Academic Papers

I'm an academic, and although this blog certainly facilitates and adds to my professional work, it does not represent all of it. If you are interested in my academic publications, a full list can be viewed here. What follows is a list of some of them (not all), along with links to official and prepublication versions (most official versions are behind pay-walls). If you would like a copy of the official versions, just drop me an email and I'll send it to you:


  • Robots, Law and the Retribution Gap (2016) Ethics and Information Technology - Many people are concerned about the potential liability or responsibility gaps that may open up as robots become more autonomous from their human creators. In this article, I argue that there is another gap that we ought to consider: the retribution gap. This arises when humans look for an appropriate subject of retributive blame but none is to be found. The gap stems from the natural human desire for retribution, not from the ethics of punishment per se. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • Will life be worth living in a world without work? Technological Unemployment and the Meaning of Life (2016) Science and Engineering Ethics - This article speculates about the potential impact of technological unemployment on human flourishing. After initially arguing that freeing us from the yoke of work could be a good thing, I reach a more pessimistic conclusion, suggesting that advances in automation may also sever the link between human action and objectively meaningful outcomes. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • The Threat of Algocracy: Reality, Resistance and Accommodation (2016) Philosophy and Technology - Is the rise of algorithmic governance posing a threat to legitimate democratic governance? In this paper I argue that it might be and that this threat is difficult to resist and accommodate. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • Human Enhancement, Social Solidarity and the Distribution of Responsibility (2016) Ethical Theory and Moral Practice - A look at two related objections to enhancement. The first claims that enhancement will corrode social solidarity; the second claims that it will lead to an unfair distribution of responsibility. I try to clarify these objections and argue that neither is compelling. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • Common Knowledge, Pragmatic Enrichment and Thin Originalism (2015) Jurisprudence - The meaning of an utterance is often enriched by the pragmatic context in which it is uttered. This is because in ordinary conversations we routinely and uncontroversially compress what we say, safe in the knowledge that those interpreting us will “add in” the content we intend to communicate. Does the same thing hold true in the case of legal utterances like “This constitution protects the personal rights of the citizen” or “the parliament shall have the power to lay and collect taxes”? This article addresses this question from the perspective of the constitutional originalist — the person who holds that the meaning of a constitutional text is fixed at some historical moment. In doing so, it advances four theses. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • Why AI Doomsayers are Like Sceptical Theists and Why It Matters (2015) Minds and Machines, 10.1007/s11023-015-9365-y - This paper takes a critical look at the arguments defended in Nick Bostrom's book Superintelligence.  Specifically, it argues that in defending the credibility of AI risk, Bostrom makes an epistemic move that is analogous to one made by so-called sceptical theists in the debate about the existence of God. This analogy is interesting in its own right, but perhaps more interesting for its potential implications. It has been repeatedly argued that sceptical theism has devastating effects on our beliefs and practices. Could it be that AI-doomsaying has similar effects? I argue that it could. Specifically, and somewhat paradoxically, I argue that it could amount to either a reductio of the doomsayers position, or an important and additional reason to join their cause. I use this paradox to suggest that the modal standards for argument in the superintelligence debate need to be addressed. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • The Normativity of Linguistic Originalism: A Speech Act Analysis (2015) Law and Philosophy, forthcoming - Originalism is a theory of constitutional interpretation, according to which a constitution ought to be interpreted in light of its original meaning. This is my attempt to critique a certain type of originalism. Specifically, the linguistic originalism associated with the likes of Lawrence Solum and Jeffrey Goldsworthy. Both claim that the meaning of a constitution simply is its original meaning, not something else that we morally desire or wish it to be. I argue that this is wrong, even if we agree with the versions of originalism espoused by Solum and Goldsworthy: working out the communicated content of a constitution is not a purely factual/empirical affair; it is also a deeply normative and moral affair. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • Robotic Rape and Robotic Child Sexual Abuse: Should they be criminalised? (2015) Criminal Law and Philosophy, DOI 10.1007/s11572-014-9362-x - With sophisticated sex robots likely to become a reality in the not-too-distant future, this paper asks what happens when they are used to provide realistic facsimiles of rape and child sexual abuse. Should this be outlawed? This paper provides an extremely tentative argument for criminalisation, based on some leading theories of criminalisation. The argument is not intended to be conclusive, but rather to provide a framework for future debate. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • The Comparative Advantages of Brain-Based Lie Detection: the P300 Concealed Information Test and Pre-trial Bargaining (2015) 19(1) International Journal of Evidence and Proof - This paper looks at the possible forensic uses of the P300 Concealed Information Test. It argues that this technology could be used to empower innocent defendants during pre-trial plea bargaining in criminal cases. This is because it would offer a better solution to the "innocence problem" (the phenomenon whereby innocent defendants are incentivised to plead guilty) than any other currently-proposed solution. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • Sex Work, Technological Unemployment and the Basic Income Guarantee (2014) 24(1) Journal of Evolution and Technology 113-130 - This paper looks at the possible impacts of sex robots on the sex work industry. It considers the arguments for two competing hypotheses. The Displacement Hypothesis, which claims that human sex workers will eventually be displaced by robots. The Resiliency Hypothesis, which claims that human sex work will remain resilient to technological unemployment. It also looks at how these possibilities affect the case for the basic income guarantee. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • Hyperagency and the Good Life - Does Extreme Enhancement Threaten Meaning? (2014) Neuroethics DOI: 10.1007/s12152-013-9200-1 - This paper looks at hyperagency objections to the use of enhancement technologies and argues that they are unpersuasive. It also argues that far from undermining the conditions necessary for a good and meaningful life, enhancement technologies may actually allow us to live more fulfilling and more meaningful lives. (OfficialAcademiaPhilpapers)
  • Responsible Innovation in Social Epistemic Systems: The P300 Memory Detection Test and the Legal Trial in Van den Hoven et al (Eds) Responsible Innovation Volume II: Concepts, Approaches, Applications (Dordrecht: Springer, forthcoming - 2015) - This paper proposes a novel framework for determining whether or not something like the P300 memory detection test should be used in legal trials. (AcademiaPhilpapers)
  • Necessary Moral Truths and Theistic Metaethics (2014) SOPHIA DOI 10.1007/s11841-013-0390-0 - This paper argues that the fact -- if it is a fact -- that some moral truths are necessary undermines the core commitment of theistic metaethics (viz. every moral fact should be explained by God). I defend this argument from attacks by William Lane Craig and Mark Murphy. (OfficialAcademiaPhilpapers)
  • Skeptical Theism and Divine Permission: A Reply to Anderson (2015) International Journal for the Philosophy of Religion DOI: 10.1007/s11153-013-9429-y - This paper takes issue with David Anderson's attempt to defend skeptical theism from the moral skepticism challenge. I also take the opportunity to clarify some of the key concepts and ideas in this debate. (OfficialAcademiaPhilpapers)
  • The Vice of In-Principlism and the Harmfulness of Love (2013) 13(11) American Journal of Bioethics 19-21 - This was a short commentary on Earp et al's target article about the ethics of anti-love biotechnology. I argued that their proposed framework for determining the permissible use of such technologies commits the vice of in-principlism and misstates the role of harm. (OfficialAcademiaPhilpapers)
  • Kramer's Purgative Rationale for Capital Punishment: A Critique (2013) Criminal Law and Philosophy DOI 10.1007/s11572-013-9251-8 - This paper critiques Matthew Kramer's attempt to defend the death penalty using something he calls the purgative rationale. I argue that the purgative rationale fails to satisfy the test that Kramer himself sets for any successful defence of the death penalty. (OfficialAcademiaPhilpapers)
  • On the Need for Epistemic Enhancement: Democratic Legitimacy and the Enhancement Project (2013) 5(1) Law Innovation and Technology 85 - 112 - This paper defends the use of enhancement technologies for participants in the legal trial using ideas from social epistemology and democratic legitimacy. (OfficialAcademiaPhilpapers)
  • Stumbling on the Threshold: A Reply to Gwiazda on Threshold Obligations (2012) 48(4) Religious Studies 469-478 - This paper is a contribution to the ongoing debate about whether there could be an obligation to worship God. Jeremy Gwiazda has argued that there could be one, because God's properties cross certain thresholds of excellence. I challenge this argument, holding that it is highly unlikely that there could ever be an obligation to worship God. (Official; Academia; Philpapers)
  • Blind Expertise and the Problem of Scientific Evidence (2011) 15(3) International Journal of Evidence and Proof 207-231 - This paper analyses the problems with scientific evidence in the legal system. It then makes the case in favour of a "Blind Expertise"-solution to those problems. Blind expertise solutions try to "shield" expert scientific witnesses from the litigious purposes of their evidence. (Official; Academia)

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