•  3820
    Deepfakes and the Epistemic Backstop
    Philosophers' Imprint 20 (24): 1-16. 2020.
    Deepfake technology uses machine learning to fabricate video and audio recordings that represent people doing and saying things they've never done. In coming years, malicious actors will likely use this technology in attempts to manipulate public discourse. This paper prepares for that danger by explicating the unappreciated way in which recordings have so far provided an epistemic backstop to our testimonial practices. Our reasonable trust in the testimony of others depends, to a surprising ext…Read more
  •  1447
    How not to test for philosophical expertise
    Synthese 192 (2): 431-452. 2015.
    Recent empirical work appears to suggest that the moral intuitions of professional philosophers are just as vulnerable to distorting psychological factors as are those of ordinary people. This paper assesses these recent tests of the ‘expertise defense’ of philosophical intuition. I argue that the use of familiar cases and principles constitutes a methodological problem. Since these items are familiar to philosophers, but not ordinary people, the two subject groups do not confront identical cogn…Read more
  •  1161
    Analogies, Moral Intuitions, and the Expertise Defence
    Review of Philosophy and Psychology 5 (2): 169-181. 2014.
    The evidential value of moral intuitions has been challenged by psychological work showing that the intuitions of ordinary people are affected by distorting factors. One reply to this challenge, the expertise defence, claims that training in philosophical thinking confers enhanced reliability on the intuitions of professional philosophers. This defence is often expressed through analogy: since we do not allow doubts about folk judgments in domains like mathematics or physics to undermine the pla…Read more
  •  1138
    This chapter discusses the philosophical relevance of empirical research on moral cognition. It distinguishes three central aims of normative ethical theory: understanding the nature of moral agency, identifying morally right actions, and determining the justification of moral beliefs. For each of these aims, the chapter considers and rejects arguments against employing cognitive scientific research in normative inquiry. It concludes by suggesting that, whichever of the central aims one begins f…Read more
  •  746
    Fake News and Partisan Epistemology
    Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal 27 (S2): 43-64. 2017.
    Did you know that Hillary Clinton sold weapons to ISIS? Or that Mike Pence called Michelle Obama “the most vulgar First Lady we’ve ever had”? No, you didn’t know these things. You couldn’t know them, because these claims are false.1 But many American voters believed them.One of the most distinctive features of the 2016 campaign was the rise of “fake news,” factually false claims circulated on social media, usually via channels of partisan camaraderie. Media analysts and social scientists are sti…Read more
  •  654
    Of course the baby should live: Against 'after-birth abortion'
    Journal of Medical Ethics 39 (5): 353-356. 2013.
    In a recent paper, Giubilini and Minerva argue for the moral permissibility of what they call ‘after-birth abortion’, or infanticide. Here I suggest that they actually employ a confusion of two distinct arguments: one relying on the purportedly identical moral status of a fetus and a newborn, and the second giving an independent argument for the denial of moral personhood to infants (independent of whatever one might say about fetuses). After distinguishing these arguments, I suggest that neithe…Read more
  •  302
    When we look back upon people in past societies, such as slaveholders and colonialists, we judge their actions to have been morally atrocious. Yet we should give some thought to how the future will judge us. Here I argue that future people are likely to regard our behavior as no better than that of the past. If these future people are to be believed, then we are morally hopeless; we have little chance of working out the moral truth for ourselves. I argue that we ought to resist this conclusion, …Read more
  •  272
    Microaggression: Conceptual and scientific issues
    Philosophy Compass 15 (4). 2020.
    Scientists, philosophers, and policymakers disagree about how to define microaggression. Here, we offer a taxonomy of existing definitions, clustering around (a) the psychological motives of perpetrators, (b) the experience of victims, and (c) the functional role of microaggression in oppressive social structures. We consider conceptual and epistemic challenges to each and suggest that progress may come from developing novel hybrid accounts of microaggression, combining empirically tractable fea…Read more
  •  260
    Social media disinformation and the security threat to democratic legitimacy
    NATO Association of Canada: Disinformation and Digital Democracies in the 21st Century 10-14. 2019.
    This short piece draws on political philosophy to show how social media interference operations can be used by hostile states to weaken the apparent legitimacy of democratic governments. Democratic societies are particularly vulnerable to this form of attack because democratic governments depend for their legitimacy on citizens' trust in one another. But when citizen see one another as complicit in the distribution of deceptive content, they lose confidence in the epistemic preconditions for dem…Read more
  •  164
    How to Take Offense: Responding to Microaggression
    Journal of the American Philosophical Association 4 (3): 332-351. 2018.
    A microaggression is a small insulting act made disproportionately harmful by its part in an oppressive pattern of similar insults. How should you respond when made the victim of a microaggression? In this paper I survey several morally salient factors, including effects upon victims, perpetrators, and third parties. I argue, contrary to popular views, that ‘growing a thicker skin’ is not good advice nor is expressing reasonable anger always the best way to contribute to confronting oppression. …Read more
  •  149
    How can we tell whether an incident counts as a microaggression? How do we draw the boundary between microaggressions and weightier forms of oppression, such as hate crimes? I address these questions by exploring the ontology and epistemology of microaggression, in particular the constitutive relationship between microaggression and systemic social oppression. I argue that we ought to define microaggression in terms of the ambiguous experience that its victims undergo, focusing attention on thei…Read more
  •  124
    Making Psychology Normatively Significant
    The Journal of Ethics 17 (3): 257-274. 2013.
