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 (Principal Investigator). 2020 to 2023

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

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

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

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

MAD Lab (Moral Attitudes and Decisions Laboratory) awarded by (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. Introduction. 2014, pp. xiii–xviii. Scopus, doi:10.7551/mitpress/9780262026680.003.0001. Full Text

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.

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.

Singh, I., et al., editors. Bioprediction, Biomarkers, and Bad Behavior. Oxford University Press, 2013.

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


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.

Hawkins, J. “Commentary on Kim: Decision-making capacity and value.” Philosophy and Psychiatry: Problems, Intersections and New Perspectives, 2015, pp. 204–13. Scopus, doi:10.4324/9781315688725. 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, Walter. “Do Psychopaths Refute Internalism?Being Amoral: Psychopathy and Moral Incapacity, edited by Thomas Schramme, MIT Press, 2014.

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. “Moral Disagreements with Psychopaths.” Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief: Disagreement and Evolution, edited by Michael Bergmann, Oxford University Press, 2014.


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

Chan, L., et al. “Artificial artificial intelligence: Measuring influence of AI 'Assessments' on moral decision-making.” Aies 2020  Proceedings of the Aaai/Acm Conference on Ai, Ethics, and Society, Feb. 2020, pp. 214–20. Scopus, doi:10.1145/3375627.3375870. 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, Feb. 2020. Pubmed, doi:10.1007/s00210-020-01835-z. Full Text

Amoroso, C. R., et al. “Disgust Theory Through the Lens of Psychiatric Medicine.” Clinical Psychological Science, vol. 8, no. 1, Jan. 2020, pp. 3–24. Scopus, doi:10.1177/2167702619863769. Full Text

Skorburg, Joshua August, et al. “AI Methods in Bioethics.Ajob Empirical Bioethics, vol. 11, no. 1, Jan. 2020, pp. 37–39. Epmc, doi:10.1080/23294515.2019.1706206. Full Text

Freedman, Rachel, et al. “Adapting a Kidney Exchange Algorithm to Align with Human Values.Corr, vol. abs/2005.09755, 2020.

McDonald, Kelsey, et al. “Do framing effects debunk moral beliefs?The Behavioral and Brain Sciences, vol. 42, Sept. 2019, p. e162. Epmc, doi:10.1017/s0140525x18002662. Full Text

Ancell, Aaron J., and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. “The need for feasible compromises on conscientious objection: response to Card.Journal of Medical Ethics, vol. 45, no. 8, Aug. 2019, pp. 560–61. Epmc, doi:10.1136/medethics-2019-105425. Full Text

Harris, Adrianne A., et al. “The central role of disgust in disorders of food avoidance.Int J Eat Disord, vol. 52, no. 5, May 2019, pp. 543–53. Pubmed, doi:10.1002/eat.23047. 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.

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

. W. “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.

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.

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

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, 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.” 31st Aaai Conference on Artificial Intelligence, Aaai 2017, 2017, pp. 4831–35.

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. 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. Inference to the Best Explanation.


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.

Not in Vain. Musician. (2005)

4’33’ . Musician. (2005)


Composed by John Cage

Tom Thumb. Musician. (2005)


Composed by Ruth Seeger

A 60-Limerick Canon. Musician. (2015)