Elizabeth Harman
Photo Credit: Gerard Vong.

Elizabeth Harman

Room 207, Marx Hall
Department of Philosophy
University Center for Human Values
Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1006

Phone: 609-258-4291
Fax: 609-258-1502
Email: eharman@princeton.edu

  • CV.

  • References.

  • Networking and Mentoring Workshop for Graduate Student Women in Philosophy

  • Current Projects

    I am currently working on three projects, each encompassing several papers.

    The first project introduces a new category of actions (and omissions) which has been ignored by ethicists, though it is implicitly recognized in ordinary moral thinking: morally permissible moral mistakes. These are behaviors that one should not engage in, all things considered, for moral reasons, but that are not morally wrong. Here is my paper introducing and arguing for the existence of morally permissible moral mistakes:

    • "Morally Permissible Moral Mistakes." Paper.

    I have four other papers in progress as part of the first project. In these papers, (a) I defend the notion of morally permissible moral mistakes against some further objections, (b) I use the account I develop in the first paper to diagnose why both statements of and solutions to the "paradox of supererogation" go wrong, (c) I use the notion of a morally permissible moral mistake to state a new view about the ethics of eating meat, and (d) I use the notion of a laudable moral mistake to state a new view about the ethics of anonymous gamete donation.

    The second project discusses the significance of moral ignorance. This project began with this paper:

    • "Does Moral Ignorance Exculpate?" Ratio 2011. Paper.

    One of my new papers develops and argues for a view on which moral ignorance does not exculpate. I argue that although ethics is hard, and so it is easy to fall into false moral beliefs, this does not have the implications regarding blameworthiness that some people think it does. I argue, in particular, that while non-moral false belief tends to exculpate, moral false belief does not.

    • "Ethics is Hard! What Follows?" Paper.

    I then go on to discuss how agents should act when caught in the grip of moral uncertainty. There is an interesting recent literature on this question, which presupposes that agents caught in the grip of moral uncertainty should be guided by their moral credences. I argue that this view is false, because it is committed to the view that false moral belief is exculpatory, though this commitment has not been recognized. I argue that the view that one's moral credences are irrelevant to how one should act has a lot going for it, and cannot be easily dismissed:

    • "The Irrelevance of Moral Uncertainty" (forthcoming, pending final review, in Oxford Studies in Metaethics). Paper.

    The third project is on moral status and the significance of harm. Ten of my published papers (see below) are part of this project. I am continuing this project by writing about (a) what is good and bad for early fetuses, (b) the relationship between the ethics of abortion and the non-identity problem, (c) the ethics of eating meat, and (d) the ethics of gamete donation. (My first and third projects overlap.)

  • Published Papers

    • "Creation Ethics: The Moral Status of Early Fetuses and the Ethics of Abortion," Philosophy and Public Affairs, Fall 1999: Abstract, Paper.

    • "The Potentiality Problem," Philosophical Studies, May 2003: Abstract, Paper.

    • "Can We Harm and Benefit in Creating?" Philosophical Perspectives, 2004. Paper.

    • "Sacred Mountains and Beloved Fetuses: Can Loving or Worshipping Something Give It Moral Status?" Philosophical Studies, March 2007: Abstract, Paper.

    • "How is the Ethics of Stem Cell Research Different from the Ethics of Abortion?" Metaphilosophy, April 2007: Abstract, Paper.

    • "Discussion of Nomy Arpaly's Unprincipled Virtue," Philosophical Studies, June 2007. Paper.

    • "Harming as Causing Harm," in Harming Future Persons, Melinda Roberts and David Wasserman, eds., Springer, 2009. Paper.

    • "Critical Notice of Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence by David Benatar," Nous, December 2009. Paper.

    • "'I'll Be Glad I Did It' Reasoning and the Significance of Future Desires," Philosophical Perspectives, 2009. Paper.

    • "The Moral Significance of Animal Pain and Animal Death" in The Oxford Handbook on Ethics and Animals, Tom L. Beauchamp and R. L. Frey, eds., New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. Paper.

    • "Fischer and Lamenting Nonexistence," Social Theory and Practice 37, 2011. Paper.

    • "Does Moral Ignorance Exculpate?" Ratio 24 (2011). Paper.

    • "Is It Reasonable to 'Rely on Intuitions' in Ethics?"Norton Introduction to Philosophy, Alex Byrne, Joshua Cohen, Gideon Rosen, and Seanna Shiffrin, eds., forthcoming. Paper.

  • Courses at Princeton:

    • "Ethics." Graduate Seminar. Spring 2013. Co-taught with Sarah-Jane Leslie and Sarah McGrath.

    • "The Ethics of Sex and Love." Undergraduate Course. Spring 2013.

    • "Designing Life: The Ethics of Creation and Its Control." Freshman Seminar. Spring 2012 and Fall 2012. Draft Syllabus.

    • "Dissertation Seminar." Spring 2012.

    • "How Demanding is Morality?" Graduate Seminar. Fall 2011. Syllabus.

    • "Sex and Ethics." Undergraduate Course. Spring 2011. Co-taught with Gideon Rosen.

    • "Ethics and ..." Graduate Seminar. Spring 2011. Syllabus. Co-taught with Sarach McGrath.

    • "Morality in the Face of Moral Ignorance." Graduate Seminar. Spring 2009. Syllabus.

    • "Can We Rely on Intuitions in Ethics?" Junior Seminar. Fall 2008. Syllabus.

    • "Perfecting Life: Designing Persons, Designing Memories, Designing Death." Undergraduate Course. Fall 2008. Also co-taught with Adama Elga in Fall 2007. Syllabus.

    • "The Ethics of Desire." Graduate Seminar. Spring 2008. Syllabus.

  • Courses at NYU:

    • "Causation." Graduate Seminar. Spring 2006. Syllabus.

    • "Ethics." Undergraduate Course. Spring 2006, Fall 2004, and Fall 2003. Syllabus.

    • "Senior Honors Seminar." Undergraduate Course. Fall 2005. Syllabus.

    • "Ethics Across Time." Graduate Seminar, co-taught with Derek Parfit. Fall 2005-Spring 2006. Syllabus.

    • "Proseminar." Graduate Seminar, co-taught with Sharon Street. Fall 2005. Syllabus.

    • "Topics in Ethics." Undergraduate Course. Spring 2004. Syllabus.

    • "Ethics: Selected Topics." Graduate Seminar. Fall 2004. Syllabus.

  • Alex Guerrero