Publications

Books

Neurofunctional Prudence and Morality: A Philosophical Theory (Routledge, 2020): This book outlines a unified theory of prudence and morality that merges a wide variety of findings in behavioral neuroscience with philosophically sophisticated normative theorizing. Chapter 1 lays out the emerging behavioral neuroscience of prudence and morality. Chapter 2 then outlines a new theory of prudence as fairness to oneself across time. Chapter 3 then derives a revised version of my 2016 moral theory--Rightness as Fairness--from this theory of prudence, showing how the theory of prudence defends Rightness as Fairness against various critiques and unifies prudence, morality, and justice. Chapter 4 then argues that this theory explains a variety of normative philosophical and empirical neuroscientific phenomena better than alternatives. Finally, Chapter 5 responds to potential objections and explores future research avenues.

Rightness as Fairness: A Moral and Political Theory (Palgrave MacMillan, 2016): This book argues that in order to reliably arrive at moral truth, moral philosophy must be based upon seven scientific principles of theory-selection. It then argues that our best empirical evidence reveals morality to be a matter of acting in ways that our present and future selves can rationally agree upon across time. I show that this agreement—Rightness as Fairness—requires us to be fair to ourselves and to others, including animals. Further, the Four Principles of Fairness comprising this agreement reconcile a variety of traditionally opposed moral and political frameworks. Finally, Rightness as Fairness provides a uniquely fruitful method for resolving applied moral and political issues: a method of ‘principled fair negotiation’ that requires merging principled debate with real-world negotiation.

 

Selected Articles (full list here)

Social-Political Philosophy

Nonideal Justice as Nonideal Fairness

Journal of the American Philosophical Association, 2019.

Abstract: This article argues that diverse theorists have reasons to theorize about fairness in nonideal conditions, including theorists who reject fairness in ideal theory. It then develops a new all-purpose model of ‘nonideal fairness', illustrating why diverse theorists should find the model and its output principles attractive.

First Steps Toward a Nonideal Theory of Justice

Ethics and Global Politics, 2014.

This paper argues that in order to properly extend John Rawls' theory of justice as fairness to nonideal conditions, Rawls’ most famous innovation – the original position – must be reconceived in the form of a 'nonideal original position.' I clarify the ideal/nonideal theory distinction, construct the nonideal original position, show that its parteis should aim to distribute particular kinds of 'nonideal primary goods' for both combating injustice but weighing social progress against costs. Finally, I briefly outline the kinds of principles its parties might rationally agree to.

Ethics

Mental time-travel, semantic flexibility, and A.I. ethics

AI and Society, 2019.

This article argues that existing approaches to programming ethical AI fail to resolve a serious moral-semantic trilemma, generating interpretations of ethical requirements that are either too semantically strict, too semantically flexible, or overly unpredictable. It then demonstrates how human beings resolve the dilemma via the moral psychology I defend in Rightness as Fairness. The paper concludes that ethical AI must be programmed with this same moral psychology in order to resolve the trilemma and produce moral behavior that aligns with human values and expectations.

The Dark Side of Morality: Group Polarization and Moral Epistemology

The Philosophical Forum, 2019.

This article argues that philosophers and laypeople commonly conceptualize moral truths or justified moral beliefs as discoverable through intuition, argument, or some other purely cognitive or affective process. It then contends that three empirically well-supported theories all predict that this ‘Discovery Model’ of morality plays a substantial role in causing social polarization. The same three theories are then used to argue that an alternative ‘Negotiation Model’ of morality of the sort I defend in Rightness as Fairness promises to reduce polarization by fostering a progressive willingness to ‘work across the aisle’ to settle moral issues cooperatively. Finally, I outline avenues for further empirical and philosophical research.

Metaphysics/Philosophy of Physics

The Peer-to-Peer Simulation Hypothesis and a New Theory of Free Will

Scientia Salon, 2015.

An overview of my work arguing that peer-to-peer computer networking (the Peer-to-Peer Simulation Hypothesis) may be the best explanation of quantum phenomena and a number of perennial philosophical problems.

A Unified Explanation of Quantum Phenomena? The Case for the Peer‐to‐Peer Simulation Hypothesis as an Interdisciplinary Research Program

The Philosophical Forum, 2014.

