Published / existing work
My Philpapers page has my main published work listed, with links to articles or pre-prints. Links and pdfs for individual articles below.
Trust, Attachment and Monogamy (2023)
- co-authored with Natasha McKeever. We offer some defence of why monogamous relationships can be both healthy and morally ok, by looking at how the monogamous relationship set-up can help mitigate against attachment insecurity (jealousy), which being romantically attached to another person makes you vulnerable to. We’re doing this in response to claims other philosophers have increasingly made in suggesting that monogamy is both immoral and also works against our own interests. We go “hang on hang on hang on let’s have a think about this” and suggest they’re being too hasty.
- This being published has ended my run of only producing research work where I’ve gotten money in return (from PhD onward). I’ve no idea if the book it’s in will lead to royalty payments, probably not how these things work? And I don’t want to ask.
Matters of Trust as Matters of Attachment Security (2020)
International Journal of Philosophical Studies 28 (5): pp. 583-602 (PhilPapers link)
- A paper defending a conclusion from my PhD thesis. It argues that trust is essentially about our need for secure attachment to others, or belonging to a wider social group. So when we trust someone, what’s at stake is our need for securely attaching to others - whether to that person directly or a wider group we’re both a part of.
- This is my contribution / tweak of where other philosophy had got up to on understanding what defines trust; what makes trusting a vulnerable thing to do, why we can be betrayed by people, and what it means to be betrayed. I’m basically going to philosophers “look over here at attachment theory, that’s what’s going on here”.
- This won the Robert Papazian Essay Prize 2019 on ’the ethics and politics of vulnerability’ and was the lead article of the related special issue of the IJPS.
Corporations, Business and Social Trust (2019)
British Council Research Reports (link to pdf)
- co-authored with Nikolas Kirby
- A British Council & British Academy funded piece that sprang out of an idea I had for the below paper, which we didn’t get the space to explore fully.
- Explores how the actions of the private sector (so the ‘Corporations, Business..’ of the title) can corrode trust in society. It reviews political science research on what influences levels of ‘social trust’ (how much the average citizen trusts their fellow citizen). We argue that ‘social trust’ is essentially constitutive of the shared moral fabric of a community. We explain how corporations can corrode the moral fabric by influencing social trust, and offer regulation-style measures that are needed to limit the damage they can do.
- The report was the focus of an event at the Blavatnik School of Govt. in Oxford, which was good and interesting fun.
Do Corporations Have a Duty to be Trustworthy? (2018)
Journal of the British Academy 6 (Supplementary issue 1): pp. 75-129 (Philpapers link)
- co-authored with Nikolas Kirby and Aisling Crean
- Nik hired me as a research assitant on his part of the British Academy ‘Future of the Corporation’ project. This bit of the project explored the moral requirements on corporations; whether they should shoulder the burden of being more trustworthy actors for the society they operate in. This paper was Nik’s baby, but my still-PhD-warm knowledge of trust research was harnessed and fed into it.
- We argued that there is no general moral requirement for corporations to be trustworthy, except in specific sorts of case, where fair market conditions don’t hold. Basically: if citizens can’t choose to not engage with the corporation, or if we’re extra vulnerable to that corporation in some important way, then that corporation has to be more trustworthy, and should devote more of its internal spending to making itself more able to be relied on (I think this is a fair summary of a massive paper).
Matters of Interpersonal Trust (2018)
- Pass with no corrections even though it needed some
- Won UoM’s Philosophy department prize for the best PhD thesis of that year (500 quid).
- I break down how trust has been understood by philosophers, and do a few main things:
- I argue that the trust/reliance distinction, which philosophers writing about trust have taken very seriously, needs to be re-thought, and I explain how it needs to be re-thought
- I give a new account of what it means to rely on things
- And also to depend on things
- I give a new account of how trust is an attitude that filters our perceptions of the world/others
- Using that ground-work, I defend an account of what matters to us in matters of trust (hence the title aaaaaaah), which is our attachment needs (see the 2020 paper I’ve listed above).
- Very grateful to my supervisor Thomas Smith who worked with me on it for the 4 years and was also my supervisor for the Masters and Undergrad dissertations too. We could call him my ‘philosophy daddy’ but it would be in danger of being inappropriate.
- The late Katherine Hawley was external examiner and was great; not just for the viva but also in the years prior where I’d been sending her bits of my work where I was being very pedantic and critical of her own, but she always gave me the time of day, and carried on encouraging me after the PhD. I won’t go overboard as she took the piss out of me in the pub after the viva for the ’teary oscar speech acknowledgements’ in the thesis. Still haunts me, cheers Katherine.
Work currently under review at journals
- A paper on the trust / reliance distinction
- A paper on the reliance / dependence distinction
Work currently re-drafting
- A paper on what reliance is
Work I’m putting together something on
- Presentations on moral responsibility and trust in AI
Work I’m working on the bones of
- Something on cognitive dissonance
- Something on dangerous ideas
- Something on the idea of containment from child development, and belief systems
- Those and some other zygotic ideas are hopefully feeding into a much bigger thing on what morality/ethics is and where it comes from
- Something on what intelligence means, related to AI (with Jack Casey)
Work I’ll probably never bother doing anything with again so I’m granting it a resting place here
- watch this space, I need to tidy up my folders
Background / focus
My main research is on what it is to trust people, and why trust feels weighty to us - why it’s a big deal if someone betrays your trust, and how the hydraulics of trust motivates a lot of what we do. I’m interested in what makes us tick as social animals who can be impacted emotionally by others (and our own) actions. Looking at the essence of trust has been a way into figuring out ultimately what shapes society and people’s behaviour in it. My hunch is that by figuring that stuff out you can make better communities where people’s needs aren’t ignored, so they’re not seduced by power-hungry types who don’t mind exploiting the collective itch for a harvest festival sacrifice of the weak / vulnerable / different.
My training / disciplinary background is philosophy, so I do philosophy as my way of figuring that stuff out. That means I try to make a clearer, more logically consistent picture of some question or puzzle which starts off murky / hazy; typically a question you can’t answer (at least not while sitting down) by going out and doing a bunch of data collection / experiments. I think of philosophy as like a game of being a pest controller / exterminator of cognitive dissonance. You hunt down and get rid of incompatible ideas or connections between concepts, as a way to increased understanding. But you hunt according to a rulebook of logic so you end up actually mapping the world out, rather than making shit up or just retreating off to a blissful mental spa weekend of endless confirmation bias.
I also try to take as big a dredging net for hoovering up ideas I can chew on to help me figure this stuff out, and I draw on anything interesting from other disciplines and the world around us. Partly because reading philosophy I often find a bit boring (with little pay-off for the time spent reading it except ‘I think I get what this is saying’) and reading about the actual world is more imagination and curiosity stoking. I worry analytic philosophy (which is all about clarifying concepts and argument construction) can easily (and has) become a bit of a stagnant pond / closed gene pool with too many of the same alleles bobbing up over and over again, because of its puritanical auto-erotic rigour fetishism, which can end up selecting more for the performance of insight-generation than actual insight.