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

It's commonly held that implicit attitudes are, by definition, unconscious attitudes. This idea is often contrasted with the claim that explicit attitudes are (paradigmatically) conscious attitudes. You might also think that we are not responsible for our implicit attitudes because they are unconscious. Here I argue that this common train of thought is wrong. Using Peter Carruthers' Interpretive Sensory Access (ISA) account of self-knowledge, I argue that no attitudes are conscious. Nevertheless, we can gain knowledge of our own attitudes, whether implicit or explicit. The possibility of self-knowledge is important for praise- and blame- type responsibility, but it does not determine whether implicit attitudes reflect on the self (responsibility as attributability), which does not depend on whether we know (or can know) our own attitudes.

The Empirical Approach to the Metaphysics of Mental States     In Progress

Implicit attitudes are commonly understood to be attitudes that can be 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 the variety of attitudes that indirect tests are presumably capturing, we cannot stipulate a 'metaphysics of mental states' purely on the basis of empirical results (except insofar as that metaphysics is based on empirical results). 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 should be wary of our metaphysical assumptions when it comes to implicit attitudes, in part because these metaphysical assumptions have a direct impact on epistemology and ethics. I suggest that when discussing attitudes, we should reject the idea that implicit attitudes constitute a unified 'kind' of attitude about which we can make easy metaphysical claims. There is nothing interestingly distinct about implicit attitudes, as opposed to explicit attitudes.

© 2019 by Jessica Wright.