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Victor Kumar
Boston University
  1. How to Debunk Moral Beliefs.Victor Kumar & Joshua May - 2019 - In Jussi Suikkanen & Antti Kauppinen (eds.), Methodology and Moral Philosophy. Routledge. pp. 25-48.
    Arguments attempting to debunk moral beliefs, by showing they are unjustified, have tended to be global, targeting all moral beliefs or a large set of them. Popular debunking arguments point to various factors purportedly influencing moral beliefs, from evolutionary pressures, to automatic and emotionally-driven processes, to framing effects. We show that these sweeping arguments face a debunker’s dilemma: either the relevant factor is not a main basis for belief or it does not render the relevant beliefs unjustified. Empirical debunking arguments (...)
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  2. Moral Reasoning on the Ground.Richmond Campbell & Victor Kumar - 2012 - Ethics 122 (2):273-312.
    We present a unified empirical and philosophical account of moral consistency reasoning, a distinctive form of moral reasoning that exposes inconsistencies among moral judgments about concrete cases. Judgments opposed in belief or in emotion and motivation are inconsistent when the cases are similar in morally relevant respects. Moral consistency reasoning, we argue, regularly shapes moral thought and feeling by coordinating two systems described in dual process models of moral cognition. Our empirical explanation of moral change fills a gap in the (...)
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  3. Moral Reasoning and Emotion.Joshua May & Victor Kumar - 2018 - In Karen Jones, Mark Timmons & Aaron Zimmerman (eds.), Routledge Handbook on Moral Epistemology. Routledge. pp. 139-156.
    This chapter discusses contemporary scientific research on the role of reason and emotion in moral judgment. The literature suggests that moral judgment is influenced by both reasoning and emotion separately, but there is also emerging evidence of the interaction between the two. While there are clear implications for the rationalism-sentimentalism debate, we conclude that important questions remain open about how central emotion is to moral judgment. We also suggest ways in which moral philosophy is not only guided by empirical research (...)
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  4. Empirical Vindication of Moral Luck.Victor Kumar - 2019 - Noûs 53 (4):987-1007.
    In resultant moral luck, blame and punishment seem intuitively to depend on downstream effects of a person’s action that are beyond his or her control. Some skeptics argue that we should override our intuitions about moral luck and reform our practices. Other skeptics attempt to explain away apparent cases of moral luck as epistemic artifacts. I argue, to the contrary, that moral luck is real—that people are genuinely responsible for some things beyond their control. A partially consequentialist theory of responsibility (...)
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  5. Moral judgment as a natural kind.Victor Kumar - 2015 - Philosophical Studies 172 (11):2887-2910.
    In this essay I argue that moral judgment is a natural kind by developing an empirically grounded theory of the distinctive conceptual content of moral judgments. Psychological research on the moral/conventional distinction suggests that in moral judgments right and wrong, good and bad, praiseworthiness and blameworthiness, etc. are conceptualized as serious, general, authority-independent, and objective. After laying out the theory and the empirical evidence that supports it, I address recent empirical and conceptual objections. Finally, I suggest that the theory uniquely (...)
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  6. On the normative significance of experimental moral psychology.Victor Kumar & Richmond Campbell - 2012 - Philosophical Psychology 25 (3):311-330.
    Experimental research in moral psychology can be used to generate debunking arguments in ethics. Specifically, research can indicate that we draw a moral distinction on the basis of a morally irrelevant difference. We develop this naturalistic approach by examining a recent debate between Joshua Greene and Selim Berker. We argue that Greene's research, if accurate, undermines attempts to reconcile opposing judgments about trolley cases, but that his attempt to debunk deontology fails. We then draw some general lessons about the possibility (...)
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  7.  96
    Foul Behavior.Victor Kumar - 2017 - Philosophers' Imprint 17.
    Disgust originated as an evolutionary adaptation for avoiding disease, but it has since infiltrated morality. Many philosophers are skeptical of moral disgust. Skeptics argue that disgust is unreliable and harmful, and that we should eliminate or minimize feelings of disgust in moral thought. However, these arguments are unsuccessful. They do not show that disgust is more problematic than other emotions implicated in morality. Moreover, empirical research suggests that disgust supports important norms and values. Disgust is frequently elicited by “reciprocity violations,” (...)
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  8. Honor and Moral Revolution.Victor Kumar & Richmond Campbell - 2016 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 19 (1):147-59.
    Western philosophers have generally neglected honor as a moral phenomenon worthy of serious study. Appiah’s recent work on honor in moral revolutions is an important exception, but even he is careful to separate honor from morality, regarding it as only “an ally” of morality. In this paper we take Appiah to be right about the psychological, social, and historical role honor has played in three notable moral revolutions, but wrong about the moral nature of honor. We defend two new theses: (...)
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  9. Psychopathy and internalism.Victor Kumar - 2016 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 46 (3):318-345.
    Do psychopaths make moral judgments but lack motivation? Or are psychopaths’ judgments are not genuinely moral? Both sides of this debate seem to assume either externalist or internalist criteria for the presence of moral judgment. However, if moral judgment is a natural kind, we can arrive at a theory-neutral criterion for moral judgment. A leading naturalistic criterion suggests that psychopaths have an impaired capacity for moral judgment; the capacity is neither fully present nor fully absent. Psychopaths are therefore not counterexamples (...)
