•  2333
    It is sometimes argued that the non-therapeutic, non-consensual alteration of children‘s genitals should be discussed in two separate ethical discourses: one for girls (in which such alterations should be termed 'female genital mutilation' or FGM), and one for boys (in which such alterations should be termed 'male circumcision‘). In this article, I call into question the moral and empirical basis for such a distinction, and argue that all children - whether female, male, or indeed intersex - sh…Read more
  •  936
    Should we campaign against sex robots?
    In John Danaher & Neil McArthur (eds.), Robot Sex: Social and Ethical Implications, Mit Press. 2017.
    In September 2015 a well-publicised Campaign Against Sex Robots (CASR) was launched. Modelled on the longer-standing Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, the CASR opposes the development of sex robots on the grounds that the technology is being developed with a particular model of female-male relations (the prostitute-john model) in mind, and that this will prove harmful in various ways. In this chapter, we consider carefully the merits of campaigning against such a technology. We make three main arg…Read more
  •  796
    The Extinction of Masculine Generics
    Journal for Communication and Culture 2 (1): 4-19. 2012.
    In English, as in many other languages, male-gendered pronouns are sometimes used to refer not only to men, but to individuals whose gender is unknown or unspecified, to human beings in general (as in ―mankind‖) and sometimes even to females (as when the casual ―Hey guys‖ is spoken to a group of women). These so-called he/man or masculine generics have come under fire in recent decades for being sexist, even archaic, and positively harmful to women and girls; and advocates of gender-neutral (or …Read more
  •  492
    Sex and Circumcision
    American Journal of Bioethics 15 (2): 43-45. 2015.
    What are the effects of circumcision on sexual function and experience? And what does sex—in the sense related to gender—have to do with the ethics of circumcision? Jacobs and Arora (2015) give short shrift to the first of these questions; and they do not seem to have considered the second. In this commentary, I explore the relationship between sex (in both senses) and infant male circumcision, and draw some conclusions about the ongoing debate regarding this controversial practice.
  •  456
    Daniel Dennett (1996) has disputed David Chalmers' (1995) assertion that there is a "hard problem of consciousness" worth solving in the philosophy of mind. In this paper I defend Chalmers against Dennett on this point: I argue that there is a hard problem of consciousness, that it is distinct in kind from the so-called easy problems, and that it is vital for the sake of honest and productive research in the cognitive sciences to be clear about the difference. But I have my own rebuke for Chalme…Read more
  •  403
    In this issue, Ahmadi1 reports on the practice of hymenoplasty—a surgical intervention meant to restore a presumed physical marker of virginity prior to a woman's marriage. As Mehri and Sills2 have stated, these women ‘want to ensure that blood is spilled on their wedding night sheets.’ Although Ahmadi's research was carried out in Iran specifically, this surgery is becoming increasingly popular in a number of Western countries as well, especially among Muslim populations.3 What are the ethics o…Read more
  •  317
    In 2012, the politician Todd Akin caused a firestorm by suggesting, in the context of an argument about the moral permissibility of abortion, that some forms of rape were. This seemed to imply that other forms of rape must not be legitimate. In response, several commentators pointed out that rape is a and that there are. While the intention of these commentators was clear, I argue that they may have played into the very stereotype of rape endorsed by Akin. Such a response, I claim, actually obsc…Read more
  •  268
    Beyond sacrificial harm: A two-dimensional model of utilitarian psychology
    with Guy Kahane, Jim A. C. Everett, Lucius Caviola, Nadira S. Faber, Molly J. Crockett, and Julian Savulescu
    Psychological Review 125 (2): 131-164. 2018.
    Recent research has relied on trolley-type sacrificial moral dilemmas to study utilitarian versus nonutili- tarian modes of moral decision-making. This research has generated important insights into people’s attitudes toward instrumental harm—that is, the sacrifice of an individual to save a greater number. But this approach also has serious limitations. Most notably, it ignores the positive, altruistic core of utilitarianism, which is characterized by impartial concern for the well-being of eve…Read more
  •  253
    Moral Neuroenhancement
    with Thomas Douglas and Julian Savulescu
    In L. Syd M. Johnson & Karen S. Rommelfanger (eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Neuroethics, Routledge. 2017.
  •  230
    Brain stimulation for treatment and enhancement in children: an ethical analysis
    with Hannah Maslen, Roi Cohen Kadosh, and Julian Savulescu
    Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 8. 2014.
    Davis called for “extreme caution” in the use of non-invasive brain stimulation to treat neurological disorders in children, due to gaps in scientific knowledge. We are sympathetic to his position. However, we must also address the ethical implications of applying this technology to minors. Compensatory trade-offs associated with NIBS present a challenge to its use in children, insofar as these trade-offs have the effect of limiting the child’s future options. The distinction between treatment a…Read more
  •  178
    Criticising religious practices
    The Philosophers' Magazine 63 15-17. 2013.
