Research

 

(For further information (or comments) on any of these, please feel free to  e-mail me: pjwerner1[at]gmail.com)

Publications:

 

"Moral Perception Without (Prior) Background Knowledge", forthcoming in the Journal of Moral Philosophy.

Abstract: Proponents of impure moral perception claim that, while there are perceptual moral experiences, these experiences will epistemically depend on a priori justified moral knowledge. Proponents of pure moral perception claim that moral experiences can justify independently of substantive a priori moral knowledge. Some philosophers, most notably David Faraci (forthcoming), have argued that the pure view is mistaken, since moral perception requires previous moral background knowledge, and such knowledge could not itself be perceptual. I defend pure moral perception against this objection. I consider two ways to understand the notion of “background knowledge” that is crucial to the objection. On a (stronger) reading, the claim that background knowledge is necessary for moral perception is likely false. On a second and weaker reading, the claim is true, but the background knowledge in question could be perceptual, and thus compatible with pure moral perception. Thus, the objection fails.

 

"A Posteriori Ethical Intuitionism and the Problem of Cognitive Penetrability", forthcoming in the European Journal of Philosophy. 

Abstract: According to a posteriori ethical intuitionism (AEI), perceptual experiences can provide non-inferential justification for at least some moral beliefs. Moral epistemology, for the defender of AEI, is less like the epistemology of math and more like the epistemology of tables and chairs. One serious threat to AEI comes from the phenomenon of cognitive penetration. The worry is that even if evaluative properties could figure in the contents of experience, they would only be able to do so if prior cognitive states influence perceptual experience. Such influences would undermine the non-inferential, foundationalist credentials of AEI. In this paper, I defend AEI against this objection. Rather than deny that cognitive penetration exists, I argue that some types of cognitive penetrability are actually compatible with AEI’s foundationalist structure. This involves teasing apart the question of whether some particular perceptual process has justification conferring features from the question of how it came to have those features in the first place. Once this distinction is made, it becomes clear that some kinds of cognitive penetration are compatible with the non-inferential status of moral perceptual experiences as the proponent of AEI claims.

 

"Moral Perception and the Contents of Experience", 2016 in the Journal of Moral Philosophy.

Abstract: I defend the thesis that at least some moral properties can be part of the contents of experience. I argue for this claim using a contrast argument, a type of argument commonly found in the literature on the philosophy of perception. I first appeal to psychological research on what I call emotionally empathetic dysfunctional individuals (EEDIs) to establish a phenomenal contrast between EEDIs and normal individuals in some moral situations. I then argue that the best explanation for this contrast, assuming non-skeptical moral realism, is that badness is represented in the normal individual’s experience but not in the EEDI’s experience. I consider and reject four alternative explanations of the contrast.

 

"Self-ownership and non-culpable proviso violations", 2015 in Politics, Philosophy and Economics. http://ppe.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/08/23/1470594X13496754

Abstract: Left and right libertarians alike are attracted to the thesis of self-ownership (SO) because, as Eric Mack says, they ‘believe that it best captures our common perception of the moral inviolability of persons’. Further, most libertarians, left and right, accept that some version of the Lockean Proviso (LP) restricts agents’ ability to acquire worldly resources. The inviolability of SO purports to make libertarianism more appealing than its (non-libertarian) egalitarian counterparts, since traditional egalitarian theories cannot straightforwardly explain why, e.g. forced organ donation and forced labor are serious wrongs even when they generate more equitable outcomes or benefit the greater good. I argue that, when SO is coupled with LP, this appeal is unfounded. SO, as usually construed, allows for the possibility of justified incursions of non-culpable agents up to and including forced organ donation. I conclude by considering a few possible responses on behalf of the libertarian, assessing each one’s plausibility.

 

"Character (alone) Doesn't Count: Phenomenal Character and Narrow Intentional Content", 2015 in American Philosophical Quarterly. 

Abstract: Proponents of phenomenal intentionality share a commitment that, for at least some paradigmatically intentional states, phenomenal character constitutively determines narrow intentional content. If this is correct, then any two states with the same phenomenal character will have the same narrow intentional content. Using a twin-earth style case, I argue that two different people can be in intrinsically identical phenomenological states without sharing narrow intentional contents. After describing and defending the case, I conclude by considering a few objections which help to further illustrate the problem.

 

"Seemings: still dispositions to believe", 2013 in Synthese.  

http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11229-013-0363-4

Abstract: According to phenomenal conservatism, seemings can provide prima facie justification for beliefs. In order to fully assess phenomenal conservatism, it is important to understand the nature of seemings. Two views are that (SG) seemings are a sui generis propositional attitude, and that (D2B) seemings are nothing over and above dispositions to believe. Proponents of (SG) reject (D2B) in large part by providing four distinct objections against (D2B). First, seemings have a distinctive phenomenology, but dispositions to believe do not. Second, seemings can provide a non-trivial explanation for dispositions to believe, which wouldn’t be possible if seemings were dispositions to believe. Third, there are some dispositions to believe that are not seemings. Fourth, there are instances of seemings which are not dispositions to believe. I consider and reject each of these objections. The first and third objections rely on a misunderstanding of (D2B). The second objection fails because there are contexts in which an appeal to a previously unknown identity can provide an interesting explanation. The fourth objection overlooks the possibility of finkish and masked dispositions, phenomena which are widely accepted in the dispositions literature. I conclude that (D2B) escapes these common objections unscathed.

 

 Book Review: Explanation in Ethics and Mathematics, edited by Uri Leibowitz & Neil Sinclair.  (forthcoming in Ethics)

 

My dissertation, "Seeing Right from Wrong: A Defense of A Posteriori Ethical Intuitionism" (2016), is available here.