My research explores the intersection of normative ethics and social psychology. Broadly, I am interested in how social psychology can inform ethical reasoning at the individual and collective level. At the individual level, this research involves defending the merits of Role Ethics as a normative theory. At the scale of human populations, my research explores the prospects for developing a theory of collective well-being.

**See CV here

 

 

Evans, J.; Smith, M. (2019). A Role Ethical Theory of Right Action. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 1-16.

 

Despite its prominence in traditional societies and its apparent commonsense appeal, the moral tradition of Role Ethics has been largely neglected in mainstream normative theory. Role Ethics is the view that the duties and/or virtues of social life are determined largely by the social roles we incur in the communities we inhabit. This essay aims to address two of the main challenges that hinder Role Ethics from garnering more serious consideration as a legitimate normative theory, namely that it is ill-suited to support a theory of right action that can enhance moral reasoning, and that it countenances certain unjust roles such as that of slave or slave-owner. Taking inspiration from contemporary social science, we argue that proponents of Role Ethics can adopt a view that reduces the apparent diversity of role obligations to four prototypical types of role duties. We propose a contemporary version of Role Ethics that coheres with human moral psychology, and which lends itself to a relatively pragmatic theory of right action that precludes the possibility of unjust roles.

Evans, J. (2017). A Working Definition of Moral Progress. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 20(1), 75-92. 

Essentially everyone agrees that the outlawing of slavery, or the beginning of women's suffrage, or the defeat of Nazism constitute paradigmatic examples of moral progress in human history. But this consensus belies a deep division about the nature of moral progress more generally, a consequence of the foundational differences among and within normative traditions regarding the nature and scope of the ‘moral’ in moral progress. This essay proposes that philosophers might nonetheless converge on a working definition of moral progress by identifying a proxy property that reliably tracks moral progress, but which does not purport to be coextensive with the philosophically-relevant property. The aim of this essay is to identify this proxy property with emerging empirical measures of population welfare, and to show why this indicator of moral progress can garner overlapping consensus from a variety of normative traditions.

Evans, J. (forthcoming). Determinism. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences, USA: Springer.

Evans, J. (forthcoming). Free Will. Encyclopedia of Personality and Individual Differences, USA: Springer.

 

Evans, J. et al (2017). Portico: An Introduction to Business as Ethical Practice. Journal of Jesuit Business Ed.., (8).

Evans, J. (2013). The Moral Psychology of Determinism. Philosophical Psychology, 26(5), 639-661.

(A Revised Abstract) Compatibilists often suggest that we can safely give up the traditional conception of agent-causal freedom without damaging the reactive attitudes that make social life possible.  This article suggests a more complicated picture.  On one hand, I argue that a causal conception of human agency appears to mitigate 'moral anger' and thus encourages a more compassionate response to criminality, mental illness, and homosexuality.  On the other hand, a causal conception of human action also appears to undermine pro-sociality by exacerbating a familiar human tendency to externalize moral responsibility.  This article presents the evidence for this dual impact view and concludes with some practical suggestions for endorsing the compatibilist conception of agency while minimizing the damage to human motivation and sociality.

Research themes

Publications

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