Papers

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

Penultimate draft available here

In this paper, I defend the view that self-deception is a moral failure. Instead of saying that self-deception is bad because it undermines our moral character or leads to morally deleterious consequences, as has been argued by Butler, Kant, Smith, and others, I argue the distinctive badness of self-deception lies in the tragic relationship that it bears to our own values. On one hand, self-deception is motivated by what we value. On the other hand, it prevents us from valuing those things properly. I argue that we owe it ourselves to take seriously our own values, by striving to properly value them. This gives us both prudential and moral reasons to avoid self-deception.

Caring By Lying, Bioethics, 2021

Penultimate draft available here

Caring for loved ones with dementia can sometimes necessitate a loose relationship with the truth. Some might view such deception as categorically immoral, and a violation of our general truth-telling obligations. I argue that this view is mistaken. This is because truth-telling obligations may be limited by the particular relationships in which they feature. Specifically, within caregiving relationships, we are often permitted (and sometimes obligated) to deceive the people with whom we share them. Our standing to deceive follows from certain features of caregiving relationships. Specifically, they are relationships that involve obligations to promote a person's interests and values (and not simply their autonomy), that often permit us to assume the hypothetical consent of the person with whom we share them, and in which we are often entitled to act out of self-interest. Once we appreciate these features, we will be able to recognize that the truth-telling norms governing our relationships with loved ones with dementia do not represent a radical departure from our general truth-telling obligations, but are instead consistent with truth-telling norms that feature in other caregiving relationships. In addition, we will be able to understand why we may feel conflicted about lying to loved ones with dementia, even when lying is permissible.

We Should Widen Access to Physician-Assisted Death, With Adam Lerner, Journal of Moral Philosophy, 2021

Penultimate draft available here

Typical philosophical discussions of physician-assisted death (“pad”) have focused on whether the practice can be permissible. We address a different question: assuming that pad can be morally permissible, how far does that permission extend? We will argue that granting requests for pad may be permissible even when the pad recipient can no longer speak for themselves. In particular, we argue against the ‘competency requirement’ that constrains pad-eligibility to presently-competent patients in most countries that have legalized pad. We think pad on terminally ill, incapacitated patients can be morally permissible in cases where advance directives or suitable surrogate decision-makers are available, and should be legally permissible in such cases as well. We argue that this view should be accepted on pain of inconsistency: by allowing surrogate decision-makers to request withdrawal of life-sustaining care on behalf of patients and by allowing patients to request pad, we rule out any plausible justification for imposing a competency requirement on pad.

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, 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, 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 Kant and Self-Knowledge]

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

[A paper on self-deception and self-distrust]

In progress; email me if you'd like a copy