Work in print or forthcoming (with links to PDFs)
Books & edited volumes
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.
A systematic look at emotion. Part of Routledge's New Problems of Philosophy series.
Worry and Wellbeing, Topical Collection in Synthese
A series of new essays for the journal Synthese. Co-edited with Juliette Vazard.
Journal articles & chapters
“An Evolutionary Account of Guilt?” Philosophy of Science (forthcoming) pdf
Grant Ramsey and Michael Deem argue that appreciating the role that empathy plays in posttransgression guilt leads to a more promising account of the emotion’s evolutionary origins. But because their proposal fails to adequately distinguish guilt from shame, we cannot say which of the two emotions we are actually getting an evolutionary account of. Moreover, a closer look at the details suggests both that empathy may be more relevant for our understanding of shame’s evolutionary origins than guilt’s, and that guilt is unlikely to be an adaptation.
“Moral Anxiety: A Kantian Perspective” The Moral Psychology of Anxiety (forthcoming) pdf
Moral anxiety is the unease that we experience in the face of a novel or difficult moral decision, an unease that helps us recognize the significance of the issue we face and engages epistemic behaviors aimed at helping us work through it (reflection, information gathering, etc.). But recent discussions in philosophy raise questions about the value of moral anxiety (do we really do better when we’re anxious?); and work in cognitive science challenges its psychological plausibility (is there really such an emotion?). Drawing on Kant and Kantians, I develop a model of moral anxiety that highlights both its empirical credentials and its distinctive value. Kant, it turns out, was an early—and sophisticated—dual-process theorist.
“Are We Virtuously Caring or Just Anxious?” Behavioral and Brain Sciences (forthcoming) pdf
According to Tobias Grossmann, the high levels of cooperation seen in humans are the result of a “virtuous caring cycle” on which the increased care that more fearful children receive brings increased cooperate tendencies in those children. But this proposal overlooks an equally well supported alternative on which children’s anxiety—not a virtuous caring cycle—explains the cooperative tendencies of humans.
“Eco-Anxiety: What It Is and Why It Matters,” Frontiers in Psychology (2022) pdf [with Panu Pihkala]
Discussions of the nature and value of "eco-anxiety" by emotion researchers (and in the general public) are complicated by a lack of consensus on what kind of affective experience this label picks out. In this paper, we critically examine existing work on "eco-anxiety" offering an account of it as a distinct, and distinctly valuable, emotion--one that, when experienced at the right time and to the right extent, not only reflects well on one’s moral character but can also help advance individual and planetary wellbeing.
“Inappropriate Emotions, Marginalization, and Feeling Better,” Synthese (2022) pdf
Feminist philosophers worry that prescriptions to correct “inappropriate emotions” will only further marginalize women, minorities, and other members of subordinated groups. While much in these debates turns on empirical questions about how we might change problematic emotions for the better, to date, little has been done to assess how this might actually be done. Drawing on research in cognitive science, this paper argues that the leading proposals are inadequate. It then develops an alternative strategy—one that’s sensitive to the feminists’ concerns.
“Should Doctors Care about their Patients?” Philosophy of Medicine (2022) pdf
Should doctors care about their patients? Understanding this as a question about the proper role of emotion in medical practice—that is, should doctors feel empathy and sympathy for their patients?—a clear answer is hard to find.
“Cultivating Disgust: Prospects and Moral Implications,” Emotion Review (2021) pdf
Is disgust morally valuable? The answer to that question turns, in large part, on what we can do to shape disgust for the better. But this cultivation question has received surprisingly little attention in philosophical debates. To address this deficiency, this article examines empirical work on disgust and emotion regulation. This research reveals that while we can exert some control over how we experience disgust, there’s little we can do to substantively change it at a more fundamental level. These empirical insights have revisionary implications both for debates about disgust’s moral value and for our understanding of agency and moral development more generally.
“Shame, Selves, and Morality,” Philosophical Psychology (2021) pdf
This essay critically examines the account of shame and its moral value that Krista Thomason develops in her book, Naked.
“What Sentimentalist Should Say about Emotions,” Behavioral & Brain Sciences (2019) 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
"Are Emotions Psychological Constructions?" Philosophy of Science (2019) 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..
“Politicians, Policy, and Anxiety,” Center for the Study of Ethics and Society Papers (2019) pdf
Do we want our politicians to be anxious? The answer may seem obvious: no. Consider, for instance, what it would have been like to see John F. Kennedy in the grip of anxiety during the Cuban missile crisis. Clearly, that’s not what we want. But recent research on the upside of anxiety suggests that this condemnation comes too quickly. For instance, experimental work in political science indicates that anxiety about public policy matters spurs voters to become more informed, open-minded, and engaged. Similarly, work in philosophy suggests that anxiety has an important role to play in promoting virtuous thought and action. So, initial appearances to the contrary, anxiety may be a good thing.
"Compassion without Cognitivism." Humana Mente (2019) pdf
Compassion is generally thought to be a morally valuable emotion both because it is concerned with the suffering of others and because it prompts us to take action to their behalf. But skeptics are unconvinced. Not only does a viable account of compassion’s evaluative content—its characteristic concern—appear elusive, but the emotional response itself seems deeply parochial: a concern we tend to feel toward the suffering of friends and loved ones, rather than for individuals who are outside of our circle of intimates. In response, I defend a sophisticated, non-cognitivist account of compassion and explain how it avoids the difficulties that undermine other proposals.
"Being Realistic about Motivation." Philosophical Studies (2019) 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..
"Emotion, Deliberation and the Skill Model of Virtuous Agency." Mind & Language (2018) 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.
"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.
"Anxiety: A Case Study in the Value of Negative Emotion." Shadows of the Soul. ed. Tappolet, Teroni & Konzelmann. Routledge (2018) 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.
"Anxiety, Normative Uncertainty, and Social Regulation." Biology & Philosophy (2016) 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.
"Moral Anxiety and Moral Agency." in Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics. ed. M. Timmons, (2015) 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.
"Expressivism and Innocent Mistakes." Ethics (2014) 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.
"What Do our Critical Practices Say about the Nature of Morality?" Philosophical Studies (2013) 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.
"Logic for Morals, Morals from Logic." Philosophical Studies (2011) 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
"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