Self-Deception as a Moral Failure (forthcoming, Philosophical Quarterly)

Penultimate draft available here

In this paper, I argue that self-deception constitutes a particular type of valuing failure. Specifically, self-deception not only reflects and is motivated by an agent’s values, but also serves as the means through which that agent comes to distort and disrespect those very same values. Thus, self-deception, is not only undesirable from a detached, third-personal perspective, but also from a perspective that is both available to, and endorsed by, the self-deceiver.

Knowing Yourself and Being Worth Knowing

Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 2018

Penultimate draft available here.

Philosophers have often understood self-knowledge’s value in instrumentalist terms. Self-knowledge may be valuable as a means to moral self-improvement and self-satisfaction, while its absence can lead to viciousness and frustration. These explanations, while compelling, do not fully explain the value that many of us place in self-knowledge. Rather, we have a tendency to treat self-knowledge as its own end. In this paper, I vindicate this tendency by identifying a moral reason that we have to value and seek self-knowledge that is independent of the reason that we have to value the beneficial ends that it helps us achieve. I argue that we are in an inescapable relationship with ourselves that requires both self-love and self-respect. Self-love gives us a non-instrumental reason to know ourselves, while self-respect demands that we take this reason seriously. To carefully pursue a project of self-discovery for its own sake, then, is part of what it is to stand in a loving and respectful relationship with ourselves.

Agent-Regret and the Social Practice of Moral Luck

Res Philosophica, 1:95-117 (2017)

Penultimate draft available here.

Agent-regret has often been thought to give rise to a philosophical problem. If we accept a theory of moral responsibility that says that we should not be held responsible, or hold ourselves responsible, for that which is out of our control (the ‘Standard View’), then our experiences of agent-regret—which involve both self-blame and a desire to make amends—seem rationally indefensible. And yet, despite this apparent rational indefensibility, agent-regret still strikes most of us as an entirely reasonable, and indeed a virtuous reaction to cases of bad moral luck. In this paper, I argue that we can successfully resolve the apparent conflict between agent-regret and the Standard View by appreciating a feature of agent-regret that has been overlooked in the literature. Specifically, I argue that we ought to understand agent-regret as one component of a larger social practice that helps us navigate our way through cases of bad moral luck. That agent-regret is merely one component of this practice puts limits on the sorts of questions that we can justifiably ask about it. We can ask whether a specific experience of agent-regret is rational given the standards set by the social practice of which it is a part, just as we can ask whether it is rational to drive on a particular side of the road in a particular country. We can also ask whether the specific practice of which agent-regret is a part is rational, just as we can ask whether it is rational to legislate that all drivers drive on a particular side of the road. What we cannot ask is whether agent-regret is in and of itself rational, just as we cannot ask whether driving on the left side of the road is in and of itself rational.


Genetic Information, the Principle of Rescue, and Special Obligations

With S. Matthew Liao, The Hastings Center Report 48(3):18-19 (2018)

In "Genetic Privacy, Disease Prevention, and the Principle of Rescue," Madison Kilbride argues that patients have a duty to warn biological family members about clinical actionable adverse genetic findings. This duty, Kilbride argues, follows from the principle of rescue, which holds that one ought to prevent, reduce, or mitigate the risk of harm to another person when the expected harm is serious and the cost or risk to oneself is sufficiently modest. While we agree with Kilbride that patients often have a duty to warn, we argue that that this duty does not follow from the principle of rescue. Instead, we suggest that Kilbride may have underappreciated the role that the special obligations we have towards family members could play in generating a duty to warn.

[A paper on survivor guilt] With Mike Zhao

[Abstract redacted because paper under review; email me if you'd like a copy]

[A paper on the ethics of lying to loved ones with dementia]

[Abstract redacted because paper under review; email me if you'd like a copy]

[A paper on physician-assisted death] With Adam Lerner

[Abstract redacted because paper under review; email me if you'd like a copy]

[A paper on Kant and Self-Knowledge]

[Abstract redacted because paper under review; email me if you'd like a copy]