I am broadly interested in moral issues that arise as part of life in diverse communities, especially in the face of disagreement and difference. The primary aim of my research is threefold. First, to diagnose and explain key moral failures unique to these societal configurations. Second, to determine what sorts of cognitive-emotional skills are best suited to correcting and preventing such failures. Third, to draw on insights from the social and cognitive sciences to propose strategies for fostering the relevant skills, as well as the social and institutional conditions under which they can best be developed and employed.
Read, H. (2019). A typology of empathy and its many moral forms. Philosophy Compass, 14(10), e12623.
Spaulding, S., Svetlova, R., & Read, H. (forthcoming). The nature of empathy, in De Brigard, F. & Sinnott-Armstrong, W. (Eds.), Philosophy of Neuroscience. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Selected Works in Progress:
Title removed (under review). Empathy's critics have rightly drawn attention to its susceptibility to a host of biases and group preferences. Contra their claim that empathy is therefore morally problematic, I argue that empathy of different kinds is especially useful for one important, and widely overlooked, moral task—namely, promoting an array of positive relationships between people by helping them find common ground, even in very challenging cases.
Title removed (under review). This paper offers an account of the moral importance of perspective taking. In particular, it argues that perspective taking is sometimes needed to correct failures to pick up on morally important features of our surroundings, which may be obscured by consideration of things from a particular perspective. While others have emphasized the importance of attention and care for correcting moral perceptual failures, I maintain that perspective taking is sometimes needed over and above these additional considerations.
Cognitive-Emotional Skills and Democratic Education. The interaction between liberal values, such as the freedom of association and freedom of conscience, and social sorting tendencies results in schools that are insufficiently diverse for a comprehensive democratic education, especially for cognitive-emotional skill training that constitutes an important part of such education. Rather than attempting to settle debates about whether to intervene on these tendencies and values, I propose strategies for creating diverse contexts in which to train the relevant cognitive-emotional skills under the currently non-ideal conditions.
Perspective Taking is a Skill. This paper defends a skill model of perspective taking. Drawing on work in the cognitive sciences, I suggest that a hybrid intellectualist/anti-intellectualist account is best equipped to make sense of skill of perspective taking. This conception of perspective taking, I argue, is especially well poised to accommodate the dual importance of its cognitive and affective dimensions and paves the way for a normative account of why and how it should be trained.