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Profile: Neil Levy (Oxford University)
  1. Neil Levy, The Luck Problem for Compatibilists.
    Libertarianism in all its varieties is widely taken to be vulnerable to a serious problem of present luck, inasmuch as it requires indeterminism somewhere in the causal chain leading to action. Genuine indeterminism entails luck, and lack of control over the ensuing action. Compatibilism, by contrast, is generally taken to be free of the problem of present luck, inasmuch as it does not require indeterminism in the causal chain. I argue that this view is false: compatibilism is subject to a (...)
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  2. Neil Levy, Closing the Door on the Belief in Ability Thesis.
    It is, as Dana Nelkin (2004) says, a rare point of agreement among participants in the free will debate that rational deliberation presupposes a belief in freedom. Of course, the precise content of that belief – and, indeed, the nature of deliberation – is controversial, with some philosophers claiming that deliberation commits us to a belief in libertarian free will (Taylor 1966; Ginet 1966), and others claiming that, on the contrary, deliberation presupposes nothing more than an epistemic openness that is (...)
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  3. Neil Levy, Closing the Door on BAT.
    BAT - the belief in ability thesis - states, roughly, that for an agent to be able rationally to deliberate between two or more alternatives, she must believe that she is metaphysically free to perform each alternative. I show, by way of a counterexample, that BAT is false.
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  4. Neil Levy, Frankfurt Enablers and Frankfurt Disablers.
    In this paper, I introduce the notion of a Frankfurt Enabler, a counterfactual intervener poised, should a signal for intervention be received, to enable an agent to perform a mental or physical action. Frankfurt enablers demonstrate, I claim, that merely counterfactual conditions are sometimes relevant to assessing what capacities agents possess. Since this is the case, we are not entitled to conclude that agents in standard Frankfurt-style cases retain their responsibility-ensuring capacities. There is no principled rationale for bracketing counterfactual interveners (...)
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  5. Neil Levy, Why Frankfurt-Style Cases Don't Help (Much).
    Frankfurt-style cases are widely taken to show that agents do not need alternative possibilities to be morally responsible for their actions. Many philosophers take these cases to constitute a powerful argument for compatibilism: if we do not need alternative possibilities for moral responsibility, it is hard to see what the attraction of indeterminism might be. I defend the claim that even though Frankfurt-style cases establish that agents can be responsible for their actions despite lacking alternatives, agents can only be responsible (...)
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  6. Jens Clausen & Neil Levy (eds.) (forthcoming). Springer Handbook of Neuroethics. Springer.
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  7. N. Levy (forthcoming). Forced to Be Free? Increasing Patient Autonomy by Constraining It. Journal of Medical Ethics:2011-100207.
    It is universally accepted in bioethics that doctors and other medical professionals have an obligation to procure the informed consent of their patients. Informed consent is required because patients have the moral right to autonomy in furthering the pursuit of their most important goals. In the present work, it is argued that evidence from psychology shows that human beings are subject to a number of biases and limitations as reasoners, which can be expected to lower the quality of their decisions (...)
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  8. N. Levy (forthcoming). The Harm of Intraoperative Awareness. Journal of Medical Ethics.
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  9. N. Levy (forthcoming). The Presumption Against Direct Manipulation. Neuroethics: Challenges for the 21st Century. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
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  10. Neil Levy (ed.) (forthcoming). Addiction and Self-Control. Oxford University Press.
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  11. Neil Levy (forthcoming). Luck and Agent-Causation: A Response to Franklin. Criminal Law and Philosophy:1-6.
    Christopher Franklin argues that the hard luck view, which I have recently defended, is misnamed: the arguments turn on absence of control and not on luck. He also argues that my objections to agent-causal libertarianism depend on a demand, for a contrastive explanation that guarantees the choice the agent makes, which would be question-begging in the dialectical context. In response to the first objection, I argue that though Franklin may be right that it is absence of control that matters to (...)
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  12. Neil Levy (forthcoming). Restrictivism is a Covert Compatibilism. In N. Trakakis (ed.), Essays on Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Cambridge Scholars Press.
    _Libertarian restrictivists hold that agents are rarely directly free. However, they seek to reconcile their views_ _with common intuitions by arguing that moral responsibility, or indirect freedom (depending on the version of_ _restrictivism) is much more common than direct freedom. I argue that restrictivists must give up either the_ _claim that agents are rarely free, or the claim that indirect freedom or responsibility is much more common_ _than direct freedom. Focusing on Kane’s version of restrictivism, I show that the view (...)
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  13. Neil Levy (forthcoming). Why Regret Language Death? Public Affairs Quarterly.
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  14. Neil Levy (forthcoming). Zimmerman's The Immorality of Punishment: A Critical Essay. [REVIEW] Criminal Law and Philosophy:1-10.