    The debate between proponents and opponents of a role for empirical psychology in ethical theory seems to be deadlocked. This paper aims to clarify the terms of that debate, and to defend a principled middle position. I argue against extreme views, which see empirical psychology either as irrelevant to, or as wholly displacing, reflective moral inquiry. Instead, I argue that moral theorists of all stripes are committed to a certain conception of moral thought—as aimed at abstracting away from in…Read more
  •  124
    This paper presents a regress challenge to the selective psychological debunking of moral judgments. A selective psychological debunking argument conjoins an empirical claim about the psychological origins of certain moral judgments to a theoretical claim that these psychological origins cannot track moral truth, leading to the conclusion that the moral judgments are unreliable. I argue that psychological debunking arguments are vulnerable to a regress challenge, because the theoretical claim th…Read more
  •  109
    The Science of Morality and its Normative Implications
    with Tommaso Bruni and Matteo Mameli
    Neuroethics 7 (2): 159-172. 2014.
    Neuromoral theorists are those who claim that a scientific understanding of moral judgment through the methods of psychology, neuroscience and related disciplines can have normative implications and can be used to improve the human ability to make moral judgments. We consider three neuromoral theories: one suggested by Gazzaniga, one put forward by Gigerenzer, and one developed by Greene. By contrasting these theories we reveal some of the fundamental issues that neuromoral theories in general h…Read more
  •  101
    Abortion, Ultrasound, and Moral Persuasion
    Philosophers' Imprint 18. 2018.
    We ought to treat others’ moral views with respect, even when we disagree. But what does that mean? This paper articulates a moral obligation to make ourselves open to sincere moral persuasion by others. Doing so allows us to participate in valuable relationships of reciprocal respect for agency. Yet this proposal can sound tritely agreeable. To explore its full implications, the paper applies the general obligation to one of the most challenging topics of moral disagreement: the morality of abo…Read more
  •  88
    Why moral psychology is disturbing
    Philosophical Studies 174 (6): 1439-1458. 2017.
    Learning the psychological origins of our moral judgments can lead us to lose confidence in them. In this paper I explain why. I consider two explanations drawn from existing literature—regarding epistemic unreliability and automaticity—and argue that neither is fully adequate. I then propose a new explanation, according to which psychological research reveals the extent to which we are disturbingly disunified as moral agents.
  •  76
    Contingency inattention: against causal debunking in ethics
    Philosophical Studies 177 (2): 369-389. 2020.
    It is a philosophical truism that we must think of others as moral agents, not merely as causal or statistical objects. But why? I argue that this follows from the best resolution of an antinomy between our experience of morality as necessarily binding on the will and our knowledge that all moral beliefs originate in contingent histories. We can address this antinomy only by understanding moral deliberation via interpersonal relationships, which simultaneously vindicate and constrains morality’s…Read more
  •  63
    Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality, by Lisa Tessman (review)
    Mind 125 (500): 1227-1236. 2016.
    Moral Failure: On the Impossible Demands of Morality, by TessmanLisa. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 2015. Pp. x + 281.
  •  51
    Feedback from moral philosophy to cognitive science
    Philosophical Psychology 28 (4): 569-588. 2015.
    A popular argument form uses general theories of cognitive architecture to motivate conclusions about the nature of moral cognition. This paper highlights the possibility for modus tollens reversal of this argument form. If theories of cognitive architecture generate predictions for moral cognition, then tests of moral thinking provide feedback to cognitive science. In certain circumstances, philosophers' introspective attention to their own moral deliberations can provide unique data for these …Read more
  •  46
    Morality and Cognitive Science
    Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2015.
    Morality and Cognitive Science What do we know about how people make moral judgments? And what should moral philosophers do with this knowledge? This article addresses the cognitive science of moral judgment. It reviews important empirical findings and discusses how philosophers have reacted to them. Several trends have dominated the cognitive science of morality in … Continue reading Morality and Cognitive Science →.
  •  41
    Slips of the tongue, unwitting favoritism and stereotyped assumptions are just some examples of microaggression. Nearly all of us commit microaggressions at some point, even if we don’t intend to. Yet over time a pattern of microaggression can cause considerable harm by reminding members of marginalized groups of their precarious position. The Ethics of Microaggression is a much needed and clearly written exploration of this pervasive yet complex problem. What is microaggression and how do we k…Read more
  •  20
    Experimental Philosophy: An Introduction (review)
    International Studies in the Philosophy of Science 26 (4): 457-460. 2012.
    No abstract
  •  16
    Moral Error Theory: History, Critique, Defence (review)
    Philosophical Quarterly 67 (268): 650-653. 2017.
  •  15
    Evolution and Moral Common Sense
    In Rik Peels, Jeroen De Ridder & René Van Woudenberg (eds.), Scientific Challenges to Common Sense Philosophy, . 2020.
    A short response to Michael Ruse's essay 'Commons Sense Morality and Its Evolutionary Underpinnings'. Argues that an evolutionary approach to ethics has difficulty accounting for the first-personal and existential aspects of moral deliberation.