Most of my work is organized around the nature and role of moral responsibility. I'm interested to see how much can be explained with more modest resources than are typically acknowledged, while challenging widespread philosophical assumptions. In pursuit of these goals, my work explores topics in ethics, the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of action, and law.
My published papers can be found below. Where they are penultimate versions, their final published counterparts should be available via PhilPapers. Additional work, including some work-in-progress, can be found on Academia.
I argue that manipulation arguments for the incompatibility of responsibility and determinism fail as a class. Their success is predicated on a dialectically infelicitous incompatibilist assumption.
The law often asks fact finders to determine whether a defendant was reasonable in some respect. To help them, it is common to turn to a counterfactual test that personifies the reasonable person. Basically, if the reasonable person would have done the same thing as the defendant (or believed the same thing, or had the same emotional reaction, etc.) then the defendant was reasonable. I argue that this test is a hopeless guide to answering the question of defendant reasonableness, and that this problem gives us reason to abandon personifying the reasonable person altogether.
I examine a range of ways in which blame of another may itself ground criticism, and use those resources to reject Patrick Todd’s recent manipulation argument.
Moral Repsonsibility and Mental Illness (w/ Josh May)
Most people tend to think that mental illness nearly always mitigates responsibility. Against this Naive 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 are so varied that a more nuanced approach is needed.
Moral Responsibility and Consciousness (w/ Peter Carruthers)
We argue that since theories of moral responsibility should operate with the weakest possible empirical assumptions about the natural world, such theories should be framed in such a way as to be free of any commitment to the existence of conscious attitudes, given the very real possibility that there might not be any.
I critique the common view that negligent agents are responsible for the harms they bring about. I argue that there is no plausible explanation of such responsibility that is unified with explanations of paradigmatic cases of responsibility (in which an agent brings about an explicitly intentional result).
‘Tracing’ is an explanatory strategy to account for cases where an agent is responsible despite lacking the (presumed) requisite control over their action (e.g., drunk-driving). I argue against the claim that tracing is theoretically indispensible, offering two strategies for accounting for the agent’s responsibility, neither of which involves tracing.
In this paper, I make progress toward understanding why it would follow that being morally responsible for something supports a desert claim. I argue that two prominent approaches to theorizing about moral responsibility do not carry equally plausible commitments with respect to deserved praise and blame.
I defend two claims regarding a candidate view about the relationship between responsibility and desert, which understands that desert in terms of a kind of fittingness. First, it does better than extant Fitting Attitude accounts of blameworthiness and praiseworthiness. Second, it has an initial plausibility with respect to informing a general account of desert.