Michael Huemer

Michael Huemer
Born (1969-12-27) December 27, 1969
Alma mater B.A., University of California, Berkeley
Ph.D., Rutgers University
Notable work Approaching Infinity
The Problem of Political Authority

Ethical Intuitionism
Skepticism and the Veil of Perception
Era Contemporary philosophy
Region Western philosophy
School Analytic, Libertarianism
Institutions University of Colorado, Boulder
Main interests
Epistemology, Meta-ethics, Ethics, Political Philosophy
Notable ideas
Phenomenal conservatism

Michael Huemer (born 27 December 1969) is a professor of philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder.[1] He has defended ethical intuitionism, direct realism, libertarianism and philosophical anarchism.[2]


Critique of skepticism

Huemer has been critical of radical philosophical skepticism. His first book, Skepticism and the Veil of Perception, published in 2001, argued that (a) perception gives us direct awareness of real objects, not mental representations, and (b) we have non-inferential knowledge of (some of) the properties of these objects.[3] The book was reviewed in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews[4] and elsewhere.[5][6]

Instead, Huemer endorses the principle of compassionate phenomenal conservatism, which states:

If it seems to S that p, then, in the absence of defeaters, S thereby has at least some degree of justification for believing that p.[7]

Huemer considers phenomenal conservatism to be a form of foundationalism.[8]

Ethical intuitionism and Moral Realism

Huemer is a moral realist and ethical intuitionist, i.e., he maintains that there are objective moral facts, knowable through ethical intuition. Huemer has defended these positions in his book Ethical Intuitionism and elsewhere.[9][10][11][12][13]

Huemer's book on ethical intuitionism was reviewed in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews,[12] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research[13] and Mind.[14]

Critique of Ayn Rand

Despite agreements about moral objectivism and about the moral justness of capitalism, Huemer disagrees with Ayn Rand's moral philosophy of Objectivism because of the centrality Rand gave to selfishness as a desirable virtue.[15] Huemer's critique has been critiqued by others.[16]

In March 2009, Huemer debated the topic of Ayn Rand's ethics with Onkar Ghate of the Ayn Rand Institute.[17]

In a Cato Unbound discussion in January 2010, Huemer argued that connecting libertarianism to Ayn Rand's meta-ethical framework is probably not the best strategy for making libertarianism more broadly popular.[18] The other participants in the discussion were Douglas Rasmussen, Roderick Long, and Neera Badhwar.[19]


Huemer describes himself as an anarcho-capitalist, and claims to be both a philosophical anarchist and a political anarchist. His book The Problem of Political Authority argues in detail for both philosophical and political anarchism.[20] He also defended the argument of the book in a video.[21]

While he was still writing the book (then titled Freedom and Authority), Huemer was profiled by the Arts and Sciences Magazine of the University of Colorado, Boulder.[22] The profile quoted Huemer as saying that political authority is "a moral illusion we’re suffering from."

Huemer's UC Berkeley schoolmate, economist Bryan Caplan, played an important role in evangelizing Huemer's book by way of his blog, EconLog, as noted by a number of other reviewers of the book.[23][24] Caplan used EconLog to solicit potential titles for the book, although none of the titles suggested in the comments was ultimately adopted.[25] Caplan argued that what made Huemer's book special was that it started from reasonable and common-sense moral premises that many non-libertarians would agree with and applied them consistently to reach radical libertarian conclusions, setting the book apart from the writings of people like Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, and Robert Nozick.[26][27] Caplan also used his blog to solicit reader questions on Huemer's book.[28]

Arnold Kling reviewed Huemer's book for the Library of Economics and Liberty website.[29] Huemer responded to Kling, and Kling published some of the subsequent back-and-forth on his blog.[30]

Huemer was the lead essayist of the Cato Unbound March 2013 issue. The topic of the issue was Authority, Obedience, and the State and it was largely focused on Huemer's book and the arguments put forward by Huemer in the book. The other participants in the debate were Bryan Caplan, Tom G. Palmer, and Nicole Hassoun.[31]

In July 2013, the bleeding-heart libertarians blog announced a symposium on The Problem of Political Authority.[32] The symposium started August 12, 2013.[33] Huemer's critics included Kevin Vallier, Chris Morris, Bas van der Vossen, and Massimo Renzo. Huemer responded to critics in late August 2013.[34][35]

