Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong

Chauncey Stillman Distinguished Professor of Practical Ethics

External Address: 
Duke University Box 90432, 203B West Duke Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Duke Box 90743, Durham, NC 27708-0743


Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Chauncey Stillman Professor of Practical Ethics in the Department of Philosophy and the Kenan Institute for Ethics at Duke University. He has secondary appointments in the Law School and the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, and he is core faculty in the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience, the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences, and the Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Sciences. He serves as Resource Faculty in the Philosophy Department of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Partner Investigator at the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics, and Research Scientist with The Mind Research Network in New Mexico. He has visited at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan, the Macquarie Research Center for Agency, Values, and Ethics in Australia, and the National Institutes of Health in Washington. He has received fellowships from the Harvard Program in Ethics and the Professions, the Princeton Center for Human Values, the Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics, the Center for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics at the Australian National University, and the Sage Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He has served as co-chair of the Board of Officers of the American Philosophical Association, co-director of the MacArthur Law and Neuroscience Project, and co-PI of the project on the Neuroscience and Philosophy of Free Will and Moral Responsibility at Chapman University. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Amherst College and his doctorate from Yale University. He has published widely on ethics (theoretical and applied as well as meta-ethics), empirical moral psychology and neuroscience, philosophy of law, epistemology, philosophy of religion, and informal logic. Most recently, he is the author of  Think Again: How to Reason and Argue, Morality Without God?and Moral Skepticisms; co-author with Robert Fogelin of Understanding Arguments, Ninth Edition, and with Jesse Summers of Clean Hands: Philosophical Lessons of Scrupulosity; and editor of Moral Psychology, volumes I-V. His numerous articles have appeared in a variety of philosophical, scientific, and popular journals and collections. He performs various experiments in moral psychology and brain science with his Moral Attitudes and Decisions (MAD) Lab. He is working on one book on moral artificial intelligence and another book that will develop a contrastivist view of freedom and responsibility. He co-directs Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy (SSNaP) with Felipe De Brigard and teaches a popular MOOC, Think Again, on the Coursera website with Ram Neta. 

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Yale University 1982

  • A.B., Amherst College 1977

Selected Grants

Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy awarded by Templeton World Charity Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2020 to 2023

The Development of Intellectual Humility (Pilot Grants) awarded by John Templeton Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2021 to 2022

How Stories Inspire Virtuous Behavior awarded by Yale University (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2022

The Development of Intellectual Humility (Virtual Research Network) awarded by John Templeton Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2021

Book Funding: "Free Will? Questions and Answers from Neuroscientists and Philosophers" awarded by Chapman University (Principal Investigator). 2019 to 2020

Summer Seminars in Neuroscience and Philosophy (SSNAP) awarded by John Templeton Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2016 to 2020

How to Build Ethics into Robust Artificial Intelligence awarded by Future of Life Institute (Co-Principal Investigator). 2015 to 2018

MAD Lab (Moral Attitudes and Decisions Laboratory) awarded by New Hampshire Charitable Foundation (Principal Investigator). 2016

Ancell, A., and W. Sinnott-Armstrong, editors. Moral Disagreements. LuLu Press, 2015.

Summers, J., and W. Sinnott-Armstrong, editors. Drugs and Addiction. Lulu Press, 2015.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. Moral psychology, volume 4: Free will and moral responsibility. 2014, pp. 1–474.

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter, and Robert J. Fogelin. Understanding Arguments, Ninth Edition, Complete Version. Cengage, 2014.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. Introduction. 2014, pp. xiii–xviii. Scopus, doi:10.7551/mitpress/9780262026680.003.0001. Full Text

Nadel, L., and W. P. Sinnott-Armstrong. Memory and Law. 2013, pp. 1–432. Scopus, doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199920754.001.0001. Full Text

Nadel, L., and W. P. Sinnott-Armstrong. Introduction: Memory in the Legal Context. 2013.

Nadel, L., and W. P. Sinnott-Armstrong. Preface. 2013.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W., and S. Sullivan, editors. The Ethics of War and Terrorism. Lulu Press, 2013.

Kiehl, K., and W. Sinnott-Armstrong, editors. Oxford Handbook of Psychopathy and Law. Oxford University Press, 2013.


Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Why We Laugh.” Science, vol. 332, no. 6035, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 10 June 2011, pp. 1265–1265. Crossref, doi:10.1126/science.1206802. Full Text

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter, and Adina Roskies. “Alfred R. Mele’s Effective Intentions: The Power of Conscious Will.” Philosophical Books, vol. 51, 2010, pp. 127–43.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Responsibility and fault.” Law and Philosophy, vol. 20, no. 1, KLUWER ACADEMIC PUBL, 1 Jan. 2001, pp. 103–06.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Value judgment: Improving our ethical beliefs.” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, vol. 60, no. 1, Jan. 2000, pp. 237–40.

Sinnott‐Armstrong, Walter. “Book ReviewRuth Chang, , ed.Incommensurability, Incomparability, and Practical Reason. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997. Pp. ix+303. $57.50 (cloth); $24.95 (paper).Ethics, vol. 110, no. 1, University of Chicago Press, Oct. 1999, pp. 190–92. Crossref, doi:10.1086/233210. Full Text

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Moral Knowledge and Ethical Character.” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, vol. 2, Springer Verlag (Germany), 1999, pp. 191–93.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Morality, Normativity, and Society.” The Philosophical Review, vol. 105, no. 4, Oct. 1996, pp. 552–54.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Morality and Action.” International Journal of Philosophical Studies, vol. 4, no. 1, 1996, pp. 193–96.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “The Structure of Justification.” The Philosophical Quarterly, vol. 45, no. 180, Wiley: 24 months, July 1995, pp. 394–97.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Moral Imagination.” Mind, vol. 103, no. 411, Oxford University Press (OUP): Policy F - Oxford Open Option G, July 1994, pp. 381–84.


Skorburg, J. A., and W. Sinnott-Armstrong. “Some ethics of deep brain stimulation.” Global Mental Health and Neuroethics, 2020, pp. 117–32. Scopus, doi:10.1016/B978-0-12-815063-4.00008-3. Full Text

Henne, P., and W. Sinnott-Armstrong. “Does neuroscience undermine morality?Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience, 2018, pp. 54–67. Scopus, doi:10.1093/oso/9780190460723.003.0004. Full Text

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “A perspectival theory of law.” Judicial Power, Democracy and Legal Positivism, 2017, pp. 185–213.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “A patchwork quilt theory of constitutional interpretation.” Judicial Power, Democracy and Legal Positivism, 2017, pp. 315–34.

Collier, J. H. Introduction. Vol. 30, 2016, pp. 131–32. Scopus, doi:10.1080/02691728.2016.1148383. Full Text

Izatt, J. A., et al. Introduction. Vol. 9697, 2016, pp. xi–xii. Scopus, doi:10.1117/12.2231307. Full Text

De Figueiredo, J. M., et al. Introduction. Vol. 34, 2016, pp. xiii–xxiv. Scopus, doi:10.1108/s0742-332220160000034025. Full Text

Strohminger, N., et al. “Implicit morality: A methodological survey.” Experimental Ethics: Toward an Empirical Moral Philosophy, 2014, pp. 133–56. Scopus, doi:10.1057/9781137409805. Full Text

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. Introduction. 2014, pp. xiii–xviii.

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. “Do Psychopaths Refute Internalism?Being Amoral: Psychopathy and Moral Incapacity, edited by Thomas Schramme, MIT Press, 2014.


Everett, Jim A. C., et al. “Moral dilemmas and trust in leaders during a global health crisis.Nature Human Behaviour, vol. 5, no. 8, Aug. 2021, pp. 1074–88. Epmc, doi:10.1038/s41562-021-01156-y. Full Text

McDonald, Kelsey, et al. “Valence framing effects on moral judgments: A meta-analysis.Cognition, vol. 212, July 2021, p. 104703. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.cognition.2021.104703. Full Text

Stanley, Matthew L., et al. “Making moral principles suit yourself.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, May 2021. Epmc, doi:10.3758/s13423-021-01935-8. Full Text

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Contrastive mental causation.” Synthese, vol. 198, Feb. 2021, pp. 861–83. Scopus, doi:10.1007/s11229-019-02506-0. Full Text

Rehren, P., and W. Sinnott-Armstrong. “Moral framing effects within subjects.” Philosophical Psychology, vol. 34, no. 5, Jan. 2021, pp. 611–36. Scopus, doi:10.1080/09515089.2021.1914328. Full Text

Wilkinson, Dominic, et al. “Which factors should be included in triage? An online survey of the attitudes of the UK general public to pandemic triage dilemmas.Bmj Open, vol. 10, no. 12, Dec. 2020, p. e045593. Epmc, doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2020-045593. Full Text Open Access Copy

