Research

Work in print or forthcoming (links to pdf)

Monograph
dddddddBook:
The Anxious Mind (MIT Press, 2018) pdf of Chap 1
This book is about the various forms of anxiety—some familiar, some not—that color and shape our lives. The objective is two-fold. The first aim is to deepen our understanding of what anxiety is. The second aim, Part 2 of the book, is to re-orient thinking about the role of emotions in moral psychology and ethical theory. Here I argue that the current focus on backward looking moral emotions like guilt and shame leaves us with a picture that is badly incomplete. To get a better understanding of emotions’ place in the moral and evaluative domains, we must take note of the important role that forward looking emotions—anxiety in particular—play in moral thought and action.

Journal articles & chapters
Papers

(12) "What Sentimentalists Should Say about Emotions.Behavioral & Brain Sciences. (forthcoming). pdf
Recent work by emotion researchers indicates that emotions have a multi-level structure. Sophisticated sentimentalists should take note of this work—for it better enables them to defend a substantive role for emotion in moral cognition. Contra the rationalist criticisms of May 2018, emotions are not only able to carry morally relevant information but can also substantially influence moral judgment and reasoning.

(11) "Compassion without Cognitivism" Humana Mente. (forthcoming).

(10) "Are Emotions Psychological Constructions?" Philosophy of Science. (forthcoming). pdf
According to psychological constructivism, emotions are the result of projecting culturally-fashioned categories onto felt affective episodes. Moreover, while constructivists acknowledge that there’s a biological dimension to emotions (e.g., neural mechanisms are responsible for generating feelings), they deny that emotions are, or essentially involve, anything like an affect program. But despite constructivism’s appeal among cognitive scientists (e.g., Barrett 2017, LeDoux 2015, Russell 2004), I argue that the role it gives to felt experience and folk categories leads to an account of emotion that’s both extensionally inadequate and functionally inaccurate. However, understanding why constructivism falters, points to a better, more biologically-oriented alternative.

(9) "Being Realistic about Motivation." Philosophical Studies. (forthcoming). pdf
T.M. Scanlon’s ‘reasons fundamentalism’ is thought to face difficulties answering the normative question—that is, explaining why it’s irrational to not do what you judge yourself to have most reason to do (e.g., Dreier 2014a). I argue that this difficulty results from Scanlon’s failure to provide a theory of mind that can give substance to his account of normative judgment and its tie to motivation. A central aim of this paper is to address this deficiency. To do this, I draw on broadly cognitivist theories of emotion (e.g., Nussbaum 2001, Roberts 2013). These theories are interesting because they view emotions as cognitive states from which motivation emerges. Thus, they provide a model Scanlon can use to develop a richer account of both the judgment-motivation connection and the irrationality of not doing what you judge yourself to have most reason to do. However, the success is only partial—even this more developed proposal fails to give a satisfactory answer to the normative question..

(8) "Emotion, Deliberation and the Skill Model of Virtuous Agency." Mind & Language. (2018) 33: 299-313. pdf
A recent skeptical challenge denies that deliberation is essential to virtuous agency: what looks like genuine deliberation is just a post hoc rationalization of a decision already made by automatic mechanisms (Haidt 2001; Doris 2015). While skill-based account of virtuous agency seem well placed to address these concerns, existing proposals prove inadequate. Doing better requires that we take seriously the role that a distinctive form of anxiety plays in human moral psychology.

(7) "Are Emotions Perceptions of Value (and Why this Matters)? Philosophical Psychology (2018): 483-499. [with Haley Crosby and Jack Basse] pdf
In Emotions, Values & Agency, Christine Tappolet develops a sophisticated, perceptual theory of emotions and their role in wide range of issues in value theory and epistemology. In this paper, we raise three worries about Tappolet's proposal.

(6) "Anxiety: A Case Study in the Value of Negative Emotion." Shadows of the Soul. ed. Tappolet, Teroni & Konzelmann. Routledge (2018): 95-104. pdf
Negative emotions matter. Not only can they help us manage risks, dangers, and threats, they are also central elements of what a good or virtuous character consists in. Negative emotions, that is, have both instrumental and aretaic value. To draw this out, I take anxiety as a case study.

(5) "Anxiety, Normative Uncertainty, and Social Regulation." Biology & Philosophy (2016): 1-21. pdf
Emotion plays an important role in securing social stability. But while emotions like fear, anger, and guilt have received much attention in this context, little work has been done to understand the role that anxiety plays. That’s unfortunate. I argue that a particular form of anxiety—what I call ‘practical anxiety’—plays an important, but as of yet unrecognized, role in norm-based social regulation. More specifically, it provides a valuable form of metacognition, one that contributes to social stability by helping individuals negotiate the challenges that come from having to act in the face of unclear norms.

(4) "Moral Anxiety and Moral Agency." in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics. ed. M. Timmons, (2015): 171-195. pdf
A familiar feature of moral life is the distinctive anxiety that we feel in the face of a moral dilemma or moral conflict. Situations like these require us to take stands on controversial issues. But because we are unsure that we will make the correct decision, anxiety ensues. despite the pervasiveness of this phenomenon, surprisingly little work has been done either to characterize this “moral anxiety” or to explain the role that it plays in our moral lives. This paper aims to address this deficiency by developing an empirically informed account of what moral anxiety is and what it does.

(3) "Expressivism and Innocent Mistakes." Ethics 124 (2014): 370-383 pdf
This paper develops and refines Allan Gibbard's account of an innocent mistake in order to show that expressivists can secure a surprisingly robust form of normative objectivity.

(2) "What Do our Critical Practices Say about the Nature of Morality?" Philosophical Studies, 166 (2013): 45-64 pdf
A popular defense of naturalistic moral realism relies on making an analogy between the critical practices of science (e.g., error, improvement, explanation) and the critical practices of morality. This paper argues that if we take a good look at our fashion discourse--are talk about what's chic and stylish--we not only see that the realists' argument faces serious difficulties, but we also get a better sense for what's distinctive about moral objectivity.

(1) "Logic for Morals, Morals from Logic." Philosophical Studies 155 (2011): 161-80 pdf
An argument that both meta-ethical expressivists and descriptivists face serious difficulties distinguishing between failures of moral reasoning and failures of logical reasoning, and an explanation of why descriptivists have the upper-hand

Other Pieces
"Life's Anxieties: Good or Bad?" History of Emotions Blog (2017) link

"Worried Well." Aeon
(2015)
link
An overview of the varieties and value of anxiety.

"Review of Kieran Setiya's Knowing Right from Wrong." Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews (2013) link


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