Research

My research primarily addresses questions at the intersection of ethics and science. These are the topics I take up most often in my book, articles, reference works, reviews, and work in progress.

One overarching research project is to determine the extent of our moral knowledge and virtue, whether concerning ordinary interactions with others (e.g. lying, stealing) or disputed moral issues (e.g. abortion, euthanasia, genetic enhancement, racial and gender bias). Whether we know right from wrong and act virtuously depends greatly on our moral psychology. Based on an adequate understanding of the sources of our moral beliefs and actions, we can assess whether we’re justified in holding particular moral views and properly motivated to do what’s right. Against a rising pessimism, I argue that ordinary moral thought and action are ultimately rational enterprises that aren’t fundamentally flawed. Nevertheless, there is room for improvement, and I’m also interested in how we can make ourselves more virtuous. (My views are thus largely “rationalist” and “anti-skeptical.”)

Book

Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind (forthcoming with Oxford University Press)

Abstract: 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 result is a cautious optimism grounded in the pervasive role of reason in our moral minds. While the science suggests that moral knowledge and virtue don’t come easily, we needn’t reject ordinary moral psychology as fundamentally flawed or in need of serious repair.

Articles

Note: Article titles link to penultimate drafts (or self-archived finals if open access); journal titles link to final version if available. Both links contain abstracts.

Reference Works

Book Reviews & Commentaries

In Progress

(If not already provided, drafts may be available upon request.)

  • “How to Debunk Moral Beliefs” (w/Victor Kumar, under review)
  • Moral Responsibility and Mental Illness: A Call for Nuance.”  (w/Matt King, under review, featured on Bookforum)
  • “The Limits of Appealing to Disgust” (drafted for The Moral Psychology of Disgust, eds. Victor Kumar & Nina Strohminger)
  • “Neuroethics” (in prep for The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
  • A collaborative paper on intuitions about decision-theory puzzles (in progress)
  • A collaborative brain imaging experiment on moral exemplars (very early stages)
  • A paper on correcting for implicit bias (very early stages)

Collaborators

In some of my work, I have had the privilege of collaborating with some excellent scientists and philosophers, including: