Experimental moral philosophy emerged as a methodology in the last decade of the twentieth century, as a branch of the larger experimental philosophy (X-Phi) approach. Experimental moral philosophy is the empirical study of moral intuitions, judgments, and behaviors. Like other forms of experimental philosophy, it involves gathering data using experimental methods and using these data to substantiate, undermine, or revise philosophical theories. In this case, the theories in question concern the nature of moral reasoning and judgment; the extent and sources (...) of moral obligations; the nature of a good person and a good life; even the scope and nature of moral theory itself. This entry begins with a brief look at the historical uses of empirical data in moral theory and goes on to ask what, if anything, is distinctive about experimental moral philosophy—how should we distinguish it from related work in empirical moral psychology? After discussing some strategies for answering this question, the entry examines two of the main projects within experimental moral philosophy, and then discusses some of the most prominent areas of research within the field. As we will see, in some cases experimental moral philosophy has opened up new avenues of investigation, while in other cases it has influenced longstanding debates within moral theory. (shrink)
Is there anything wrong with publishing philosophical work which one does not believe (publishing without belief, henceforth referred to as ‘PWB’)? I argue that there is not: the practice isn’t intrinsically wrong, nor is there a compelling consequentialist argument against it. Therefore, the philosophical community should neither proscribe nor sanction it. The paper proceeds as follows. First, I’ll clarify and motivate the problem, using both hypothetical examples and a recent real-world case. Next, I’ll look at arguments that there is something (...) wrong with PWB, and show that none is sound. Then, I’ll give some reasons for thinking a norm against PWB is detrimental to the profession. Do I believe these arguments? If I’m right, it shouldn’t matter. (shrink)
Recent empirical studies have established that disgust plays a role in moral judgment. The normative significance of this discovery remains an object of philosophical contention, however; ‘disgust skeptics’ such as Martha Nussbaum have argued that disgust is a distorting influence on moral judgment and has no legitimate role to play in assessments of moral wrongness. I argue, pace Nussbaum, that disgust’s role in the moral domain parallels its role in the physical domain. Just as physical disgust tracks physical contamination and (...) pollution, so moral disgust tracks social contamination. I begin by examining the arguments for skepticism about disgust and show that these arguments threaten to overgeneralize and lead to a widespread skepticism about the justifiability of our moral judgments. I then look at the positive arguments for according disgust a role in moral judgment, and suggest that disgust tracks invisible social contagions in much the same way as it tracks invisible physical contagions, thereby serving as a defense against the threat of socio-moral contamination. (shrink)
Whether it is to be maximized or promoted as the object of a duty of beneficence, well-being is a vitally important notion in ethical theory. Well-being is a value, but to play the role it has often been assigned by ethical theory it must also be something we can measure and compare. It is a normative concept, then, but it also seems to have empirical content. Historically, philosophical conceptions of well-being have been responsive to the paired demands for normative and (...) empirical adequacy. However, recent work has yet to pay serious attention to the burgeoning field of well-being research in empirical psychology. This might be because the research is new and unknown, or it might be due to uncertainty about how a philosophical investigation would take such research into account. This chapter offers solutions to both of these problems. It provides an overview of well-being research in empirical psychology. It then uses this overview as part of an argument for an empirical informed account of well-being that we call the Value-Based Life Satisfaction Account. (shrink)
The philosophical debate over disgust and its role in moral discourse has focused on disgust’s epistemic status: can disgust justify judgments of moral wrongness? Or is it misplaced in the moral domain—irrelevant at best, positively distorting at worst? Correspondingly, empirical research into disgust has focused on its role as a cause or amplifier of moral judgment, seeking to establish how and when disgust either causes us to morally condemn actions, or strengthens our pre-existing tendencies to condemn certain actions. Both of (...) these approaches to disgust are based on a set of assumptions that I call, in what follows, the evidential model of disgust. This paper proposes an alternative model, which I call the response model. Instead of looking at disgust as a cause and justification of judgments of moral wrongness, I will argue that disgust is better understood as a response to wrongness. More precisely, I argue that disgust is a response to norm violations, and that it is a fitting response insofar as norm violations are potentially contagious and therefore pose a threat to the stability and maintenance of norms. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunking arguments draw on claims about the biological origins of our moral beliefs to undermine moral realism. In this paper, I argue that moral disagreement gives us reason to doubt the evolutionary explanations of moral judgment on which such arguments rely. The extent of cross-cultural and historical moral diversity suggests that evolution can’t explain the content of moral norms. Nor can it explain the capacity to make moral judgment in the way the debunker requires: empirical studies of folk moral (...) judgments show that they lack the kind of objectivity debunkers point to as an evolutionary contribution to our capacity for moral judgment. Thus, the empirical premise of debunking arguments lacks empirical support. (shrink)
Current debates in food aesthetics are moving away from a focus on whether food is art, and worries about the subjectivity and objectivity of taste, and towards questions about food's aesthetic properties, the cultural and social significance of food, our modes of aesthetic engagement with food, and issues involving cultural appropriation and the authenticity of dishes.
This paper offers a defense of ‘publishing without belief’ (PWB) – the view that authors are not required to believe what they publish. I address objections to the view ranging from outright denial and advocacy of a belief norm for publication, to a modified version that allows for some cases of PWB but not others. I reject these modifications. In doing so, I offer both an alternative story about the motivations for PWB and a diagnosis of the disagreement over its (...) permissibility. The original defense focused on consequentialist reasons for allowing PWB, offering mostly defensive arguments against potential criticisms. But I argue that once we shift our focus to the reasons why authors might be prone to PWB, we see a difference in two types of motivation: whereas I imagine PWB as arising from underconfident agents, critics point to cagey or nefarious authorial practices, or authors’ failure to clarify their own degrees of belief. Underlying the debate over norms of philosophical publishing, we find two different conceptions of philosophy itself. (shrink)
This book offers a wide-ranging yet concise introduction to the many philosophical issues surrounding food production and consumption. It begins with discussions of the metaphysics, epistemology, and aesthetics of food, then moves on to debates about the ethics of eating animals, the environmental impacts of food production, and the role of technology in our food supply, before concluding with discussions of food access, health, and justice. Throughout, the author draws on cross-disciplinary research to engage with historical debates and current events.
In metaethics, empirical approaches are not just complementary to, but continuous with, traditional approaches to the subject. This chapter addresses traditional and empirical approaches to metaethics. It discusses how empirical approaches have been brought to bear on some central metaethical questions. The chapter illustrates not just the diversity of topics within metaethics itself but also the diversity of empirical methods and approaches that philosophers and psychologists working on these topics are using. The debate between internalists and externalists is a debate (...) concerning the psychology of moral judgment, but also a debate about our concept of moral judgment. As such, it has implications for other metaethical debates. Antirealists such as relativists and noncognitivists often defend internalism, and argue that their views are best equipped to explain the link between moral judgment and motivation. (shrink)
The three papers in this dissertation attempt to explore and defend a kind of middle ground with respect to the question of moral objectivity. In the first paper I use the case of disgust to show how not to go about raising skepticism about moral judgment; in doing so, I argue that disgust can be vindicated with an account on which it tracks social contagion as well as physical contamination. Therefore, the question of whether disgust is an appropriate reaction to (...) moral wrongness can sometimes be answered in the affirmative. In the second paper, I use empirical data from anthropology and psychology to argue that moral disagreement makes trouble for the claim that morality is objective, but I don’t reject objectivity entirely— in the third paper I go on to argue that moral relativism best makes sense of a morality that appears to be objective with respect to some questions but not others. (shrink)