Stanley, M. L., et al. “Exposure to opposing reasons reduces negative impressions of ideological opponents.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, vol. 91, Nov. 2020. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2020.104030. Full Text

Brenner, Rebecca G., et al. “Effects of sub-chronic methylphenidate on risk-taking and sociability in zebrafish (Danio rerio).Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol, vol. 393, no. 8, Aug. 2020, pp. 1373–81. Pubmed, doi:10.1007/s00210-020-01835-z. Full Text

Freedman, R., et al. “Adapting a kidney exchange algorithm to align with human values.” Artificial Intelligence, vol. 283, June 2020. Scopus, doi:10.1016/j.artint.2020.103261. Full Text

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. “How does inequality affect our sense of moral obligation?The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 43, Apr. 2020, p. e87. Epmc, doi:10.1017/s0140525x19002310. Full Text


Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. “Special Issue: Pardo and Patterson on Neuroscience and the Law.” Neuroethics, vol. 4, 2011, pp. 179–222.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Section B: Ethics.” Interdisciplinary Core Philosophy, Philosophical Issues, vol. 18, 2008, pp. 143–293.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W., and F. Schauer. “Introduction.” Episteme: A Journal of Social Philosophy, vol. 5, no. 3, 2008, pp. 251–52.

. Georg. “Evidence and Law.” Episteme: A Journal of Social Philosophy, edited by W. Sinnott-Armstrong and F. Schauer, vol. 5, no. 3, 2008.

. F. “Contemporary Perspectives on Constitutional Interpretation.” Boston University Law Review. Boston University. School of Law, edited by S. Brison and W. Sinnott-Armstrong, vol. 72, no. 4, The Boston University School of Law, Sept. 1992, pp. 681–799.

McElfresh, Duncan C., et al. “Indecision Modeling.Aaai, AAAI Press, 2021, pp. 5975–83.

Chan, Lok, et al. “Artificial Artificial Intelligence: Measuring Influence of AI 'Assessments' on Moral Decision-Making.Aies, edited by Annette N. Markham et al., ACM, 2020, pp. 214–20.

Kramer, M. F., et al. “When Do People Want AI to Make Decisions?Aies 2018  Proceedings of the 2018 Aaai/Acm Conference on Ai, Ethics, and Society, 2018, pp. 204–09. Scopus, doi:10.1145/3278721.3278752. Full Text

Freedman, Rachel, et al. “Adapting a Kidney Exchange Algorithm to Align with Human Values.” Proceedings of the 2018 Aaai/Acm Conference on Ai, Ethics, and Society, ACM, 2018. Crossref, doi:10.1145/3278721.3278727. Full Text

Freedman, R., et al. “Adapting a kidney exchange algorithm to align with human values.” 32nd Aaai Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Aaai 2018, 2018, pp. 1636–43.

Conitzer, V., et al. “Moral decision making frameworks for artificial intelligence.” International Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Mathematics, Isaim 2018, 2018.

Conitzer, V., et al. “Moral decision making frameworks for artificial intelligence.” Aaai Workshop  Technical Report, vol. WS-17-01-WS-17-15, 2017, pp. 105–09.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Explanation and justification in moral epistemology.” Proceedings of the Twentieth World Congress of Philosophy, Vol 1, edited by K. Brinkmann, PHILOSOPHY DOCUMENTATION CTR, 1999, pp. 117–27.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. My Brain Made Me Do It — So What? Oxford Uehiro Center for Practical Ethics, Mar. 2015.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. Does Philosophy Matter? Oxford University Press blog, Mar. 2015.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. My Brain Made Me Do It, but Does that Matter? The Conversation, Dec. 2014.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. Moral Skepticism. Standford University, 2004.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. Consequentialism. Stanford University, 2003.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. Does Neuroscience Undermine Free Will? Slate.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. Intentions and Consequences in the Modern World. The Center for  Humans & Nature, John Templeton Foundation.

Roskies, A., and W. Sinnott-Armstrong. Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Thinking about Morality.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. What is Philosophy? Dartmouth.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. Induction vs. Deduction. Dartmouth.


Sinnott-Armstrong, W., and J. Moor. Turning the Tables.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Pollsters with Dirty Tricks.” Valley News, 25 Sept. 2008, pp. A9–A9.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Can You Believe It?Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, 2004, pp. 30–33.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “The Ethics of the Bomb.” Dartmouth Alumni Magazine, Feb. 1990, pp. 14–15.