
  15. “Kant on Lying as a Crime against Humanity,” Parmenideum IV, No. 2 (2012): 63-88
  16. Kant on Keeping a Secret,” Listening: Journal of Religion and Culture 44 (2009): 21-3
  17. The Truth About Kant On Lies,” in The Philosophy of Deception, ed. Clancy Martin (Oxford University Press, 2009): 201-224
  18. Two Definitions of Lying,” International Journal of Applied Philosophy 22 (2008): 211-230
  19. The Morality of On Liberty,” Studies in the History of Ethics - Symposium on Mill’s Ethics (2007)
  20. A Definition of Deceiving,” International Journal of Applied Philosophy 21 (2007): 181-194
  21. Kant and the Perfect Duty to Others Not to Lie,” British Journal for the History of Philosophy 14 (2006): 653-685
  22. Kant and Maria von Herbert: Reticence vs. Deception,” Philosophy 81 (2006): 417-44
  23. The Good, the Bad, and the Obligatory,” The Journal of Value Inquiry 30 (2006): 1-13
  24. Emotivism and Internalism: Ayer and Stevenson,” Studies in the History of Ethics (2005)
  25. Kant on Lies, Candour and Reticence,” Kantian Review 7 (2003): 102-33
  26. Getting Your Sources Right: What Aristotle Didn’t Say,” in Researching and Applying Metaphor, eds. Lynne Cameron and Graham Low (Cambridge University Press, 1999): 69-80
  27. Truth and Metaphor: A Defense of Shelley,” in Metaphor and Rational Discourse, eds. Bernard Debatin, Timothy R. Jackson and Daniel Steuer (Max Niemeyer Verlag, 1997): 137-46

Encyclopedia Entries

  1. "Louis D. Brandeis," Encyclopedia of World Poverty ed. Mehmet A. Odekon (Sage, forthcoming)
  2. "Fraud," Encyclopedia of World Poverty (Sage, forthcoming)
  3. "John Locke," Encyclopedia of World Poverty (Sage, forthcoming)
  4. "Learning Objects," Encyclopedia of Educational Technology, ed. Michael J. Spector (Sage, 2015)
  5. "Fair Lending Practices," Encyclopedia of Human Services and Diversity, ed. Linwood H. Cousins (Sage, 2014): 508-512
  6. "Deception: Characteristics of," Encyclopedia of Deception, ed. Timonthy R. Levine (Sage, 2014): 246-250
  7. "Deception and Technology," Encyclopedia of Deception (2014): 255-260
  8. "History of Deception: 1600 to 1700," Encyclopedia of Deception (2014): 456-460
  9. "History of Deception: 1800 to 1900,"  Encyclopedia of Deception (2014): 464-468
  10. "History of Deception: 1900 to 1950," Encyclopedia of Deception (2014): 468-472
  11. "History of Deception: 1950 to the Present," Encyclopedia of Deception (2014): 472-477
  12. "Lying: Accusations," Encyclopedia of Deception (2014): 608-611
  13. "Morals and Ethics,"  Encyclopedia of Deception (2014): 676-682
  14. "Plato," Encyclopedia of Deception (2014): 768-770
  15. "Saint Augustine," Encyclopedia of Deception (2014): 827-829
  16. "Transparent Liars," Encyclopedia of Deception (2014): 896-898
  17. Lying,” Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Donald M. Borchert (2nd ed., Macmillan, 2006): 618-19 

Book Reviews

  1. Speech and Morality: On the Metaethical Implications of Speaking, by Terence Cuneo, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (in preparation)
  2. Descartes: An Analytical and Historical Introduction (2nd edition), by Georges Dicker, The Philosophical Review (in preparation)
  3. What Happened in and to Moral Philosophy in the Twentieth Century? Essays in Honor of Alasdair MacIntyre, edited by Fran O’Rourke, The Review of Metaphysics (in preparation)
  4. Kant’s Theory of Virtue: The Value of Autocracy, by Anne Margaret Baxley, Journal of Moral Philosophy, 11 (2014): 245-248
  5. Deception: From Ancient Empires to Internet Dating, edited by Brooke Harrington, Philosophy in Review, August 2012
  6. Lying and Deception: Theory and Practice, by Thomas L. Carson, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, January 2011
  7. Moral Animals: Ideals and Constraints in Moral Theory, by Catherine Wilson, International Journal of Philosophical Studies 15 (2007): 385-90
  8. Rights and Reason: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Rights, by Jonathan Gorman, International Journal of Philosophical Studies 13 (2005): 285-89
  9. Dismantling Democratic States, by Ezra Suleiman, The Review of Politics 67 (2005): 153-55
  10. “Descartes Our Contemporary,” Descartes: An Intellectual Biography, by Stephen Gaukroger, and Descartes and his Contemporaries: Meditations, Objections, and Replies, edited by Roger Ariew and Marjorie Grene, The European Legacy 4 (1999): 98-101
  11. Ethics and Practical Reason, edited by Garrett Cullity and Berys Gaut, International Journal of Philosophical Studies 7 (1999): 119-20
  12. The Rhetoric of Berkeley’s Philosophy, by Peter Walmsley, The Berkeley Newsletter 14 (1996): 15-17
  13. The Poetics of Mind, by Raymond Gibbs, International Journal of Philosophical Studies 4 (1996): 202-03
  14. Philosophy and Philosophers: An Introduction to Western Philosophy, by John Shand, History of European Ideas 2 (1995): 584-85
  15. “Was Flann O’Brien a Post-modernist?,” Flann O’Brien: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Post-modernist, by Keith Hopper, in ROPES: Review of Postgraduate Studies 4 (1995): 56-57

Popular Culture

  1. “Deception and the Battle of Wits,” in The Princess Bride and Philosophy, eds. Richard Greene and Rachel Robinson-Greene (Open Court, 2016, in preparation)
  2. “Who Wants To Live Forever? Dracula and the Curse of Immortality,” in Dracula and Philosophy, ed. Nicolas Michaud (Open Court, 2015, forthcoming)
  3. “Steve Jobs and Reality Distortion,” in Steve Jobs and Philosophy, ed. Shawn E. Klein (Open Court, 2015), 3-13
  4. “The Seven Deadly Sins of Girls,” with Nicole Kimes Walker, in Girls and Philosophy, eds. Richard Greene and Rachel Robison-Greene (Open Court, 2014), 117-128
  5. “The Devil You Don’t Know,” in The Devil and Philosophy, ed. Robert Arp (Open Court, 2014), 241-248.
  6. “Is Loyalty A Virtue?,” in Sons of Anarchy and Philosophy, eds. George A. Dunn and Jason T. Eberl (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 29-37
  7. “The Bigger The Lie, The More People Will Believe It,” with Cristina Ceballos, in Psych and Philosophy, ed. Robert Arp (Open Court, 2013), 103-111
  8. “Doing the Wrong Thing for a Good Reason,” in The Good Wife and Philosophy, eds. Kimberly Baltzer-Jaray and Robert Arp (Open Court, 2013), 89-99
  9. “To Catch A Thief: The Ethics of Deceiving Bad People,” in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo and Philosophy, ed. Eric Bronson (Wiley-Blackwell, 2011), 198-210