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  10.  7
    A Better Ape: The Evolution of the Moral Mind and How it Made Us Human.Victor Kumar & Richmond Campbell - 2022 - New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
    Humans are moral creatures. Among all life on Earth, we alone experience rich moral emotions, follow complex rules governing how we treat one another, and engage in moral dialogue. But how did human morality evolve? And can humans become morally evolved? -/- In A Better Ape, Victor Kumar and Richmond Campbell draw on the latest research in the biological and social sciences to explain the key role that morality has played in human evolution. They explore the moral traits that humans (...)
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  11.  43
    The Empirical Identity of Moral Judgment.Victor Kumar - 2016 - Philosophical Quarterly 66 (265):783-804.
    I argue that moral judgement is a natural kind on the grounds that it plays a causal/explanatory role in psychological generalizations. I then develop an empirically grounded theory of its identity as a natural kind. I argue that moral judgement is a hybrid state of moral belief and moral emotion. This hybrid theory supports the role of moral judgement in explanations of reasoning and action and also supports its role in a dual process model of moral cognition. Although it is (...)
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  12.  89
    Moral learning: Psychological and philosophical perspectives.Fiery Cushman, Victor Kumar & Peter Railton - 2017 - Cognition 167 (C):1-10.
    The past 15 years occasioned an extraordinary blossoming of research into the cognitive and affective mechanisms that support moral judgment and behavior. This growth in our understanding of moral mechanisms overshadowed a crucial and complementary question, however: How are they learned? As this special issue of the journal Cognition attests, a new crop of research into moral learning has now firmly taken root. This new literature draws on recent advances in formal methods developed in other domains, such as Bayesian inference, (...)
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  13.  41
    Moral vindications.Victor Kumar - 2017 - Cognition 167:124-134.
    Psychologists and neuroscientists have recently been unearthing the unconscious processes that give rise to moral intuitions and emotions. According to skeptics like Joshua Greene, what has been found casts doubt on many of our moral beliefs. However, a new approach in moral psychology develops a learning-theoretic framework that has been successfully applied in a number of other domains. This framework suggests that model-based learning shapes intuitions and emotions. Model-based learning explains how moral thought and feeling are attuned to local material (...)
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  14. ‘Knowledge’ as a natural kind term.Victor Kumar - 2014 - Synthese 191 (3):439-457.
    Naturalists who conceive of knowledge as a natural kind are led to treat ‘knowledge’ as a natural kind term. ‘Knowledge,’ then, must behave semantically in the ways that seem to support a direct reference theory for other natural kind terms. A direct reference theory for ‘knowledge,’ however, appears to leave open too many possibilities about the identity of knowledge. Intuitively, states of belief count as knowledge only if they meet epistemic criteria, not merely if they bear a causal/historical relation to (...)
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  15. How Many of Us Are There?Hannah Tierney, Chris Howard, Victor Kumar, Trevor Kvaran & Shaun Nichols - 2014 - In Justin Sytsma (ed.), Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Mind. Continuum Press.
  16. Pragmatic naturalism and moral objectivity.Richmond Campbell & Victor Kumar - 2013 - Analysis 73 (3):446-455.
    In Kitcher’s ‘pragmatic naturalism’ moral evolution consists in pragmatically motivated moral changes in response to practical difficulties in social life. No moral truths or facts exist that could serve as an ‘external’ measure for moral progress. We propose a psychologically realistic conception of moral objectivity consistent with this pragmatic naturalism yet alive to the familiar sense that moral progress has an objective basis that transcends convention and consensus in moral opinion, even when these are products of serious, extended and collaborative (...)
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  17. In support of anti-intellectualism.Victor Kumar - 2011 - Philosophical Studies 152 (1):135-54.
    Intellectualist theories attempt to assimilate know how to propositional knowledge and, in so doing, fail to properly explain the close relation know how bears to action. I develop here an anti-intellectualist theory that is warranted, I argue, because it best accounts for the difference between know how and mere “armchair knowledge.” Know how is a mental state characterized by a certain world-to-mind direction of fit (though it is non-motivational) and attendant functional role. It is essential of know how, but not (...)
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  18. Harnessing Moral Psychology to Reduce Meat Consumption.Joshua May & Victor Kumar - forthcoming - Journal of the American Philosophical Association.
    How can we make moral progress on factory farming? Part of the answer lies in human moral psychology. Meat consumption remains high, despite increased awareness of its negative impact on animal welfare. Weakness of will is part of the explanation: acceptance of the ethical arguments doesn’t always motivate changes in dietary habits. However, we draw on scientific evidence to argue that many consumers aren’t fully convinced that they morally ought to reduce their meat consumption. We then identify two key psychological (...)
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  19.  5
    The Moral Psychology of Disgust.Victor Kumar & Nina Strohminger (eds.) - 2018 - Rowman & Littlefield International.
    This book provides an introduction to the major findings, challenges and debates regarding disgust as a moral emotion, and brings together scholarship from multiple disciplines such as philosophy, psychology, anthropology and law.
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  20.  43
    Moral Reasoning and Moral Progress.Victor Kumar & Joshua May - forthcoming - In David Copp & Connie Rosati (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Metaethics. Oxford University Press.
    Can reasoning improve moral judgments and lead to moral progress? Pessimistic answers to this question are often based on caricatures of reasoning, weak scientific evidence, and flawed interpretations of solid evidence. In support of optimism, we discuss three forms of moral reasoning (principle reasoning, consistency reasoning, and social proof) that can spur progressive changes in attitudes and behavior on a variety of issues, such as charitable giving, gay rights, and meat consumption. We conclude that moral reasoning, particularly when embedded in (...)
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