•  1390
    Building a Science of Animal Minds: Lloyd Morgan, Experimentation, and Morgan’s Canon
    with Grant Goodrich
    Journal of the History of Biology 50 (3): 525-569. 2017.
    Conwy Lloyd Morgan (1852–1936) is widely regarded as the father of modern comparative psychology. Yet, Morgan initially had significant doubts about whether a genuine science of comparative psychology was even possible, only later becoming more optimistic about our ability to make reliable inferences about the mental capacities of non-human animals. There has been a fair amount of disagreement amongst scholars of Morgan’s work about the nature, timing, and causes of this shift in Morgan’s thinki…Read more
  •  1061
    Moral Realism, Moral Disagreement, and Moral Psychology
    Philosophical Papers 43 (2): 161-190. 2014.
    This paper considers John Doris, Stephen Stich, Alexandra Plakias, and colleagues’ recent attempts to utilize empirical studies of cross-cultural variation in moral judgment to support a version of the argument from disagreement against moral realism. Crucially, Doris et al. claim that the moral disagreements highlighted by these studies are not susceptible to the standard ‘diffusing’ explanations realists have developed in response to earlier versions of the argument. I argue that plausible hyp…Read more
  •  1057
    Animal morality: What is the debate about?
    Biology and Philosophy 32 (6): 1151-1183. 2017.
    Empirical studies of the social lives of non-human primates, cetaceans, and other social animals have prompted scientists and philosophers to debate the question of whether morality and moral cognition exists in non-human animals. Some researchers have argued that morality does exist in several animal species, others that these species may possess various evolutionary building blocks or precursors to morality, but not quite the genuine article, while some have argued that nothing remotely resemb…Read more
  •  1052
    Nativism, Empiricism, and Ockham’s Razor
    Erkenntnis 80 (5): 895-922. 2015.
    This paper discusses the role that appeals to theoretical simplicity have played in the debate between nativists and empiricists in cognitive science. Both sides have been keen to make use of such appeals in defence of their respective positions about the structure and ontogeny of the human mind. Focusing on the standard simplicity argument employed by empiricist-minded philosophers and cognitive scientists—what I call “the argument for minimal innateness”—I identify various problems with such a…Read more
  •  928
    The recent debate surrounding scientific realism has largely focused on the “no miracles” argument (NMA). Indeed, it seems that most contemporary realists and anti-realists have tied the case for realism to the adequacy of this argument. I argue that it is mistake for realists to let the debate be framed in this way. Realists would be well advised to abandon the NMA altogether and pursue an alternative strategy, which I call the “local strategy”.
  •  507
    Kelly on Ockham’s Razor and Truth-Finding Efficiency
    Philosophy of Science 80 (2): 298-309. 2013.
    This paper discusses Kevin Kelly’s recent attempt to justify Ockham’s Razor in terms of truth-finding efficiency. It is argued that Kelly’s justification fails to warrant confidence in the empirical content of theories recommended by Ockham’s Razor. This is a significant problem if, as Kelly and many others believe, considerations of simplicity play a pervasive role in scientific reasoning, underlying even our best tested theories, for the proposal will fail to warrant the use of these theories …Read more
  •  220
    Chimpanzee normativity: evidence and objections
    Biology and Philosophy 35 (4): 1-28. 2020.
    This paper considers the question of whether chimpanzees possess at least a primitive sense of normativity: i.e., some ability to internalize and enforce social norms—rules governing appropriate and inappropriate behaviour—within their social groups, and to make evaluations of others’ behaviour in light of such norms. A number of scientists and philosophers have argued that such a sense of normativity does exist in chimpanzees and in several other non-human primate and mammalian species. However…Read more
  •  207
    Based on the results of empirical studies of folk moral judgment, several researchers have claimed that something like the famous Doctrine of Double Effect may be a fundamental, albeit unconscious, component of human moral psychology. Proponents of this psychological DDE hypothesis have, however, said surprisingly little about how the distinction at the heart of standard formulations of the principle—the distinction between intended and merely foreseen consequences—might be cognised when we make…Read more
  •  116
    Simplicity in the philosophy of science
    Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2013.
    Encyclopedia entry on the debate over simplicity/parsimony and Ockham's Razor in the philosophy of science.
  •  103
    Re-framing the debate over animal morality
    EurSafe Newsletter 22 (1): 3-6. 2020.
    Is morality uniquely human or does morality exist in at least some non-human animals? Are animals full-fledged moral creatures or do they merely exhibit proto-morality—evolutionary building blocks or precursors to morality, but not quite the genuine article? Such questions, prompted by remarkable advances in empirical research into the social and emotional lives of non-human animals, have aroused much recent interest amongst scientists, philosophers, and in the popular media, not least for the…Read more
  •  100
    Doing away with morgan’s canon
    Mind and Language 23 (2). 2008.
    Morgan’s Canon is a very widely endorsed methodological principle in animal psychology, believed to be vital for a rigorous, scientific approach to the study of animal cognition. In contrast I argue that Morgan’s Canon is unjustified, pernicious and unnecessary. I identify two main versions of the Canon and show that they both suffer from very serious problems. I then suggest an alternative methodological principle that captures all of the genuine methodological benefits that Morgan’s Canon can …Read more
  •  77
    Small-scale societies exhibit fundamental variation in the role of intentions in moral judgment
    with H. Clark Barrett, Alexander Bolyanatz, Alyssa N. Crittenden, Daniel M. T. Fessler, Michael Gurven, Joseph Henrich, Martin Kanovsky, Geoff Kushnick, Anne Pisor, Brooke A. Scelza, Stephen Stich, Chris von Rueden, Wanying Zhao, and Stephen Laurence
    Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113 (17). 2016.
    Intent and mitigating circumstances play a central role in moral and legal assessments in large-scale industrialized societies. Al- though these features of moral assessment are widely assumed to be universal, to date, they have only been studied in a narrow range of societies. We show that there is substantial cross-cultural variation among eight traditional small-scale societies (ranging from hunter-gatherer to pastoralist to horticulturalist) and two Western societies (one urban, one rural) i…Read more
  •  62
    Mikhalevich & Powell are to be commended for challenging the “invertebrate dogma” that invertebrates are unworthy of ethical concern. However, developing an evolutionarily inclusive ethics requires facing some of the more radical implications of rejecting hierarchical scala naturae and human-centered conceptions of the biological world. In particular, we need to question the anthropocentric assumptions that still linger in discussions like these.
  •  26
    Volume 98, Issue 2, June 2020, Page 410-413.
  •  21
    Kinship intensity and the use of mental states in moral judgment across societies
    with Cameron M. Curtin, H. Clark Barrett, Alexander Bolyanatz, Alyssa N. Crittenden, Daniel Fessler, Michael Gurven, Martin Kanovsky, Stephen Laurence, Anne Pisor, Brooke Scelza, Stephen Stich, Chris von Rueden, and Joseph Henrich
    Evolution and Human Behavior. forthcoming.
    Decades of research conducted in Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, & Democratic (WEIRD) societies have led many scholars to conclude that the use of mental states in moral judgment is a human cognitive universal, perhaps an adaptive strategy for selecting optimal social partners from a large pool of candidates. However, recent work from a more diverse array of societies suggests there may be important variation in how much people rely on mental states, with people in some societies judgin…Read more