Selected Papers

(some of these papers may be available as drafts; you can email me: aplakias [at] hamilton)

The Pleasures of Knowing: Comments on Sarah Worth's Taste. in Contemporary A

Publishing, Belief, and Self-Trust.  forthcoming in Episteme.

Some Probably-Not-Very-Good Thoughts on Underconfidence.  Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.  I consider the epistemic vice of underconfidence, describing how and why it impedes knowledge.  I outline two types of underconfidence before addressing a potential worry about how and why to assign blame for the vice.  (This piece is part of a book symposium on Quassim Cassam's Vices of the Mind.)

Publishing Without Belief.  AnalysisThis paper asks whether there's anything wrong with publishing philosophical work one doesn't believe.  I investigate several possible reasons for thinking there is but ultimately conclude that all of these fail.  In addition, I outline some reasons for allowing publishing without belief.  I conclude that we as a profession should allow publishing without belief.  Do I believe this conclusion?  If I'm right, it shouldn't matter.  You can find a draft of the paper here, but please cite the published version, available here.

The Response Model of Moral Disgust.  2018.  Synthese.  I argue that the debate over disgust's ability to play a role in moral discourse and practice has focused excessively on its epistemic status as a justification for judgments of moral wrongness.  I suggest an alternative account on which disgust is an output of, rather than input to, moral judgment, and argue that it is sometimes a fitting response to moral wrongness.  

Putting Our Morals Where Our Mouths Are: Disgust and Food Ethics.  2018. The Moral Psychology of Disgust, Kumar & Strohminger, eds.  This paper explores the relationship between disgust, food, and morality.  Food is where disgust begins: the disgust response is supposed to have evolved to protect us against ingesting invisible threats such as parasites and poisons.  So food is typically thought to be the paradigmatic elicitor of physical disgust.  But I suggest that food also elicits disgust because of its symbolic and spiritual properties.  In this case, disgust's role is to protect us against ingesting substances that contaminate the soul, a role that extends to food ethics: our disgust at certain foods, such as factory-farmed meat, is a protection against threats to our moral identities.

Experimental Philosophy.  Oxford Handbooks Online.

The Good and the Gross.  2013.  Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16:(2).  I discuss some arguments to the effect that disgust is a distorting influence on moral judgment and argue that they ultimately fail.  Disgust skeptics argue that disgust's evolutionary history reveals it to be ill-suited to play a role in moral judgment.  In the physical domain, disgust evolved to track and protect against contamination.  I argue that the phenomenon of social contagion points to the possibility of a similar role for disgust in the socio-moral domain.  

Well-Being.  2010.  With Valerie Tiberius.  in The Moral Psychology Handbook, Oxford University Press.  An adequate analysis of well-being must satisfy various philosophical and empirical desiderata.  On the one hand, it must be able to account for well-being's normative significance: well-being is something we strive to realize in our own lives and something we ought to promote in the lives of others.  On the other hand, it must be able to play a practical role in social policy and decision-making, and so an analysis of well-being must render it empirically accessible.  We argue that life-satisfaction accounts of well-being are best able to explain its normative significance; however, judgments of life satisfaction appear to be highly unstable, which is problematic.  We argue for a modified life-satisfaction account, which we call Value-Based Life-Satisfaction.  This account, we contend, is best able to meet the empirical and normative demands on a theory of well-being. 

How to Argue About Disagreement.  2008.  With John Doris.  in Moral Psychology vol. 2: The Cognitive Science of Morality.  Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, ed.  MIT Press.  Faced with the apparent existence of moral disagreement, realists have traditionally maintained that such disputes are due to rational shortcomings and are not in fact rationally irresolvable.  But the empirical record suggests otherwise.  After giving some reasons to think that rationally irresolvable disagreements would be a problem for realism, we canvass some of the realist's preferred explanations of moral disagreement and show that, when applied to instances of actual moral disagreement, these explanations fail.