    In “The Immorality of Punishment”, Michael Zimmerman attempts to show that punishment is morally unjustified and therefore wrong. In this response, I focus on two main questions. First, I examine whether Zimmerman’s empirical claims—concerning our inability to identify wrongdoers who satisfy conditions on blameworthiness and who might be reformed through punishment, and the comparative efficacy of punitive and non-punitive responses to crime—stand up to scrutiny. Second, I argue that his crucial argument from luck depends on claims about counterfactuals that ought (...)
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  15. Hannah Maslen, Tom Douglas, Roi Cohen Kadosh, Neil Levy & Julian Savulescu (forthcoming). Do-It-Yourself Brain Stimulation: A Regulatory Model. Journal of Medical Ethics:2013-101692.
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  16. Neil Levy (2014). Addiction as a Disorder of Belief. Biology and Philosophy 29 (3):337-355.
    Addiction is almost universally held to be characterized by a loss of control over drug-seeking and consuming behavior. But the actions of addicts, even of those who seem to want to abstain from drugs, seem to be guided by reasons. In this paper, I argue that we can explain this fact, consistent with continuing to maintain that addiction involves a loss of control, by understanding addiction as involving an oscillation between conflicting judgments. I argue that the dysfunction of the mesolimbic (...)
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  17. Neil Levy (ed.) (2014). Addiction and Self-Control: Perspectives From Philosophy, Psychology, and Neuroscience. Oup Usa.
    This book brings cutting edge neuroscience and psychology into dialogue with philosophical reflection to illuminate the loss of control experienced by addicts, and thereby cast light on ordinary agency and the way in which it sometimes goes wrong.
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  18. Neil Levy (2014). Consciousness and Moral Responsibility. Oup Oxford.
    Neil Levy presents a new theory of freedom and responsibility. He defends a particular account of consciousness--the global workspace view--and argues that consciousness plays an especially important role in action. There are good reasons to think that the naïve assumption, that consciousness is needed for moral responsibility, is in fact true.
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  19. Neil Levy (2014). Countering Cova: Frankfurt-Style Cases Are Still Broken. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 17 (3):523-527.
    In his “Frankfurt-style cases user manual”, Florian Cova (2013) distinguishes two kinds of Frankfurt-style arguments against the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP), and argues that my attack on the soundness of Frankfurt-style cases succeeds, at most, only against one kind. Since either kind of argument can be used to undermine PAP, Cova suggests, the fact that my attack fails against at least one means that it does not succeed in rescuing PAP from the clutches of Frankfurt enthusiasts. In this brief (...)
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  20. Neil Levy (2014). Consciousness, Implicit Attitudes and Moral Responsibility. Noûs 48 (1):21-40.
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  21. Neil Levy (2014). Frankfurt in Fake Barn Country. Metaphilosophy 45 (4-5):529-542.
    It is very widely held that Frankfurt-style cases—in which a counterfactual intervener stands by to bring it about that an agent performs an action but never actually acts because the agent performs that action on her own—show that free will does not require alternative possibilities. This essay argues that that conclusion is unjustified, because merely counterfactual interveners may make a difference to normative properties. It presents a modified version of a fake barn case to show how a counterfactual intervener can (...)
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  22. Neil Levy (2014). Is Neurolaw Conceptually Confused? Journal of Ethics 18 (2):171-185.
    In Minds, Brains, and Law, Michael Pardo and Dennis Patterson argue that current attempts to use neuroscience to inform the theory and practice of law founder because they are built on confused conceptual foundations. Proponents of neurolaw attribute to the brain or to its parts psychological properties that belong only to people; this mistake vitiates many of the claims they make. Once neurolaw is placed on a sounder conceptual footing, Pardo and Patterson claim, we will see that its more dramatic (...)
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  23. Neil Levy (2014). Katrina Hutchison and Fiona Jenkins (Eds.) , Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change? Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 34 (3-4):132-135.
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  24. Neil Levy (2014). Miller , Christian . Moral Character: An Empirical Theory . Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013. Pp. 368. $55.00 (Cloth). [REVIEW] Ethics 124 (3):641-645.
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  25. Neil Levy (2014). Neither Fish nor Fowl: Implicit Attitudes as Patchy Endorsements. Noûs 48 (4).
    Implicit attitudes are mental states that appear sometimes to cause agents to act in ways that conflict with their considered beliefs. Implicit attitudes are usually held to be mere associations between representations. Recently, however, some philosophers have suggested that they are, or are very like, ordinary beliefs: they are apt to feature in properly inferential processing. This claim is important, in part because there is good reason to think that the vocabulary in which we make moral assessments of ourselves and (...)
