Tamler Sommers University of Houston
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  1. Tamler Sommers, Free Will and Experimental Philosophy: An Intervetion.
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  2. Tamler Sommers (forthcoming). Partial Desert. In David Shoemaker (ed.), Oxford Studies in Agency and Responsibility. Oxford University Press.
    Theories of moral desert focus only on the personal culpability of the agent to determine the amount of blame and punishment the agent deserves. I defend an alternative account of desert, one that does not focus only facts about offenders and their offenses. In this revised framework, personal culpability can do no more than set upper and lower limits for deserved blame and punishment. For more precise judgments within that spectrum, additional factors must be considered, factors that are independent of (...)
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  3. Tamler Sommers (2013). Yuck: The Nature and Moral Significance of Disgust. By Daniel Kelly. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011. Pp. 208pp. Price $30.00/£20.95). [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly 63 (250):172-174.
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  4. Joshua Knobe, Wesley Buckwalter, Philip Robbins, Hagop Sarkissian, Tamler Sommers & Shaun Nichols (2012). Experimental Philosophy. Annual Review of Psychology 63 (50):72-73.
    Experimental philosophy is a new interdisciplinary field that uses methods normally associated with psychology to investigate questions normally associated with philosophy. The present review focuses on research in experimental philosophy on four central questions. First, why is it that people's moral judgments appear to influence their intuitions about seemingly nonmoral questions? Second, do people think that moral questions have objective answers, or do they see morality as fundamentally relative? Third, do people believe in free will, and do they see free (...)
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  5. Tamler Sommers (2012). Relative Justice: Cultural Diversity, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility. Princeton University Press.
    [Publisher's description:] When can we be morally responsible for our behavior? Is it fair to blame people for actions that are determined by heredity and environment? Can we be responsible for the actions of relatives or members of our community? In this provocative book, Tamler Sommers concludes that there are no objectively correct answers to these questions. Drawing on research in anthropology, psychology, and a host of other disciplines, Sommers argues that cross-cultural variation raises serious problems for theories that propose (...)
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  6. Tamler Sommers (2012). Required Reading. The Philosophers' Magazine 57 (57):105-108.
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  7. Tamler Sommers (2011). In Memoriam: The X Phi Debate. The Philosophers' Magazine (52):89-93.
    Experimental philosophy has received a great deal of attention in scholarly journals and the popular media. Often the topic of these articles is precisely what I claim is a non-issue – the value of experimental philosophy as a movement. And here I am writing about this same topic yet again. But I am not going to provide another argument for an obvious position. Instead, I’m writing this as an obituary – an obituary for the so-called controversy about experimental philosophy, and (...)
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  8. Tamler Sommers (2010). Experimental Philosophy and Free Will. Philosophy Compass 5 (2):199-212.
    This paper develops a sympathetic critique of recent experimental work on free will and moral responsibility. Section 1 offers a brief defense of the relevance of experimental philosophy to the free will debate. Section 2 reviews a series of articles in the experimental literature that probe intuitions about the "compatibility question"—whether we can be free and morally responsible if determinism is true. Section 3 argues that these studies have produced valuable insights on the factors that influence our judgments on the (...)
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  9. Tamler Sommers (2009). A Very Bad Wizard: Morality Behind the Curtain. McSweeney's Press.
    A collection of long, detailed interviews with philosophers and scientists who work on issues in ethics and moral psychology. The researchers interviewed include Galen Strawson, Philiip Zimbardo, Stephen Stich, Jonathan Haidt, Frans De Waal, Michael Ruse, Joshua Greene, Liane Young, Joe Henrich, and William Ian Miller.
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  10. Tamler Sommers (2009). More Work for Hard Incompatibilism. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 79 (3):511-521.
  11. Tamler Sommers (2009). The Two Faces of Revenge: Moral Responsibility and the Culture of Honor. Biology and Philosophy 24 (1):35-50.
    Retributive emotions and behavior are thought to be adaptive for their role in improving social coordination. However, since retaliation is generally not in the short-term interests of the individual, rational self-interest erodes the motivational link between retributive emotions and the accompanying adaptive behavior. I argue that two different sets of norms have emerged to reinforce this link: (1) norms about honor and (2) norms about moral responsibility and desert. I observe that the primary difference between these types of retribution motivators (...)
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  12. Tamler Sommers (2007). The Illusion of Freedom Evolves. In Don Ross, David Spurrett, Harold Kincaid & G. Lynn Stephens (eds.), Distributed Cognition and the Will: Individual volition and social context. MIT Press. 61.
    1. “All Theory is Against Free Will…” Powerful arguments have been leveled against the concepts of free will and moral responsibility since the Greeks and perhaps earlier. Some—the hard determinists—aim to show that free will is incompatible with determinism, and that determinism is true. Therefore there is no free will. Others, the “no-free-will-either-way-theorists,” agree that determinism is incompatible with free will, but add that indeterminism, especially the variety posited by quantum physicists, is also incompatible with free will. Therefore there is (...)
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  13. Tamler Sommers (2007). The Objective Attitude. Philosophical Quarterly 57 (228):321–341.
    I aim to alleviate the pessimism with which some philosophers regard the 'objective attitude', thereby removing a particular obstacle which P.F. Strawson and others have placed in the way of more widespread scepticism about moral responsibility. First, I describe what I consider the objective attitude to be, and then address concerns about this raised by Susan Wolf. Next, I argue that aspects of certain attitudes commonly thought to be opposed to the objective attitude are in fact compatible with it. Finally, (...)
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  14. Tamler Sommers & Alex Rosenberg (2003). Darwin's Nihilistic Idea: Evolution and the Meaninglessness of Life. [REVIEW] Biology and Philosophy 18 (5):653-668.
    No one has expressed the destructive power of Darwinian theory more effectively than Daniel Dennett. Others have recognized that the theory of evolution offers us a universal acid, but Dennett, bless his heart, coined the term. Many have appreciated that the mechanism of random variation and natural selection is a substrate-neutral algorithm that operates at every level of organization from the macromolecular to the mental, at every time scale from the geological epoch to the nanosecond. But it took Dennett to (...)
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  15. Tamler Sommers (2002). Of Zombies, Color Scientists, and Floating Iron Bars. Psyche 8.
    In this paper I challenge the core of David Chalmers' argument against materialism-the claim that "there is a logically possible world physically identical to ours, in which the positive facts about consciousness do not hold." First, I analyze the move from conceivability to logical possibility. Following George Seddon, I consider the case of a floating iron bar and argue that even this seemingly conceivable event has implicit logical contradictions in its description. I then show that the distinctions Chalmers employs between (...)
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  16. Tamler Sommers, Darrow and Determinism: Giving Up Ultimate Responsibility.
    This year marks the 80 th anniversary of Clarence Darrow’s brilliant and passionate defense of Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb, two wealthy teenagers who pled guilty to the kidnapping and murder of 14 year old Bobby Franks. On August 22, 1924 Darrow gave his famous twelve hour closing statement, bringing tears to the eyes of the presiding judge and saving his clients from the death penalty. Here are two excerpts from the summation.
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  17. Tamler Sommers, The Intellectually Modest Criminal.
    Michael Smith’s The Moral Problem gives an admirably straightforward condition for moral rightness: an act is morally right in circumstance C only if under conditions of full rationality we would all want to perform that act. I will assume that this condition, if met, would make acts objectively right and therefore vindicate a robust form of metaethical realism. There remains the question, however, of whether this condition can be met. Smith considers several arguments that it cannot, and this paper will (...)
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