•  5309
    Moral Reasoning and Emotion
    In Karen Jones, Mark Timmons & Aaron Zimmerman (eds.), Routledge Handbook on Moral Epistemology, Routledge. pp. 139-156. 2018.
    This chapter discusses contemporary scientific research on the role of reason and emotion in moral judgment. The literature suggests that moral judgment is influenced by both reasoning and emotion separately, but there is also emerging evidence of the interaction between the two. While there are clear implications for the rationalism-sentimentalism debate, we conclude that important questions remain open about how central emotion is to moral judgment. We also suggest ways in which moral philosop…Read more
  •  3708
    Does having a mental disorder, in general, affect whether someone is morally responsible for an action? Many people seem to think so, holding that mental disorders nearly always mitigate responsibility. Against this Naïve view, we argue for a Nuanced account. The problem is not just that different theories of responsibility yield different verdicts about particular cases. Even when all reasonable theories agree about what's relevant to responsibility, the ways mental illness can affect behavior …Read more
  •  1535
    Does Disgust Influence Moral Judgment?
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 92 (1): 125-141. 2014.
    Recent empirical research seems to show that emotions play a substantial role in moral judgment. Perhaps the most important line of support for this claim focuses on disgust. A number of philosophers and scientists argue that there is adequate evidence showing that disgust significantly influences various moral judgments. And this has been used to support or undermine a range of philosophical theories, such as sentimentalism and deontology. I argue that the existing evidence does not support suc…Read more
  •  1508
    Psychological Egoism
    Internet Encyclopeida of Philosophy. 2011.
    Provides an overview of the theory of psychological egoism—the thesis that we are all ultimately motivated by self-interest. Philosophical arguments for and against the view are considered as well as some empirical evidence.
  •  1257
    What in the World is Weakness of Will?
    Philosophical Studies 157 (3). 2012.
    At least since the middle of the twentieth century, philosophers have tended to identify weakness of will with akrasia—i.e. acting, or having a disposition to act, contrary to one‘s judgments about what is best for one to do. However, there has been some recent debate about whether this captures the ordinary notion of weakness of will. Richard Holton (1999, 2009) claims that it doesn’t, while Alfred Mele (2010) argues that, to a certain extent, it does. As Mele recognizes, the question about an…Read more
  •  1254
    Relational Desires and Empirical Evidence against Psychological Egoism
    European Journal of Philosophy 19 (1). 2011.
    Roughly, psychological egoism is the thesis that all of a person's intentional actions are ultimately self-interested in some sense; psychological altruism is the thesis that some of a person's intentional actions are not ultimately self-interested, since some are ultimately other-regarding in some sense. C. Daniel Batson and other social psychologists have argued that experiments provide support for a theory called the "empathy-altruism hypothesis" that entails the falsity of psychological egoi…Read more
  •  1047
    Because I Believe It’s the Right Thing to Do
    Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16 (4): 791-808. 2013.
    Our beliefs about which actions we ought to perform clearly have an effect on what we do. But so-called “Humean” theories—holding that all motivation has its source in desire—insist on connecting such beliefs with an antecedent motive. Rationalists, on the other hand, allow normative beliefs a more independent role. I argue in favor of the rationalist view in two stages. First, I show that the Humean theory rules out some of the ways we ordinarily explain actions. This shifts the burden of proof…Read more
  •  1009
    Egoism, Empathy, and Self-Other Merging
    Southern Journal of Philosophy 49 (s1): 25-39. 2011.
    [Emerging Scholar Prize Essay for Spindel Supplement] Some philosophers and psychologists have evaluated psychological egoism against recent experimental work in social psychology. Dan Batson (1991; forthcoming), in particular, argues that empathy tends to induce genuinely altruistic motives in humans. However, some argue that there are egoistic explanations of the data that remain unscathed. I focus here on some recent criticisms based on the idea of self-other merging or "oneness," primarily l…Read more
  •  777
    Empathy and Intersubjectivity
    In Heidi Maibom (ed.), The Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Empathy, Routledge. pp. 169-179. 2017.
    Empathy is intersubjective in that it connects us mentally with others. Some theorists believe that by blurring the distinction between self and other empathy can provide a radical form of altruism that grounds all of morality and even a kind of immortality. Others are more pessimistic and maintain that in distorting the distinction between self and other empathy precludes genuine altruism. Even if these positions exaggerate self-other merging, empathy’s intersubjectivity can perhaps ground ordi…Read more
  •  774
    How to Debunk Moral Beliefs
    In Jussi Suikkanen & Antti Kauppinen (eds.), Methodology and Moral Philosophy, Routledge. pp. 25-48. 2019.
    Arguments attempting to debunk moral beliefs, by showing they are unjustified, have tended to be global, targeting all moral beliefs or a large set of them. Popular debunking arguments point to various factors purportedly influencing moral beliefs, from evolutionary pressures, to automatic and emotionally-driven processes, to framing effects. We show that these sweeping arguments face a debunker’s dilemma: either the relevant factor is not a main basis for belief or it does not render the releva…Read more
  •  767
    On the very concept of free will
    Synthese 191 (12): 2849-2866. 2014.