In my 2013 article, “A New Theory of Free Will”, I argued that several serious hypotheses in philosophy and modern physics jointly entail that our reality is structurally identical to a peer-to-peer (P2P) networked computer simulation. The present paper outlines how quantum phenomena emerge naturally from the computational structure of a P2P simulation. §1 explains the P2P Hypothesis. §2 then sketches how the structure of any P2P simulation realizes quantum superposition and wave-function collapse (§2.1.), quantum indeterminacy (§2.2.), wave-particle duality (§2.3.), and quantum entanglement (§2.4.). Finally, §3 argues that although this is by no means a philosophical proof that our reality is a P2P simulation, it provides ample reasons to investigate the hypothesis further using the methods of computer science, physics, philosophy, and mathematics.

A New Theory of Free Will

The Philosophical Forum, 2013.

This paper shows that several live philosophical and scientific hypotheses – including the holographic principle and multiverse theory in quantum physics, and eternalism and mind-body dualism in philosophy – jointly imply an audacious new theory of free will. This new theory, "Libertarian Compatibilism", holds that the physical world is an eternally existing array of two-dimensional information – a vast number of possible pasts, presents, and futures – and the mind a nonphysical entity or set of properties that "read" that physical information off to subjective conscious awareness (in much the same way that a song written on an ordinary compact-disc is only played when read by an outside medium, i.e. a CD-player). According to this theory, every possible physical “timeline” in the multiverse may be fully physically deterministic or physically-causally closed but each person’s consciousness still entirely free to choose, ex nihilo, outside of the physical order, which physically-closed timeline is experienced by conscious observers. Although Libertarian Compatibilism is admittedly fantastic, I show that it not only follows from several live scientific and philosophical hypotheses, I also show that it (A) is a far more explanatorily powerful model of quantum mechanics than more traditional interpretations (e.g. the Copenhagen, Everett, and Bohmian interpretations), (B) makes determinate, testable empirical predictions in quantum theory, and finally, (C) predicts and explains the very existence of a number of philosophical debates and positions in the philosophy of mind, time, personal identity, and free will.

 

Human Rights

A Better, Dual Theory of Human Rights

The Philosophical Forum, 2014.

In my 2012 article, “Reconceptualizing Human Rights”, I argued that human rights theorists and practitioners have falsely supposed that the concept of “human right” picks out a single, unified class of moral entitlements, arguing instead that they pick out two very different types of entitlements: (A) international human rights, which are universal human moral entitlements to coercive international protections, and (B) domestic human rights, which are universal human moral entitlements to coercive domestic protections. The article outlines a dual theory of human rights that aims to ground both types of right in a revised version of James Griffin's conception of personhood.

Reconceptualizing human rights

Journal of Global Ethics, 2012.

This paper defends several highly revisionary theses about human rights. Section 1 shows that the phrase 'human rights' refers to two distinct types of moral claims. Sections 2 and 3 argue that several longstanding problems in human rights theory and practice can be solved if, and only if, the concept of a human right is replaced by two more exact concepts: (A) International human rights, which are moral claims sufficient to warrant coercive domestic and international social protection; and (B) Domestic human rights, which are moral claims sufficient to warrant coercive domestic social protection but only non-coercive international action.

Psychology

Bad News for Conservatives? Moral Judgments and the Dark Triad Personality Traits: A Correlational Study, Neuroethics, 2013.

A Lot More Bad News for Conservatives, and a Little Bit of Bad News for Liberals? Moral Judgments and the Dark Triad Personality Traits: A Follow-up Study, Neuroethics, 2013.

Two empirical studies linking conservative moral and political viewpoints with the Dark Triad personality traits (Machiavellianism, Narcissism and Psychopathy).

Miscellaneous

How to rationally approach life's transformative experiences

Philosophical Psychology, 2015.

L. A. Paul argues that transformative experiences challenge culturally and philosophically traditional views about how to rationally make major life-decisions. The present paper argues that because major life-decisions are transformative, the only rational way to approach them is to become resilient people: people who do not “over-plan” their lives or expect their lives to play out “according to plan”—people who understand that beyond a certain limit, life cannot be rationally planned and must be accepted as it comes.