Jonathan Phillips Harvard University
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About me
My research falls in the intersection of psychology, philosophy, and linguistics, and fits most easily within the broader umbrella of cognitive science. Much of the work I've done is related in one way or another to the psychological representation of modality — the way our minds represent possibilities. I have also done research on Theory of Mind, causal reasoning, moral judgment, formal semantics, and happiness. I earned my Ph.D. in Philosophy and Psychology at Yale and started a three-year postdoc at Harvard in 2015.
My works
9 items found.
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  1.  27
    Jonathan Kominsky, Jonathan Phillips, Tobias Gerstenberg, David Lagnado & Joshua Knobe (2016). Causal Superseding. Cogntion 137:196-209.
    When agents violate norms, they are typically judged to be more of a cause of resulting outcomes. In this paper, we suggest that norm violations also affect the causality attributed to other agents, a phenomenon we refer to as ‘‘causal superseding.’’ We propose and test a counterfactual reasoning model of this phenomenon in four experiments. Experiments 1 and 2 provide an initial demonstration of the causal superseding effect and distinguish it from previously studied effects. Experiment 3 shows that this causal (...)
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  2. Jonathan F. Kominsky, Jonathan Phillips, Tobias Gerstenberg, David Lagnado & Joshua Knobe (2015). Causal Superseding. Cognition 137:196-209.
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  3.  51
    Jonathan Phillips, Jamie B. Luguri & Joshua Knobe (2015). Unifying Morality’s Influence on Non-Moral Judgments: The Relevance of Alternative Possibilities. Cognition 145:30-42.
    Past work has demonstrated that people’s moral judgments can influence their judgments in a number of domains that might seem to involve straightforward matters of fact, including judgments about freedom, causation, the doing/allowing distinction, and intentional action. The present studies explore whether the effect of morality in these four domains can be explained by changes in the relevance of alternative possibilities. More precisely, we propose that moral judgment influences the degree to which people regard certain alternative possibilities as relevant, which (...)
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  4. Jonathan Phillips, Sven Nyholm & Shen-yi Liao (2014). The Good in Happiness. In Tania Lombrozo, Shaun Nichols & Joshua Knobe (eds.), Oxford Studies in Experimental Philosophy, Volume 1. Oxford University Press 253–293.
    There has been a long history of arguments over whether happiness is anything more than a particular set of psychological states. On one side, some philosophers have argued that there is not, endorsing a descriptive view of happiness. Affective scientists have also embraced this view and are reaching a near consensus on a definition of happiness as some combination of affect and life-satisfaction. On the other side, some philosophers have maintained an evaluative view of happiness, on which being happy involves (...)
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  5. Jonathan Phillips & Alex Shaw (2014). Manipulating Morality: Third‐Party Intentions Alter Moral Judgments by Changing Causal Reasoning. Cognitive Science 38 (8):1320-1347.
    The present studies investigate how the intentions of third parties influence judgments of moral responsibility for other agents who commit immoral acts. Using cases in which an agent acts under some situational constraint brought about by a third party, we ask whether the agent is blamed less for the immoral act when the third party intended for that act to occur. Study 1 demonstrates that third-party intentions do influence judgments of blame. Study 2 finds that third-party intentions only influence moral (...)
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  6. Jonathan Phillips, Luke Misenheimer & Joshua Knobe (2011). The Ordinary Concept of Happiness (and Others Like It). Emotion Review 71 (3):929-937.
    Consider people’s ordinary concept of belief. This concept seems to pick out a particular psychological state. Indeed, one natural view would be that the concept of belief works much like the concepts one finds in cognitive science – not quite as rigorous or precise, perhaps, but still the same basic type of notion. But now suppose we turn to other concepts that people ordinarily use to understand the mind. Suppose we consider the concept happiness. Or the concept love. How are (...)
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  7. Jonathan Phillips & Liane Young (2011). Apparent Paradoxes in Moral Reasoning; Or How You Forced Him to Do It, Even Though He Wasn’T Forced to Do It. Proceedings of the Thirty-Third Annual Conference of the Cognitive Science Society:138-143.
    The importance of situational constraint for moral evaluations is widely accepted in philosophy, psychology, and the law. However, recent work suggests that this relationship is actually bidirectional: moral evaluations can also influence our judgments of situational constraint. For example, if an agent is thought to have acted immorally rather than morally, that agent is often judged to have acted with greater freedom and under less situational constraint. Moreover, when considering interpersonal situations, we judge that an agent who forces another to (...)
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  8.  68
    Liane Young & Jonathan Phillips (2011). The Paradox of Moral Focus. Cognition 119 (2):166-178.
    When we evaluate moral agents, we consider many factors, including whether the agent acted freely, or under duress or coercion. In turn, moral evaluations have been shown to influence our (non-moral) evaluations of these same factors. For example, when we judge an agent to have acted immorally, we are subsequently more likely to judge the agent to have acted freely, not under force. Here, we investigate the cognitive signatures of this effect in interpersonal situations, in which one agent (“forcer”) forces (...)
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  9. Jonathan Phillips & Joshua Knobe (2009). Moral Judgments and Intuitions About Freedom. Psychological Inquiry 20 (1):30-36.
    Reeder’s article offers a new and intriguing approach to the study of people’s ordinary understanding of freedom and constraint. On this approach, people use information about freedom and constraint as part of a quasi-scientific effort to make accurate inferences about an agent’s motives. Their beliefs about the agent’s motives then affect a wide variety of further psychological processes, including the process whereby they arrive at moral judgments. In illustrating this new approach, Reeder cites an elegant study he conducted a number (...)
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