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  26. Neil Levy (2014). William Hirstein , Mindmelding: Consciousness, Neuroscience, and the Mind's Privacy . Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 34 (1-2):75-77.
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  27. Ayla Barutchu, Olivia Carter, Robert Hester & Neil Levy (2013). Strength in Cognitive Self-Regulation. Frontiers in Psychology 4.
    Failures in self-regulation are predictive of adverse cognitive, academic and vocational outcomes, yet the interplay between cognition and self-regulation failure remains elusive. Two experiments tested the hypothesis that lapses in self-regulation, as predicted by the strength model, can be induced in individuals using cognitive paradigms and whether such failures are related to cognitive performance. In Experiments 1, the stop-signal task (SST) was used to show reduced behavioural inhibition after performance of a cognitively demanding arithmetic task, but only in people with (...)
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  28. Susan Blackmore, Thomas W. Clark, Mark Hallett, John-Dylan Haynes, Ted Honderich, Neil Levy, Thomas Nadelhoffer, Shaun Nichols, Michael Pauen, Derk Pereboom, Susan Pockett, Maureen Sie, Saul Smilansky, Galen Strawson, Daniela Goya Tocchetto, Manuel Vargas, Benjamin Vilhauer & Bruce Waller (2013). Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lexington Books.
     
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  29. Neil Levy (2013). Addiction is Not a Brain Disease (and It Matters). Frontiers in Psychiatry 4 (24).
    The claim that addiction is a brain disease is almost universally accepted among scientists who work on addiction. The claim’s attraction rests on two grounds: the fact that addiction seems to be characterized by dysfunction in specific neural pathways and the fact that the claim seems to the compassionate response to people who are suffering. I argue that neural dysfunction is not sufficient for disease: something is a brain disease only when neural dysfunction is sufficient for impairment. I claim that (...)
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  30. Neil Levy (2013). Are We Agents at All? Helen Steward's Agency Incompatibilism. Inquiry 56 (4):1-14.
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  31. Neil Levy (2013). Be a Skeptic, Not a Metaskeptic. In Gregg Caruso (ed.), Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lexington Books. 87.
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  32. Neil Levy (2013). Conversation and Responsibility, by Michael McKenna. [REVIEW] Mind 122 (486):fzt065.
  33. Neil Levy (2013). Hodgson, David., Rationality + Consciousness = Free Will. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (1):183-192.
  34. Neil Levy (2013). 20 Intuitions and Experimental Philosophy: Comfortable Bedfellows. In Matthew C. Haug (ed.), Philosophical Methodology: The Armchair or the Laboratory? Routledge. 381.
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  35. Neil Levy (2013). Psychopaths and Blame: The Argument From Content. Philosophical Psychology (3):1-17.
    The recent debate over the moral responsibility of psychopaths has centered on whether, or in what sense, they understand moral requirements. In this paper, I argue that even if they do understand what morality requires, the content of their actions is not of the right kind to justify full-blown blame. I advance two independent justifications of this claim. First, I argue that if the psychopath comes to know what morality requires via a route that does not involve a proper appreciation (...)
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  36. Neil Levy (2013). Punishing the Addict: Reflections on Gene Heyman. In Thomas A. Nadelhoffer (ed.), The Future of Punishment. Oup Usa. 233.
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  37. Neil Levy (2013). Peter Ulric Tse , The Neural Basis of Free Will: Criterial Causation . Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 33 (4):331-333.
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  38. Neil Levy (2013). The Importance of Awareness. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (2):221-229.
    A number of philosophers have recently argued that agents need not be conscious of the reasons for which they act or the moral significance of their actions in order to be morally responsible for them. In this paper, I identify a kind of awareness that, I claim, agents must have in order to be responsible for their actions. I argue that conscious information processing differs from unconscious in a manner that makes the following two claims true: (1) an agent’s values (...)
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  39. Neil Levy (2013). There May Be Costs to Failing to Enhance, as Well as to Enhancing. American Journal of Bioethics 13 (7):38 - 39.
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  40. Neil Levy (2013). The Moral Significance of Being Born. Journal of Medical Ethics 39 (5):326-329.
    This paper is a response to Giubilini and Minerva's defence of infanticide. I argue that any account of moral worth or moral rights that depends on the intrinsic properties of individuals alone is committed to agreeing with Giubilini and Minerva that birth cannot by itself make a moral difference to the moral worth of the infant. However, I argue that moral worth need not depend on intrinsic properties alone. It might also depend on relational and social properties. I claim that (...)
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  41. Sylvia Terbeck, Guy Kahane, Sarah McTavish, Julian Savulescu, Neil Levy, Miles Hewstone & Philip Cowen (2013). Beta Adrenergic Blockade Reduces Utilitarian Judgement. Biological Psychology 92 (2):323-328.
