The physiological basis of psychological disgust and moral judgments



Abstract: To address ongoing debates about whether feelings of disgust are causally related to moral judgments, we pharmacologically inhibited spontaneous disgust responses to moral infractions and examined effects on moral thinking. Findings demonstrated, first, that the antiemetic ginger (Zingiber officinale), known to inhibit nausea, reduces feelings of disgust toward nonmoral purity-offending stimuli (e.g., bodily fluids), providing the first experimental evidence that disgust is causally rooted in physiological nausea (Study 1). Second, this same physiological experience was causally related to moral thinking: ginger reduced the severity of judgments toward purity-based moral violations (Studies 2 and 4) or eliminated the tendency for people higher in bodily sensation awareness to make harsher moral judgments than those low in this dispositional tendency (Study 3). In all studies, effects were restricted to moderately severe purity-offending stimuli, consistent with preregistered predictions. Together, findings provide the first evidence that psychological disgust can be disrupted by an antiemetic and that doing so has consequences for moral judgments.

Locke, Nozick and the state of nature



Abstract: Recently, philosophers have drawn on tools from game theory to explore behavior in Hobbes’ state of nature (Vanderschraaf in Econ Philos 22:243–279, 2006; Chung in J Am Philos Assoc 1:485–508, 2015). I take a similar approach and argue the Lockean state of nature is best conceived of as a conflictual coordination game. I also discuss Nozick’s famous claim regarding the emergence of the state and argue the path to the minimal state is blocked by a hitherto unnoticed free-rider problem. Finally, I argue that on my representation of the Lockean state of nature both widespread conflict and lasting peace are possible. This, I contend, is in line with one popular interpretation of Locke (Simmons in Polit Theory 17:449–470, 1989).

Resisting Moralisation in Health Promotion



Abstract: Health promotion efforts are commonly directed towards encouraging people to discard ‘unhealthy’ and adopt ‘healthy’ behaviours in order to tackle chronic disease. Typical targets for behaviour change interventions include diet, physical activity, smoking and alcohol consumption, sometimes described as ‘lifestyle behaviours.’ In this paper, I discuss how efforts to raise awareness of the impact of lifestyles on health, in seeking to communicate the (perceived) need for people to change their behaviour, can contribute to a climate of ‘healthism’ and promote the moralisation of people’s lifestyles. I begin by summarising recent trends in health promotion and introducing the notion of healthism, as described by Robert Crawford in the 1980s. One aspect of healthism is moralisation, which I outline (alongside the related term moralism) and suggest is facilitated by efforts to promote health via information provision and educational strategies. I propose that perceived responsibility plays a role in mediating the tendency to moralise about health and behaviour. Since I argue that states ought to avoid direct and indirect moralisation of people’s health-related behaviour, this suggests states must be cautious with regard to the use of responsibility-indicating interventions (including informational and educational campaigns) to promote health.

Working Out the Details of Hume and Smith on Sympathy



Abstract: Many scholars have had interesting things to say about the relationship between Adam Smith’s and David Hume’s theories of sympathy. The diversity of angles taken in these discussions demonstrates how fertile a topic of investigation this relationship is. This paper takes as its point of entry Hume’s criticism of Smith’s theory. Focusing on Hume’s claim that Smith’s theory describes a phenomenon that only occurs among friends, I argue that the disagreement between them is more about the importance than about the existence of what Smith calls the “pleasure of mutual sympathy.” I conclude that this difference in emphasis might suggest a fundamental difference not just in how they conceive of human sociality but also in the motivations and influences behind their work.

Can Libertarians Get Away with Fraud?


ECONOMICS & PHILOSOPHY, Volume 34, Issue 2

Abstract: In this paper I argue that libertarianism neither prohibits exchanges in which consent is gained through deceit, nor does it entail that such exchanges are morally invalid. However, contra James Child’s (1994) similar claim, that it is incapable of delivering these verdicts, I argue that libertarians can claim that exchanges involving deceitfully obtained consent are morally invalid by appealing to an external theory of moral permissibility.

Two Rights of Free Speech



Abstract: My main argument in this paper is that the right to freedom of expression is not a single right, complex as it may be, but spans two separate rights that I label the right to speak and the right to hear. Roughly, the right to speak stands for the right of a person to express freely whatever they wish to communicate to some other persons or to the public at large. The right to hear stands for the right to have free and unfettered access to any kind of content that has been communicated by others. The right to speak and the right to hear are two separate rights, grounded in different kinds of interests. I try to show that this division of rights and their respective rationales can be utilized to explain how we think about some of the limits of the right to freedom of expression, particularly in the context of conflicts between the right to speak and the right to hear, conflicts that are rather pervasive. I also argue, though perhaps less conclusively, that in thinking about the limits of freedom of expression, an exclusive focus on the harm principle would be misguided. There is no reason to deny that speech is often harmful, sometimes very much so, but the prevention of harm is not sufficient to justify legal prohibition, at least not in this case.

Social contracts for real moral agents: a synthesis of public reason and public choice approaches to constitutional design



Abstract: Citizens in contemporary democratic societies disagree deeply about the nature of the good life, and they disagree just as profoundly about justice. In building a social contract theory for diverse citizens, then, we cannot rely as heavily on the theory of justice as John Rawls did. I contend that Rawlsian liberals should instead focus on developing an account of constitutional choice that does not depend on agreement about justice. I develop such an account by drawing on the contractarian approach to constitutional choice pioneered by public choice theorists, especially James Buchanan. With some modifications, public choice can help identify mutually justifiable constitutional rules based on the extent to which these constitutional rules produce appropriate laws under normal conditions. This new, synthetic approach to constitutional choice also helps to explain the moral significance of contractarian agreement for the public choice theorist.