Future Projects

My early work in normative ethics on things like harming and allowing harm took a broadly rule utilitarian or contractualist approach. However, I am now sceptical about rule-based approaches, and have written a little on this. But I see the topic as one aspect of a range of neglected problems at the intersection of ethics and social epistemology that I will eventually turn to.

One of the main difficulties is that as well as having different values, different people have different beliefs, information, and evidence, along with beliefs about each others beliefs, information, and evidence. As economists have known for a long time, and as discussed in this post, the combination of disagreement about values and disagreement about uncertainty is especially toxic.

My interest in these topics is stimulated in no small part by my PhD student Zoe Cocchiaro’s work on Aumann’s agreement theorem. This result describes circumstances in which rational agents cannot agree to disagree.

Related papers

McCarthy, D., Probability in ethics. In A. Hájek and C. Hitchcock eds. The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Probability, Oxford University Press, 2016, 705–37. PDF | Abstract
McCarthy, D., Harming and allowing harm. Ethics 110(4) (2000): 749–79 PDF | Abstract
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