    In 2012, a German court ruled that religious circumcision of male minors constitutes criminal bodily assault. Muslim and Jewish groups responded with outrage, with some commentators pegging the ruling to Islamophobic and anti-Semitic motivations. In doing so, these commentators failed to engage with any of the legal and ethical arguments actually given by the court in its landmark decision. In this brief commentary, I argue that a firm distinction must be drawn between criticisms of religious pr…Read more
  •  76
    Addiction, Identity, Morality
    with Joshua August Skorburg, Jim A. C. Everett, and Julian Savulescu
    Ajob Empirical Bioethics 10 (2): 136-153. 2019.
    Background: Recent literature on addiction and judgments about the characteristics of agents has focused on the implications of adopting a ‘brain disease’ versus ‘moral weakness’ model of addiction. Typically, such judgments have to do with what capacities an agent has (e.g., the ability to abstain from substance use). Much less work, however, has been conducted on the relationship between addiction and judgments about an agent’s identity, including whether or to what extent an individual is see…Read more
  •  62
    The ethics of infant male circumcision
    Journal of Medical Ethics 39 (7): 418-420. 2013.
    INTRODUCTIONIs the non-therapeutic circumcision of infant males morally permissible? The most recent major development in this long-simmering debate was the 2012 release of a policy statement and technical report on circumcision by the American Academy of Pediatrics . In these documents, the US paediatricians’ organisation claimed that the potential health benefits of infant circumcision now outweigh the risks and costs. They went on to suggest that their analysis could be taken to justify the d…Read more
  •  43
    Science cannot determine human values
    Think 15 (43): 17-23. 2016.
    Sam Harris, in his book The Moral Landscape, argues that Against this view, I argue that while secular moral philosophy can certainly help us to determine our values, science must play a subservient role. To the extent that science can what we ought to do, it is only by providing us with empirical information, which can then be slotted into a chain of deductive reasoning. The premises of such reasoning, however, can in no way be derived from the scientific method: they come, instead, from philos…Read more
  •  37
    Psychedelic Moral Enhancement
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 83 415-439. 2018.
    The moral enhancement debate seems stuck in a dilemma. On the one hand, the more radical proposals, while certainly novel and interesting, seem unlikely to be feasible in practice, or if technically feasible then most likely imprudent. But on the other hand, the more sensible proposals – sensible in the sense of being both practically achievable and more plausibly ethically justifiable – can be rather hard to distinguish from both traditional forms of moral enhancement, such as non-drug-mediated…Read more
  •  35
    Does encouraging a belief in determinism increase cheating? Reconsidering the value of believing in free will
    with Thomas Nadelhoffer, Jason Shepard, Damien L. Crone, Jim A. C. Everett, and Neil Levy
    Cognition 203 104342. 2020.
    A key source of support for the view that challenging people’s beliefs about free will may undermine moral behavior is two classic studies by Vohs and Schooler (2008). These authors reported that exposure to certain prompts suggesting that free will is an illusion increased cheating behavior. In the present paper, we report several attempts to replicate this influential and widely cited work. Over a series of five studies (sample sizes of N = 162, N = 283, N = 268, N = 804, N = 982) (four prereg…Read more
  •  32
    Between Moral Relativism and Moral Hypocrisy: Reframing the Debate on "FGM"
    Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 26 (2): 105-144. 2016.
    “Female Genital Mutilation” or FGM—the terminology is extremely contentious1—is sometimes held up as a counterexample to moral relativism.2 Those who advance this line of thought suggest that such mutilation is so harmful in terms of its physical and emotional consequences, as well as so problematic in terms of its sexist or oppressive implications, that it provides sufficient, rational grounds for the assertion of a universal moral claim—namely, that all forms of FGM are wrong, regardless of th…Read more
  •  31
  •  27
    Circumcision, Autonomy and Public Health
    with Robert Darby
    Public Health Ethics 12 (1): 64-81. 2019.
    Male circumcision—partial or total removal of the penile prepuce—has been proposed as a public health measure in Sub-Saharan Africa, based on the results of three randomized control trials showing a relative risk reduction of approximately 60 per cent for voluntary, adult male circumcision against female-to-male human immunodeficiency virus transmission in that context. More recently, long-time advocates of infant male circumcision have argued that these findings justify involuntary circumcision…Read more
  •  26
    Love and Other Drugs
    Philosophy Now 91 14-17. 2012.
  •  23
    In defence of genital autonomy for children
    Journal of Medical Ethics 42 (3): 158-163. 2016.
  •  18
    Pandemic medical ethics
    with Jennifer Blumenthal-Barby, Kenneth Boyd, Lucy Frith, Rosalind J. McDougall, John McMillan, and Jesse Wall
    Journal of Medical Ethics 46 (6): 353-354. 2020.
    The COVID-19 pandemic will generate vexing ethical issues for the foreseeable future and many journals will be open to content that is relevant to our collective effort to meet this challenge. While the pandemic is clearly the critical issue of the moment, it’s important that other issues in medical ethics continue to be addressed as well. As can be seen in this issue, the Journal of Medical Ethics will uphold its commitment to publishing high quality papers on the full array of medical ethics. …Read more
  •  14
    Rationality + Consciousness = Free Will by David Hodgson (review)
    Philosophy Now 105 43-45. 2014.
  •  12
    Addressing polarisation in science
    Journal of Medical Ethics 41 (9): 782-784. 2015.