Current Projects

Are Implicit Attitudes Arational?      Under Review

Debate over the nature of implicit attitudes has led many philosophers to claim that implicit attitudes are arational. If implicit attitudes are arational, they are inapt for evaluation as rational or irrational. On this view, it is difficult to hold agents directly responsible for their implicit attitudes, because responsibility is often linked to an agent’s rational capacities. In this paper, I argue that it is wrong to think that all implicit attitudes are arational. Rather, many implicit attitudes are rationally evaluable. To make this case, I first agree with many writers on the topic that in order to be rationally evaluable, attitudes must be propositional, apt to update in response to evidence, and apt to feature in inferences. Engaging with the empirical literature on the topic, I then show that many implicit attitudes satisfy these conditions. Many implicit attitudes are rationally evaluable, which clears the way for us to hold agents responsible for their implicit attitudes.

Controlling Implicit Attitudes      In Progress

Many philosophers and psychologists have held that implicit attitudes are uncontrolled. There is a clear line of thought from this claim to the idea that we are not responsible for our implicit attitudes. In this paper I argue that the sense of 'control' that implicit attitudes lack (control as 'automatic manifestation') is not the same sense of control that determines one's moral responsibility. If control is what determines moral responsibility, then we are responsible for our implicit attitudes.

Conscious Awareness and Responsibility for Implicit Attitudes     In Progress

One of the most common views of implicit attitudes holds that they are attitudes that are unavailable to conscious awareness, and that we are not responsible for implicit attitudes because of this. Here I argue that this common view is wrong. Engaging with the empirical literature on the topic, I show that implicit attitudes are not best understood as attitudes unavailable to conscious awareness. I then argue that while it is right to think that conscious awareness matters for certain kinds of moral responsibility (answerability and accountability), it does not determine whether implicit attitudes reflect on the self (commonly known as attributability).

The Empirical Approach to the Metaphysics of Mental States     In Progress

Implicit attitudes are commonly understood to be attitudes that are measured by indirect tests, which measure subjects' attitudes without directly asking them what they think. However, there are a variety of indirect tests, and they are plausibly interpreted as capturing a wide range of attitudes, including ones that are unconscious, uncontrolled, or associative. Given this variety of metaphysical profiles that indirect tests are presumably capturing, it is difficult to come up with a 'metaphysics of mental states' purely on the basis of these empirical tests. Here I argue that while the purely empirical approach to the metaphysics of mental states is untenable, the alternative, stipulating a metaphysics and arguing from there, is also unsatisfactory. We need to be extremely wary of our metaphysical assumptions when it comes to implicit attitudes, in part because of these metaphysical theories are often ethically inflected. I suggest that we must start from where we find ourselves--some guidance from a predetermined metaphysics is unavoidable when trying to figure out what implicit attitudes 'are', but such a metaphysics must be heavily constrained by what the empirical literature shows.

© 2019 by Jessica Wright.