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

Sandberg, Anders, et al. “Cognitive Enhancements in Court.” The Oxford Handbook of Neuroethics, edited by Judy Illes et al., 2011, pp. 273–84.

Roskies, Adina, and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong. “Brain Images as Evidence in the Criminal Law.” Law and Neuroscience, Current Legal Issues, edited by Michael Freeman, vol. 13, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 97–114.

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter, and Ken Levy. “Insanity Defenses.” The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Criminal Law, edited by John Deigh and David Dolinko, Oxford University Press, 2011, pp. 299–334.

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. “An Empirical Challenge to Moral Intuitionism.” The New Intuitionism, edited by Jill Graper Hernandez, Continuum, 2011, pp. 11–28&200-203-.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Moral Skepticism.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2011.

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter, et al. “Moral Intuition.” The Moral Psychology Handbook, edited by John Doris and the Moral Psychology Research Group, Oxford University Press, 2010.

Harman, Gilbert, et al. “Moral Reasoning.” The Moral Psychology Handbook, edited by John Doris and the Moral Psychology Research Group, Oxford University Press, 2010.

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter. “Lessons from Libet.” Conscious Will and Responsibility, edited by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Lynn Nadel, Oxford University Press, 2010, pp. 235–46.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Why Traditional Theism Cannot Provide an Adequate Foundation for Morality.” Is Goodness without God Good Enough? A Debate on Faith, Secularism, and Ethics, edited by N. L. King and R. K. Garcia, Rownan & Littlewfield, 2009, pp. 101–15.

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Mackie’s Internalisms.” A World Without Values: Essays on John Mackie’s Moral Error Theory, edited by R. Joyce and S. Kirchin, Springer, 2009, pp. 55–70.


Alexander, Prescott, et al. “Readiness potentials driven by non-motoric processes.Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 39, Jan. 2016, pp. 38–47. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.concog.2015.11.011. Full Text

Ngo, Lawrence, et al. “Two Distinct Moral Mechanisms for Ascribing and Denying Intentionality.Scientific Reports, vol. 5, Dec. 2015, p. 17390. Epmc, doi:10.1038/srep17390. Full Text Open Access Copy

Clifford, Scott, et al. “Moral foundations vignettes: a standardized stimulus database of scenarios based on moral foundations theory.Behavior Research Methods, vol. 47, no. 4, Dec. 2015, pp. 1178–98. Epmc, doi:10.3758/s13428-014-0551-2. Full Text

Summers, J. S., and W. Sinnott-Armstrong. “Scrupulous agents.” Philosophical Psychology, vol. 28, no. 7, Oct. 2015, pp. 947–66. Scopus, doi:10.1080/09515089.2014.949005. Full Text

Schlegel, Alexander, et al. “Hypnotizing Libet: Readiness potentials with non-conscious volition.Consciousness and Cognition, vol. 33, May 2015, pp. 196–203. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.concog.2015.01.002. Full Text

Singh, D., and W. Sinnott-Armstrong. “The DSM-5 Definition of Mental Disorder.” Public Affairs Quarterly, vol. 29, no. 1, University of Illinois Press, 2015, pp. 5–31.

Aharoni, Eyal, et al. “What's wrong? Moral understanding in psychopathic offenders.Journal of Research in Personality, vol. 53, Dec. 2014, pp. 175–81. Epmc, doi:10.1016/j.jrp.2014.10.002. Full Text

Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter, and Thalia Wheatley. “Are moral judgments unified?Philosophical Psychology, vol. 27, no. 4, Informa UK Limited, July 2014, pp. 451–74. Crossref, doi:10.1080/09515089.2012.736075. Full Text

Aharoni, Eyal, et al. “Predictive accuracy in the neuroprediction of rearrest.Social Neuroscience, vol. 9, no. 4, Jan. 2014, pp. 332–36. Epmc, doi:10.1080/17470919.2014.907201. Full Text

Sinnott-Armstrong, W. “Interview by Simon Cushing.” Journal of Cognition and Neuroethics, 2014, pp. 1–22.