The Social Turn in Moral Psychology (MIT Press)
This book examines the methodology of moral psychology. Its thesis is that a deeper engagement with the social sciences can lead to increased progress in moral psychology, and it proposes that the best way to bring moral psychology and the social sciences together is to use a novel ethical theory that I call "the causal theory of ethics". Available here from Amazon.com
Clinical equipoise links ethically appropriate medical research with medical research that has the reasonable chance of resolving debates. We argue against this principle, on the grounds that most debates in medicine are not debates that can be resolved by the outcomes of any particular (even extremely rigorous) empirical study. In fact, a deep understanding of the methodology of scientific research leads to the conclusion that adopting clinical equipoise as an ethical standard for medical research would deprive medical researchers of the ability to confirm clinical hypotheses.
This is a short commentary on a target article by Julie Huang and John Bargh. We argue that our conscious abilities are learned in environments that have evolved to support them, and that this insight provides an alternative way of framing Huang and Barghʼs hypotheses about the role of unconscious goals in motivating behavior. To understand the conflict between unconscious goal and consciousness, we can study the emergence of conscious thought and control in childhood. These developmental processes are also central to the best available current evolutionary theories.
This paper focuses on the question of whether even very well-confirmed hypotheses in evolutionary biology have non-trivial psychological implications. I show that 'Santa-Barbara style' evolutionary psychology rests on a view of the connection between psychology and evolutionary theory that is deeply implausible from the perspective of contemporary evolutionary biology. However, I also describe one of the ways in which well-confirmed evolutionary hypotheses can be used to make informed judgments about the scientific plausibility of psychological hypotheses.
(2013) (with Barbara Koslowski) Intuition vs. Reason: Strategies that People use to Think About Moral Problems. In M. Knauff, M. Pauen, N. Sebanz, & I. Wachsmuth (eds) Proceedings of the 35th Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society, 424-429, Austin, TX: Cognitive Science Society.
We asked college students to make judgments about realistic moral situations presented as dilemmas (which asked for an either/or decision) vs. problems (which did not ask for such a decision) as well as when the situation explicitly included affectively salient language vs. non-affectively salient language. We report two main findings. The first is that there are four different types of cognitive strategy that subjects use in their responses: simple reasoning, intuitive judging, cautious reasoning, and empathic reasoning. We give operational definitions of these types in terms of our observed data. In addition, the four types characterized strategies not only in the whole sample, but also in all of the subsamples in our study. The second finding is that the intuitive judging type comprised approximately 26% of our respondents, while about 74% of our respondents employed one of the three styles of reasoning named above. We think that these findings present an interesting challenge to models of moral cognition which predict that there is either a single, or a single most common, strategy – especially a strategy of relying upon one’s intuitions – that people use to think about moral situations.
In this short note, we argue that there are epistemic features of the neurological exam which render it impossible to replace with statistical algorithms. These algorithms can detect causal patterns in data that human reasoners cannot -- but these algorithms cannot do something human reasoners do very well: understand the context in which medical decisions are made. We are therefore skeptical that statistical techniques borrowed from epidemiology can replace -- as opposed to aid -- the neurological exam.
(2011) Review of Evolution and Human Behavior: Darwinian Perspectives on Human Nature. In Philosophical Psychology, 24(5), 723-726
This is a book review of John Cartwright's excellent evolutionary psychology textbook.
(2010) Philosophical Intuitions. In Cohnitz, D. and Haggqvist, S. (eds) The Role of Intuitions in Philosophical Methodology, Studia Philosophica Estonica 2(2)
This paper is a theory of what philosophers mean when they use the word "intuition" when they are doing epistemology. The paper shows that, when we think about how philosophical intuitions might function as evidence in philosophical inquiry, there are two distinct evidential tasks that intuition can be called upon to fulfill: intuitions can teach us about things in the world, and intuitions can teach about the meanings of our concepts. The most interesting result in this paper is that the conditions under which intuitions can reliably produce these two different kinds of knowledge are extraordinarily different.