The book was also reviewed separately by Perry Metzger at Samizdata,[23] by the Peace Requires Anarchy blog,[24] and by Le Québécois Libre.[36] It was also reviewed at Oxymorons Reviews[37] and tangentially referenced in Jason Brennan's review in Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews of a book by Gary Chartier.[38]

Other views

Huemer has argued in favor of open borders (freedom of movement, migration).[39][40][41] His arguments have been praised and critiqued by many people including Jason Brennan, Miles Kimball, and Bryan Caplan.[42][43][44][45][46]

Huemer has also defended the right of gun ownership.[47]

Huemer has been critical of the War on Drugs, describing it as unjust.[48] Huemer's essay was included as part of The Ethical Life, a collection of essays published by Oxford University Press.[49] It was also part of an essay collection titled The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War.[50][51]

Huemer has expressed the view that political irrationality is common, drawing on Caplan's work on rational irrationality. He expressed these views in a lengthy online essay[52] as well as in a TEDx video.[53] Huemer's essay and video have been cited in discussions of irrationality in politics, religion, and personal ethics.[54][55][56][57]

Huemer has been critical of course evaluations as a means for students to evaluate faculty, noting perverse incentives, while still observing that these are more reliable than faculty peer evaluations.[58][59] His views on student evaluations have been critiqued and referenced by many other writers.[60][61][62][63]

Huemer has also defended metaphysical libertarianism and incompatibilism on the problem of free will.[64][65]

Huemer is a vegetarian. In October 2016, he engaged in a lengthy online debate with Bryan Caplan on animal rights. Huemer said of factory farming, "It's as if we were repeating the Holocaust five times every year."[66]