    Noradrenergic pathways are involved in mediating the central and peripheral effects of physiological arousal. The aim of the present study was to investigate the role of noradrenergic transmission in moral decision-making. We studied the effects in healthy volunteers of propranolol (a noradrenergic beta-adrenoceptor antagonist) on moral judgement in a set of moral dilemmas pitting utilitarian outcomes (e.g., saving five lives) against highly aversive harmful actions (e.g., killing an innocent person) in a double-blind, placebo-controlled, parallel group design. Propranolol (40 mg orally) (...)
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  42. Neil Levy (2012). A Role for Consciousness After All. Journal of Moral Philosophy 9 (2):255-264.
    In a recent paper in this journal, Matt King and Peter Carruthers argue that the common assumption that agents are only (or especially) morally responsible for actions caused by attitudes of which they are conscious needs to be rethought. They claim that there is persuasive evidence that we are never conscious of our propositional attitudes; we ought therefore to design our theories of moral responsibility to accommodate this fact. In this reply, I argue that the evidence they adduce need not (...)
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  43. Neil Levy (2012). Bruce N. Waller , Against Moral Responsibility . Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 32 (3):234-236.
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  44. Neil Levy (2012). Capacities and Counterfactuals: A Reply to Haji and McKenna. Dialectica 66 (4):607-620.
    In a recent paper, Ishtiyaque Haji and Michael McKenna argue that my attack on Frankfurt-style cases fails. I had argued that we cannot be confident that agents in these cases retain their responsibility-underwriting capacities, because what capacities an agent has can depend on features of the world external to her, including merely counterfactual interveners. Haji and McKenna argue that only when an intervention is actual does the agent gain or lose a capacity. Here I demonstrate that this claim is false: (...)
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  45. Neil Levy (2012). Ecological Engineering: Reshaping Our Environments to Achieve Our Goals. Philosophy and Technology 25 (4):589-604.
    Human beings are subject to a range of cognitive and affective limitations which interfere with our ability to pursue our individual and social goals. I argue that shaping our environment to avoid triggering these limitations or to constrain the harms they cause is likely to be more effective than genetic or pharmaceutical modifications of our capacities because our limitations are often the flip side of beneficial dispositions and because available enhancements seem to impose significant costs. I argue that carefully selected (...)
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  46. Neil Levy (2012). Skepticism and Sanction: The Benefits of Rejecting Moral Responsibility. Law and Philosophy 31 (5):477-493.
    It is sometimes objected that we cannot adopt skepticism about moral responsibility, because the criminal justice system plays an indispensable social function. In this paper, I examine the implications of moral responsibility skepticism for the punishment of those convicted of crime, with special attention to recent arguments by Saul Smilansky. Smilansky claims that the skeptic is committed to fully compensating the incarcerated for their detention, and that this compensation would both be too costly to be practical and would remove the (...)
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  47. Neil Levy & Jonathan Mcguire (2012). Cognitive Enhancement and Intuitive Dualism Testing a Possible Link. In Robyn Langdon & Catriona Mackenzie (eds.), Emotions, Imagination, and Moral Reasoning. Psychology Press. 171.
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  48. John Bigelow, Raymond D. Bradley, Andrew Brennan, Tony Coady, Peter Forrest, James Franklin, Karen Green, Russell Grigg, Matthew Sharpe, Jeanette Kennett, Neil Levy, Catriona Mackenzie, Gary Malinas, Chris Mortensen, Robert Nola, Paul Patton, Charles R. Pidgen, Val Plumwood, Graham Priest, Greg Restall, Jack Reynolds, Paul Thom & Michelle Boulous Walker (2011). The Antipodean Philosopher: Public Lectures on Philosophy in Australia and New Zealand. Lexington Books.
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  49. Neil Levy (2011). Culture by Nature. Philosophical Explorations 14 (3):237-248.
    One of the major conflicts in the social sciences since the Second World War has concerned whether, and to what extent, human beings have a nature. One view, traditionally associated with the political left, has rejected the notion that we have a contentful nature, and hoped thereby to underwrite the possibility that we can shape social institutions by references only to norms of justice, rather than our innate dispositions. This view has been in rapid retreat over the past three decades, (...)
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  50. Neil Levy (2011). Enhancing Authenticity. Journal of Applied Philosophy 28 (3):308-318.
    Some philosophers have criticized the use of psychopharmaceuticals on the grounds that even if these drugs enhance the person using them, they threaten their authenticity. Others have replied by pointing out that the conception of authenticity upon which this argument rests is contestable; on a rival conception, psychopharmaceuticals might be used to enhance our authenticity. Since, however, it is difficult to decide between these competing conceptions of authenticity, the debate seems to end in a stalemate. I suggest that we need (...)
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