My primary philosophical interests lie in normative ethics, rationality, emotions, and free will and moral responsibility. I am especially interested in philosophical problems at the intersections of these areas. 


There has recently been a rise in interest in moral uncertainty and its implications for normative ethics and metaethics. Much of this literature focuses on whether and how our moral uncertainty bears on what is appropriate for us to do. Here, I am asking whether and how our moral uncertainty bears on what is appropriate for us to feel. Specifically, we sometimes feel a great deal of negative affect—not unlike anxiety—toward an impending moral decision. We may, for example, feel this emotion when deciding whether or not we should lie to someone close to us for the sake of consequential benefit. This paper is about that emotion, which I call scrupulosity, that we sometimes feel when faced with a decision under moral uncertainty. In this paper, I argue for the surprising conclusion that scrupulosity is often fitting in everyday life primarily due to the pervasiveness of moral uncertainty regarding high-stakes moral decisions. Moreover, I argue that the fitting size of scrupulosity toward an outcome is a direct function of the subjective likelihood of the outcome and its perceived disvalue by the morally uncertain agent. I thus argue that not only is scrupulosity fitting, but the appropriate size of such scrupulosity is often substantial. In other words, according to the norms of fittingness, it is appropriate for us to feel extremely scrupulous about acting wrongly in many everyday moral decisions.

Some philosophers have recently argued that a decision-theoretic model of rational choice can guide us to the answer of what it is appropriate to do in situations of moral uncertainty (i.e., uncertainty about what one ought to do). By proposing and defending this view, these philosophers aim to show how decision-theoretic procedures provide us with action guidance even when we have yet to settle all of the issues in normative ethics. In this paper, I argue that decision theory is never action-guiding in cases of moral uncertainty. I thus suggest that because of this limitation on decision theory’s action-guiding capacities, it fails to fulfill the role that these philosophers hope to show that it has. I consider several objections to my argument and reply to each of them.

Some philosophers deny that uncertainty and ignorance about the relevant facts for our moral decisions have a bearing on what our moral obligations are. That is, they claim that our obligations are not epistemically sensitive. This view is known as the Objective View. Still, many philosophers hold that the principle of Ought Implies Can (OIC) is true. I suggest that what we can do is often contingent on our epistemic circumstances. So, combined with OIC, what we ought to do is contingent on our epistemic circumstances, and thus the Objective View is false. In this paper, I explore how our obligations plausibly depend on a notion of “can,” relevant for OIC, that is epistemically sensitive. I then show that a version of the Objective View that attempts to avoid this conclusion by denying our obligations to some act-types would imply that we have very implausible obligations.

Tourette’s Syndrome can involve disruptive “ticcing” behavior. Past work suggests that people sometimes blame those making tics for such disruptions. In the current work, we examined how blame perceptions vary depending on the person’s obligation and capacity to refrain from ticcing. Across two studies, we manipulated whether a person ticced in a formal versus informal social situation (obligation), after a weak versus strong urge to tic (capacity). We assessed perceptions of blame, free will, and moral character. Blame increased with increasing obligation and capacity, and perceptions of free will primarily increased with increasing capacity, with perceived obligation playing a smaller role. Moral character ratings were largely unaffected by the manipulations, but people rated the person higher in moral character when their perceived obligation and capacity were low. Generally, women, younger people, and people who knew someone with Tourette’s rated the person who ticced more positively. Overall, these results suggest that whereas blame is sensitive to a person’s obligation and capacity, these perceptions do not map cleanly onto moral character perceptions, in part perhaps due to reduced free will perceptions. Efforts to normalize tics may reduce the perceived obligation to refrain, thereby avoiding both the pitfalls of blaming people with Tourette’s or viewing them as lower in free will.