  1. Huemer, Michael. "Prof. Huemer's page for students". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  2. Huemer, Michael. "Books & Papers". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  3. Huemer, Michael. "Skepticism and the Veil of Perception". Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  4. McGrew, Timothy (2002-05-12). "Skepticism and the Veil of Perception (book review)". Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  5. Rubin, Ethan (Spring 2010). "Huemer's Theory of Perception: Analysis and Objections". The Nerve. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  6. Tooley, Michael. "Michael Huemer's Skepticism and the Veil of Perception: Chapter II: "The Lure of Radical Skepticism"". Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  7. Huemer, Michael. "Compassionate phenomenal conservatism". Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  8. Huemer, Michael. "A Principle of Foundational Justification". Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  9. Huemer, Michael. "Ethical Intuitionism". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  10. Huemer, Michael. "Moral Knowledge". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  11. Huemer, Michael (1992). "Moral Objectivism". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  12. 1 2 McNaughton, David (2006-09-10). "Ethical Intuitionism (book review)". Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  13. 1 2 Schroeder, Mark (January 2009). "Huemer's Clarkeanism" (PDF). Philosophy and Phenomenological Research. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  14. Lemos, Noah (2008-04). "Review: Michael Huemer: Ethical Intuitionism (book review)". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2014-04-01. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  15. Huemer, Michael. "Why I Am Not an Objectivist". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  16. "Mike Huemer's 8 Objections to Rand: A Response". 2006-09-27. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  17. "Huemer vs Ghate". 2009-03-06. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  18. Huemer, Michael (2010-01-22). "Why Ayn Rand? Some Alternate Answers". Cato Unbound. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  19. "What's Living and Dead in Ayn Rand's Political Thought". January 2010. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  20. Huemer, Michael (2013). "The Problem of Political Authority". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  21. "The Problem with Political Authority: Professor Michael Huemer (video)". May 2012. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  22. Talbott, Clint (April 2011). "The "moral illusion" of governmental authority". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  23. 1 2 Metzger, Perry (2013-03-04). "Huemer's "The Problem of Political Authority"". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  24. 1 2 PeaceRequiresAnarchy (2013-08-19). ""The Problem of Political Authority" by Professor Michael Huemer". Retrieved 2013-09-29.
  25. Caplan, Bryan (2012-01-31). "Name Michael Huemer's New Book". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  26. Caplan, Bryan (2012-02-01). "What's So Special About Huemer's New Book?". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  27. "Huemer's Common-Sense Libertarianism". EconLog. 2013-01-25. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  28. Caplan, Bryan (2013-01-30). "The Problem of Political Authority: Huemer Takes Your Questions". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  29. Kling, Arnold (2013-01-29). "Michael Huemer's Challenge to the Legitimacy of Government". EconLib. Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  30. Kling, Arnold (2013-01-31). "Michael Huemer Responds, I Reply, Bryan Caplan Rejoins, etc.". Retrieved 2013-09-24.
  31. "Authority, Obedience and the State". Cato Unbound. March 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  32. Bas van der Vossen (2013-07-22). "Announcement: Symposium on Michael Huemer, The Problem of Political Authority". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  33. Caplan, Bryan (2013-08-12). "Huemer Symposium at BHL". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  34. Huemer, Michael (2013-08-26). "Michael Huemer Responds to Critics, Part 1". Bleeding-Heart Libertarians. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  35. Huemer, Michael (2013-08-28). "Michael Huemer Responds to Critics, Part 2". Bleeding-Heart Libertarians. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  36. Doucet, Bradley (2013-06-15). "Is Government a Necessary Evil? A Review of Michael Huemer's The Problem of Political Authority". Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  37. "Huemer on the psychology of authority". Oxymorons Reviews. 2012-11-10. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  38. Brennan, Jason (2013-03-10). "Gary Chartier, Anarchy and Legal Order: Law and Politics for a Stateless Society (book review)". Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. Retrieved 2013-10-12.
  39. Huemer, Michael (2010). "Is There a Right to Immigrate?". Social Theory and Practice, Vol. 36, No. 3, pp. 429-61.
  40. Huemer, Michael (2013-02-18). "Citizenism and open borders". Open Borders: The Case. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  41. "The Case for Open Borders (video)". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  42. Brennan, Jason (2012-02-20). "Public Roads and the Right to Immiserate Would-Be Immigrants". Bleeding-Heart Libertarians. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  43. Kimball, Miles (2013-07-18). "Michael Huemer's Immigration Parable". Confessions of a Supply-Side Liberal. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  44. Caplan, Bryan (2009-04-20). "Is There a Right to Immigrate?". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  45. Huemer, Michael. "Starving Marvin". Open Borders: The Case. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  46. Friedman, Mark (2011-12-13). "Libertarianism and Immigration: A Reply to Michael Huemer". Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  47. Huemer, Michael. "Is There a Right to Own a Gun?". Social Theory and Practice, Vol. 29, No. 2 (April 2003), pp. 297-324. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  48. Huemer, Michael. "America's Unjust Drug War". The New Prohibition, ed. Bill Masters (St. Louis, Mo.: Accurate Press, 2004), pp. 133-44. Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  49. "The Ethical Life (table of contents)". Oxford University Press. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  50. "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War". Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  51. "The New Prohibition: Voices of Dissent Challenge the Drug War". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  52. Huemer, Michael. "Why People Are Irrational about Politics". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  53. "TEDxMileHighSalon - Michael Huemer - The Irrationality of Politics (video)". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  54. Cline, Austin. "Why People Are Irrational about Politics (and Religion): Epistemic vs. Instrumental Rationality". atheism.about.com. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  55. "Why People Are Irrational About Politics". Oxymorons Reviews. 2012-02-29. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  56. Small, Allen (2012-02-28). "Political Irrationality". The Bright Libertarian. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  57. "Rational Ignorance and Rational Irrationality". LiveVegan. 2012-02-26. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  58. Huemer, Michael. "Student Evaluations: A Critical Review". Retrieved 2013-09-18.
  59. Huemer, Michael. "Student Evaluations: A Critical Review". Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  60. Smith, Peter (2009-09-12). "Student evaluations". Logic Matters. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  61. Stillman, Stephen (2010-03-01). "Students Rating Professors: A Chilling Effect". Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  62. Cowen, Tyler (2003-09-08). "Are student evaluations a good idea?". Marginal Revolution. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  63. Caplan, Bryan (2005-07-05). "Improving Student Evaluations". EconLog. Retrieved 2013-09-28.
  64. Huemer, Michael. "A Proof of Free Will". Retrieved 2013-10-25.
  65. Huemer, Michael. "Van Iwagen's Consequence Argument". JSTOR 2693623.
  66. Huemer Replies on the Ethical Treatment of Animals
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