    Determinism seems to rule out a robust sense of options but also prevent our choices from being a matter of luck. In this way, free will seems to require both the truth and falsity of determinism. If the concept of free will is coherent, something must have gone wrong. I offer a diagnosis on which this puzzle is due at least in part to a tension already present in the very idea of free will. I provide various lines of support for this hypothesis, including some experimental data gathered by prob…Read more
  •  767
    In defending his interest-relative account of knowledge in Knowledge and Practical Interests (2005), Jason Stanley relies heavily on intuitions about several bank cases. We experimentally test the empirical claims that Stanley seems to make concerning our common-sense intuitions about these bank cases. Additionally, we test the empirical claims that Jonathan Schaffer seems to make in his critique of Stanley. We argue that our data impugn what both Stanley and Schaffer claim our intuitions about…Read more
  •  748
    Emotional Reactions to Human Reproductive Cloning
    Journal of Medical Ethics 42 (1): 26-30. 2016.
    [Selected as EDITOR'S CHOICE] Background: Extant surveys of people’s attitudes toward human reproductive cloning focus on moral judgments alone, not emotional reactions or sentiments. This is especially important given that some (esp. Leon Kass) have argued against such cloning on the grounds that it engenders widespread negative emotions, like disgust, that provide a moral guide. Objective: To provide some data on emotional reactions to human cloning, with a focus on repugnance, given its promi…Read more
  •  634
    Moral Judgment and Deontology: Empirical Developments
    Philosophy Compass 9 (11): 745-755. 2014.
    A traditional idea is that moral judgment involves more than calculating the consequences of actions; it also requires an assessment of the agent's intentions, the act's nature, and whether the agent uses another person as a means to her ends. I survey experimental developments suggesting that ordinary people often tacitly reason in terms of such deontological rules. It's now unclear whether we should posit a traditional form of the doctrine of double effect. However, further research suggests t…Read more
  •  564
    Does Opacity Undermine Privileged Access?
    with Timothy Allen
    International Journal of Philosophical Studies 22 (4): 617-629. 2014.
    Carruthers argues that knowledge of our own propositional attitudes is achieved by the same mechanism used to attain knowledge of other people's minds. This seems incompatible with "privileged access"---the idea that we have more reliable beliefs about our own mental states, regardless of the mechanism. At one point Carruthers seems to suggest he may be able to maintain privileged access, because we have additional sensory information in our own case. We raise a number of worries for this sugges…Read more
  •  528
    Empirical Work in Moral Psychology
    Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2017.
    Provides an overview of empirical research relevant to philosophical questions about moral thought, feeling, reasoning, and motivation. Topics include: free will and moral responsibility, egoism and altruism, moral judgment and motivation, weakness and strength of will, moral intuitions, and moral knowledge. [Originally published in 2012. Updated and expanded in 2017.]
  •  514
    Skeptical Hypotheses and Moral Skepticism
    Canadian Journal of Philosophy 43 (3): 341-359. 2013.
    Moral skeptics maintain that we do not have moral knowledge. Traditionally they haven’t argued via skeptical hypotheses like those provided by perceptual skeptics about the external world, such as Descartes’ deceiving demon. But some believe this can be done by appealing to hypotheses like moral nihilism. Moreover, some claim that skeptical hypotheses have special force in the moral case. But I argue that skeptics have failed to specify an adequate skeptical scenario, which reveals a general les…Read more
  •  508
    The Means/Side-Effect Distinction in Moral Cognition: A Meta-Analysis
    with Adam Feltz
    Cognition 166 314-327. 2017.
    Experimental research suggests that people draw a moral distinction between bad outcomes brought about as a means versus a side effect (or byproduct). Such findings have informed multiple psychological and philosophical debates about moral cognition, including its computational structure, its sensitivity to the famous Doctrine of Double Effect, its reliability, and its status as a universal and innate mental module akin to universal grammar. But some studies have failed to replicate the means/by…Read more
  •  507
    The Neuroscience of Moral Judgment: Empirical and Philosophical Developments
    with Clifford I. Workman, Julia Haas, and Hyemin Han
    In Felipe De Brigard & Walter Sinnott-Armstrong (eds.), Neuroscience and Philosophy, Mit Press. forthcoming.
    We chart how neuroscience and philosophy have together advanced our understanding of moral judgment with implications for when it goes well or poorly. The field initially focused on brain areas associated with reason versus emotion in the moral evaluations of sacrificial dilemmas. But new threads of research have studied a wider range of moral evaluations and how they relate to models of brain development and learning. By weaving these threads together, we are developing a better understanding o…Read more
  •  430
    Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind
    Oxford University Press. 2018.
    The burgeoning science of ethics has produced a trend toward pessimism. Ordinary moral thought and action, we’re told, are profoundly influenced by arbitrary factors and ultimately driven by unreasoned feelings. This book counters the current orthodoxy on its own terms by carefully engaging with the empirical literature. The resulting view, optimistic rationalism, shows the pervasive role played by reason, and ultimately defuses sweeping debunking arguments in ethics. The science does suggest th…Read more
  •  373
    The Limits of Appealing to Disgust
    In Nina Strohminger & Victor Kumar (eds.), The Moral Psychology of Disgust, Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 151-170. 2018.
