Taking offense: An emotion reconsidered
Philosophy & Public Affairs, vol.49 (2), 2021, pp.179-208
Philosophers have said a great deal about causing offense, especially whether we should punish or prevent it, but very little about what is to take offense, let alone whether we should. Meanwhile, taking offense has captured popular attention, with a multitude of books and opinion pieces condemning “oversensitive millennials” and “generation snowflake.” There, however, being offended tends to be characterized, I will argue, mistakenly, as a kind of emotional upset, borne of oversensitivity or emotional fragility, or as a retreat into victimhood. In this article, I offer an alternative analysis of what it is to take offense and what doing so is like, on which a more nuanced and positive appraisal of this emotion becomes possible, as compared to its popular reputation.
Moral character, liberal states, and civic education
Forthcoming, in the Oxford Handbook of Moral Psychology
Political philosophers writing about civic education often pay little attention to the findings of psychology. Yet meanwhile, in moral philosophy, much has been written about the implications of such findings for theories of moral character and virtue. In this chapter, I argue that what political philosophers could gain from psychological research is a set of empirically superior alternatives to civic education as usual. I explore three such alternatives, of local traits, situational factors, and social norms.
Justice, feasibility, and social science as it is
Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 22 (1), 2019, pp. 27-40
While the feasibility requirement is treated as if it would make some important difference to the practice of political philosophy even at its most ideal, this paper suggests that it makes no such difference. Owing to the nature of social science, this requirement turns out to be redundant and ought to be replaced by other, more fruitful ways for political philosophers to address the findings of social science.
Microaggressions, equality, and social practices
Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 26 (3), 2018, pp. 261-281
I argue that microaggressions are both an injustice and an interesting case for political philosophers. In particular, the case of microaggressions suggests that social practices are amongst the phenomena that we should think about when we are concerned with justice, not only institutions and individual choices. Considering microaggressions presses home that the social realm is a site of justice — or, at least, injustice — for any account that makes the heart of justice a matter of having the right kinds of relations among citizens.
Uterus transplants and why the value of gestation isn’t enough
Bioethics, vol. 32, 2018, pp. 481–488
This artile argues that any defence of the provision of uterus transplants would have to rest on the value of gestation, rather than appeals to meeting medical need or promoting normal functioning. The prospects for success of such a justification, however, are extremely limited. Indeed, we may even have reason to refrain from enabling such transplants.
Those who forget the past: An ethical challenge from the history of treating deviance
In Treatment For Crime: Philosophical Essays on Neurointerventions in Criminal Justice,eds. David Birks & Tom Douglas, 2018, Oxford University Press.
Treating those who commit crimes or behave in ways deemed socially undesirable with medical interventions targeting the brain, or ‘neurointerventions’, comes with a history full of appalling cases, including the chemical castration of men convicted of consensual same-sex relations, electric shocks to treat the ‘non-compliant’, and lobotomies. This chapter argues that this history should make us doubt that it is ethical to try again.
How to be a Responsibility-Sensitive Egalitarian: From Metaphysics to Social Practice
Political Studies, vol. 64 (3), 2016, pp. 748 -764
This article proposes an alternative approach to being a responsibility-sensitive egalitarian: one grounded on our valuable social practices of responsibility, rather than on a desire to mitigate the influence of luck on people’s prospects.
Should Fertility Treatment be State Funded?
Journal of Applied Philosophy, vol 32, 2015, pp. 227–240
Many states offer generous provision of fertility treatment, but this article asks whether and how such state funding can be justified. I argue that, at most, there is limited justification for state funding of fertility treatment as one good among many that could enable citizens to pursue valuable life projects, but not one that should have the privileged access to funding it is currently given.
For a blog post responding to this article, see here. For my own, see below.
How to Make Citizens Behave: Social Psychology, Liberal Virtues, and Social Norms
Journal of Political Philosophy, vol. 22, 2014, pp. 84-104.
Many liberal political philosophers regard virtue as a means by which to secure desired patterns of behaviour from citizens where institutions alone would not suffice. This article challenges that widely held view by drawing on research in social psychology, defending social norms as a better alternative.
Subject of a reply by Eamonn K. Callan, ‘Debate: Liberal Virtues and Civic Education’, Journal of Political Philosophy. Find the reply here.
The Inegalitarian Ethos: Incentives, Respect, and Self-Respect
Politics, Philosophy & Economics, vol. 12 (1), 2013, pp. 93-111.
This article presents an egalitarian challenge to Cohen’s vision of the just society. I argue that a society where all internalised the egalitarian ethos would be one lacking equal respect among its members, in which certain groups lacked the grounds of self-respect.
Book review and general audience:
If you care about social equality, you want a big state: Home, work, care and social egalitarianism, Juncture, Institute of Public Policy Research, vol. 23, pp. 138–144. With Martin O’Neill, Christian Schemmel, and Fabian Schuppert.
‘Rescuing responsibility for the left’, Juncture, Institute of Public Policy Research, vol. 22, 2016, pp. 298–303.
Book review Responsibility and Distributive Justice, ed. Knight and Stemplowska, Economics and Philosophy, vol. 30 (3), 2014, pp. 529-534.
Selected works in progress:
Drafts available and comments welcomed – email me for copies
Contextualism, responsibility, and moral luck
This paper offers a solution to the problem of moral luck. Rather than revising our practices of responsibility as most solutions suggest, I argue that we should adopt an approach more closely resembling our practices: namely, contextualism about moral responsibility.