There Are No Irrational Emotions
In Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 103, Issue 2 (2022).
Folk and philosophers alike argue whether particular emotions are rational. However, these debates presuppose that emotions are eligible for rationality. Drawing on examples of how we manage our own emotions through strategies such as taking medication, I argue that the general permissibility of such management demonstrates that emotions are ineligible for rationality. It follows that emotions are never irrational or rational. Since neither perception nor emotion are eligible for rationality, this reveals a significant epistemic continuity between them, lending support to perceptual views of emotion.
Planescape: Torment as Philosophy: Regret Can Change the Nature of a Man
In The Palgrave Handbook of Popular Culture as Philosophy (2021).
In the video game Planescape: Torment, players assume the role of the Nameless One, an immortal being who suffers from amnesia. By making choices for the Nameless One, players decide not only what happens to the Nameless One, but also the development of his moral character. In this way, Planescape: Torment invites its players to consider “what can change the nature of a man.” In the game’s canonical ending, the Nameless One regrets the great harm he inflicted on others, and he gives up his immortality to amend his wrongdoing. Thus, the game holds that it is regret that can change someone’s moral character for the better. A defense of this claim about regret can be found in Aristotle’s view that one must practice virtuous actions in order to develop the moral virtues. The alignment system of Planescape: Torment demonstrates a similar connection between action and character: the Nameless One improves his moral character by taking selfless actions. Since regret motivates one to practice virtuous action to make amends for one’s wrongdoing, regret enables one to develop virtue, and so better moral character. Although Spinoza argues that we should avoid feeling regret because it makes us miserable, Planescape: Torment suggests that the painfulness of regret is what makes it an effective source of motivation to practice virtuous actions.
USS Callister and Non-Player Characters (co-written with Russ Hamer)
In Black Mirror and Philosophy: Dark Reflections (2019).
This chapter explores the ethics of Robert Daly's actions in the episode “USS Callister”. We consider issues of privacy that relate to him stealing his co-workers DNA in order to scan them into the game, as well as the ethics of how he treats the digital avatars of his co-workers within the game. Examining Daly's actions from a few different approaches, we argue that Daly's actions towards his co-workers avatars are very likely immoral, though ultimately we cannot know without knowing Daly's thoughts. Finally, we end the chapter with some considerations relating to video games in general and the ways in which we must act when we play video games.
[Paper Under Review]
I argue that emotions such as anger help explain why one is subject to certain rational requirements. For example, when one is angry at someone’s insult, one possesses a reason to intervene against that person. I observe that merely knowing that the insult occurred is insufficient for one’s possession of this reason – one must also appreciate the normative significance of that insult (i.e., that it merits intervention). I propose that one’s anger can satisfy this condition required for one to possess a reason. Thus, it is in virtue of one’s anger that one appreciates that someone’s actions (such as the insult) provide a reason to intervene against that person.
Emotional Absences and Evaluative Gaslighting
I argue that absences of emotion can be reasons to believe that an object does not have specific evaluative properties. This is because we are often in a position to know that we would have a fitting emotional response to an object if it had those evaluative properties. Moreover, I argue that these observations support the view that emotions immediately justify our beliefs about evaluative properties, in much the same way that perceptual experiences immediately justify our beliefs about perceptible properties. These views help us understand evaluative gaslighting, a wrongful type of emotion regulation that threatens to undermine its victim’s confidence in the reliability of their emotional responses, and thus also their evaluative knowledge.
The Phenomenology of Episodic Memory
I develop an epistemic argument for the existence of recollective phenomenology or the feeling of recalling past experiences that characterizes our episodic memories. I argue that this recollective phenomenology is not produced by (or identical to) any sensory phenomenology (such as the mental imagery that accompanies episodic memory) or judgments about the pastness of events. In light of these arguments, I tentatively suggest that recollective phenomenology is a novel type of phenomenology.