    The rhetoric of disgust is common in moral discourse and political propaganda. Some believe it's pernicious, for it convinces without evidence. But scientific research now suggests that disgust is typically an effect, not a cause, of moral judgment. At best the emotion on its own only sometimes slightly amplifies a moral belief one already has. Appeals to disgust are thus dialectically unhelpful in discourse that seeks to convince. When opponents of abortion use repulsive images to make their c…Read more
  •  369
    The Limits of Emotion in Moral Judgment
    In Karen Jones & Francois Schroeter (eds.), The Many Moral Rationalisms, Oxford University Press. pp. 286-306. 2018.
    I argue that our best science supports the rationalist idea that, independent of reasoning, emotions aren’t integral to moral judgment. There’s ample evidence that ordinary moral cognition often involves conscious and unconscious reasoning about an action’s outcomes and the agent’s role in bringing them about. Emotions can aid in moral reasoning by, for example, drawing one’s attention to such information. However, there is no compelling evidence for the decidedly sentimentalist claim that mere …Read more
  •  354
    We provide empirical evidence that people who believe in dualism are more likely to be uncomfortable with Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) and to view it as threatening to their identity, humanity, or self. It is (neurocentric) materialists—who think the mind just is the brain—that are less inclined to fear DBS or to see it as threatening. We suggest various possible reasons for this connection. The inspiration for this brief report is a target article that addresses this issue from a theoretical pe…Read more
  •  340
    Review of Experimental Philosophy ed. by Knobe & Nichols (review)
    Philosophical Psychology 23 (5): 711-715. 2010.
    Experimental philosophy is a new and somewhat controversial method of philosophical inquiry in which philosophers conduct experiments in order to shed light on issues of philosophical interest. This typically involves surveying ordinary people to find out their "intuitions" (roughly, pre-theoretical judgments) about hypothetical cases important to philosophical theorizing. The controversy surrounding this methodology arises largely because it departs from more traditional ways of doing philosoph…Read more
  •  327
    Précis of Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 42 (e146): 1-60. 2019.
    Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind argues that a careful examination of the scientific literature reveals a foundational role for reasoning in moral thought and action. Grounding moral psychology in reason then paves the way for a defense of moral knowledge and virtue against a variety of empirical challenges, such as debunking arguments and situationist critiques. The book attempts to provide a corrective to current trends in moral psychology, which celebrate emotion over reason and generate p…Read more
  •  272
    Getting Less Cynical about Virtue
    In Walter Sinnott-Armstrong & Christian Miller (eds.), Moral Psychology, Volume V: Virtue and Character, Mit Press. pp. 45-52. 2017.
    This is a commentary on a paper by the social psychologist C. Daniel Batson. I too think virtue is rare, but not so rare as Batson seems to think, despite his ingenious experiments on "moral hypocrisy.".
  •  242
    A limited skeptical threat (review)
    Behavioral and Brain Sciences 41 35-6. 2018.
    Doris argues that our choices are heavily influenced by forces that we wouldn’t count as genuine reasons. This unsettling conclusion is motivated by a debunking argument so wide-ranging that it isn’t foisted upon us by the sciences. Doris sometimes seems to lower his ambitions when offering instead a skeptical hypothesis argument, but that conflicts with his aims in the book.
  •  148
    Repugnance as Performance Error: The Role of Disgust in Bioethical Intuitions
    In Steve Clarke, Julian Savulescu, C. A. J. Coady, Alberto Giubilini & Sagar Sanyal (eds.), The Ethics of Human Enhancement: Understanding the Debate, Oxford University Press. pp. 43-57. 2016.
    An influential argument in bioethics involves appeal to disgust, calling on us to take it seriously as a moral guide (e.g. Kass, Miller, Kahan). Some argue, for example, that genetic enhancement, especially via human reproductive cloning, is repellant or grotesque. While objectors have argued that repugnance is morally irrelevant (e.g. Nussbaum, Kelly), I argue that the problem is more fundamental: it is psychologically irrelevant. Examining recent empirical data suggests that disgust’s influenc…Read more
  •  145
    Bias in Science: Natural and Social
    Synthese 1-22. 2020.
    Moral, social, political, and other “nonepistemic” values can lead to bias in science, from prioritizing certain topics over others to the rationalization of questionable research practices. Such values might seem particularly common or powerful in the social sciences, given their subject matter. However, I argue first that the well-documented phenomenon of motivated reasoning provides a useful framework for understanding when values guide scientific inquiry (in pernicious or productive ways). S…Read more
  •  89
    Review of Richard Holton's Willing, Wanting, Waiting (review)
    Metapsychology 13 (23). 2009.
    In an all too familiar part of our lives, we are sometimes strongly tempted to do things we think we shouldn’t do. Consider the burning desire to eat one of the donuts your coworker brought to work while you are on a diet. Often times we surrender to temptation. But sometimes we fight the urges and refrain—we exhibit will-power. Much of our ordinary thinking involves reference to “the will” in this sort of way. Yet for quite some time many contemporary philosophers have avoided talk of the …Read more