Emad H Atiq


I am a PhD candidate in Philosophy at Princeton University. Previously, I was at Yale Law School, where I completed a JD, and before that I was at Trinity College, Cambridge, where I earned an Mphil in Philosophy. My BA, which was also at Princeton, was in Economics and Applied Mathematics. You can view my CV here.

Legal Philosophy and Applied Ethics:

My primary research concerns the intersection of ethics, legal philosophy, and metaphysics. I study legal and moral norms—their nature and normative import. I am especially interested in the way conventions shape the content and significance of legal and moral norms. The main paper to come out of this project, Judging at the Boundaries of Law, argues that the conventional character of legal norms entails a surprising fact about the force of law for judges. Judges have little to no legal obligation to follow a rule or norm based on its legality when it's legality, though genuine, is not known. Another paper in this project, Legal vs. Factual Normative Questions, argues that the distinction between moral norms that are convention-dependent and those that are convention-independent entails a difference in how judges should treat moral questions that arise under the law. A third paper, coauthored with Erin Miller, offers an account of what it means for judges to follow a rule out of a sense of legal (rather than moral) obligation emphasizing law's distinctive conventionality. We use this account of legally motivated decision-making to argue that whenever the law explicitly demands moral reflection from judges, as in the evaluation of mitigating evidence during criminal sentencing, legally motivated decision-making violates the law.

In previously published work in this area, I have explored the ethics of legal incentives (Why Motives Matter), and criticized the influence of folk metaphysics in criminal law (How Folk Beliefs about Free Will Influence Sentencing).


A second research project lies in metaethics. I am interested in the prospects of quasi-realistic expressivism in ethics. The primary paper in this area, The Hard Problem of Supervenience, argues that the conceptual truth that the normative supervenes on the non-normative has been misunderstood, resulting in sham or incomplete explanations of the phenomenon being mistaken for genuine ones. Normative supervenience, properly understood, poses a significant explanatory challenge even for expressivists. A second paper, published in Philosophical Studies, How to be Impartial as a Subjectivist, defends expressivism and related views from an objection of David Enoch's: namely that expressivism makes it impossible to be impartial while standing one's ground in moral disagreements. I disarm Enoch's objection with an original account of what impartiality consists in. A third paper, currently under review, is on what distinguishes full-blooded realists from quasi-realists about ethical features. I raise problems for Kit Fine’s criterion for realism, which distinguishes "real" features by assigning them a distinctive explanatory role. I argue that Fine's approach, which has proven influential in metaethics, presupposes a false principle of explanation. The distinction should be cashed out in terms of the natures or essences of the relevant entities not their role in explanation. (Drafts available on request.)

Apart from my academic work, I have worked for short spells at the prosecutor's office at the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, WilmerHale, and Bain.



Work in Progress: